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FROM THE EARLIEST TIMES TO THE CLOSE OF THE
SEVENTEENTH CENTURY,

WITH

SKETCHES BIOGRAPHICAL AND LITERARY,

INCLUDING

AN ACCOUNT OF BOOKS
AS WELL AS OF THEIR AUTHORS;

, WITH ,

OCCASIONAL CRITICISMS, %c.

BY GEORGE BURNETT,

Late of Bdiol College, Oxford.

IN THREE VOLUMES
VOL. I.

••••••••••••••

LONDON:

PRINTED FOE LONGMAN, HURST, REES, AND ORME,
PATERNOSTER ROW.

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PREFACE.

The idea of this compilation was suggested by Mr. Ellis's "Specimens of Early English Poets;" of which work it may be considered in some sort as forming the counterpart. My first intention was, to exhibit simply a chronological series of selections, as specimens of the progress of English prose style, without any other comment or observation than short biographical notices of the several authors, like those in the two last volumes of Mr. Ellis. But I soon reflected, that .a bare list of unconnected, often of incomplete passages, would probably afford but a meagre entertainment to the general reader; and that a^ useful principle of connection may be communicated by the interspersion of such remarks and historical matter, as should tend to elucidate the progress of our national literature, as well as language. Conceiving, too, that a work of this nature is likely to fall into the hands of young and uninformed readers, I have thought it of consequence to mark distinctly the great literary aeras, with a view less to give information, than to stimulate enquiry. For various literary sketches and remarks (particularly, however, in the first volume,) I have been indebted to Warton's History of English Poetry; in a slight degree also to Mr. Godwin's Life of Chaucer. My general source for the lives has been the Biographia Britanica. Other sources are referred to, where it could be of any utility. It were idle to make a display of authorities in a work which has no pretensions to originality even of compilement. In

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