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dissuasives from vice; and for this purpose I had recourse to our dramatic poets, who, it is well known, chiefly abound in passages of this kind.
My second object, and which I always considered as subordinate to the first, was to collect such pieces as, while they were either free from indecency and immorality, or exhibited patterns of the opposite virtues, were, at the same time, remarkable for the beauty or sublimity of the thought, the harmony of the numbers, or the elegance or vigour of the expression. In a word, my intention was to collect not the most beautiful pieces of English Poetry in general, but the most beautiful pieces of English Poetry that were fit to be put into the hands of children; for between these two there is a very material and obvious distinction. I likewise made it a maxim to collect from as great a variety of Authors as possible; partly with a view of bringing the young scholar acquainted with the names of the most admired Poets of his country; partly in order to give him some idea of their style and manner of writing, that so he may be the better able to enter into their true spirit and meaning, when he advances in years, and is qualified to read their works at large.
Pope in his preface to his original works says, “That he would not be like those authors who forgive themselves some particular lines for the sake of a whole poem, and vice versa, a whole poem for the sake of some particular lines.” But if this be inexcusable in composing a whole poem or complete work, where the author's imagination may naturally be supposed sometimes to flag, it must certainly be more so in
selecting detached passages from the works of others, where the editor has no fancy or invention to exert, and has only to exercise his taste and judgment. For this reason it is, that I have never serupled to make the passages short, provided the connection was not so suddenly broke off, as to render the sense obscure; and this I have chiefly done with regard to passages of a moral nature, where brevity is so far from being a fault, that it may eren be considered as a particular recommendation. For, I think, it is a rule laid down by all critics, ancient and modern, that if precepts be clear, the fewer words they are expressed in, so much the better, because they will be sure, on that account, both to be the more easily understood, and to be the longer remembered.
With respect to the propriety of accustoming youth to the early reading of poetry, I have already, in some measure, expressed my sentiments in the preface to the POLITE PRECEPTOR, where I have observed, that it is the best method of teaching them the true quantity and accent of words, without the knowledge of which no one can ever read even prose with a good grace. But this, however considerable, is but one of the least advantages to be derived from the reading of poetry. For as the poets are, almost to a man, friends to virtue, and as they have the art (and in this art consists one of the chief circumstances that distinguishes poetry from prose) of compressing their thoughts into a narrower compass than prose-writers, the perusal of the poets is one of the most effectual means of. storing the mind with moral knowledge, that is, with regard to the conduct of life, the most useful and important of all kinds of knowledge. Add to this, that what we learn in poetry makes a much deeper impression upon the mind, and is likely to be much longer retained, than what we learn in prose. Addison is perhaps as sensible a writer as either Shakespeare or Pope; yet how seldom do we hear the former quoted, and how frequently the two latter!
THE Editor begs leave to observe, that, in compliance with the request of some of the most eminent masters of academies, as well as some of the most accomplished governesses of ladies' boarding-schools in and about town, he has inserted a great number of pieces in this edition that are not to be found in the last; and, in order to express his gratitude to the public for the very favourable reception the book has hitherto met with, he has contrived to do so without encreasing the price of the volume. At the same time he must be permitted to remark, that, as the judgment of youth ought to be exercised as well as their memory, he has selected some of these additional pieces from the critical works of our most admired poets, such as the Duke of Buckingham's Essay on Poetry, and Mr. Pope's Essay on Criticism ; for to cultivate the memory (as is too frequently done) to the total neglect of the judgment and the other faculties of the mind, is, to say the least, a very ridiculous and absurd mode of instruction.
THE two former Editions of this work having met with such a favourable reception from the Public, the Editor has thought it not only unnecessary, but even improper, to make any alteration either in the nature or the arrangement of the Materials of which it consists. He has, therefore, presented it to the Reader exactly in the same form in which it has hitherto appeared, with this only difference (which he hopes will be considered as an improvement) that there is now inserted for the first time, towards the l'atter end of it, a whole sheet of additional matter, which he hopes will be found to be selected with the same taste and judgment that appeared in the choice of the former materials. This addition, together with the great advance in the price of paper, in consequence of heavy duties and a variety of other causes, will, he flatters himself, plead his excuse for adding Sixpence to the price of the book : a trifling advance, to be sure; yet such as he would willingly have avoided, could he possibly have done it.
THE Reader will observe, that, in this Edition of the POETICAL PRECEPTOR, we have followed the same plan we pursued in the two preceding impressions of it, that is, that we have added a considerable quantity of new matter, selected from the best poetical pieces that have lately appeared ; and we would very willingly have added more, could we have met with any thing else that suited our purpose.
The Goldfinches; an Elegy