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BRITISH POETESSES ;
AND CHRONOLOGICALLY ARRANGED,
THE REV. ALEXANDER DYCE.
T. RODD, 2 GREAT NEWPORT STREET ;
S. PROWETT, 23 OLD BOND STREET.
Of the Selections which have been made from the chaos of our past Poetry, the majority has been confined almost entirely to the writings of men; and from the great Collections of the English Poets, where so many worthless compositions find a place, the productions of women have been carefully excluded. The small quantity of female effusions, and their concealment in obscure publications, have perhaps contributed to this neglect; and the ' object of the present volume is to exhibit the growth and progress of the genius of our country-women in the department of Poetry.
It is true that the grander inspirations of the Muse have not been often breathed into
the softer frame. The magic tones which have added a new existence to the heart — the tremendous thoughts which have impressed a successive stamp on the fluctuation of ages, and which have almost changed the character of nations,—these have not proceeded from woman; but her sensibility, her tenderness, her grace, have not been lost nor misemployed : her genius has gradually risen with the opportunities which facilitated its ascent. .
The inglorious toils of compilation seldom excite the gratitude of readers, who only require to be amused, and are indifferent as to what has passed behind the scenes in the preparation of their entertainment; but we feel an honest satisfaction in the reflection, that our tedious chase through the jungles of forgotten literature must procure to this undertaking the good-will of our countrywomen. In the course of future centuries, new Anthologies will be formed, more interesting and more exquisite than our own, because the human mind, and, above all, the female mind, is making a rapid advance ; but our work will never be deprived of the happy distinction of being one of the first that has been entirely consecrated to women.
The present volume was planned, and partly executed, before we were aware of the existence of perhaps the only similar publication in the language, - viz. Poems by Eminent Ladies, in two small volumes, printed in 1755, and edited, as we have understood, by Colman and Bonnel Thornton. It contains, however, no extracts from rare books, in which our own Selection is so rich, and exhibits specimens of only eighteen Poetesses. A reprint of it appeared without a date, probably about 1780, with some alterations, and a few additional poems.
The modern orthography, which has been used by the best editors, Ellis and others, has been adopted throughout the following pages, except in the specimens of the first five authoresses, - in Queen Elizabeth's version of the XIV th Psalm, -and in the extract from Elizabeth Melvill's poem.