Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

ever merit, which was hawked through the streets in his time, marking carefully the price and date of the purchase. His collection contains the earliest editions of many of our most excellent poems, bound up, according to the order of time, with the lowest trash of Grub-Street. It was dispersed on Mr. Luttrell's death; but a number of the volumes, referring chiefly to the latter part of Charles the Second's reign, have fortunately become the property of Mr. James Bindley of Somerset-Place, who, with the utmost urbanity, permitted the Editor the unlimited use of these and other literary curiosities in his valuable library.-It is so much a matter of course with every adventurer in the field of antiquities, to acknowledge the liberality and kindness of Mr. Richard Heber, that the public would probably be surprised had his extensive literary treasures escaped contribution on this occasion, particularly as it contains several additional volumes of the Luttrell collection. To both gentlemen the Editor has to offer his public thanks; nor will he be tempted to dilate further on the liberality of the one, and the tried friendship of the other. It is possible, that these researches may, by their very nature, have, in some degree, warped the Editor's taste, and induced him to consider that as curious which was only scarce, and to reprint quotations, from the adversaries or contemporaries of Dryden, of a length more than sufficient to satisfy the reader of their unworthiness. But, as the painter places a human figure, to afford the means of computing the elevation of the principal object in his landscape, it

seemed that the giant-height of Dryden, above the poets of his day, might be best ascertained by extracts from those, who judged themselves, and were sometimes deemed by others, his equals, or his superiors. For the same reason, there are thrown into the Appendix a few indifferent verses to the poet's memory; which, while they show how much his loss was felt, point out, at the same time, the impossibility of supplying it.

In the Biographical Memoir, it would have been hard to exact, that the Editor should rival the criticism of Johnson, or produce facts which had escaped the accuracy of Malone. While, however, he has availed himself of the labours of both, particularly of the latter, whose industry has removed the cloud which so long hung over the events of Dryden's life, he has endeavoured to take a different and more enlarged view of the subject than that which his predecessors have presented. The general critical view of Dryden's works being sketched by Johnson with unequalled felicity, and the incidents of his life accurately discussed and ascertained by Malone, something seemed to remain for him who should consider these literary productions in their succession, as actuated by, and operating upon, the taste of an age, where they had so predominant influence; and who might, at the same time, connect the life of Dryden with the history of his publications, without losing sight of the fate and character of the individual. How far this end has been attained, is not for the Editor to guess, especially when, as usual at the close of a work, he finds

he is possessed of double the information he had when he commenced it. The kindness of Mr. Octavius Gilchrist, who undertook a journey to Northamptonshire to examine the present state of Rushton, where Dryden often lived, and of Mr. Finlay of Glasgow, who favoured the Editor with the use of some original editions, fall here to be gratefully acknowledged.

In collecting the poetry of Dryden some hymns translated from the service of the Catholic church were recovered, by the favour of Captain MacDonogh of the Inverness Militia.* As the first edition of the work was then printed off, they were inserted in the Life of the Author; but in the present impression, they are transferred to their proper place, vol. xi. p. 192. To the Letters of Dryden, published in Mr. Malone's edition of his prose works, the Editor has been enabled to add one article, by the favour of Mrs. White of Bownanhall, Glocestershire. Those preserved at Knowles were examined at the request of a noble friend, and the contents appeared unfit for publication. Dryden's translations of Fresnoy's Art of Painting, and of the Life of Xavier, are inserted without abridgment, for reasons which are elsewhere alleged. From the version of Maimbourg's “History of the League," there is an extract given, which may be advanta

* By the hands of Mrs. Jackson, who has honoured me with a note, stating, that they are mentioned in Butler's “ Tour through Italy;" that after Butler's death, the translations passed into the hands of the celebrated Dr. Alban, whence they were transferred to those of the present possessor.

+ Vol, I. p. 336. Vol. XVII. p. 281, VOL. I.

geously read along with the Duke of Guise, and the Vindication of that play. The prefaces and dedications are, of course, prefixed to the pieces to which they belong; but those who mean to study them with reference to theatrical criticism, will do well to follow the order recommended by Mr. Malone.*

Several pieces published in Derrick's edition of Dryden's poetry, being obviously spurious, are here published separately from his authentic poetry, and with a suitable note of suspicion prefixed to each. They might indeed have been altogether discarded without diminishing the value of the work. Some account might be here given of the various editions of Dryden's poems; but notices of this kind have been liberally scattered through the Life and preliminary matter.

Upon the whole, it is hoped, that as the following is the first complete edition of the Works of Dryden, it will be found, in accuracy of text and copiousness of illustration, not altogether unworthy of the time, labour, and expense which have been ungrudgingly bestowed upon an object, so important to English literature.

Several inaccuracies which had crept into the former edition of this work, are corrected in the present; and the whole has been revised with care.

* Which is, the Essay of Dramatic Poesy, the Defence of that Essay, the Preface to the Mock Astrologer, the Essay on Heroic Plays, the Defence of the Epilogue to the Second Part of the Conquest of Granada, the Grounds of Criticism in Tragedy, and the Answer to Rymer.

« ZurückWeiter »