페이지 이미지
PDF
ePub

agreeable writer, and, by the help of a commentary, to make my work as amusing as I could. Let us dignify natural history ever so much with the grave appellation of a useful science, yet still we must confess, that it is the occupation of the idle and the speculative, more than of the ambitious part of mankind. My intention was to treat what I then conceived to be an idle subject, in an idle manner; and not to hedge round plain and simple narratives with hard words, accumulated distinctions, ostentatious learning, and disquisitions that produced no conviction. Upon the appearance, however, of M. Buffon's work, I dropped my former plan and adopted the present, being convinced by his manner, that the best imitation of the ancients was to write from our own feelings, and to imitate nature.

It will be my chief pride, therefore, if this work may be found an innocent amusement for those who have nothing else to employ them, or who require a relaxation from labour. Professed naturalists will, no doubt, find it superficial; and yet I should hope, that even these will discover hints and remarks, gleaned from various reading, not wholly trite or elementary; I would wish for their approbation. But my chief ambition is to drag up the obscure and gloomy learning of the cell to open inspection; to strip it from its garb of austerity, and to show the beauties of that form, which only the industrious and the inquisitive have been hitherto permitted to approach.

PREFACE

TO THE

BEAUTIES OF ENGLISH POETRY.

FIRST PRINTED IN THE YEAR MDCCLXVII.

PREFACE.

My bookseller having informed me that there was no collection of English Poetry among us, of any estimation, I thought a few hours spent in making a proper selection would not be ill bestowed.

Compilations of this kind are chiefly designed for such as either want leisure, skill, or fortune, to choose for themselves; for persons whose professions turn them to different pursuits, or who, not yet arrived at sufficient maturity, require a guide to direct their application. To our youth, particularly, a publication of this sort may be useful; since, if compiled with any share of judgment, it may at once unite precept and example, show them what is beautiful, and inform them why it is so: I therefore offer this, to the best of my judgment, as the best collection that has as yet appeared; though, as tastes are various, numbers will be of a very different opinion. Many, perhaps, may wish to see in it the poems of their favourite authors, others may wish that I had selected from works less generally read, and others still may wish that I had selected from their But my design was to give a useful, unaffected compilation; one that might tend to advance the reader's

own.

VOL. II.

26

[ocr errors]

taste, and not impress him with exalted ideas of mine. Nothing is so common, and yet so absurd, as affectation in criticism. The desire of being thought to have a more discerning taste than others, has often led writers to labour after error, and to be foremost in promoting deformity.

In this compilation, I run but few risks of that kind: every poem here is well known, and possessed, or the public has been long mistaken, of peculiar merit; every poem has, as Aristotle expresses it, a beginning, a middle, and an end, in which, however trifling the rule may seem, most of the poetry in our language is deficient. I claim no merit in the choice, as it was obvious, for in all languages best productions are most easily found. As to the short introductory criticisms to each poem, they are rather designed for boys than men; for it will be seen that I declined all refinement, satisfied with being obvious and sincere. In short, if this work be useful in schools, or amusing in the closet, the merit all belongs to others; I have nothing to boast, and at best can expect, not applause but pardon.

OLIVER GOLDSMITH.

[ocr errors]

THE RAPE OF THE LOCK.

This seems to be Mr Pope's most finished production, and is, perhaps, the most perfect in our language. It exhibits stronger powers of imagination, more harmony of numbers, and a greater knowledge of the world than any other of this poet's works; and it is probable, if our country were called upon to show a specimen of their genius to foreigners, this would be the work fixed upon.

« 이전계속 »