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The character of Goldsmith, as a writer of varied powers, is deservedly held in estimation.
He attempted almost every species of composition, and to each gave fresh attractions : NULLUM QUOD TETIGIT NON ORNAVIT.
As a poet, in which capacity he now appears before the public, the most favoured of his numerous competitors scarcely equals him in popularity; and, since this distinction neither derives support from the charm of novelty, nor m the influence of party feelings, there can be no reason to doubt its permanency.
While relieved, by such circumstances, from the task of devising some plausible motive to the publication of this volume, it becomes the more requisite that I should describe the care with which it has been prepared; and I submit, therefore, a series of remarks on the text, the notes, the memoir, and the engraved illustrations.
As Goldsmith never edited his poetical works collectively, I have felt myself at liberty to reject the methods which have hitherto prevailed, and to carry into effect my own ideas of editorial propriety. I have, accordingly, divided the poems into three classes_descriptive poems, lyrical and miscellaneous poems, prologues and epilogues ; and have placed the contents of each class in the presumed order of composition. I have also collated the various editions of each article, and have given the text of that edition which exhibits the last revision of it. The result of the collations isan improved text of The deserted village, of the Threnodia augustalis, the Prologue to Zobeide, etc. The Captivity, also, is now faithfully printed from the valuable manuscript of Mr. Murray of Albemarle-street.
The notes are intended to point out the source whence each piece is derived, and to explain the least obvious allusions. I have avoided criticism; and, in various instances, have called on the poet to act as his own commentator.
The memoir is chiefly made up of bibliography, and this must always be the case in so short an account of so fertile a writer. I am conscious of its defects; and shall be perfectly satisfied if it escape with no other censure than as a
very unpoetical detail of the life of a poet.”
The designs which illustrate the text have been furnished by five members of THE ETCHING CLUB; and it is believed that the applause which those artists received as contributors to the late exquisite edition of The deserted village will promptly greet them on the present occasion. As in the poemsthe pathetic and the comic of social life, the sublimity and the amenity of inanimate nature, conspire to instruct and delight. The wood-engravers, moreover, appear to have exerted themselves in the true spirit of emulation.
When I undertook the editorship of this volume, at the request of Mr. Longman, the possibility of assembling the fugitive pieces of which it is composed, and the various works which it seemed desirable to consult, had not been sufficiently considered. The pursuit occupied much valuable time, and was too frequently unavailing; but the principal difficulties which occurred have fortunately been removed by the communications of the right honourable Henry Labouchere, M.P.—sir Henry Bunbury, baronet-the reverend Philip Bliss, D.C.L. —the reverend Peter Hall, M.A.-William Knight, esquire, F.S.A.—and my friend John Payne Collier, esquire, F.S.A.—-to all of whom I have the pleasure of offering my best acknowledgements.
An extended account of the life and numerous writings of Goldsmith, whatever interest it might chance to possess, would form an unsuitable companion to an ornamented edition of his poetical works; and I need not, therefore, apologise for the brevity of the narrative which follows.
I undertake the task, even on so limited a scale, with much reluctance. The career of this eminent man has