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THIS edition of Goldsmith's Works not only contains more pieces than any other, but is also the first in which his works appear together exactly as their author left them.
Goldsmith was a careful corrector of his own writings; but it is remarkable that in not one of the many editions of his Poems (Mr. Bolton Corney's beautiful and most accurate volume excepted,) does "The Traveller" or "The Deserted Village" appear, as finally corrected by their author. Nor is this defect confined to his Poetical Works alone; it extends, in some respects, to all his writings.
There are two editions of Goldsmith's Miscellaneous Works held in esteem: that of 1801, in four volumes, octavo, with which Bishop Percy had something to do; and that of 1837, also in four volumes, octavo, ostensibly edited by Mr. Prior, though really edited by the late Mr. Wright, who saw through the press the edition of Boswell's "Life of Johnson," published in 1835.
The edition of 1801 is very incomplete; the text is not even tolerably accurate;-the edition of 1837 contains many remarkable additions to the works, but not only is the text throughout vicious, but the printer's errors are most numerous, and at times, ludicrously absurd.
When I consented to undertake the labour of editing the
works of Goldsmith I began to look about me for the editions of the several pieces published in the life-time of their author. I had some, and those of importance, myself; the British Museum possessed a few (too few); Mr. Forster had others; but Mr. Corney had nearly all. With a liberality which the public will appreciate, both Mr. Corney and Mr. Forster allowed me to take away from their shelves such editions as I required, and thus afforded me every means and facility to make my book what an edition of a great author should, if possible, be like. This liberality I must attribute, in part, to a long friendship with both gentlemen (with Mr. Forster especially); but the public will, I feel assured, attribute such confidence and kindness as much to their admiration of Goldsmith as to their liking for his editor.
I am unwilling to condemn the edition of 1837 without affording some grounds for such a judgment. In the Essays, as reprinted by Mr. Wright, we are at a loss to discover what the author himself thought worthy of collection, (Collecta revirescunt was his own motto); for in the apparent desire to present the text of each essay as it first appeared, papers are reprinted without their subsequent alterations, those minute touches which Goldsmith gave at all times with a master's hand,
Nullum quod tetigit non ornavit;
nay, doubtful essays (or essays assigned to Goldsmith on the belief of others) are made to appear in the same collection with essays about which there can be no doubt whatever. Every reader of Goldsmith will like to see, I feel assured, what Goldsmith thought worthy of reproduction, and to read in a distinct place by themselves the essays attributed to him by others, or which he did not deem deserving of preservation. In the present reprint will be found two essays, which Goldsmith himself added to the second edition of his Essays, and which are not in the edition of 1837.
The first publication of Goldsmith was anonymous,