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UBLICATIONS of this nature are already fo numerous that, if a preface had not, on any other account, been neceffary, fomething, of the kind would, doubtlefs, have been required, by way of apology, for adding one more to the number, particularly under fo plain and unalluring a title as that with which the prefent volumes are ufhered into the world. Every work, however, should be its own advocate, and fo must this, whatever may be here alledged in its favour.
Perhaps, indeed, if the above circumftance be viewed in a proper light, we shall find that the multiplicity of fimilar compilations afford rather an argument for, than an objection to an additional undertaking, upon an improved plan. There is not, it may be fairly afferted, any one language in the world" poffeffed of a greater variety of beautiful and elegant pieces of lyric poetry than our own. But, fo long as thefe beauties, this elegance, continue to be scattered. abroad, fuppreffed, and if one may be allowed the exprefion) buried alive, in a multitude of collections, confilling chiefly of compofitions of the loweft, and most despicable nature; one or more being annually hashed up (crambe repetita) by needy retainers to the prefs, and the most modern being, always, infinitely the worft, (much of the one, and many of the other being, likewife, interfperfed through books of a quite different caft, fome of which are very voluminous, and others very scarce,) the greater part of this ineftimable poffeffion muft, of course, remain altogether unknown to the generality of readers. For who, let his defires and his convenience be what they may, will think it worth his while to perufe, much lefs to purchase, two or three hundred volumes, merely becaufe each of them may happen to contain a couple of excellent fongs? Every one who wishes to poffefs a pearl, is not content to feek it in an ocean of mud.
Entirely, then, to remove every objection to which the fubject is, at present, open; to exhibit all the most admired, and intrinfically excellent fpecimens of lyric poetry in the English language at one view; to promote real, inftructive entertainment; to fatisfy the critical tafte of the judicious; to indulge the nobler feelings of the penfive; and to afford innocent mirth to the gay; has been the complex object of the prefent publication. How far it will answer these different purposes, must be fubmitted to time, and the judgement, taste, and candour of its various readers.
The editor is, however, aware that a late elegant collection, under the title of Effays on Song-writing, may be mentioned as an exception to every charge brought against preceding publications; and it, certainly, is very far from being his intention to involve that work in the general reprobation. Neither, indeed, will the comparatively small number of fongs which the ingenious compiler has, according to his own profeffion, been able to felect, chiefly, perhaps, to illuftrate his difcourfes on the fubject, and introduce the original compofitions, be; upon examination, found, unless in a very remote degre, to interfere with, or by any means to leffen the propriety of the prefent attempt.
In explaining the nature and methodical difpofition of thefe volumes, it may not be impertinent to premife, that, as the collection, under the general title of SONGS, confifts, not only of pieces ftrictly and properly fo called, but likewife, though in great difproportion as to number, of BALLADS or mere narrative compofitions, the word SONG will, in the courfe of this preface, be almost every where used in its confined sense; inclufive, however, of a few modern and fentimental ballads, which no reader of taste, it is believed, will be inclined to think out of place. Of the SONGS, therefor, in this fenfe, and as forming the bulk of the work, we are now to speak.
The plan which has been adopted with regard to thefe is a divifion or arrangement under the three heads or claffes of LOVE, DRINKING, and MISCELLANEOUS
This, perhaps, is too natural an idea to be a novel one; but it does not appear to have been practised more than once or twice, and even then without either judgement or attention, and in compilations which have been long buried in oblivion. It would have required a very small fhare of fagacity in the editor, to have puzzled and surprised his readers with a new, fanciful, and intricate arrangement of his materials under a multiplicity of defcriptions. By fuch ingenious contrivances, he might poffibly have received the credit of trouble which he never took, and of difficulties which he never encountered; but how far his ingenuity would have benefited his readers, is a doubt which he does not find altogether fo eafy to folve. The general diftribution which has been preferred was, it is confeffed, fimple and ready; but the interior order and difpofition of the contents of each department is peculiar to the present volumes, and required more accuracy and attention than will, perhaps, be immediately conceived, or it is here meant to describe.
The firft and principal divifion, which forms the subject matter for the whole of the prefent volume, is entirely confined to fuch pieces as are generally comprehended within the appellation and idea of LOVE SONGS. This part is fubdivided into many inferior portions or claffes, difplaying or describing that fublime and noble, -that, fometimes, calm and delightful,-but more frequently violent, unfortunate, and dreadful paffion, in all its various appearances, and with all its different effects, confequences, and connections. These objects are not, indeed, and neither neceffity nor propriety feemed to require, or even allow, that they should be, pointed out in the different pages where they occur; but the attentive, reader will eafily perceive, on the flighteft infpection, the particular fubject of each clafs. This will be rendered more obvious and familiar by the elegant and characteristic defigns which precede and terminate each divifion. And they who may choose to confider the above mode rather a fatigue than a pleasure, are here informed, that the fubjects peculiar to Class I. are diffidence, admiration,
admiration, refpect, plaintive tenderness, misplaced paffion, jealoufy, rage, defpair, frenzy, and death: that in Clafs II. love is treated as a paffion; with praife, contempt, reproach, fatire, and ridicule: that Clafs III. exhibits the upbraidings, quarrels, reconciliations, indifference, levity, and inconftancy of lovers; and is clofed by a few pieces, in which their misfortunes or moft ferious fituations are attempted to be thrown into burlefque: that Clafs IV. is devoted, folely, to profeffions of love from the fair fex:-the moral to be drawn from the ill confequences of this paffion being cherished in fuch tender bofoms, by the fatal inftances of those unhappy fair ones who have fuffered it to overcome their prudence, will be too obvious,-as it is too melancholy,to escape obfervation, or to need enforcing: that Clafs V. turns entirely upon the chafte delights of mutual affection, and terminates with fome beautiful representations of connubial felicity, and a few, not impertinent, admonitions to its bright creators. This arrangement, which is as comprehenfive as it is particular, and will, it is hoped, be found to have been executed with all the care and attention fo new and difficult a project could require, the editor wholly fubmits to the tafte and judgement of his fair readers; who, he trusts, will receive the highest and most refined amusement, not without confiderable inftruction, from every part of the volume; which, certainly, contains a much greater number and variety of elegant and beautiful compofitions on the above interesting fubject than were ever attempted to be brought together in any former collection, or than it would be even poffible for them elsewhere to meet with.
The fecond part, or first divifion of the other volume, comprifes a fmall quantity of Anacreontics, i. e. Bacchanalian, or, with the readers permiffion, (and the title is not only more fimple, but more general and proper) DRINKING SONGS; chansons à boire; most of which may be reafonably allowed to have merit in their way: but the editor will candidly own that he was not forry to find every-endeavour used to enlarge this part of the collection with credit, (and he may, probably, as it is, have been too indulgent)