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(Containing Ballads that illustrate Shakspeure.) 8 Cupid's Assault. By Lord Vaux........
Essay on the Origin of the English Stage .. 32 9 Sir Aldingar ....
11 Gerputus, the Jew of Venice .......
BOOK THE SECOND.
14 The Lady Isabella's Tragedy........
10 To Althea from Prison. By Col. Lovelace
19 A Lover of late was I..........
20 The King and the Miller of Mansfield.... 240
21 The Shepberd's Resolution. By G. Wither 242
BOOK THE FIRST.
10 Constant Penelope ......
11 To Lucasta, on going to the Wars. By Col.
196 12 Valentine and Ursine ...................
6 A Dytte to Hey Downe ...
206 16 Margaret's Ghost. By David Mallet .....
9 Child Waters ........................ 209 19 The ancient Fragment of the Marriage of
TWENTY years have near elapsed since the last edi- , Esq. and Isaac Reed, Esq., to whom I beg leave to tion of this work appeared. But, although it was appeal for the truth of the following representation. sufficiently a favourite with the public, and had long The MS. is a long narrow folio volume, containbeen out of print, the original Editor had no desire ing 195 Sonnets, Ballads, Historical Songs, and to revive it. More important pursuits had, as might Metrical Romances, either in the whole or in part, be expected, engaged his attention ; and the present for many of them are extremely mutilated and imperedition would have remained unpublished, had he fect. The first and last leaves are wanting ; and of not yielded to the importunity of his friends, and 54 pages near the beginning half of every leaf hath accepted the humble offer of an Editor in a nephew, been torn away, and several others are injured to whom, it is feared, he will be found too partial. towards the end ; besides that through a great part
These volumes are now restored to the public of the volume the top or bottom line, and sometimes with such corrections and improrements as have both bave been cut off in the binding. occurred since the former impression ; and the text In this state is the MS. itself: and even where in particular bath been emended in many passages the leaves have suffered no injury, the transcripts, by recurring to the old copies. The instances being wbich seem to have been all made by one person, frequently trivial, are not always noted in the (they are at least all in the same kind of hand,) margin ; but the alteration hath never been made are sometimes extremely incorrect and faulty, without good reason : and especially in such pieces being in such instances probably made from deas were extracted from the folio manuscript so often fective copies, or the imperfect recitation of illitementioned in the following pages, where any varia rate singers ; so that a considerable portion of the tion occurs from the former impression, it will be sung or narrative is sometimes omitted ; and miunderstood to have been given on the authority of ! serable trash or nonsense not unfrequently introthat MS.
duced into pieces of considerable merit. And often The appeal publicly made to Dr. Johnson in the the copyist grew so weary of bis labour as to write first page of the following preface, so long since as on without the least attention to the sense or meanin the year 1765, and never once contradicted by | ing; so that the word which should form the him during so large a portion of his life, ought to rhyme is found misplaced in the middle of the line ; have precluded every doubt concerning the existence and we have such blunders as these, want and will of the MS in question. But such, it seems, having for wanton will* ; even pan and wale for wan and been suggested, it may now be mentioned, that while palet, &c. &c. this edition passed through his press, the MS, itself Hence the Public may judge how much they was left for near a year with Mr. Nichols, in whose are indebted to the composer of this collection ; house, or in that of its possessor, it was examined who, at an early period of life, with such matewith more or less attention by many gentlemen of rials and such subjects, formed a work which hath eminence in literature. At the first publication of been admitted into the most elegant libraries; and these volumes, it had been in the hands of all, or with which the judicious antiquary hath just reason most of, bis friends ; but, as it could hardly be ex to be satisfied, while refined entertainment hath been pected that he should continue to think of nothing provided for every reader of taste and genius. else but these amusements of his youth, it was after
THOMAS PERCY, wards laid aside at his residence in the country. Of the many gentlemen above mentioned, who
Fellow of St. John's College, OXFORD. offered to give their testimony to the public, it will be sufficient to name the Hon. Daines Barrington, the Rev. Clayton Mordaunt Cracherode, and those
• Page 130. Ver. 117.—This must have been copied froin
a reciter. eminent Critics on Shakespeare, the Rev. Dr.
+ Page 139. Ver. 164, viz. Fariner, George Steevens, Esq., Edmund Malune, " His visage waxed pan and wale."
Tue reader is here presented with select remains of critics have been thought to compensate for the our ancient English Bards and Minstrels, an order want of higher beauties, and, if they do not dazzle of men, who were once greatly respected by our the imagination, are frequently found to interest the ancestors, and contribuuted to soften the roughness heart. of a martial and unlettered people by their songs
To atone for the rudeness of the more obsolete and by their music.
poems, each volume concludes with a few modern The greater part of them are extracted from an attempts in the same kind of writing : and, to take ancient folio manuscript, in the Editor's possession, off from the tediousness of the longer narratives, they which contains near two hundred Poems, Songs, and are every where intermingled with little elegant Metrical Romances. This MS. was written about pieces of the lyric kind. Select ballads in the old the middle of the last century ; but contains compo Scottish dialect, most of them of the first rate merit, sitions of all times and dates, from the ages prior to are also interspersed among those of our ancient Chaucer, to the conclusion of the reign of Charles I.* English Minstrels; and the artless productions of
This manuscript was shown to several learned these old rhapsodists are occasionally confronted and ingenious friends, who thought the contents too with specimens of the composition of contemporary curious to be consigned to oblivion, and importuned poets of a higher class ; of those who had all the the possessor to select some of them, and give them advantages of learning in the times in which they to the press. As most of them are of great simpli- | lived, and who wrote for fame and for poste city, and seem to have been merely written for the
Yet perhaps the palm will be frequently due to the people, he was long in doubt, whether, in the present old strolling Minstrels, who composed their rhimes state of improved literature, they could be deemed to be sung to their harps, and who looked no further worthy the attention of the public. At length the than for present applause, and present subsistence. importunity of his friends prevailed, and he could The reader will find this class of men occasionally refuse nothing to such judges as the Author of the
described in the following volumes, and some parRambler and the late Mr. Shenstone.
ticulars relating to their history in an Essay subAccordingly such specimens of ancient poetry joined to this preface. have been selected, as either show the gradation of our language, exhibit the progress of popular opi
Ir will be proper here to give a short account nions, display the peculiar manners and customs of of the other collections that were consulted, and former ages, or throw light on our earlier classical to make my acknowledgements to those gentlepoets.
men who were so kind as to impart extracts from They are here distributed into volumes, each of them ; for, while this selection was making, a greit which contains an independent series of poems, number of ingenious friends took a share in the work, arranged chiefly according to the order of time, and and explored many large repositories in its favour, showing the gradual improvements of the English The first of these that deserved notice was the language and poetry from the earliest ages down to Pepysian library at Magdalen College, Cambridge. the present. Each volume, or series, is divided into Its founder, Sam. Pepyst, Esq., Secretary of the Allthree books, to afford so many pauses, or resting | miralty in the reigns of Charles II. and James II. places to the reader, and to assist him in distinguish had made a large collection of ancient English ing betwen the productions of the earlier, the middle, | ballads, near two thousand in number, which he has and the latter times.
left pasted in five volumnes in folio ; besides GarIn a polished age, like the present, I am sensible | lands and other smaller miscellanies. This collecthat many of these reliques of antiquity will require tion, he tells us, was “begun by Mr, Selden ; imgreat allowances to be made for them. Yet have they, for the most part, a pleasing simplicity, and
Mr. Addison, Mr. Dryden, and the witty Lord Dorset.
&c. See the Spectator, No. 70. To these might be added many artless graces, which in the opinion of no mean
many eminent judges now alive.-The learned Selden appears also to have been fond of collecting these old things.
See below. Chaucer quotes the old Romance of “ Libius Disconins," + A Life of our curious collector, Mr. Pepys, may be scen and some others, which are found in this MS. It also con in « The Continuation of Mr. Collier's Supplement to his tains several Songs relating to the Civil War in the last cen Great Dictionary, 1715, at the end of vol. i. folio. Art. bat got one that allodes to the Restoration.