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Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1839, by
CHARLES C. LITTLE AND JAMES BROWN,
In the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the District of Massachusetts.
THE present edition of Spenser is intended for popular use, and the professed scholar will find little in it that is new. It has been undertaken in compliance with a wish of the publishers to offer to the American public the works of this great poet at a moderate price, and accompanied with such notes and explanations as might remove, in some measure, the difficulties which have kept many from attempting to read him. The edition published by Pickering, in 1825, was taken for the basis of the present one, and the Life of Spenser contained in it has been republished in this. The Introductory Observations upon the "Faerie Queene," the glossarial and explanatory notes, have been added by the present editor. The obsolete and difficult words have been explained at the bottom of each page, which plan seems preferable to that of putting them into a glossary by themselves. The flavor of a fine passage is apt to evaporate while the reader is looking for the meaning of a word at the end of the volume, or perhaps in another book. The notes have been made with a view of explaining every thing that required it, and in as few words as possible.
Ample use has been made of the labors of previous editors, though a considerable number of the notes are original. The edition by Henry James Todd, published in London * A
in 1805, has furnished the materials for a large part of the annotations. This is what is technically called a variorum edition, containing a reprint of all the labors of the previous editors, Hughes, Upton, and Church, and of the observations of Warton. The merits of this edition are not commensurate with Spenser's rank in English literature. There is a great deal of learned rubbish in it; much trouble is often wasted in elucidating what is plain, and really difficult points are frequently passed by in silence.*
This edition, it may be remarked, has been heretofore the only one to be procured with notes and explanations of the text; and the price of this has put it quite out of the reach of a large majority of readers.
In the performance of his task, which has formed the agreeable employment of such leisure hours as could be snatched from an engrossing profession, the editor has felt a painful sense of his own incompetency, and claims merit for little more than a most conscientious desire to be faithful to his trust, and to do justice to his author. The amount of labor, which it has required, is much more considerable than is obvious at first blush, and will only be correctly estimated by such as have themselves undertaken a similar task. His work has been, however, a labor of love, and has brought its own reward; and he will have nothing to regret should he have succeeded in awakening and gratifying a taste for the poetry of Spenser in his countrymen.
* For an estimate of the value of this edition, see a review of it, written by Sir Walter Scott, in the thirteenth number of the Edinburgh Review, for October, 1805.