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FIRST EDITION 1779- 1780.
The Booksellers having determined to publish a Body of English Poetry, I was persuaded to promise them a Preface to the Works of each Author; an undertaking, as it was then presented to my mind, not very extensive or difficult.
My purpose was only to have allotted to every Poet an Advertisement, like those which we find in the French Miscellanies, containing a few dates and a general character: but I have been led beyond my intention, I hope, by the honest desire of giving useful pleasure.
In this minute kind of History, the succession of facts is not easily discovered; and I am not without suspicion that some of Dryden's works are placed in wrong years. I have followed Langbaine, as the best authority for his plays; and if I shall hereafter obtain a more correct chronology, will publish it: but I do not yet know that my account is erroneous.*
* Langbaine’s authority will not support the dates assigned to Dryden's Plays. These are now rectified in the margin by references to the original Editions, the only guides to be relied on. R.