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TO THE EDITION OF 1983.
HE 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 bestauthority 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.
Dryden's Remarks on Rymer have been somewhere printed before. The former edition I have not seen. This was transcribed for the press from his own manufcript.
As this undertaking was occasional and unforeseen, I must be supposed to have engaged in it with less provision of materials than might have been accumulated by longer premeditation. Of the later writers at least I might, by attention and enquiry, have gleaned many particulars, which would have diverfified and enlivened my Biography. These omiffions, which it is now useless to lament, have been often supplied by the kindness of Mr. STEEVENS and others; and great aslistance has been given me by Mr. Spence's Colletions, of which I consider the communication as a favour worthy of publick acknowledgement.
CO W L E Y.
HE Life of Cowley, notwithstanding the penuty
of English biography, has been written by. Dr. Sprat, an author whose pregnancy of imagination and elegance of language have deservedly set him high in the ranks of literature; but his zeal of friendship, or ambition of eloquence, has produced a funeral oration rather than a history : he has given the character, not the life of Cowley; for he writes with so little detail, that scarcely any thing is distinctly known, but all is thewn confused and enlarged through the mist of panegyrick.
ABRAHAM COWLEY was born in the year one thousand six hundred and eighteen. His father was a grocer, whose condition Dr. Sprat conceals under the general appellation of a citizen; and, what would probably not have been lefs carefully suppressed, the omission of his name in the register of St. Dunstan's parish, gives reason to suspect that his father was a sectary. Whoever he was, he died before the birth of his son, and consequently left him to the care of his mother; whom Wood represents as struggling carnestly to procure him a literary education, and who,