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more than the names of his authors to their verses, who are most of them now so obsolete, that not knowing what they wrote, we can have no recourse to their works, if ftill excant. And, perhaps, this might be done designedly, to prevent fome, tho' not all, readers from discovering his indiscretion in maiming some thoughts, his presumption in altering others, and his error in ascribing to one poet what had been wrote by another. This artifice, if real, does not prevent us from observing his ill judgment in the choice of his authors; and in his extracts from them, his negligence in repeating the fame passages in different places, and particularly his unpardonable halle and irregularity, in throwing almost the last half of his book out of its alphabetical order, into a confused jumble of topicks without order or me. thod. This book, bad as it is, suggests one good observation however upon the use and advantage of such collections, which is, that they may prove more successful in preserving the best parts of some authors, than their works themselves.
But what renders both these collections very defective, and prevents them from affording the redundant light, of which they were capable, is the little merit of the obsolete poets, from which they are
in a great measure extracted ; which wan of merit, as * Sir Philip Sidney justly observes, is the cause of their wanting esteem. They wanted, besides the additional supplies dramatick poetry has since contri. buted; which performances appeared fo contemptible at that time, except a few pieces of Shakespear, Johnson, Daniei, Chapman, and one or two more, that + Sir Tho. Bodo ley was unwilling to admit plays, as then generally composed, into his new-founded library at Oxford ; because, in his opinion, scarce one in forty was worth preserving. And indeed, the fate of the plays of those times has been proportioned to their merits ; for hardly one of that number has come down to us. But those who have been conversant with the dramatick poems our stage has since produced, and observed what lively portraits they are of the genius and humours of our people, the marners and fashions of the times, the delicacy of our wit, and the energy of our language ; our natural knowledge in the paflions of men, and our moral and
political knowledge in their sentiments and plocs ; I say, whoever have observed these characteristicks of our plays, would not fear the censure of Sir Thomas, or the most
rigid * Defence of Poesie. + Reliquiæ Bodleianz, 800, 1703.
rigid critick alive, for admitting them into the best chosen library. The testimony of many very judicious persons justify this opinion ; amongst whom I shall only observe, that * Rapin, the critick, allows our genius for tragedy superior to that of all other nations. + Sir William Temple says of our comick wit, That there is no vein of that fort, either ancient or modern, which excels the humour of our.plays. And Mr. (*) Rymer afferts of both kinds, That for the drama, the world has nothing to be compared with us.
The next publication of this kind, as it did not labour under a scarcity of good dramatick poems, and confined itself to extracts from plays, might have been expected to have been free from this last defect, and to have abounded with the fine thoughts that enrich such collections. It is called, (+) THE ENGLISH TREASURY OF WIT AND LANGUAGE, colleFled out of all the most and best Dramatick Poets," methodically digested inic Common-Places for general Use
. But this is a more injudicious performance even than the last. In the first place, the author has annexed not one A 6
* Reflex. sur la Poetique. + Esay of Poetry.
(*) Preface to his Translat. of Rapin on Aristotle': Poeticks.
(ti By John Cotgrave, Gent. Svo, 1655.
poet's name to his extracts throughout his book, nor even given a list of his authors in the front of it, by way of amends for omitting them : And in the next, as he has made fome use, such as it is, of many noted dramatick poets, from the beginning of King James's reign to his own time, he has evidently allowed himself too little room for the number of plays he undertakes to extract ; in consequence of which, he has not only given us a very superficial taste of them, but has omitted many better thoughts than he has used. He seems apprehensive of this objection himself ; for he says in his preface, “ That in fo fmalla
compass we are not to expect the abstracted quintescence of such a number ; however, if
the world smiles so upon bis essay, as to • make bis able and ingenious friend, the
stationer, a gainer by it, he may be encouraged to enlarge his pains. But as no such enlargement did ever appear, we may conclude, the world did not smile upon his ejay. And, indeed, that is no wonder, as it is easy to discover, notwithstanding his cunning in concealing his authors, that he has quoted them very imperfectly and by halves in some places, officiously corrupted them in others, and frequently misplaced them under heads foreign to their subjects, out of a laziness, which, he confesses, in
duced him to content himself with a first copy. So that his method of transplanting, instead of preserving, has abridged his flowers of their native beauty and fragrance, which, like those in the Garden of ibe Mufes mentioned above, seem to have withered assoon as he gathered them.
The next Collection of this kind, is *THE ENGLISH PARNASSUS, or, An Help to English Poesy, by Joshua Poole, of Clare Hall in Cambridge, and sometimes master of a private school at Hadley. It consists of three parts. The first is an alphabet of monosyllabical rhymes ; the second, an assemblage of epithets; and the third, an heap of phrases and ends of verse, extracted from tranflations, as well as originals, and prose, as well as poetical, writers. He ascribes few of these quotations to their authors, and concludes his work with some general modes or formalities of expression upon several trite topicks, much in the manner of The Academy of Compliments. This elaborate piece of poetical patchwork was calculated for the youth of his school, but is, indeed, fit only to teach them the pompous insignificance and empty swell of pedantry and bombast. His scholars might learn from it, when they took a neft, to call the birds, The summer's waits; the air's
feathered London, 8vo, 1657, 1677.