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It is not necessary to detain the Reader long by an explanation of the motives which induced the Publisher to undertake a new edition of the following elegant little Work. Its merit has been universally recognized, and its scarcity has long been a subject of popular regret. The many years which have elapsed since the publication of the last Edition, seemed to leave no hope that Dr. Aikin could be prevailed on to gratify the public by a revision and enlargement of his work. He had declined the task in the prime and vigour of life; and he might now think it unbecoming his years, to engage in a republication of these nugæ canoræ.Turpe senilis amor, the Doctor inight exclaim, and though he might be pleased to see his volume ranged by the side of those of Percy, Ellis, and some other similar publications, yet he has abandoned the friendly office of revision to other hands. The present Editor has diligently revised the text, which had been rather hastily printed in the former Editions ; he has assigned to their proper Authors the Poems which had before been erroneously ascribed, and he has annexed the Writers' names to various others which were printed as anonymous; and, lastly, he has added a Supplement, which he flatters himself will render this new Edition á complete Collection of the best Songs in the language. The Editor feels confident, that in prefixing to this new Edition Mrs. Barbauld's Poem on the Origin of Song-Writing, he anticipates the wishes of every Reader.
P R E F A G E.
On conversing with a few of my friends who were lovers of Poetry, I have frequently joined them in lamenting that the number of excellent Songs which our language afforded, were so dispersed through a variety of authors, or overwhelmed in injudicious Collections, that it was a most difficult matter to discover and enjoy the riches of this kind which we possessed. We observed that every collection of Songs, without exception, was degraded by dullness, or debased by indecency; and that Song-Writing scarcely seemed in any of them to be considered as a pleasing species of poetical composition, but merely as serving for the conveyance of some favourite Tunes. We were concerned to find that the more modern any Collection was, it was remarkably the more deficient in poetical merit; so that a total decay of all taste for genuine Poetry, in this pleasing branch of it, was to be apprehended. This we in great measure attributed to the fashionable rage for Music, which had encouraged such a mushroom growth of Comic Operas, that vile mongrel of the Drama, where the most enchanting Tunes are suited with the most flat and wretched combinations of words that ever disgraced the genius of a nation; and where the miserable versifier only appears as the hired underling of a Musical Composer, We thought, therefore, that it would be a meritorious piece of service to the cause of Poetry, by uniting into one firm body the most excellent productions in SongWriting, to form a barrier against the modish insipidity of the age, and to gratify such real lovers of genius as yet remain amongst us.