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more than the names of his authors to their verses, who are most of them now fo obfolete, that not knowing what they wrote, we can have no recourfe to their works, if ftill extant. And, perhaps, this might be done defignedly, to prevent fome, tho' not all, readers from difcovering his indifcretion in maiming fome thoughts, his prefumption in altering others, and his error in afcribing to one poet what had been wrote by another. This artifice, if real, does not prevent us from obferving his ill judgment in the choice of his authors; and in his extracts from them, his negligence in repeating the fame paffages in different places, and particularly his unpardonable hafte 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 method. This book, bad as it is, fuggefts one good obfervation however upon the ufe and advantage of fuch collections, which is, that they may prove more fuccessful in preferving the beft parts of fome authors, than their works themselves.
But what renders both thefe collections very defective, and prevents them from affording the redundant light, of which they were capable, is the little merit of the obfolete poets, from which they are
in a great measure extracted; which wan of merit, as Sir Philip Sidney justly obferves, is the caufe of their wanting efteem. They wanted, befides the additional fupplies dramatick poetry has fince contributed; which performances appeared fo contemptible at that time, except a few pieces of Shakespear, Johnson, Daniel, Chapman, and one or two more, that † Sir Tho. Bodley was unwilling to admit plays, as then generally compofed, into his new-founded library at Oxford; because, in his opinion, fcarce 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 converfant with the dramatick poems our ftage has fince produced, and observed what lively portraits they are of the genius and humours of our people, the manners and fashions of the times, the delicacy of our wit, and the energy of our language; our natural knowledge in the paffions of men, and our moral and political knowledge in their fentiments and plots; I fay, whoever have obferved these characteristicks of our plays, would not fear the cenfure of Sir Thomas, or the most rigid'
rigid critick alive, for admitting them into the best chofen library. The teftimony of many very judicious perfons juftify this opinion; amongst whom I fhall only obferve, that * Rapin, the critick, allows our genius for tragedy fuperior to that of all other nations. Sir William Temple fays of our comick wit, That there is no vein of that fort, either ancient or modern, which excels the bumour 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 fcarcity 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 fuch collections. It is called, (+) THE ENGLISH TREASURY OF WIT AND LANGUAGE, collected out of all the most and best Dramatick Poets," methodically digefted into Common-Places for general Ufe. But this is a more injudicious performance even than the laft. In the first place, the author has annexed not one A 6 poet's
* Reflex. fur la Poetique.
Effay of Poetry.
(*) Preface to his Tranflat. of Rapin on Ariftotle's Poeticks.
(t) By John Cotgrave, Gent. Svo, 1655.
poet's name to his extracts throughout his book, nor even given a lift of his authors in the front of it, by way of amends for omitting them: And in the next, as he has made fome ufe, fuch as it is, of many noted dramatick poets, from the beginning of King James's reign to his own time, he has evidently allowed himfelf too little room for the number of plays he undertakes to extract; in confequence of which, he has not only given us a very fuperficial tafte of them, but has omitted many better thoughts than he has ufed. He feems apprehenfive of this objection himself; for he fays in his preface, That in fo fmall a compafs we are not to expect the abstracted quintefcence of fuch a number; however, if the world fmiles fo upon his effay, as to make his able and ingenious friend, the ftationer, a gainer by it, he may be encouraged to enlarge his pains. But as no fuch enlargement did ever appear, we may conclude, the world did not fmile upon his effay. And, indeed, that is no wonder, as it is eafy to discover, notwithstanding his cunning in concealing his authors, that he has quoted them very imperfectly and by halves in fome places, officiously corrupted them in others, and frequently misplaced them under heads foreign to their fubjects, out of a laziness, which, he confeffes, in
duced him to content himself with a first copy. So that his method of transplanting, instead of preferving, has abridged his flowers of their native beauty and fragrance, which, like thofe in the Garden of the Mufes mentioned above, seem to have withered affoon as he gathered them.
The next Collection of this kind, is *THE ENGLISH PARNASSUS, or, An Help to English Poefy, by Joshua Poole, of Clare Hall in Cambridge, and fometimes master of a private school at Hadley. It confifts of three parts. The firft is an alphabet of monofyllabical rhymes; the fecond, an affemblage of epithets; and the third, an heap of phrafes and ends of verfe, extracted from tranflations, as well as originals, and profe, as well as poetical, writers. He afcribes few of thefe quotations to their authors, and concludes his work with fome general modes or formalities of expreffion upon feveral 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 infignificance and empty fwell of pedantry and bombaft. His fcholars might learn from it, when they took a neft, to call the birds, The fummer's waits; the air's
London, 8v0, 1657, 1677.