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THE

POETICAL DECAMERON,

OR

TEN CONVERSATIONS

ON

ENGLISH POETS AND POETRY,

PARTICULARLY OF THE

Reigns of Elizabeth and James I.

BY J. PAYNE COLLIER,

OF THE MIDDLE TEMPLE.

“ So long they read in those antiquities,
That how the time was fled they quite forgate.”

Spenser F. Q. B. II. c. 10.

IN TWO VOLUMES.

VOL. I.

PRINTED FOR

ARCHIBALD CONSTABLE AND CO. EDINBURGH;

AND HURST, ROBINSON, AND CO. CHEAPSIDE, LONDON.

1820.

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PREFACE.

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THE intention of the author has been to treat an antiquarian subject in a popular way: he has found in his progress that he has not been able to accomplish that purpose to the extent of his wishes. If he had accomplished it, he might, perhaps, have made a better speculation, but a worse book :-it would have possessed even less substance than in its present shape belongs to it.

The general success which attended the publication of such works as Censura Literaria, the British Bibliographer, and Restituta, the numerous reprints made of late years from judiciously selected productions of our early writers, without taking into view the prices which original specimens of the poetry of our ancestors now uniformly obtain, may be considered tests of the public taste in this respect. Though the author's

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plan is different, bis design is the same: neither, in his title, nor in his object, does he claim any novelty, nor is it of consequence that he should. The general scheme of this work was formed long before the appearance of the Rev. Mr. Dibdin's

Bibliographical Decameron,” a work of far deeper research and far wider learning than the author can pretend to. Yet the subject of these inquiries, if not as curious and recondite, is at Jeast as inviting and important, for, as a living critic has well said, “ poetry is the stuff of which our life is made:' it is not a mere frivolous accomplishment—the trifling amusement of a few idle readers or leisure hours—it has been the study and delight of mankind in all ages.”

As to the matter of the work before him, the reader will find it more fully explained in the Induction; but it may be necessary here to remark that where other writers have gone before him in extracts from or criticisms upon any of our old poets, the author has either shunned the track, or has freely admitted his obligation to his precursors. He knew that the chief recom

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