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قراءة كتاب Notes and Queries, Vol. V, Number 115, January 10, 1852 A Medium of Inter-communication for Literary Men, Artists, Antiquaries, Genealogists, etc.

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‏اللغة: English
Notes and Queries, Vol. V, Number 115, January 10, 1852
A Medium of Inter-communication for Literary Men, Artists, Antiquaries, Genealogists, etc.

Notes and Queries, Vol. V, Number 115, January 10, 1852 A Medium of Inter-communication for Literary Men, Artists, Antiquaries, Genealogists, etc.

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دار النشر: Project Gutenberg
الصفحة رقم: 2

Boswell there is a long note (see Edit. 1848, p. 818.) on the claim of Theophilus Cibber to the authorship of the Lives, or a participation in it: but though he remarks that the plan on which these Lives are written is substantially the same as that which Johnson long after adopted in his own work, his attention does not seem to have been directed to the prospectus of Cibber's Lives. As, however, this prospectus was not adopted as a preface to the work, but merely appeared in the newspapers and periodicals of the day, it is the less surprising that it has hitherto remained unnoticed. The internal evidence is decisive; and, as it has never, that I am aware of, been reprinted, and is of great interest in connexion with Johnson's own Lives of the Poets, of which admirable work it may be considered to have "cast the shadows before," at the distance of nearly thirty years, I trust, though rather long, it may claim insertion in "N. & Q." It is extracted from a London newspaper of the 20th February, 1753.


"This Day [20th Feb. 1753] is published,

"In Twelves (Price Six pence),


"The LIVES of the POETS, of Great-Britain and Ireland, to the present Time.

"Compiled from ample Materials scattered in a Variety of Books, and especially from the MS. Notes of the late ingenious Mr. COXETER, and others, collected for this Design.


"Printed for R. Griffiths, at the Dunciad, in St. Paul's Church-yard.

"Where may be had, No. I. and II.

"This Work is published on the following Terms,

"I. That it shall consist of Four neat Pocket Volumes, handsomely printed.

"II. That it shall be published in Numbers, at Six-pence each, every Number containing Three Sheets, or Seventy-Two Pages; the Numbers to be printed every Saturday without Intermission, till the Whole is finished.

"III. That Five Numbers shall make a Volume; so that the whole Work will not exceed the Price of Ten Shillings unbound.

"To the Public.

"The Professors of no Art have conferred more Honour on our Nation than the Poets. All Countries have been diligent in preserving the Memoirs of those who have, either by their Actions or Writings, drawn the Attention of the World upon them: it is a Tribute due to the illustrious Dead; and has a Tendency to awaken, in the Minds of the Living, the laudable Principle of Emulation. As there is no Reading at once so entertaining and instructive, as that of Biography, so none ought to have the Preference to it: It yields the most striking Pictures of Life, and shews us the many Vicissitudes to which we are exposed in the Course of that important Journey. It has happened that the Lives of the Literati have been less attended to than those of Men of Action, whether in the Field or Senate; possibly because Accounts of them are more difficult to be attained, as they move in a retired Sphere, and may therefore be thought incapable of exciting so much Curiosity, or affecting the Mind with equal Force; but certain it is, that familiar Life, the Knowledge of which is of the highest Importance, might often be strikingly exhibited, were its various Scenes but sufficiently known, and properly illustrated. Of this, the most affecting Instances will be found in the Lives of the Poets, whose Indigence has so often subjected them to experience Variety of Fortune, and whose Parts and Genius have been so much concerned in furnishing Entertainment to the Public. As the Poets generally converse more at large, than other men, their Lives must naturally be productive of such Incidents as cannot but please those who deem the Study of Human Nature, and Lessons of Life, the most important.

"The Lives of the Poets have been less perfectly given to the World, than the Figure they have made in it, and the Share they have in our Admiration, naturally demand. The Dramatic Authors indeed have had some Writers who have transmitted Accounts of their works to Posterity: Of these Langbain is by far the most considerable. He was a Man of extensive Reading, and has taken a great deal of Pains to trace the Sources from which our Poets have derived their Plots; he has given a Catalogue of their Plays, and, as far as his Reading served him, very accurately: He has much improved upon Winstanley and Philips, and his Account of the Poets is certainly the best now extant. Jacob's Performance is a most contemptible one; he has given himself no Trouble to gain Intelligence, and has scarcely transcribed Langbain with Accuracy. Mrs. Cooper, Author of The Muses Library, has been industrious in collecting the Works and some Memoirs of the Poets who preceded Spenser: But her Plan did not admit of enlarging, and she has furnished but little Intelligence concerning them.

"The general Error into which Langbain, Mrs. Cooper, and all the other Biographers have fallen, is this: They have considered the Poets merely as such, without tracing their Connexions in civil Life, the various Circumstances they have been in, their Patronage, their Employments, and in short, the Figure they made as Members of the Community; which Omission has rendered their Accounts less interesting; and while they have shewn us the Poet, they have quite neglected the Man. Many of the Poets, besides their Excellency in that Profession, were held in Esteem by Men in Power, and filled civil Employments with Honour and Reputation; various Particulars of their Lives are to be found in the Annals of the Age in which they lived, and which were connected with those of their Patron.

"But these Particulars lie scattered in a Variety of Books, and the collecting them together and properly arranging them, is as yet unattempted, and is no easy task to accomplish. This however, we have endeavoured to do, and if we are able to execute our Plan, their Lives will prove entertaining, and many Articles of Intelligence, omitted by others, will be brought to Light. Another Advantage we imagine our Plan has over those who have gone before us in the same Attempt is, that we have not confined ourselves to Dramatic Writers only, but have taken in all who have had any Name as Poets, of whatsoever Class: and have besides given some Account of their other Writings: So that if they had any Excellence independant of Poetry, it will appear in full View to the Reader. We have likewise considered the Poets, not as they rise Alphabetically, but Chronologically, from Chaucer, the Morning Star of English Poetry, to the present Times: And we promise in the Course of this work, to make short Quotations by Way of Specimen from every Author, so that the Readers will be able to discern the Progress of Poetry from its Origin in Chaucer to its Consummation in Dryden. He will discover the gradual Improvements made in Versification, its Rise and Fall; and in a Word, the compleat History of Poetry will appear before him. In the Reign of Queen Elizabeth for Instance, Numbers and Harmony were carried to a great Perfection by the Earl of Surry, Spenser, and Fairfax; in the Reign of James and Charles the First, they grew harsher; at the Restoration, when Taste end Politeness began again to revive, Waller restored them to the Smoothness they had lost: Dryden reached the highest Excellence of Numbers, and compleated the Power of Poetry.

"In the Course of this Work we shall be particular in quoting Authorities for every Fact advanced, as it is fit the Reader should not be