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The Booksellers having determined to publish a body of English Poetry, I was persuaded to promise them a Preface to the Works of each Author; an undertaking, as it was then presented to my mind, not very extensive or difficult.
My purpose was only to have allotted to every Poet an Advertisement, like those which we find in the French Miscellanies, containing a few dates and a general character ; but I have been led beyond my intention, I hope by the honest desire of giving useful pleasure.
In this minute kind of History, the succession of facts is not easily discovered ; and I am not without suspicion that some of Dryden's works are placed in wrong years. I have followed Langbaine, as the best authority for his plays, and, if I shall hereafter obtain a more correct chronology, will publish it; but I do not yet know that my account is erroneous.
Dryden’s Remarks on Rymer have been somewhere 3 printed before. The former edition I have not seen. This was transcribed for the press from his own manuscript.
As this undertaking was occasional and unforeseen, I must be supposed to have engaged in it with less provision of materials than might have been accumulated by longer premeditation. Of the later writers at least I might, by attention and inquiry, have gleaned many particulars, which would have diversified and enlivened my Biography. These omissions, which it is now useless to lament, have been often supplied by the kindness of Mr. Steevens and others; and great assistance has been given me by Mr. Spence's Collections, of which I consider the communication as a favour worthy of public acknowledgment.
i Originally tedious.
2 The dates assigned to Dryden's Plays by Johnson are corrected in this Edition from Dryden's own list of his plays and from the first editions, &c. . 3 In 1711 prefixed to an octavo edition of Beaumont and Fletcher, and since included in Malone's edition of his Prose Works, and Scott's edition of his Works. Its place therefore, in this edition of the Lives, I have thought proper to supply by two characteristic letters of Dryden's discovered since Scott's edition, and consequently not included in any edition of Dryden's Works.
+ From the original, then in Garrick's possession.
5 The quotations from Spence's MSS. in this edition of the Lives I have corrected by Mr. Singer's Edition of Spence, 1 vol. 8vo., 1820.
6 The first Advertisement, dated March 15, 1779, contains this additional paragraph:
“I had been told that in the College of Physicians there is some memorial of Dryden's funeral, but my intelligence was not true; the story, therefore, wants the credit which such a testimony would have given it. There is in Farquhar's Letters an indistinct mention of it as irregular and disorderly, and of the oration which was then spoke. More than this I have not discovered.”
CONTENTS OF VOL. I.