« EelmineJätka »
age have been transferred to these pages; the gleams of intellect only are preserved. The slow progress which the language made in its early stages, renders it difficult to distinguish each minute step of the process by which it was transformed from the Saxon to the English, but this is not material, as the great features of the change are sufficient to determine the nature of our language; and whatever existed, or, has taken place in ages past, which produced no result, does not belong to history or philosophy of any kind.
It has become so common to raphsodise about the old English poets, that a dispassionate review of them may appear insipid they are however considered in the following work, more particularly with regard to their influence upon the language, and what they have really added to our poetry. The extracts have been made with a view to illustrate the gradual development of the language, rather than to bring to light new specimens and detect new beauties; yet none but the most beautiful specimens of each age have been admitted. In this respect this work differs from all others of the same nature; yet an attempt has been made to combine in it the peculiar merits of the following works, and it is believed that it is at least free from their chief defects. Mr. Warton's learned work, which may be considered the pioneer in a historical collection of the kind, commences at too late a date, and is too volumnious and digressive, and excludes the drama. Mr. Ellie' is a chronological collection from the minor poets; without any particular illustration of their genius; Hazlitt's consists entirely of ELEGANT EXTRACTS, and Mr. Campbell's, which is the most complete, is too volumnious; as, in a work of this kind, no specimen is of any consequence which has not the particular characteristic of the author to distinguish it from all others, while a few of this kind are sufficient for the purpose; and his essay on the language and poetry is principally historical.
The literature of the eighteenth century is analysed in a few words, as it embraced but a single school. Mr. Griswold's complete work on the Poets and Poetry of England in the nine
teenth century has rendered any thing further on the English literature of this age, unnecessary.
The statement has been made thus explicit, inasmuch as it is believed the design of this work is original; and it would be a poor reward for the labor that has been expended upon this small volume, should it be considered in any other light than as an original production, whatever its style of execution may be. And it may not be altogether impertinent to state, that the maxim;—it is unwise to publish, because it reveals the extent of one's knowledge, does not rigidly refer to this, as but a small part of the matter is published which was prepared in the investigation of the subject, and it had been easier to have made a folio out of it than this small volume. The work was commenced at an early day, and continued till it became a passion; therefore distrusting its merit, it has been submitted to the examination of men, whose names it would be needless to mention, who have commended it and advised its publication. A part of the manuscript, that particularly which treats of the origin and philosophy of the language, has been submitted to the examination of Mr. J. H. Perkins who has pointed out whatever he thought worthy of alteration in its matter and style.
It would be the dictate of a wise discretion to await the decision of the public before making any disclosures with regard to any circumstances connected with the work, and the time that has been employed in its composition; but no desire is felt to escape the responsibility of the undertaking, and it is delivered into the hands of an impartial community with the fullest confidence that it will be regarded with all the liberality that it deserves.
CINCINNATI, MARCH 1, 1846.