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TO THE EDITION OF 1783.
THE Bookfellers having determined to publish a Body of English Poetry, I was perfuaded to promise them a Preface to the Works of each Author; an undertaking, as it was then presented to my mind, not very extenfive or difficult.
My purpose was only to have allotted to every Poet an Advertisement, like those which we find in the French Mifcellanies, containing a few dates and a general character; but I have been led beyond my intention, I hope, by the honeft defire of giving useful pleasure.
In this minute kind of Hiftory, the fucceffion of facts is not easily discovered; and I am not without fufpicion that fome of Dryden's works are placed in wrong years. I have followed Langbaine, as the best authority for his plays; and, if I fhall hereafter obtain a more correct chronology, will publish it; but I do not yet know that my account is erroneous *.
Langbaine's authority will not fupport the dates affigned to Dryden's Plays. These are now rectified in the margin by reference to the original Editions, the only guides to be relied on.
Dryden's Remarks on Rymer have been fomewhere * printed before. The former edition I have not seen. This was tranfcribed for the prefs from his own manufcript.
As this undertaking was occafional and unforeseen, I must be fupposed to have engaged in it with less provifion of materials than might have been accumulated by longer premeditation. Of the later writers at leaft I might, by attention and enquiry, have gleaned many particulars, which would have diverfified and enlivened my Biography. These omiffions, which it is now ufelefs to lament, have been often fupplied by the kindnefs of Mr. Steevens and others; and great assistance has been given me by Mr. Spence's Collections, of which I confider the communication as a favour worthy of publick acknowledgement.
In the Edition of Beaumont and Fletcher, by Mr. Colman. R.