The Lives and Characters of all the known Writers in that Interval, the Names of their Patrons; Complete Episodes, by way of Specimen of the larger Pieces, very near the intire Works of some, and large Quotations from others.
A General Collection of almost all the old valuable Poetry extant, now so industriously enquir'd after, tho' rarely to be found, but in the Studies of the Curious, and affording Entertainment on all Subjects, Philosophical, Historical, Moral, Satyrical, Allegorical, Critical, Heroick, Pastoral, Gallant, Amorous, Courtly, and Sublime,
|Langland,||Skelton,||Higgens,||Sir John Har-|
|Gower,||Howard Earl of||Warner,||rington,|
|Lidgate,||Sir T. Wyat,||Turberville,||Fairfax,|
|Occleve,||Dr. Bourd,||Nash,||Sir John Davis,|
|Harding,||Sackville Earl||Sir Philip Sidney,||W. Raleigh,|
|Barclay,||of Dorset,||Grevill L. Brook,||Sir Edw. Dyer,|
London: Prtd for J. Wilcox, T. Green, J. Brindley, and T. Osborn. MDCCXXXVII.
[Apparently there was a volume II planned to get the series up to the poets of Charles II, but it never came out. Instead, this volume was reissued in 1738 with the new title-page reflecting only volume I's contents. It could be that when this reissue was published, Cooper no longer intended to do any more but didn't say so in the Preface bec. the Preface and Intro. are simply reprinted from the first issue. I did wonder why her history of poetry in the Intro. goes up to Milton--that gets you to Charles II--the 1738 volume ends, as does the 1737 "Volume I," with an excerpt from Samuel Daniel's Richard II (Daniel lived 1579-1619)]
1738 [a reissue of the 1737 first edition published by J. Wilcox of London, which I will try to cf. to this one. Another reissue in 1741. This info. from BL catalogue.]
Being A Choice and Faithful Collection of the best Antient English Poetry, from the Times of Edward the Confessor, to the Reign of King James the First. With the Lives and Characters of the known Wirters taken from the most Authentick Memoirs. Being The Most Valuable Collection of the Kind now extant, affording Entertainment upon all Subjects whatsoever. Nec veniam Antiquis sed honorem & praemia posci. Hor. London: printed for T. Davies, 1738. [not in roman numerals.]
To the truly honourable SOCIETY for the Encouragement of Learning.
My Lords and Gentlemen,
As the illustrious Families of the Howards, Sidneys, Sacvilles, Grevilles, &c. have all an Interest in, and consequently should have a Respect for the Merit, and Fame of their most eminent Predecessors; 'tis morally impossible that a Work of this Nature shou'd want a Patron; yet I chuse rather to wave all private Applications, and address it to you: You have prov'd your selves ally'd to the Genius of those great [iii / iv] Persons; their Descendants may be only Heirs to their Titles; and as you only have condescended to attempt the making a Provision for the living Learned, I may the more reasonably hope for your Assistance to preserve the Memories of the Dead.
Perhaps, there are but few single Names important enough to appear at the Head of so Elegant a List; and if, for want of Judgment, I should make a wrong Choice, the Absurdity would be too flagrant to be forgiven. But by inscribing it to you, I run no such Danger: The severest Critick in Manners must allow 'tis address'd with the greatest Propriety imaginable.---
To patronise a Series of English Poetry, is, I presume, a Part of your Scheme; for the Establishment of an Author's Fame, may be said to be the [iv / v] most effectual Provision for his Fortune, and, as I have more at large, observ'd in the Preface, what is attemptd here in Favour of former Ages, may by your Patronage, be made a Benefit to the Present, and reach to all Posterity.
But, beside the Obligations of Decorum, I feel my self bound in Gratitude, as an Author, tho' of the humblest Class, thus publickly to express my Sensibility of the Concern you have shewn for the Interest of Learning: Tho' I my self may have no Title to any Share of the Advantage. 'Tis a great, seasonable, and humane Design, and all who have Generosity, Benevolence, or Politeness, must applaude it.----It has a far more illustrious Origin than the Grand Academy-Royal at Paris, and, I hope, the Effects will be answerable; to [v / vi] the Increase of your own Honour, the Improvement of Science, and Services of the Nation in General.
I am, with the greatest Zeal, and Devotion,
[vi / vii:]
We are all apt to make our own Opinions, the Standard of Excellency, and I must plead guilty to my Share of this general Weakness: What has given me Pleasure in my Closet, I have undertaken to recommend to the Publick; not presuming to inform the Judgment, but only awaken the Attention; and rather endeavouring to preserve what is valuable of others, than advance any thing of my own.---The mere Hint of a good-natur'd, and not unuseful Design, is all the Merit I can pretend to.----'Tis true I attempt to clear the Ground, and lay in the Materials, but leave the Building to be rais'd, and finish'd by more masterly Hands.
What is said of the Nightengle's [sic.] singing with her Breast against a Thorn, may be justly apply'd to the Poets.---Their Harmony gives Pleasure to Others, but is compos'd with Pain to Themselves: And what is not to gratify a real Want, or fashionable Luxury, Few care to purchase: Thus Poetry has been, almost universally, a Drug, and its Authors have sacrific'd the Sub- [vii / viii] stance of present Life to the Shadow of future Fame. Fame, Fame alone they have fondly fancy'd an Equivalent for all they wanted beside, and the World has often been so malicious, or careless, as even to defeat them of that imaginary Good.---I am told, Time and Ignorance have devour'd many important Names which even the universal Languages flatter'd with a sure Immortality: 'Tis no Wonder, therefore, that Ours [our time?--no, our language which was formerly barbarous], rude and barbarous, as it formerly was, should be so little albe to defend its Authors from such encroaching Enemies.----Those, who read the ensuing Volume with Attention, will be convinc'd that Sense, and Genius have been of long standing in this Island; and 'tis not so much the Fault of our Writers, as the Language it self, that they are not read with Pleasure at this Day.---This, naturally, provokes and Enquiry, whether 'tis in the same Vagrant Condition still; or whether the Fame of our most admir'd Moderns, is not almost as prearious, as that of their now-obsolete Predecessors has prov'd to be; agreable [sic.] to that Line in the celebrated Essay on Criticism
And what now Chaucer is, shall Dryden be.
If this is the Case, as, according to my little Knowledge, I think there is some Reason to fear, is it not high Time to think of some Expedient to cure this Evil; and secure the Poet in his Idol-Reputation however? I don't take upon me to say that Learning is of as much Importance here, as in France; or that we shoul'd be at the Trouble, and Expence of a Publick Academy for the Improvements of our Language; But, if [viii / ix] any slight Essay can be made towards it, which, at a small Expence, may make a shift to supply that Defect, till a better Scheme shall be found, 'tis humbly hop'd that a moderate Encouragement will not be wanting.
Such, ot the best of my poor Ability, is now presented to the Publick, a Sort of Poetical Chronicle: which begins with the first Dawning of polite Literature in England, and is propos'd to be continu'd to the highest Perfection, it has hitherto attain'd; That, in Spite of Difficulties, and Discouragements, it may be hardly possible for us to recede into our first Barbarism; or again lose sight of the true Point of Excellence, which Poetry, beyond all other Sciences, makes its peculiar Glory to aim at.
Of what real Value polite Literature is to a Nation, is too sublime a Task for me to meddle with; I therefore chuse to refer my Readers to their own Experience, and the admirable Writings of Sir Philip Sidney, Lord Bacon, Lord Shaftesbury, and innumerable other elegant Authors; the joint Sentiment of all the refin'd Spirits that ever had a Being, and the following excellent Rapture, in particular, of the ingenious Mr. Daniel, in his Poem call'd Musophilus.
Perhaps the Words, thou scornest now,
May live, the speaking picture of the Mind,
The Extract of theSoul, that labour'd, how
To leave the Image of herself behind;
Wherein Posterity, that love to know
The just Proportion of our Spirits may find.(1) [ix / x]
For these Lines are the Veins, the Arteries,
And undecaying Life-Strings of those Hearts
That still shall pant, and still shall exercise
The Motion, Spirit and Nature both imparts,
And shall, with those alive so sympathize,
As, nourisht with their Powers, injoy their parts.
O blessed Letters, that combine in One
All Ages past, and make One live with All:
By you, we doe conferr with who are gone,
And the Dead-Living unto Council call:
By you, th'Unborne shall have Communion
Of what we feel, and what doth us befall.
Soul of the World! Knowledge! without thee,
What hath the Earth, that truly glorious is?
Why should our Pride make such a Stir to be,
To be forgot? What good is like to this,
To doe worthy the Writing, and to write
Worthy the Reading, and the World's Delight?
And afterwards, alluding to Stone-Henge on Salisbury Plain.
And whereto serves that wondrous Trophy now,
That on the goodly Plaine, near Wilton stands?
That huge, dumb Heap, that cannot tell us how,
Nor waht, nor whence it is, nor with whose Hands,
Nor for whose Glory, it was set to shew
How much our Pride mocks that of other Lands?
Whereon, when as the gazing Passenger
Hath greedy look't with Admiration,
And fain would know his Birth, and what he were, [x / xi]
How there erected, and how long agone:
Enquirires, and asks his Fellow-Traveller,
What he hath heard, and his Opinion:
And he knowes [sic.] nothing. Then he turns again,
And looks, and sighs, and then admires afresh,
And in himselfe [sic.], with Sorrow, doth complain
The Misery of dark Forgetfulness:
Angry with Time that nothing should remain,
Our greatest Wonder's Wonder to express!
But, to wave any farther Authorities, we need only look back to the Days of Langland, the first English Poet we can meet with, who employ'd his Muse for the Refinement of Manners, and, in the Rudeness of his Lines, we plainly discover the Rudeness of the Age he wrote in.---Chaucer, not the next Writer, tho' the next extraordinary Genius, encountered the Follies of Mankind, as well as their Vices, and blended the acutest Raillery, with the most insinuating Humour.---By his Writings, it plainly appears that Poetry, and Politeness grow up together; and had like to have been bury'd in his Grave; For War, and Faction, immediately after restor'd Ignorance,a nd Dulness almost to their antient Authority. Writers there were; but Tast [sic.], Judgment, and Manner were lost: Their Works were cloudy as the Times they liv'd in, and, till Barclay, and Skelton, there was scarce a Hope that Knowledge would ever favour us with a second Dawn.---But soon after these, Lord Surrey, having tasted of the Italian Delicacy [sonnet], naturaliz'd it here, gave us an Idea of refin'd Gallantry, and taught Love to polish us into [xi / xii] Virtue.--- Before this impression was worn off, Lord Buckhurst arose, and introduc'd the Charms of Allegory, and Fable, to allure Greatness, into a Love of Humanity, and make Power the Servant of Justice; Spencer made a Nobel Use of so fine a Model, overflowing with Tenderness, Courtesy, and Benevolence, reconciling Magnificence adn Decorum, Love and Fidelity; and, together with Fairfax, opening to us a new world of Ornament, Elegance, and Taste: After these Lord Brook, and Sir John Davies corrected the Luxuriancy of Fable, inrich'd our Understandings with the deepest Knowledge, and distinguish'd Use from Ostentation, Learning from Pedantry---Donne, and Corbet added Wit to Satire,a nd restor'd the almost forgotten Way of making Reproof itself entertaining; Carew, and Waller taught Panegyrick to be delicate, Passion to be courtly, and rode the Pegasus of Wit, with the curb of good Manners; D'Avenant blended Address and Politeness with the severest Lessons of Temperance, and Morality; and the divine Milton reconcil'd the Graces of them all, and added a Strength, Solidity, and Majesty of his own, that None can equal, Few can imitate, and All admire.
So many and variously-accomplish'd Minds were necessary to remove the Gothique Rudeness that was handed down to us by our unpolish'd Fore-Fathers; and, I think, 'tis manifest all the Ornaments of Humanity, are owing to our Poetical Writers, if not our most shining Virtues. 'Tis not reasonable, therefore, that while the Work remains, the Artist should be forgot; and yet, 'tis certain, very Few of these great Men [xii / xii[i]-mspt.] are generally known to the present Age: And tho' Chaucer and Spencer are ever nam'd with much Respect, not many are intimately acquainted with their Beauties.------ The Monumental Statues of the Dead have, in all Ages, and Nations, been esteem'd sacred; but the Writings of the Learned, of [=out of, above] all others, deserve the highest Veneration; the Last bear the Resemblance of the Soul, the First only of the Body. The First are dumb, inanimate, and require the Historian to explain them; while the Last live, converse, reason, instruct, and afford to the Contemplative, one of their sincerest Pleasures. They are likewise to Authors, what Actions are to Heroes; In His Annals you must admire the one, in his Studies the other; and an elegant Poem should be as lasting a Memorial of the Scholar's Wit, as a pompous Trophy of the General's Conduct, or the Soldier's Valour. And yet, for want of certain periodical Reviews of the Learning of former Ages, not only many inestimable Pieces have been lost, but Science itself has been in the most imminent Danger.
I have often thought there is a Kind of Contagion in Minds, as well as Bodies; what we admire, we fondly wish to imitate; and, thus, while a Few excellent Authors throw a Glory on the Studies they pursue, Disciples will not be wanting to imitate them: But, when those Studies fall into Disesteem, and Neglect, instead of being profess'd, or encourag'd, 'tis more probable they will not be understood. I have read 'twas thus in Greece, and Rome, and all the considerable Nations of Europe beside: in England 'tis notorious; and I wish our share of Reproach on this Head, may be confin'd to the Ignorance, and Inhumanity of former Times. [xii[i] / xiv]
'Tis true, not only every Age, but every Year produces Numbers of new Pieces,a nd 'twould be impossible to preserve them all; neither indeed, would all deserve it: But should we govern our Choice with Judgment, and Impartiality, the Talk would be easy, and every good Author would receive the Benefit of it.---'Twill be in vain to object that Merit is its own Preservative: For, beside Numberless other Instances, most of the Poems in this Volume are a Proof to the contrary, and still many more that I have reserv'd for the next. Yet, let them be enquir'd for among the Booksellers, and the Difficulty of procuring them will be a sufficient Proof how little they are known, and how near they are to be lost in Oblivion.--- This I am a Witness to my self, and 'tis with great Trouble and Charge; I have been able to collect a sufficient Number for my present Purpose: Nor, without the generous Assistance of the Candid Mr. Oldys, would even this, have been in my Power: And, after all, there are still some omitted; which, if I can procure, shall be annex'd by way of a Supplement, together with a Glossary, at the End of the Work.
Let me then, at least, be pardon'd for attempting to set up a Bulwark between Time, and Merit? I have heard that a certain modern Virtuoso, had a Project to discover the Age of the World, by the Saltiness of the Sea, the Effect of which could not be known for Hundreds of Years after.---I flatter my self, that the success of mine need not be quite so far remov'd; nor is it more Romantick, or less Useful. The Alterations of a Language are of some Consequence to be known, tho' inferior to those of Nature; and 'tis some Satisfaction to be acquainted with the Lives of [xiv / xv--looks like a page has been cut out, but the sense and pagination continues in order] Authors, as well as their Works: This Undertaking includes all, nor is merely calculated for those which are already Obsolete; but, if it can be suppos'd that any of the Moderns would ever be in the same Danger, or any future Writer should do me the Honour to continue the Series, may prove some little Support even to Them. In a Word, it may serve as a perpetual Index to our Poetry, a Test of all foreign Innovations in our Language, a general Register of all the little, occasional Pieces, of our Holy-Day Writers (as Mr. Dryden prettily calls them) which might otherwise be lost; and a grateful Record of the patrons that, in England, have done Honour to the Muses.
Before I conclude, 'tis my Duty to acknowledge that no less than Three*[(2) Writers have undertaken, simply, the Lives of the Poets, beside Mr. Wood, who confines himself to those educated at Oxford; that Sir Thomas Pope Blunt, has wrote Remarks on a Few of them, and Two orThree have had their Works republish'd in our own Times; what use I have made of all, or any of these Circumstances, will be obvious; as well as what is peculiarly my own. - --This, however, I may, with Modesty, hint, that many Mistakes in Facts are rectify'd, several Lives are added, the Characters of the Authors are not taken on Content, or from Authority, but a serious Examination of their Works; and some of the most beautiful Passages, or entire Poems, I could chuse, are added to constitute a Series of Poetry (which has never been aim'd at any where else) and compleat one of the most valuable Collections, that ever was made publick. [xv / xvi]
How far I have succeeded, is submitted to the Understanding of every impartial, and sensible Reader: To which I the more cheerfully resign my self, as introducing more Beauties of others, to be my Advocates, than I can have Faults of my own to be forgiven.
To what has beens aid, on the Design of this Work in General, I, at first, intended to add some Account of the Progress of Criticism in England; from Sir Philip Sidney, the Art of English Poesy (written by Mr. Puttenham, a Gentleman Pensioner to Queen Elizabeth:) Sir John Harrington, Ben Johnson [sic.], &c. But this part of my Talk I am oblig'd to postpone, for want of Room, to my next volume; and shall conclude with rectifying a Mistake of my own in the Life of Mr. Fairfax: Where 'tis said; that Author is crouded by Mr. Philips into his Supplement, which should have been said of Mr. Sacville: and begging Pardon for the Errata which have escap'd me, not thro' neglect, but want of sufficient Experience in Affairs of this Nature. [xvi /xvii]
Philosophers, in a Series of Fossils, begin with Nature in her crudest State, and trace her, Step by Step, to the most refin'd. ---In this Progress of English Poetry we must do the same; and they, who desire to see the Connexion, must bear with the rude Pebble, in order to be better pleas'd with the Ruby, and the Diamond.
To set aside the Metaphor, few People suppose thre were any Writers of Verse before Chaucer, but, as it appears there were many, 'tis absolutely necessary to give a Specimen from a few of them, both as Curiosities in themselves, and to manifest from what a low and almost contemptible Original, that happy Genius rais'd his Profession at once.
We must begin with a Conveyance of Edward the Confessor's, which has something in it very singular both as 'tis written in Verse, which seems a Relique of the antient British Druids, and affording a remarkable Instance, of the Conciseness, nad Simplicity of the Saxon Lawyers.
[poem excerpt follows; 1 / 2:]
The next Antiquity, that we can find, is the following Fragment, preserved in a very old Manuscript on the Bath: The Author entirely unknown, but the Legend too remarkable to be omitted.
Two Tunne there beth of Bras,
And other two imaked of Glas
Seve Seats there buth inne
And other Thing imaked with Ginne:
Quick Brimston in them also,
With wild-Fier imaked thereto: . . . .
. . . . [no page nor typographical breaks intervene between one poet and another.]
Robert of Gloucester,
So call'd, because a Monk of that City. He liv'd in the Time of Henry the Second, and is often quoted by Cambden, Selden, &c. but mroe as an Historian than Poet; tho' he wrote in Rhymes. This being the only Passage I have met with worth Notice, and having both Humour and Satire; at the Expence of King William Rufus.
. . . .
Richard the Hermit
Was his Contemporary, but too despiciable [sic.] to admit of a Quotation.
Joseph of Exeter
Who liv'd in the Reign of Richard I is quoted by Milton, in his English History, with some Applause, and by many other Authors: But, as He, Blaupain, Matthew Paris, William Ramsey, Alexander Nequam, Alexander Essebie and Havillan wrote all in Latin, the bare mention of their Names is rather more than belongs to this collection.
Liv'd in the Reign of Edward the First, and was in so great Reputation that the King commanded his Attendance, in his Expedition against the Scots to celebrate his Victories; But his fortune was more remarkable than his Verses; being taken Prisoner by Bruce, and compell'd by Torments to applaud his Country's Enemy: Which, however, he [6 / 7] had the Spirit to complain of, as appears by his Introduction.
In dreery Verse my Rymes I make,
Bewailing whilest such Theme I take!
[that's all that is quoted; she continues directly:]
Is the next Poet on Record, and much applauded; but, with what Justice the following Quotation from Winstanley will sufficiently evidence.
[four lines comprising a poem called or excerpt from a poem called "On the City of Chester."]
. . . .
[she has a long, 3-page intro. to Edward Fairfax, in which she attacks people for underestimating him (342-4). She introduces what she explicitly says (344) is an excerpt from his translation of Tasso that goes from 345 to 362. Then she introduces some of Fairfax's eclogues (363; poetry 364-376).]
A Writer of such acknowledged Merit, that Praise is Impertinent, and any Access of mine as inconsiderable as a Brook to the Ocean; I therefore, leave him in the great Hands that have already so excellently summ'd up his Life, and Character, and shall barely remark, that his Genius does not seem so well suited to the Narrative, as the Dramatick Part of Poetry; as I presume, will appear by the many Conceits not only in the Two first Stanzas quoted below; but almost thro' both his Poems of Venus and Lucrese, tho' his passionate Transition in the last to Opportunity is a strong Proof that his Mistakes are more owing to an Excess of Wit, than a Want of it. 
[she doesn't give any titles of poems so I can't tell what poem this is or whether it is an excerpt.]
The Lives and Characters of all the known Writers; the Names of their Patrons; Complete Episodes, by way of Specimen of the larger Pieces, very near the intire Works of some, and large Quotations from others.
A General Collection of almost all the old valuable Poetry extant, now so industriously enquir'd after, tho' rarely to be found, but in the Studies of the Curious, and affording Entertainment on all Subjects, Philosophical, Historical, Moral, Satyrical, Allegorical, Critical, heroick, Pastoral, Gallant, Courtly, and Sublime,
Langland Skelton Higgens [same as 1737; all that's missing from this title page that is found in 1737 and 1738 is the period designation via reign of king.]
London: James Hodges, MDCCXLI.
(1)[v's are u's in this, and j's are i's--imitating older typography?]
(2)]*Mr. Phillips, Mr. Winstanly, and Mr. Jacob.
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