The British Muse, or A Collection of Thoughts Moral, Natural, andSublime, of our English Poets: Who Flourished in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries.

With several curious Topicks, and beautiful Passages, never before extracted, from Shakespear, Johnson, Beaumont, Fletcher, and above a Hundred more. The Whole digested Alphabetically under their respective Heads, according to the Order of Time in which they wrote; to shew the gradual Improvements of our Poetry and Language.

In Three Volumes.


With an Historical and Critical Review of This, and all the Collections of this Kind hitherto published. [By William Oldys.]

London: Printed for F. Cogan and J. Nourse, M.DCC.XXXVIII


To the
Right Honourable the Lady
Mary Wortley Montagu.


It is an honour to the British Nation, that it has, from time to time, produced so many illustrious Patrons of the British Muse; [page change] but, to patronize her more antient Votarys at this time, is not more honourable to our Nation, than necessary for them: Since so much Prejudice has been ungratefully rais'd against them, by those, who have been most improv'd by their Writings.

When therefore I was moved by the BRITISH MUSE to recommend these Antients to a Patron most eminent for Abilities and Inclination to protect them; one of sufficient Knowledge to plead their Merits, and Interest to promote their Cause; I was presently by her inspired, to make this Oblation to your LADYSHIP, so nearly ally'd in Genius and Judgment to her, that I could not distinguish [no numb. / no numb, but counts as i] your Name, but as another for her own.

Whatever Improprieties the Witty or the Wise may find in other Parts of my Choice throughout this Collection, I dare stand their Test in this. And I am persuaded, the Authors themselves, could not be better satisfied with all the Justice that might be paid them, in reviving their Performances; than with so much Credit as they may receive from your LADYSHIP's Approbation. I am but their Sollicitor, and could not have the Boldness to sue for your Favour, but under the Umbrage of their Deserts. Alexander saved Part of a City from Destruction, for the Merits [i / ii] only of one Poet: Here the Merits of many Poets sue for the Protection only of one Book.

I am,
With the most profound Respect,
Your Ladyship's most obedient,
Humble Servant,
Thomas Hayward.

[ii / iii:] PREFACE, Containing an Historical and Critical Review of all the Collections of this Kind that were ever published.

[Written by William Oldys.]

The supposed ease of digesting the fine thoughts of our poets under their proper heads, has, no doubt, given birth to the several undertakings of this kind that have appeared in publick; and, probably, to many others of the same nature, which still sleep, or have expired in manuscript. The advantage also arising from such collections, may have had no small share in inducing several to make them publick: For with what success may not an author flatter himself, who supplies his reader with the fruits of a long application, at the expence of little time and pains; especially when those immortal fruits carry with them the necessity of charming, inspiring, forming all hearts, and, like scattered rays collected in one [iii] / [iv] point, cooperate with irresistible energy to so desirable effects?

But whatever ease or hopes (except of gain) those who have hitherto published Collections of this kind may have conceived, their execution of them seems to the author of this work, as well as to the writer of this preface, the clearest demonstration of their having greatly deceived themselves in their estimates. The models of some have been too narrow to be of any real or extensive use. Others have mad half their work consist of detached epithets, fustian phrases, and dictionaries of rhyme. Some again, in their choice of thoughts, have given us abundance of alloy with very little ore; and, to swell their volumes, have stuffed them with useless matter, long translations, and paraphrases of well-known originals. Some have confined their collections soley to the stage; and others entirely excluded whatever it could supply. Some have cited their authors so blindly, that no recourse can be had to their works; and others have not quoted them at all. Some, either through ignorance, or want of care, ascribe to one author the passages of another; and others, officiously turning authors themselves, continually sophisiticate what they transcribe, and give us their own interpolations so [iv] / [v] blended with their authors [sic.] sense, that what they cite in such a manner, cannot be adjudged either to the one or the other. Some injudiciously extract the worst parts of their author, and even insert those under improper topicks; and other quote authors they never looked into, but take upon trust wherever they find them. Some have been so careless as to borrow passages from those who stole them: And all, especially our late compilers, have neglected even to look into the many excellent ancient poets, from whom the following sheets are taken, whose thoughts might often have claimed a preference, or, at least, an equality with those they have inserted in their collections, the dress of words only excepted. I would not derogate in the least from the praise of the more modern or contemporary [sic.] poets, to whom the highest regard and veneration is most justly due; but to exclude the merits of the dead, whom themselves have always admired, is so far from being a compliment to them, that it must be an unpardonable partiality in their sense; especially whilst they know, that the old vices and follies of mankind are perpetually reviving, and that the preservation of as much of the knowledge of things as possible, is so necessary to correct the ignorance and follies, and improve the know- [v] / [vi] ledge and manners, of mankind; the great ends of all useful learning, and especially that diviner species of it, poetry.

But to come more particularly to the proof of the defects we have ascribed to the poetical Commonplace Books hitherto published, we proceed to brief review of all that have come to our knowledge, for the first appearance of such collections in print.

It is observed, even in the middle of Queen Elizabeth's reign, that books of poetry, and works of a poetical nature, were more *[(1) numerous than any other kind of writings in our language. Accordingly, in the latter end of it, they were thought to abound with such elegancies, that no less than two collections, principally from the poets of her time, were published in one year. One of these is called Belvedere, or, The Garden of the Muses +[(2)]. The author's name was John Bodenbam, a gentleman undoubtedly ambitious of distinguishing himself by the Laconick singularity of his performance. Hence, we suppose it was, that he made it his inviolable rule to admit no quotation of more than one line, or a couplet of ten syllables. [vi] / [vii]

. . . .

[xviii, beginning in middle of his discussion of Gildon's Art of Poetry:] What is worst, he often repeats Bysshe's quotations, and gives us few heads, or authors of consequence (except the two we have mentioned [Spenser, Shakespeare]) which had escaped that compiler. And, indeed, he was not very extensively read in our poets, had not a sufficient number of them ancient or modern, and was not industrious enough in extracting from those he had; which might proceed in some measure from the limits prescribed to his work. Whatever success this book may have had we cannot say; but there has since appeared two collections of the same kind, which, as the compilers of them have thought fit to conceal their names, we shall leave to the judgment of the publick.

From this view of the authors who have collected the thoughts of our poets under heads, it evidently appears, that their works have generally been very imperfect and defective; and, at the same time, that a far greater number, of no less merit, have been wholly neglected, either through want of judgment or design. Hence we have long wanted a compiler, or reader-general, for mankind, to digest whatever was most exquisite (the flowers) in our poets, into the most [xviii / xix] commodious method for use and application; a person, void of all prejudice, who would take no author's character upon trust, but would deliberately review such of our poets as had seemed to expire in fame, rather through length of time, and the variation of our language, than want of merit; one, who had not only intelligence to know what compositions of value our country had produced, but leisure, patience and attention to go through a vast diversity of reading; with judgment to discern peculiar beauties amidst the obscurity of antiquated modes of speech, and the great superfluity of matter that surrounds them, like stars in winter nights with gloom and void: In fine, sagacity to discover the gross and innumerable errors of hte press; fidelity, not to obtrude the officious alterations of an editor, under the pretence of restoring the sense of an author; and capacity, to dispose a great variety of select readings under their proper heads: All which attributes, as they rarely meet in the same person, seem to account for our not having had one collection of this kind of any great merit and utility.

It is, however, by the idea of these qualifications, the compiler of this work hath endeavoured to conduct himself. How well he has succeeded, will appear from the fol-[xix / xx]lowing sheets. Though his personal capacity, and the treasures of his own library, might have enabled him to surpass whatever has appeared of this kind before, he did not omit to use the assistance of his friends occasionally. As to the choice of his subjects, he has not, like his predecessors, abandoned himself to fiction and fancy, but has rather preferred what concerns the improvement of real life, in the most considerable characters, descriptions, conditions, manners and events of it. In his choice of authors, he has not used the noted poets of later date, as Milton, Cowley, Waller, Dryden, Otway, Lee, Prior, Congreve, and such of their successors as adorn our own times; he has chosen rather to devote himself to neglected and expiring merit; conceiving it more useful and meritorious to revive and preserve the excellencies, which time and oblivion were upon the point of cancelling for ever, than to repeat what others had extracted before, and incur the censure of borrowing their collections to impose upon his readers. As to his use therefore of authors, he has made this work a kind of supplement to the others of the same kind before extant; and has began [sic.] to extract from the poets, where the generality of them began to write with any degree of perfection, as to matter, method, numbers, diction, and elegance. [xx / xxi]

Though he had sufficient temptation to have called in auxiliaries of a more ancient date, he was afraid to venture them in this refined aera of our language, till his readers might be prepared by the poetry of an intermediate age to relish the wholesome force and native beauties of older times, notwithstanding their antiquated garb and manners. The religious heats that subsisted during the reformation, were so averse to the muses, that no poetical compositions, of any merit, appeared till the beginning of Queen Elizabeth's reign (though two or three Holiday Writers, as Mr. Dryden calls them, had given the world a few imitations from the Italian upon the subject of love.) At that time came out the fine collection, called, The Mirrour for Magistrates. This piece was done by several hands. It represents pathetically the falls of many great and unfortunate men of our nation, and beautifully advises others to avoid following their example. Besides the particular praises given this work by Sir Philip Sidney, and Mr. Edmund Bolton, another judicious critick, who writes not long after him, that it received the general approbation, appears from its having been three or four times [xxi / xxii] reprinted. Every impression had new additions from other eminent hands, amongst whom the Earl of Dorset is not the least conspicious. Our compiler [of this, The British Muse] has scarce cited any poet antecedent to the authors of this collection, for the reasons given above; and what he has extracted from others better known, as from Spenser, etc. appears almost entirely new, having never been quoted in this manner, and perhaps, little observed before. He has not only endeavoured to supply the omission of the authors, from whom this collection is taken, whose works might easily have been had, as they are extant in volumes; but as there are many other ingenious dramatick poets, whose writings were never printed together in editions, and consequently were little likely to fall in the way of other compilers, our author, to make his work as complete as possible, has spared no pains in consulting as great a number as he could procure. This might not have been so easy to others; loose pamphlets being very liable to be lost, or not recovered without long search and great expence; of which one volume, containing ten of Massenger's plays, is a proof, that was sold lately at an auction for between three and four pounds. But happily between his own stores, and the large supplies of whatever was scarce and valuable [xxii / xxiii] from those of his acquaintance, he has had the opportunity of using, in the present collection, between four and five hundred plays, both tragedies and comedies; for which latter species of poem, no other compiler seems to have had any relish. He has, however, admitted passages from ancientcomedies; not being of their opinion, who confine instruction and poetry to verse only: And to avoid the offence that the measure of prose might give the eye in print, when mingled with verse, he has confined the prose lines to the same extent [i.e., margin?] with those of the verses. He has admitted no professed translations, that this collection, according to its title, might be entirely English: And as to the disposition of the passages, they are more regular than in any other book of this kind; the quotations not only being placed under their proper topicks, but ranged according to the order of time, in which they were wrote [sic.], that every chapter might shew the progressive alterations and improvement of our style and language. And that the work might be the more authentick, nothing is transcribed at second hand, but all the passages are copied from the authors themselves; an advantage, as we have observed before, not in the power of every compiler. Great care has also been taken in pointing and print-[xxiii / xxiv]ing them correctly, and punctually to assign his own thoughts to every author.

Having given some account of this work, it may be no unnatural transition to say something of its merits and utility. It is a kind of body instinct with soul in every part. Wherever you open it, you are in the heart of your subject: Every leaf includes many lessons, and is a system of knowledge in a few lines. It is a guide in the actions, passions, fortunes, misfortunes, and all the vicissitudes, of life. The merely speculative may here find experience; the flattered, truth; the diffident, resolution; the presumptuous, modesty; the oppressor, mercy; the proud, humility; and the powerful, justice. Youth and age may improve equally by consulting it: the one it directs, the other it admonishes: Whilst it amends the heart, it informs the head, and is, at the same time, the rule of virtue, and the standard of poetical eloquence; especially to those wh can discern delicacy of wit, dignity of sentiment, and sublimity of thought, through antiquated modes of speech, and the language of an age ago.

A LIST of the Authors, Poems, and Plays Cited in this Collection.

[Hayward gives the title and place of publication for each quotation used, often The Mirrour for Magistrates. Names of works follow authors' names, indented, followed by kind of volume--fol., 4to, 8vo., 12vo.-- and date work appeared; I won't cite any works here.]


Abdicated Prince, or the Adventures of Four Hours, a Tra. Com. 1690 [anon. according to Giles Jacob II.304]

Alexander William, E.

Aleyn Charles. . . .

Armin, Robert, Esq.


Baldwin William, . . .

Baron Robert, Esq.

Barrey Lodowick, Esq.

Beaumont Francis, and Fletcher John, Esqs. . . . .

Beaumont Sir John, Bart.

Bleuer Hasset Thomas,

Boyle Roger, Earl of Orrery

Brandon Samuel, [I am omitting "Esq." from now on]

Brewer Anthony,

Brome Richard, [a lot of wks]

Brome Alexander,

Brooke Lord,

Browne William,

Burnel Henry,


Campion Thomas,

Carew Lady Elizabeth,

Carew Thomas,

Cartwright Rev. Mr. William,

Cavil, In the Mirror for Magistrates. I take this to be a mistake for Sackville, Earl of Dorset.

Chapman George, [a lot of wks]

The same, Ben Johnson [sic.], and John Marston,

The same and James Shirley.

Churchyard Thomas

Cleveland John, Gent.

Cook John.

Corbet Dr. Richard, Bishop of Norwich.

Crown John, Gent. [lots]


Dancer John,

Daniel Samuel,

Dauborne Rev. Mr. Robert.

D'avenant Sir William, Knt. Poet-Laureat, His Works consisting of . . . .

Davenport Robert, . . . . This author wrote in the Reign of Charles I.*(3)

Davies, Sir John,Knt. Attorney-General in Ireland, under James I. Author of several Works in Poetry and Prose; among which the most famous is his Nosce Teipsum, which he Dedicated to Queen Elizabeth, 3d Edit. Re-published by Mr. Tate, 1751, under the title of The Immortality of the Soul.

Day, John. Lived in the Reign of King James I. and wrote several Comedies, whereof these here used are . . . .

Deker Thomas,

The same, and John Webster.

Denham Sir John,

Donne Dr. John, Dean of St. Pauls.

Dover John,

Drayton Micheal, Esq; Poet-Laureat,


Fane Sir Rancis, Knight of the Bath.

Faulkland Lord Viscount Henry, Cary.

Ferrers George, In the Mirrour for Magistrates.

Field Nathaniel.

Ford John,

The same, and Dekker's,

Ford Thomas,

Fountain John

Freeman Sir Ralph.


Glapthorne Henry, Gent. Albertus Wallenstein, Duke of Fridland, and General to the Emperor Ferdinand the Second, his Tragedy . . .

Goffe Rev. Mr. Thomas

Gomersall Robert.


Habington William,

Hall John.

Haustead Rev. Mr. Peter.

Hawkins William

Hectors; or, the False Challenge 1655/6. [anon. accdg. to Giles Jacob II.314 who gives it the title: The Hector, or The False Challenge.]

Hemmings Rev. Mr. William.

Heath Robert,

Herbert Rev. Mr. George,

Herrick Robert,

Heywood Thomas

The same, and William Rowley.

Higgins John, In The Mirrour for Magistrates.

Higgons Sir Thomas.

Hoffman, his Tragedy; or a Revenge for a Father. 1631 [anon. accdg. to Giles Jacob II.314, who gives title as Hoffman's Tragedy, or Revenge for a Father]

How a Man may chuse a good Wife from a bad, . . . Comedy. 1634

Howard Sir Robert

Howell James,


Jeronymo is mad again; or the Spanish tragedy. 1623 [anon. accdg. to Giles Jacob II.315 who gives title as Jeronymo, or the Spanish Tragedy]

Jones John.

Johnson Benjamin, Esq; Poet Laureat.

Johnson Benjamin. [don't know why two entries; maybe two diff people--dates far apart]

The same, Fletcher, and Middleton.


Killigrew, Mr. Henry.

King Dr. Henry, Bishop fo Chichester

Knave in Grain, . . . a Com. 1640 [anon. accdg. to Giles Jacob II.316, who gives title as The Knave in Grain New Vampt--I think that's how Hayward had it too; I just couldn't figure it out.]


Lady Alimony; or the Alimony Lady, a Com. 1659 [anon. accdg. to Giles Jacob II.317]

Lilly John,

Lindsay Sir David,

Lingua; or, The Combat of the Tongue . . . , a Com. 1622 [anon. accdg. to Giles Jacob II.317]

Lodge Dr. Thomas, and Robert Green.

Lluellin Martin, Dr. of Physick.


Machen Lewis,

Main Dr. Jasper

Marcus Tullius Cicero [a play title?--I think so--G.J. says anon. II.319]

Markham Gervase and William Sampson,

Marriage Broker; or the Pander, a Com. 1662 [anon. accdg. to G.J. II.319]

Marloe Christopher.

Marmoin Schackerley,

Marston John,

Massinger Philip,

The same, and Nathaniel Field.

The same, Middleton, and Rowley.

The same, and Dekker.

Mason John,

May Thomas,

Mead Robert,

Merry Devil of Edmonton, a Com. 1655 [anon. see G.J. II.319]

Middleton Thomas,

The same, and W. Rowley.

Mirrour for Magistrates. Being a true and chronicle History of the untimely Falls of such unfortunate Princes and Men of Note, as have happened since the first Entrance of Brute into this Island, until this our Age. Newly enlarged and published by Rich. Nichols. 4to, 1610.

The first Edition of these most excellent Poems, for their Antiquity on the Falls of Great Men, famous in our History, was published by W. Baldwin, 1559. The second Edition, with Additions, by John Higgins, 4to, 1587. And the third Edition as above.


Nabbes Thomas,

Nero, a Trag. newly written 1633 [anon. accdg. to G.J. II.321]

Nevile Robert,


Orgula; or, The Fatal error, a Trag. 1658. [anon. accdg. to G.J. II.322; "Dedicated to Lady Frances Wildgoose; with a Preface shewing the true Nature of Poesy, by L.W." (322)].


Parthomachia; or, The Battle of Affections, or Love's Loadstone, a Com. 1630. [anon. accdg. to G.J., "Dedicated to the Lord Hunsdon" or Hunfdon? (II.323).]

Phaer Dr. Thomas, In the Mirrour for Magistrates.


Quarles Francis,


Randolph Mr. Thomas.

Rawlins Thomas,

Return from Parnassus; or, the Scourge of Simony. 1606 [anon. accdg. to G.J. II.325]

Richards, Nathaniel,

Rowley William,

Rowley Samuel,

Rutter Joseph,


Sackville Thomas, Earl of Dorset, In the Mirrour for Magistrates.

Shakespear William, Gent. [tons of works by him]

Shakespear, and W. Rowley.

Shakespear, Beaumont, and Fletcher

Sharp Lewis

Sharpham Edward,

Shirley Mr. Henry.

Shirley James, [ton of titles]

Sicelides, a Piscatory, Acted in King's College Cambridge 1631. [anon. accdg. to Giles Jacob, II.327]

Sicily and Naples; or the Fatal Union, Oxford 1640 [anon. accdg. to Giles Jacob, vol. II. p. 328]

Sir Gyles Goose-cap, Knt. a Com. 1606

Smith William,

Solyman and Perseda, their Tragedy . . . 1599 [anon. accdg. to Giles Jacob, II.327]

Sophister, a Com. 1639 [anon. accdg. to Giles Jacob, II.327]

Spenser Edmund,

Stapleton Sir Robert

Strode Rev. Mr. William

Suckling Sir John.

Swetnam the Woman-hater arraigned by Women, a Com. 1620 [anon. accdg. to Giles Jacob, II.327]

Swinhoe Gilbert,


Tateham John

Taylor Robert,

Tourneur Cyril,

True Trojans, or Fumius Troes . . . . 1633

Tuke Sir Samuel


Valiant Welchman; . . . . 1663

Unfortunate Usurper, a Trag. 1663


Watkins Rowland.

Webster John

The Same, and W. Rowley.

Wily Beguiled, a pleasant Comedy. . . . 1635

Wilkins George

[Begin the volumes:]

[The way the volumes are actually arranged is that quotations follow headings. Sometimes titles of works are given with authors' names, sometimes not.]

ABBEYS. [while this section continues, the top of the page is marked "ABB"]

ABSENCE. [page-top marked "ABS"]

ABSTINENCE. . . . ACCIDENT. [Top of page marked "ABS ACC"]




ACTION. [Each passage quoted here uses the word "action" or some variant of it.]





ADULTERY. [The first quotation here doesn't contain the word, only "to truant with your bed."]



[Vol. II opens:] GAMING

[Vol. III opens:] PANDER


[Giles Jacob], An Historical Account of the Lives and Writings of Our most Considerable English Poets, whether Epick, Lyrick, Elegiack, Epigrammatists, &c.. London: Printed and Sold by W. Mears, 1724.

(1) [Hayward's note:] Webbe's Discourse of English Poetry, 4to. 1586 Pref.

(2) [Hayward's note:] Printed at London for Hugh Astley, 8vo. 1600.

(3) The list begins to comment on authors, here and at Corbet above and Davies below.

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