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However fearlessly a critic may write of those who are beyond the influence of his opinions, it must be otherwise in regard to those who are present to detect and expose such as are erroneous. The anonymous in literature may not be beneficial to it ;—at least it gives a freer tone: of this screen it has been impossible for the Editor to avail himself; and he must, consequently, rest his hopes of satisfying the Poets and the Public on the consciousness that, while he has laboured to avoid the semblance of presumption, he has expressed of the Poets and their productions exactly what he thought. If to have worked with the full knowledge that he had a delicate and an arduous task to perform, may have gone far in enabling him to discharge it adequately, he can have but little apprehension of the result.
With scarcely an exception, he has been favoured by the living Poets with memoranda for his brief biographies; and, with most of them, he has the honour to be personally acquainted. As regards facts, therefore, he has gone upon sure ground; and, as it was his duty to introduce into the volume only such as have achieved and merited fame, he trusts that his criticisms will be neither displeasing to them, nor unsatisfactory to the Public.
He feels it necessary to apologize for having omitted from the list many who may be justly considered deserving of introduction into it; but the nature of his plan, and the immense expenditure necessary to complete it, confined him to narrower limits than he desired. He trusts that his Selection will not be judged in reference to those he has been compelled to pass over; and that he will be considered as having classed among “ British Poets” none who have doubtful claims to the distinction.
In selecting the Poems, he may not always have met the taste of his readers: upon this point he can only observe, that he has endeavoured to extract such examples as might best exhibit the genius of the Poet; and has taken complete poems, though short, in preference to detached passages from more extensive works.
The Editor earnestly, and with some degree of confidence, hopes that his Selections from the Modern Poets may have the effect of directing attention to the sources whence they are drawn, -of increasing that taste for Poetry which the “ scientific spirit of the age” has lessened,—and of adding to the circulation of the “ Works,” by showing the enjoyment and instruction that may be derived from them.
The Editor has now performed the duty he undertook three years ago: he has been gratified to find that his labours have been neither unappreciated nor unrecompensed. For the compliments he has received through public channels, and in private communications, from those whose praise is a liberal reward, he feels duly grateful; and trusts that at the conclusion of his arduous task, they will be continued to him.