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lads, and playing his crowd for the amusement of the middling, and lower classes of society.
In the year 1777, the late Mr. Evans published the first edition of this Collection in two volumes. Its success surpassed his warmest expectations; a large impression was soon exhausted, and the encreasing demand for copies induced him to reprint, and encouraged him to extend the work. In 1784, a second edition ap• peared in four volumes; this latter edition was as fortunate as its predecessor; it has long since been out of print, and had begun to be numbered among the scarcities of collectors.
The attention of the public has been recently directed to every branch of our ancient literature. The poetical department has been explored with avidity, and every recovered fragment has been cherished with almost a romantic enthusiasm ; such researches caused the enquiries for the present collection to be renewed, and the office of superintending it seemed na. turally to devolve on one, so nearly allied to the late editor. For a long time I shrunk from the undertaking, conscious of my want of leisure and abilities to do justice to it, and I had nearly relinquished it altogether, when the unexpected access to some new and interesting materials, finally determined me to engage in a revision and enlargement of the work.
I will now succinctly státe the alterations that have been made in the present edition, and whence the materials for the additions have been chiefly drawn.
Wherever I have had an opportunity, I have collated the ballads with the earliest editions, which were frequently inaccessible to the late editor, and have restored the genuine readings, which had been materially changed, and deteriorated in the modern copies. I have omitted
all the poems of Gold. smith, Gray, Sir William Jones, Chatterton and other eminent modern writers, whose works have been collected, and may be presumed to be in the reader's possession.
I hope I shall not be charged with a want of gallantry, for leaving out the effusions of Mrs. Robinson, and Helen Maria Williams. I felt no tenderness for the feeble productions of Jerningham, Ball, Blacklock, and a few others; they never deserved a place in this collection, and even had they possessed more merit than they can claim, it must be admitted that they occupied too large a portion of a work destined to exhibit the legitimate productions of our early Minstrels.
These' omissions, and the augmentation of the size of each volume, have enabled me to introduce a considerable number of ancient productions; many of which are of rare occurrence, and have not been in. serted in any other collection,
The late Duke of Roxburghe possessed a very singular, and almost inatchless collection of Old Ballads. The history of these I will subjoin in the words of Mr. Nicol, extracted from an unpublished preface to the Catalogue of his friend and patron :
“This collection of Ancient Ballads was originally formed for the celebrated library of the Earl of Oxford, in the beginning of the last century, and was then supposed to exceed the famous Pepys Collection at Cambridge. It was obtained, as well as many other curious articles, from the Harleian Library by Mr. West, at whose sale it was purchased by Major Pearson, a gentleman, who had made old English literature his particular study; in his possession, with the assistance of his friend Mr. Isaac Reed, the collection received very great additions, and was bound in two large volumes; in this state it was bought at Major Pearson's sale by the. Duke of Roxburghe. After the industrious exertions of two such skilful collectors as Major Pearson and Mr. Reed, the Duke did not flatter himself with ever being able to add much to the collection; but as usual he undervalued his own industry. Finding that his success far exceeded his expectations, he determined to add a third volume to the collection. Among these new acquisitions are some very rare bal
lads; one quoted by Hamlet, of which no other is now known to exist."*
This valuable collection has been diligently examined, and I hope, very considerable advantage has been derived from it.
The Pepys Collection, at Magdalen College, Cambridge, in five volumes folio, furnished some materials, which have been duly acknowledged in the progress of this work.
To the Rev, Mr. Todd I am indebted for the inspection of many rarities, and for two poems taken from a manuscript in his possession. Mr. Douce most obligingly favoured me with the loan of some scarce articles, particularly two volumes of Old Ballads, originally collected by the late Mr. Baynes, one of the few persons distinguished by the praise of Ritson. In expressing my thanks to Mr. Todd, and Mr. Douce, I must not confine myself to the subject of books lent; I have applied to them for the solution of some difficulties I was
* See Vol. I. p.7.