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ENTERED ACCORDING TO ACT OF CONGRESS, IN THE YEAR 1942, BY CAREY & RART, IN THE OFTICE a
THE CLERK OF THE DISTRICT COURT OF THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA,
Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1972, by
PS 581 G88 1872
Preface to the Sixteenth Edition.
By the publication of “THE FEMALE PETS OF AMERICA,” in 1849, this survey of American Poetry was divided into two parts. From “THE POETS AND POETRY OF AMERICA” were omitted all reviewals of our female poets, and their places were supplied with notices of other authors. The entire volume was also revised, re-arranged, and in other respects improved.
The book was in the first place too hastily prepared. There was difficulty in procuring materials, and in deciding, where so many had some sort of claim to the title, whom to regard as Poets. There had been published in this country about five hundred volumes of rhythmical compositions of various kinds and degrees of merit, nearly all of which I read, with more or less attention. From the mass I chose about one fifth, as containing writings not unworthy of notice in such an examination of this part of our literature as I proposed to make. I have been censured, perhaps justly, for the wide range of my selections. But I did not consider all the contents of the volume Poetry. I aimed merely to show what had been accomplished toward a Poetical Literature by our writers in verse before the close of the first half century of our national existence. With much of the first order of excellence more was accepted that was comparatively poor. But I believe nothing was admitted inferior to passages in the most celebrated foreign works of like character. I have also been condemned for omissions. But on this score I have no regrets. I can think of no name not included in the first edition which I would now admit without better credentials than were before me when that edition was printed.
The value of books of this description has been recognised from an early period. Besides the few leading authors in every literature whose works are indispensable in libraries to be regarded as in any degree complete, there are a far greater number of too little merit to render the possession of all their productions desirable. The compilations of English poetry by Mr. Souther, Mr. HAZLITT, Mr. CAMPBELL, and Mr. S. C. Hall, embrace ag many as most readers wish to read of the effusions of more than half the
writers quoted in them; and of the qualities of all such, indications are given in criticisms or specimens as will intelligibly guide the lover of poetry to more comprehensive studies. In our own country, where there are comparatively few poets of a high rank, the majority would have little chance of a just appreciation but for such reviewals.
The earliest project for a general collection of Specimens of American Poetry was that of James Rivington, the celebrated royalist printer of New York, who in January, 1773, sent a printed circular on the subject to several persons in the colonies who had reputations as poets, and soon after published in his “Royal Gazette” the following advertisement:
“The public is hereby notified that the printer of this paper has it in contemplation to publish with all convenient speed a COLLECTION OF Poems by the Favorites of the Muses in America, on the same plan with Dopsley's celebrated English Compilation. Such ladies and gentlemen, therefore, as will please to honour the attempt with their productions, (which will be treated with the utmost impartiality by a gentleman who hath undertaken to conduct the publication,) will confer a favor on the public in general, and particularly on their much obliged and very humble servant.
JAMES RIVINGTON. The execution of Rivington's design was prevented by the approaching revolution, and no such book appeared until 1791, when MATTHEW CAREY brought out his “ Beauties of Poetry, British and American,” in which selections are given from nineteen native writers. In 1793 the first of a proposed series of volumes of “ American Poems, Selected and Original," was printed in Litchfield, Connecticut, under the editorial supervision of RICHARD Alsop. It is curious and interesting, and students in our literary history will regret that its sale did not warrant a completion of the undertaking. In 1794 “ The Columbian Muse, a Selection of American Poetry by various Authors of established Reputation," appeared from the press of J. CAREY, in New York. The next publication of this kind was the comprehensive and judicious “Specimens of American Poetry, with Critical and Biographical Notices,” in three volumes, by Mr. SAMUEL KETTELL, in 1829; followed in 1831 by Dr. CHEEVER'S “ American Common-Place Book of Poetry, with occasional Notes;” in 1839 by “ The Poets of America, illus. trated by one of her Painters,” edited by Mr. KEESE, and in the same year by "Selections from the American Poets," by Mr. BRYANT.
Since the reconstruction of the present work, in the eleventh edition, the sale has been still greater than previously, and I have now added many new authors, and notices of the new productions of authors already mentioned, with additional extracts.
No. 22, WEST TWENTYTHIRD STREET, NEW YORK, 1855.
PREFACE TO THIS EDITION.
Thirty years have passed since the publication of the first edition of the POETS OF AMERICA, and every year has added to the materials of which it was composed. Dr. GRISWOLD made such ample use of these additional materials in the different editions through which his work went, that the last issued during his life may be said to have brought the work down to that time. Such being the case, the present editor has confined himself to the period which has since elapsed, and which may be said to have commenced in 1855. His first intention was to have revised Dr. GRISWOLD's volume, correcting any errors that he might discover, and substituting later, and, in some cases, perhaps, better specimens of the authors quoted; but a little reflection convinced him that it was not advisable to do so. DR. GRISWOLD had done this work, and whether it was well done, or ill done, it had taken its place among standard works of the same character. It was an authority, and as such it was not to be rashly disturbed. Had its preparation fallen originally to the present editor, he would probably have given it a different form, and would certainly have dissented from some of Dr. GRISWOLD's critical opinions. Fortunately for him, however, this arduous and thankless task was accomplished, and but little remained to be done. Whether this, which was simply to continue Dr. Griswold's work to the present time, has been satisfactorily performed, is not for him to decide. He has avoided one fault, or what might have been considered a fault in him; he has expressed no opinions concerning the poets whom he has added to Dr. Griswold's collection.
The reasons which determined this omission on his part, as well as his intention to leave Dr. GRISWOLD's own work intact, were submitted to some of his literary friends, who acquiesed in their justice. “If I were in your place," was the advice one gave, “ I should not mix my work and Griswold's, but leave the latter precisely as he left it. Every reader now will want Geis wOLD's book (at least I do), with his biographies, critical remarks, and selections. The latter are as good as necessary, giving, in almost all cases, the author's oest and most characteristic poems; while his criticisms would lose their
historical value if meddled with. To be sure he got into a good deal of hot water (there, by the way, is a warning to you, in dealing with the new names,) but all that has passed away. No one can complain if you let his articles stand, while there might be a great deal of complaint if you meddlo with them.”
“You think of proceeding,” another wrote, “in the additions you are to make to GRISWOLD's AMERICAN Poets, just as I should were I in your place. It would not become a poet to assign to his contemporary brethren the place which they are to hold in our literature, and it would be most ungracious in you to intercept any praise which might otherwise come to them, and to which they would naturally think that they have a fair claim. Poets are a sensitive race, as has been said a million times, beginning with HORACE, and you could not speak disparagingly of any, except the most modest of the tribe, without being suspected, by them at least, of a disposition to stand in the way of rival merit.”
The editor returns his thanks to the poets whom he has added to this collection for information furnished in regard to themselves and their writings, and for permission to select what he chose from the latter. His thanks are especially due to Messrs. J. R. Osgood & Co. for the liberal use they have enabled him to make of various volumes of which they are the publish. ers, without which this collection could not have been completed.
R. H. STODDARD.
NEW YORE, Aug. 15th, 1872.