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TO THE FOURTH EDITIO N.

TWENTY years have near elapsed since the last edition of this work appeared. But, although it was sufficiently a favourite with the public, and had long been out of print, the original Editor had no desire to revive it. More important pursuits had, as might be expected, engaged his attention ; and the present edition would have remained unpublished, had he not yielded to the importunity of his friends, and accepted the humble offer of an Editor in a Nephew, to whom, it is feared, he will be found too partial.

These volumes are now restored to the public with such corrections and improvements as have occurred since the former impression; and the text in particular hath been emended in many passages by recurring to the old copies. The instances being frequently trivial, are not always noted in the margin, but the alteration hath never been made without good reason; and especially in such pieces as were extracted from the folio Manuscript so often mentioned in the following pages, where any variation occurs from the former impres

sion, it will be understood to have been given on the authority of that MS.

The appeal publicly made to Dr. Johnson in the first page of the following Preface, so long since as in the year 1765, and never once contradicted by him during so large a portion of his life, ought to have precluded every doubt concerning the existence of the MS. in question. But such, it seems, having been suggested, it may now be mentioned, that while this edition passed through his press, the MS. itself was left for near a year with Mr. Nichols, in whose house, or in that of its possessor, it was examined with more or less attention by many gentlemen of eminence in literature. At the first publication of these volumes, it had been in the hands of all, or most of his friends; but, as it could hardly be expected that he should continue to think of nothing else but these amusements of his youth, it was afterwards laid aside at his residence in the country. Of the many gentlemen above mentioned, who offered to give their testimony to the public, it will be sufficient to name the Honourable Daines Barrington, the Reverend Clayton Mordaunt Cracherode, and those eminent critics on Shakspeare, the Reverend Dr. Farmer, George Steevens, Esq., Edmund Malone, Esq., and Isaac Reed, Esq., to whom I beg leave to appeal for the truth of the following representation,

The MS. is a long narrow folio volume, containing one hundred and ninety-five Sonnets, Ballads, Histo

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