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O fave from the wreck of time a few of the best poetical compofitions on divine and moral fubjects, was the intent of this collection. Whether the Editor has been happy in his choice, must be left to the decifion of the candid reader.
To render the undertaking worthy the regard of perfons seriously difpofed, I have taken much pains in selecting pieces both of a pleafing and inftructive nature. Some of them it is true, are not, in point of beauty, equal to productions of a different kind that might be mentioned; though I truft, that even thofe of the loweft rank have fome degree of merit. To procure matter every way suited to my wishes, I found extremely difficult: and, after all my fearches, was reduced to the neceffity of printing several pieces that would have been rejected, had I met with others more deferving.
The scarcity of fine poems on divine subjects, is, I prefume, much greater than is generally imagined : and probably this will beft account for the rubbish found in almoft every collection of this kind, unless we can suppose the Editors deftitute both of tafte and judgment.
In compiling this volume, I had one difficulty to encounter refpecting the right of literary property,
which few collectors have ever thought of, or at least have not regarded. And had not a due regard to this, limited my enquiries, I might have selected many valuable pieces that would have been acceptable to the chriftian world. For leave to print those of a modern date, I am indebted to several of my ingenious friends; and even for fome, which under the fanction of the law, I might have taken.
One thing very defirable in the pieces I have chofen, was uniformity of sentiment; but this was found impracticable. They are in general therefore printed as I found them, except fuch inaccuracies as could hardly be excufed. In copying the pieces from ARWAKER'S tranflation of HUGO's PIA DESIDERIA*, I have taken uncommon liberty. Some of the lines were very loose, and many of the fimilies low and trifling.---Thefe I have either wholly omitted or attempted to correct.
A few pieces of my own are thus diftinguifhed *** ---They were written at different times, just as leifure and inclination offered. A love of poetry, I believe, first induced me to attempt any thing in verse; and, as is very common, without a previous enquiry whether I was properly qualified for the undertaking. A due regard to this, and to the many beauties requifite to constitute a fine poem, it is more
* From this ingenious performance, the celebrated Mr. QUARLES took his emblems; but forgot, as we may charitably fuppofe, to mention this circumftance in his preface to the book in which they are published.
than probable would have excluded them from a place in this collection. Were it needful to apologize for printing them, I might plead a defire of gratifying the curiofity of my friends, who, from the nature of the undertaking, will no doubt expect fome originals from the Editor. However, I cannot wish to avail myself of any excuse, in order to escape the cenfure they deferve.---Criticisms, if well founded, cannot be too fevere; and as we are most likely to profit by a difplay of failures not suspected, every attempt of that kind cannot but inspire the warmest thankfulnefs and gratitude.
The poem, entitled DEITY, by Mr. BOYSE, I efteem a valuable acquifition. It is, perhaps, one of the finest pieces on that subject, in the English language. When it was first published, Mr. POPE was afked, whether he was not the author of it? To which he replied, "that he was not indeed the author of it, but that there were many lines in it of which he should not be afhamed." And he might have added, "nor of the whole performance."
The late ingenious Mr. HERVEY, in a letter to Mr. BOYSE, dated Auguft 8, 1747, fays, "Give me leave to add my acknowledgements for the perufal of your poem, entitled DEITY. It is a noble piece, quite poetical, truly evangelical, and admirably fitted to alarm and comfort the heart, to delight and improve the reader---I must desire to read it again." And in a letter to a friend, dated June 7, 1759, speaking of the fame poem, he fays, "I really
think it is as useful and fine a piece of poetry as moft in the English language.---I fo much admire it, that I have infenfibly as it were got it by heart. God grant that it may be influential on every reader."
Mr. BOYSE was the fon of a diffenting minifter at DUBLIN. He was born in the year 1708. As he was intended for the miniftry, he was fent at the age of eighteen, to the University of GLASGOW. But in less than a year he married a tradesman's daughter of that city. This interrupted his studies, and immediately after he became wholly dependent on his father. By a series of extravagancies, he foon fquandered away a little eftate which had fupported his father and family, fo that the old man in his last sickness was intirely supported by presents from his congregation, and buried after his death at their expence. In 1726, and 1731, Mr. BoYSE wrote several poems which gained him much credit. He was careffed by fome of the first families in Scotland, and by them recommended to the patronage of feveral noblemen of the first rank in England. Among other men of learning, Mr. POPE was one to whom he was ftrongly recommended. However, by neglecting the many favorable opportunities he had of preferment, and by a life of indolence and extravagance, he was, about the year 1740, reduced to such an extremity of human wretchedness, that he had neither fhirt, coat, nor any other kind of apparel to put on. The sheets in which he lay were carried to the pawnbroker's; and he was obliged to be confined to his bed with no
other covering than a blanket. He fupported himself fix weeks in this distressful situation, by writing verses for the magazines; and must certainly have continued in it much longer, if he had not been relieved by the generofity of fome gentlemen who knew him to be a man of parts. In the latter part of his life, his behavior was more decent than it had formerly been, which induced his friends to hope, that in the evening of life a reformation might be expected.
Among the many friends who generously contributed to his relief, he was in a peculiar manner indebted to the liberality of Mr. SANDBY, who, in order to make provifion for his future wants, employed him to tranflate a treatise on the EXISTENCE of God, written in French by the ARCHBISHOP of CAMBRAY. Mr. BOYSE, however, did not live to complete his undertaking, as he left behind him three fheets unfinished. He died in the performance of this work with a pen in his hand, as he fat in his bed in a garret in White Friars, and was afterwards buried at the expence of the parish +.
Thus, after many years spent in indolence and extravagance, this unhappy man was reduced to the loweft ebb of human wretched nefs. In the early and middle part of life, he had many pleafing prof
For this account, I am partly indebted to the writer of the Biographical Dictionary, and partly to Mr. Sandby, who was well acquainted with Mr. Boyfe, and a witness of that wretchedness and misery to which he was at last reduced.