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PHE Lee Priory Printer long ago expressed
to me his wish to publish a volume in which all the Wood ENGRAVINGS that have been used at this Press might be produced
together, with some poetical illustrations or notices of each. The avocations of the Editor, whose contributions would have been so much more valuable than mine, being too numerous to permit him to give his attention to an undertaking, that, however desultory or even frivolous, was likely to involve much sacrifice of time, the Printer requested my assistance, which has by degrees supplied him with the following trifles.---Trifles I call them very sincerely, and only in that character introduce them to his Subscribers: and, even then, by no means as claiming kindred with those airy children
of fancy that sometimes appear at the incantations of lyrical poets, and charm more by their lighiness and delicacy than the nobler spirits evoked by mightier magicians. Gladly would I persuade myself, if I could, that even a few of mine partake of that graceful nature: but, after looking over them in their present dress, I consign them to their destiny with a sort of despair, for it is no longer in my power to retard them. Like the dancing-master who has prepared pupils for the Italian slage, I see them go forward with all the advantages of “scenery and decoration” to lavour their appearance; but I have not, like him, a flattering expectation that their harmony and variety of movement will be found such as to entitle them to the praise of trifling with elegance.
The embellishments in most books are secondary to the printed composition: in this, with very few exceptions, the reverse is the fact. I will not deny that this peculiarity has sometimes had the effect of saving me the trouble of invention, but it has, at least as often, been
productive of embarrassment. It was not always easy to form well-adapted combinations from various and independent materials, nor always practicable to discipline the mind to the proper entertainment of subjects not of my own choice. Nor is this remark made to predispose the reader in my favour, but to anticipate objections: all that I desire or expect is, that my part in the volume may pass without giving much discontent to its purchasers*; and that the main attraction of the work will be sought for in the Wood ENGRAVINGS. Many of these were executed by the first artists, in their most spirited and finished manner, and the Printer is well known for his skill in working them off.
If I cherished hopes of exciting any sentiment kinder than toleration for these verses, I certainly should not express them; still less should I be weak enough to supplicate for kindness. I am too well convinced of the
* It is hardly necessary for me to say that the printer and his booksellers are the only persons to whom this work can convey any emolument, as to which I have no concern whatever, beyond what arises from my wish to serve him.