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The custom which now begins to prevail, of re-printing the works of those ancient writers who are distinguished for brilliancy of fancy, or purity of sentiment, has induced the Editor of this volume to submit to the decision of modern times, the
Meditations, Soliloquies, and Prayers of FRANCIS QUARLES;" an author, who was once generally admired for the variety and sweetness of his compositions.
Recl, MIP 9-28-40
The life and literary character of Quarles being fully discussed in the
following pages, it remains here only to observe, that the former was without reproach, and that the latter was of sufficient celebrity to place him among the best writers of his age.
The plan of the ensuing work is briefly this:--The author divides his book into Two Parts ; in the First, he introduces various immoral characters, indulging themselves in studied commendations (under the most plausible modes of reasoning) of their particular habits and pursuits : but, immediately afterwards, certain prohibitory Texts of Scripture occur to them which produces contrition and remorse; these are followed by a Soliloquy on the heinousness of their sins, and by a Prayer that they may be forgiven.
In the Second * Part, the characters are not absolutely immoral, but appear to be overwhelmed by their miseries and afflictions. After some reflections on their wretched state, a Soliloquy and Prayer ensue; the former of which, as in the first part, reproves, and the latter administers consolation.
It has been principally from a conviction of the good which may ensue to all classes of society, from the perusal of these pages, that the Editor has been solicitous to publish them in their present improved form,
* In the second part, there is probably less genius than in the first; although the style is freer from vulgarisms and eccentricities of expression : but we are told by Quarles's widow, that this second part was taken from the author by a sly hand, and presently printed without his knowledge; so that, as in like cases it always happens, it came forth much unsuitable to the author's mind, both in the form and matter of it.” See URSULA QUARLES's Address to the “ Courteous Reader," prefixed to the Second Part, post. p. 173.
In this edition, the original text of Quarles is faithfully adhered to; except in about ten or twelve places, where some verbal corrections became-necessary, from the palpable corruption of the copy. The orthography * is modernized; in justification of which (if justification be requisite) I avail myself of the remarks of Mr. Burnett, in the Preface to his “ Specimens of English Prose Writers t.” “ To prevent any repellent effect to the general reader," says he," it was thought advisable to adopt the modern orthography. The ancient spelling, indeed, was quite unsettled, and in some degree arbitrary; the same author often writing the same word in two or three different ways. To many readers this might have been a source of obscurity.” See p. xi.
* Except in the “ Life and Death of Quarles, by his Widow.”
+ A very elegant and judicious publication, in 3 vols. 8vo. 1809: forming a companion to Mr. Ellis's popular “ Spen cimens of the Early English Poets."