A Poetical Dictionary; by DERRICK, Samuel (1724-1769).

DERRICK, Samuel (1724-1769).

A Poetical Dictionary; or, the Beauties of the English Poets, Alphabetically Displayed. Containing the most Celebrated Passages in the following Authors, viz. Shakespear, Johnson, Dryden, Lee, Otway, Beaumont, Fletcher, Lansdowne, Butler, Southerne, Addison, Pope, Gay, Garth, Rowe, Young, Thompson, Mallet, Armstrong, Francis, Warton, Whitehead, Mason, Gray, Akenside, Smart, &c. In four volumes. Vol. I [-IV]. London, Newberry &c., 1761.

First Edition. Four volumes, 12mo, (172 x 98mm), pp. xii, 288; [ii], 244; [ii], 276; [ii], 252, small marginal tear to the title of volume three, without loss, in contemporary half calf over marbled boards, flat spines simply ruled and numbered in gilt with black morocco labels lettered in gilt, with a library stamp marked ‘T.K.S.’ on the title-pages, partly obscuring the lettering, and with the booklabel of Old Sleningford Hall pasted on each title-page, partially or completely obscuring the ‘A’ of the title.

An attractive copy of Samuel Derrick’s selection of English poetry, arranged according to subject, from ‘Abbey’ to ‘Zimri’, through ‘Folly’, ‘Genius’, ‘Gentlewoman’ (and, later, ‘Woman’), ‘Kensington Garden’, ‘Marriage’ and ‘Pleasure’. Derrick was an actor turned writer from Dublin whose most interesting works include a translation of Cyrano de Bergerac’s A Voyage to the Moon, 1753 and an edition of Dryden’s works published in 1760. After the failure of his acting career he continued to work closely with the theatre, making various verse and prose contributions and publishing a successful commentary, The dramatic censor; being remarks upon the conduct, characters, and catastrophe of our most celebrated plays, London 1752. On first arriving in London, he made the acquaintance of Boswell, who later regretted his earlier friendship with ‘this creature... a little blackguard pimping dog’ (Boswell’s London Journal, ed. Potten, 1950, p. 228). Johnson, when asked who was the finer poet, Derrick or Christopher Smart, famously replied, ‘Sir, there is no settling the point of precedency between a louse and a flea’ (Boswell, Life of Johnson, ed. Hill and Powell, 1934, IV, 192 - 193).
In the preface, Derrick argues that as English boasts the greatest poetry of any modern language, it is an injustice to the nation to neglect it and he believes that the lack of this sort of anthology proves that it has been neglected. He allows that some similar works have been published, for example Byshe’s Art of Poetry, but these have tended to concentrate on translations from the classics: ‘but these are not the perfections of Dryden and Pope: it is Homer and Virgil we compliment in our admiration; the only merits of our great countrymen that occur, are classical knowledge, and talents for smooth versification. It is in their original works, their imitations of nature, and not of men, that we must look for that excellence in our most celebrated writers, which reflects honour upon the nation, and helps to exemplify its literary character’ (p. ix-x).
‘The various topics in these volumes are arranged in alphabetical order; so that they may be easily found, and the authors name is affixed to each. Here the man of knowledge and erudition will find an index to refresh his memory; the preceptor proper themes to exercise and enrich the mind of his pupil; and knowledge, supported by ornament, will be insensibly conveyed to the young gentleman’s heart, who shall reap instruction from the amusement... The editor hopes the work may be also an agreeable present to the ladies, many of whom boast a more refined taste than the generality of the other sex’ (p. x - xi).

ESTC t42700; Roscoe A412.

Keywords: English Literature
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