1806 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

William Meyler

William Meyler, Preface, in Meyler, Poetical Amusement on the Journey of Life (1806) vi-x.



READER! thou art here presented with a Collection which the Author has called "POETICAL AMUSEMENT ON THE JOURNEY OF LIFE;" for, by the dates which have been annexed where they could be ascertained, thou wilt see that many of the Pieces were written at a very early period of life, and so, progressively, to the present hour. When a mere boy he was honored, and he confesses that he then thought it as great an honor as even Kings could confer, with the reward of several Myrtle Wreaths for Verses which had the good fortune to be approved by the elegant Society instituted by Lady Miller, at Bath-Easton Villa. This envied distinction, to a juvenile mind, gave him a passion for rhyming, and that passion begot, at least, a facility of composition; for the Author can assure thee, like the boasted professors of profile-painting, that the greater part of these Poems were finished at one sitting. Engaged in many serious avocations, with domestic and official duties, which he trusts have not been neglected for the less important services of the Muses, he could never bend his mind long enough to subjects that required repeated attention, or intense application. These Trifles would still have remained, as his friend BRUSH remarked, "locked up in an old lumber-box in one corner of his garret," or heedlessly scattered about the ephemeral columns of a periodical paper, had he not been stimulated to the publication by the wishes of those nearly connected with him, and by the reprehension of others whom he highly respects. He too has seen many of his light effusions creep anonymously into other collections, and sometimes with a different signature than W. M. There is a desire even in the most indolent mind to claim its own property.
The frequent returns of a painful disorder, with which he has long been visited, and which leaves him for many weeks in state of personal inactivity, have afforded him sufficient leisure to collect and arrange these Prisoners and Fugitives; and having Types and Printing-Presses at his command, is it to be wondered that, thus circumstanced, he has been induced to usher this little Volume into the world?
The vanity of being an Author has long since subsided in his breast — he honestly declares that he is more solicitous to shun contempt, than he is ambitious of fame. In the confined circle of his own friends and fellow-citizens many of the Prologues, Epigrams, &c. have afforded some amusement — the temporary allusions and locality of the subjects he must be conscious were the chief causes of that satisfaction. At a period so remote, and when the motives that urged the composition of the greater part of the Book have passed into oblivion, can he hope to attain the applause of distant, or indeed the generality of readers? No! Then let him solicit the candor and rely on the mercy of those stern Judges who preside in the awful Courts of Criticism. If they can pardon his present high crimes and literary misdemeanours, they may be assured that

"He'll not commit the like offence again."

N. B. Among the MISCELLANEOUS will be found several Pieces which ought properly to have been placed under their distinct heads; but he was compelled to take the advantage of that comprehensive title to insert such articles as had before escaped his search or recollection; or such as he might be induced to write during the progress of printing the sheets: the latter indeed are but few; but, may he hope, that nearly his last compositions — the TRIBUTE to the MEMORY of his two exalted friends, ANSTEY and GRAVES; and the ODE read to the BATH HUMANE SOCIETY, will be found as little exceptionable as any of those which precede them? — However they may be executed, they were written when the heart of the Author was fully impressed with the subjects.