The first editions of this most successful of eighteenth-century school anthologies devote an entire section to brief excerpts from the Faery Queene under the following headings: Duessa weeping over her Enemy, compared to a Crocodile; and a Description of Night; Description of Lucifera's Palace; Lucifera ascending her Coach; Description of Prince Arthur in his Habiliments of War; Description of Diana with her Nymphs, returned from the Chace, and preparing to bathe; Description of a Garden; Description of the Garden of Adonis; Devastation which Time makes in this Garden; Description of Jupiter; Guyon conducted by Mammon through a Cave under Ground, to see his Treasure; Description of Despair, and her Speech.
This volume of "passages in poetry" was produced on the model of Elegant Extracts ... in Prose which had been published five years earlier. Most of the poems are printed entire; they are "extracted" from other collections. Later editions add considerably more Spenserian material, including several more imitations of Spenser and nearly the whole works of William Collins. By 1805, Vicesimus Knox included a hundred excerpts from Spenser's poetry, the first 87 arranged alphabetically for easy reference ("Adonis's Garden" through "Wrath"). As the title indicates, the poetry was chosen with imitation as well as moral instruction in mind.
While Knox's collection eventually grew to include much humorous and ephemeral material, the editor's "classical" bent is particularly apparent in the first edition, and not merely because the material is arranged in classes — of pre-Miltonic authors, only Spenser and Shakespeare get extensive attention. The additions indicate that by the beginning of the nineteenth century, however, several mid-century writers were regarded as English classics: Collins, Gray, Mason, Akenside, and the Wartons. Many romantic poets would have first encountered them in the pages of the Elegant Extracts.
47. DESCRIPTION OF PRINCE ARTHUR IN HIS HABILIMENTS OF WAR.
Upon the top of all his lofty crest
A bunch of hairs, discolour'd diversly
With sprinkled pearl, and gold full richly drest;
Did shake, and teem'd to dance for jollity,
Like to an almond-tree ymounted high
On top of green Selinis all alone,
With blossoms brave bedecked daintily;
Whose tender looks do tremble every one
At every little blast that under heav'n is blown.