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PIREFACE.

#$$o RIOR'S works have always been 5, called “Poemson several occasions,” § though the title was originally given -- to them by Curll. He wrote verses from his boyhood, contributed to collections like Dryden's Miscellanies, and published separate poems, satirical or complimentary, as they were suggested by current political or literary incidents. But he was in no hurry to collect his scattered productions. His first volume was brought out in order to disclaim responsibility for an unauthorised edition published in 1709 by that most daring and industrious of literary scavengers, Edmund Curll, “an amphibious creature, chief merchant to the muses,” as Ned Ward called him. His shop was next door to Will's famous Coffee House and he is satirised by Pope and others. His habit of bringing out fictitious collections of letters and his other objectionable practices went far to justify Dr. Arbuthnot's characterisation of him as “one of the new terrors of the dead.” Some of the peculiarities of Curll's edition are discussed in Appendix B. It was very incorrectly printed, and Prior therefore entrusted his manuscripts to Jacob Tonson, who was much looked up to by the young Whig wits, for whom he founded the Kitcat Club. He published most of the good literature of those days, and is described by Pope in his old days as “the perfect image and likeness of Bayle's Dictionary: so full of matter, secret history and wit, and spirit at almost fourscore.” His correspondence with his authors shows that he was a keen man of business, as well as a good friend and a genial companion. It was possibly some reminiscence of his close-fistedness that gave the edge to Dryden's description of his personal appearance, written beneath Kneller's portrait.

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With leering look, bull faced and freckled fair,
With frowsy pores poisoning the ambient air,
With two left leggs and Judas coloured hair.

With the imprint of this curious personage, Prior published in 1709 “an indifferent collection of poems, for fear of being thought the author of a worse.” This edition contained the dedication to the Earl of Dorset and has often been reprinted.

In 1716 another unauthorised edition was published, with the title, A Second Collection of Poems on Several Occasions, by Matthew Prior. This was disowned in the “London Gazette,” March 20-24, 1716.

The final and authoritative edition that

Prior published during his own lifetime was the folio of 1718. He refers to the number of men employed in copying and revising for this edition, which was carefully and sumptuously prepared, and obviously supplies the correct text. It was far from complete, however, and conjecture is powerless to decide why certain poems were omitted, since we know that Prior kept everything by him, even his school exercises. The rest of his papers fell into reverent hands after his death and, being duly copied by the faithful Adrian Drift, were published in 1740 as the Miscellaneous Works of his late Eacellency Matthew Prior, in 2 vols. Vol. I. contains The History of his own time compiled from his original manuscripts, but so thoroughly revised by one J. Bancks as to retain none of Prior's own work. It is of interest from its containing some correspondence between himself and his political associates, his Journal in the Court of France, Aug. 31, 1713–Oct 23, 1714, apparently written by his secretary, in which are set down such incidents as that his Excellency made a certain visit in “his own coach and six horses,” and granted passports to certain persons, and the account of his examination before a Committee of the Privy Council in 1715, drawn up by himself, with his unfinished Answer to the Secret Committee. Vol. II. consists of a number of poems unpublished or unacknowledged during his lifetime, with some pieces by other hands.

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