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The following Collection of the Popular and National Songs of England is offered to the lovers of this delightful department of literature with the hope that it will be found to present, in a small compass, a large portion of the most celebrated effusions of this kind which the language affords. The ordinary Songbooks, of which large numbers are issued, at prices varying from one penny to a shilling, are for the most part valueless to those who desire to know the age in which the songs were written, the names of the authors, the circumstances which led to their production, or any fact of interest connected with their origin or their influence. They contain neither names nor dates, make no attempt at classification, and often include effusions which are objectionable to the right-minded, and unfit to be placed in the hands of the young. The Collection now offered to the public aims to supply a deficiency in these respects; and although it has no pretensions to being complete—for fifty volumes would scarcely exhaust a subject so extensive—it is hoped that it presents a fair view of the progress and present state of English literature in this particular branch. The songs have not been uniformly selected for their beauty or their excellence. While these claims have not been lost sight of, the popularity which
they may have at any time enjoyed, or the influence, direct or indirect, which they may be supposed to have exercised upon the popular mind, have been considered legitimate passports to a place in the Collection. It is possible that many readers with whom particular songs may have become favourites from old association, may look in vain in this volume for the lyrics that have been impressed on their memory by accidental circumstances ; but they will possibly admit upon reflection that these are, to a great extent, matters of individual taste, and that the song which is beautiful to one man, because his mother, his sister, his lover, his wife, or his friend, may have sung it, may be without charms for him who has not heard it repeated under similar circumstances. It should also be remembered, that he who selects, with small space at his disposal, from a mass of materials, must necessarily omit much, which, had he been less restricted for room, he would willingly have included.
The Editor cannot omit to express his thanks to the living writers who have given him permission to make extracts from their works. He has also to return his acknowledgments to Messrs. Cramer and Beale, Regent Street; to Messrs. Goulding and D'Almaine, of Soho Square; to Messrs. Bradbury and Evans Whitefriars; and to Messrs. Adam and Charles Black, of Edinburgh, for the permission to insert the compositions of deceased authors of which they possess the copyright; and to Mr. William Chappell, and Dr. E. F. Rimbault, for the kind communication of many interesting facts connected with the authorship of old songs.