A Victorian Anthology, 1837-1895: Selections Illustrating the Editor's Critical Review of British Poetry in the Reign of Victoria

By Edmund Clarence Stedman | Go to book overview

INTRODUCTION

WHILE this book is properly termed an Anthology, its scope is limited to the yield of one nation during a single reign. Its compiler's office is not that of one who ranges the whole field of English poetry, from the ballad period to our own time, -- thus having eight centuries from which to choose his songs and idyls, each "round and perfect as a star." This has been variously essayed; once, at least, in such a manner as to render it unlikely that any new effort, for years to come, will better the result attained.

On the other hand, the present work relates to the poetry of the English people, and of the English tongue, that knight peerless among languages, at this stage of their manifold development. I am fortunate in being able to make use of such resources for the purpose of gathering, in a single yet inclusive volume, a Victo. rian garland fairly entitled to its name. The conditions not only permit but require me -- while choosing nothing that does not further the general plan -- to be somewhat less rigid and eclectic than if examining the full domain of English poesy. That plan is not to offer a collection of absolutely flawless poems, long since become classic and accepted as models; but in fact to make a truthful exhibit of the course of song during the last sixty years, as shown by the poets of Great Britain in the best of their shorter productions.

Otherwise, and as the title-page implies, this Anthology is designed to supplement my "Victorian Poets," by choice and typical examples of the work discussed in that review. These are given in unmutilated form, except that, with respect to a few extended narrative or dramatic pieces, I do not hesitate to make extracts which are somewhat complete in themselves; it being difficult otherwise to represent certain names, and yet desirable that they shall be in some wise represented.

At first I thought to follow a strictly chronological method: that is, to give authors succession in the order of their birth-dates; but had not gone far before it was plain that such an arrangement conveyed no true idea of the poetic movement

-ix-

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