A Survey of Burlesque and Parody in English

A Survey of Burlesque and Parody in English

A Survey of Burlesque and Parody in English

A Survey of Burlesque and Parody in English

Excerpt

This book is intended to fill a gap in our literary history. The author desired not merely to recount the annals of the comic muse, but to present burlesque as a serious art, a long- established mode of criticism, which is often far more incisive, and certainly more economical than the heavy review to which the public has been accustomed since the days of Dryden. It is clear that the intelligent study of parody and burlesque should furnish us with a history of English taste at once amusing and instructive. Parodies, being for the most part casual imitations of contemporary works, form a body of immediate criticism of the poetry of the day. As we get nearer the view that such criticism is not to be pontifically waved aside as of no account when placed beside the verdicts of the modern professors of taste, we will cherish the testimony of current parody the more. The reader has only to glance at the excerpts of parodies given in this work to be satisfied of this truth, which is sometimes obscured in formal literary manuals, that contemporaries are not always purblind critics of the literary output of their day. There are people in every age, as these burlesques show, who have managed to assess that output at something like its fair value. There are people in every age who are as able as we are to detect current frauds and absurdities, and who prove by their satires that they are as keenly alive to their silliness as the historical critic of to-day.

If we venture the statement that there is no movement in English literature which has not provoked the contemporary muse to burlesque rejoinder, it must be understood that the output of decent parody in the various periods is very unequal, and the accent is often uncertain. The most eccentric of our schools of poetry, the Metaphysical, for example, might have been expected to draw a good deal of fire. As a matter of fact it does not do so. The kindred affectation or disease of Marinism, on the other hand, provoked the first general outburst of literary parody.

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