THERE HAVE been four books on the Laureateship before this one. They are:
The Lives of the Poets-Laureate. With an Introductory Essay on the Title and Office. By Wiltshire Stanton Austin, Jun., and John Ralph M.A. 1853.
The Poets Laureate of England. By Walter Hamilton. 1879.
The Poets Laureate of England, their History and their Odes. By W. Forbes Gray. 1914.
The Laureateship, a Study of the Office of Poet Laureate in England with some account of the Poets. By Edmund Kemper Broadus. 1921.
Of these, the first three are out of date and not easily come by; they are also frequently inaccurate, a charge from which indeed even Professor Broadus cannot escape, and one which I have no doubt will be found applicable also to me: for three hundred years and the fives of fifteen poets cannot be distilled into one short book without some slips passing undetected. I shall look forward to the opportunity of correcting mine in a second edition!
The fourth book, by E. K. Broadus, I have not attempted to supersede. It will long be the standard work for students and it traces in great detail the history of the office of Poet Laureate -- it gives, for example, sixty closely-argued pages to those origins which I have disposed of in six. My purpose has been to write a book for the general reader, who is interested perhaps more in personalities than in what Johnson somewhere calls 'remote inquiries'. Professor Broadus gives more technical history than I do; I give more anecdote and allusion than he does.
For answering questions I could not answer for myself, I have to thank the Librarians of Trinity College and Caius and Gonville College, Cambridge. For helpful criticism, I have to thank Mr. Barney Blackley, Professor Edmund Blunden, and Professor V. de Sola Pinto.