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HE present volume is intended as a sequel and companion to the "Household Treasury of English Song," a book of poetical selections which has been received by both the Press and the Public with great favour.
In our preface to that volume we remarked that it was designed to furnish youthful readers with a New Manual of English Poetry; a manual which might be of service in their systematic studies, and yet a source of recreation in their leisure hours; while, at the same time, it was intended to supply the tutor and the parent with a poetical text-book of unpretending character but comprehensive scope.
In the following pages our object is the same; but it should be observed that they are intended for more advanced readers, and are confined, in their selections, to the poets of the present century.
Within this limit we have endeavoured to extend our choice of suitable passages over the widest possible range. We have endeavoured to introduce almost every distinguished name in modern English poetry; and if some are omitted whom the student would fain have seen represented, while others are but sparsely quoted whom the reader would fain have seen quoted
at length, we beg the reader to believe that the absence in the one case and the deficiency in the other are not due to our want of appreciation, but to such causes as these: the want of space, restrictions of copyright, the indecisive position of several recent writers, or the difficulty of finding material suitable for quotation in pages intended for a wide circle of readers of both
We presume to entitle the present volume the "Golden Book," because it contains the "golden verses "" of our best poets, and, moreover, possesses some features which, we think, will recommend it to the youthful critic.
1. For instance, the extracts have been made with the view of exhibiting, so far as possible, the different sides of the genius of the poet which they profess to illustrate.
2. They are neither exclusively didactical nor exclusively narrative in character. In truth, every branch of poetry is represented, from the sonorous majesty of the epic to the graceful freedom of the ballad.
3. The Marginal Quotations, it is hoped, will prove of great value. If committed to memory, they will furnish the student with pleasant food for the fancy and suggestive matter for reflection. Each quotation is, literally, a "pearl of price," which will shine with an undying lustre as long as our language endures. Most of them inculcate, in melodious words or pithy phraseology, some truth well worthy of being borne in mind. Others are remarkable for their felicity of expression or imagery. And, at all times, they will serve to "point a moral" or "adorn a tale;" to refresh the mind with agreeable recollections of favourite poets, just as the dried flower or leaf reminds the traveller of landscapes which have delighted him in bygone
years. Among these quotations will be found a large number of lines and phrases which have engraven themselves on the popular memory, are familiar in our ears as household words, and constantly recur in our everyday literature in the shape of allusion or reference.
4. To the selections from each poet is prefixed a brief biographical notice, founded upon the best and latest authorities, and including a list of all his best-known works. In the case of poets still living, these notices are purposedly rendered as concise as possible.
5. The opinions of our most eminent critics are freely introduced in illustration of, or comment upon, the various passages we have quoted. We trust this will be found an useful and interesting feature. We have also prepared, at no inconsiderable cost of time and labour, a Table of Critical and Biographical Authorities, which will direct the student in his studies to the best and trust-worthiest guides, and assist him in forming a right estimate of the special excellencies or defects of our modern poets.
We may be permitted to say, in conclusion, that the compilation of this volume has been a labour of love, and that the utmost care has been taken to render it worthy of the position it desires to hold as the "Golden Book." It does not profess to be a "Corpus Poetarum," but, by judicious selection, to aid and encourage the reader in acquiring a comprehensive view of the wealth, variety, and characteristics of the poetical literature of the present century. We are well aware of the merits of Mr. Palgrave's "Golden Treasury," and of Archbishop Trench's "Household Book of English Poetry," to say nothing of other and still more ambitious compilations. We
have no pretensions to usurp the place of any of these, but would venture to hope that our own little volume has some distinctive features which may obtain for it the approval of the critic and the patronage of the student.
May the reader be able to say, as we can most truly and unaffectedly say, that "poetry has been to him 'its own exceeding great reward;' has soothed his afflictions; has multiplied and refined his enjoyments; has endeared solitude; and has given him the habit of wishing to discover the good and the beautiful in all that meets and surrounds him."
W. H. DAVENPORT ADAMS.