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Written in the Eighteenth Century
Sometime Lecturer in English Literature in the University of Aberdeen,
Printed in Great Britain by Hazell, Watson & Viney, Ld.,
THIS Anthology was designed in the first place to meet the difficulties I experienced when reading eighteenthcentury poetry with university students. There was no collection of the best and most characteristic poetry of the century to put before them. Anthologists have always been busy on the poetry of the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries, and, moreover, it is both possible and necessary in those periods to study a few great poets in detail. In the eighteenth century, however, Pope stands alone. Augustan poets, voluminous though their works often were, only occasionally wrote anything with a claim on interests outside those of the professional student.
It may fall to the lot of some to study the epics of Blackmore even more curious things have been done for amusement-but those elusive persons the average reader and the average student will never take a real delight in Creation or Redemption, even were they available, though they might be quite willing to be interested and entertained by poems like The Spleen or The Schoolmistress, which are equally inaccessible. The possession of a comprehensive library of Augustan literature is the privilege of the select few, and university or school bookshelves will scarcely furnish more than one copy of Green or Shenstone. It seemed therefore desirable to collect together in an accessible form as many as possible of those poems of the century which would best represent its excellencies and varieties, not only for students, as was first planned, but for those growing numbers who are turning with new interest to the Augustans.
We who were long ago sealed of the tribe of Pope may perhaps be allowed to view this revival with mixed feelings. We had for so long rejoiced in the privacy and selectness of our trim and formal garden that we had almost come to think of it as with a notice at the gateway, Trespassers will be Prosecuted. Now there are many who, with the enthusiasm of pioneers, are cutting