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SIR JOHN MILLAIS, R.A., SIR JOHN GILBERT, R.A., AND
BROADWAY, LUDGATE HILL
THE Editor desires to acknowledge the courtesy of Sir Edwin Arnold and of Mr. Alfred Austin, for permission to include some of their poems in the Twenty-third Edition of this work. His thanks are also due to Messrs. Smith, Elder & Co., for permission to include Robert Browning's poem, “Hervé Riel ;” and to Messrs. Ellis & Elvey, for permission to include three poems by Dante Gabriel Rossetti.
The design of the Editor or Compiler of the following volume was to present one great panoramic view of the masterpieces of English poetry, and that of the publishers to issue it in a form and at a price which would recommend it to the taste of the rich, without placing it beyond the means of the poor. The original intention of the Editor was to commence with Chaucer and end with Wordsworth, Moore, Rogers, Hood, Campbell, and other poets of the last generation, who have recently passed from among us, thus excluding the works of living writers. To this arrangement the publishers made objection, on the ground, very easily defensible, that some of the brightest gems of the “ Thousand and One" are the productions of living genius-both in Great Britain and the United States of America. The Editor yielded the point, but was met with the serious difficulty that it was not in all cases possible to include the works of living writers—even if their consent could be obtained ;-firstly, because the copyrights were not always their own ;-secondly, because their addresses were not obtainable without great trouble and loss of time ;—and thirdly, because the modern poets, in England and America, were so numerous, that if specimens of all their poetic jewellery were got together, an undue proportion of the volume would be occupied by writers of the second half of the nineteenth century. Another difficulty which personally was more serious, existed in the dilemma in which the Editor found himself with regard to his own compositions. Had any other than himself been Editor, the publishers were of opinion that his consent would assuredly have been asked for permission to reproduce some of his lyrics and other pieces; while the Editor, on his part, knew
that had such consent been asked, it would have been cheerfully given. If there be, under the circumstances, an apparent sin against good taste in the matter, the publishers must bear the blame ;– for it is they who have put the pressure upon the Editor, and compelled his assent to a selection, which would not have been necessary, if the original idea of the volume had been adhered to. As regards the selection itself, it claims to justify its title, and to afford a fair as well as comprehensive view of the rise, progress, and present state of English poetry. All the “Gems" in the volume are not of equal brilliancy. The diamonds, rubies, emeralds, and pearls of literature are few ;—but there are other
gems” than these, of inferior value, but still gemlike ;-agate, cornelian, amethyst, turquoise, onyx, and scores of others known to the lapidary and jeweller, and prized by them and by the public to whose appreciation they are offered. To the living writers, whose consent has been given to the appearance of their “ these pages, the Editor offers his best thanks ;—to the living writers whose consent has not been asked, he offers his apologies, and would gladly have included some specimens of their genius had time and the bulk of the volume permitted ; and to those who have been asked and who have not replied, he has to explain that wherever permission was possible, he would not act without it. To the publishers of the works of authors recently deceased, and proprietors of their copyrights, he has also to offer his acknowledgments for their courtesy, and for the promptitude with which they entered into what, he supposes, would have been the feelings of those poets if they had been still alive ;-the very natural desire to appear in the immortal company of the Fathers of English Song.
The Editor desires also to acknowledge thankfully the courtesy of Messrs. Ticknor and Fields, of Boston, proprietors of the works of Longfellow, Emerson, Holmes, Lowell, Whittier, &c.; and of Messrs. Appleton & Co., of New York, publishers of Bryant's poems -in granting exclusive permission to incorporate in this volume selections from the works of those distinguished American writers.