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Frederic Lawrence Knowles, “A Treasury Of Humorous Poetry”
Saerchinger Press | 2007-03-15 | ISBN: 1406773786 | 456 pages | PDF | 6,5 MB

The great end of comedy, quot said Doctor Johnson, in speaking of the drama, is quot making an audience merry. quot Whatever else may or may not be true of a humorous compilation, it is certain that unless such a book is amusing, it is a failure. The aim of this quot Treasury quot is not that of presenting extracts illustrating the development of humorous poetry in the English language. If that were its purpose, the anthology might have greater value for historical students of literature, but for the average reader it would prove of necessity uninteresting. A sense of relative proportion would have to be observed, which would mean that Chaucer must be liberally represented that one or more scenes from Shakespeare would have to be transplanted bodily that the quot Rape of the Lock quot must needs be included, as well as much of Dryden, Prior, Gay, Samuel Butler, Swift, Southey, and other wits of a former day, and that the jesters who can really amuse a modern audience would have to be represented meagrely or not at all., The editor s first intention, he confesses, was to produce a book a little after this fashion, but upon examining a number of compilations which aim to preserve a sense of historical perspective, and discovering how uncompromis ingly dull they are, viewed in the light of contemporary taste, he abandoned the scheme for one more unpretentious. The selections are almost wholly from nineteenth century writers, but in any anthology which succeeds in interesting a wide audience of readers, this is unavoidable. And yet the present book has a higher aim than that of collecting ephemeral newspaper rhymes. Although it has been the editor s purpose to include only extracts that are strictly amusing to modern readers, he has given preference to such selections as seem most likely to have viii PREFACE something approaching permanent interest. This standard, however, is difficult to preserve, for who shall say thai what entertains this generation will succeed in entertaining the next, or, indeed, that what amuses one reader to-day will be certain to amuse another At best, any editor s choice must be personal, and all his efforts to determine the tastes of his readers experimental. The term quot humorous quot has been interpreted in this com pilation very broadly. It has been made to include poems as widely apart as the rollicking ballads of Hood, and the refined, delicately phrased verses of Locker-Lampson, or as the grotesque comicality of Gilbert and the serious irony of Canning, Clough, and Sill In a word, there has been no attempt to discriminate between humorous poetry in any exact or narrow sense, and society verse, epigram, or satire. The selections vary from broadly comic to merely facetious and lively. It is interesting to observe how the public taste has changed. In the eighteenth and early nineteenth centu ries the dominant influence of Pope led to the substitution of pithy, satirical epigrams for the broader, comic manner which preceded, and which happily has followed. The fondness for epigram persisted well up toward the present time. In Parton s quot Humorous Poetry, quot published fifty years ago, nearly two hundred epigrams are included. The reader of to-day cannot but wonder that many of the supposedly witty couplets and quatrains by Prior, Pope, Swift, Waller, Sheridan, Hook, and others, failed to seem merely flat and vulgar...





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