The Victorians an Anthology Chosen by Geoffrey Grigson by Geoffrey Grigson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Exactly the kind of anthology I might more usually take again': highly personal, comprised of poems and prose excerpts, attributed by author, but without the works cited in the text, arranged in a rough chronology, more by period, or even month than by any obvious theme. And yet, here it all works brilliantly, thanks entirely to the discriminating and happy arrangement made by the poet, Geoffrey Grigson.
There's an almost devilish delight in the way he's bumped and jostled major and minor, the popular and the forgotten all together in a compact three hundred pages or so, exclusive of a charming introduction and a very few eccentric notes. Novels, travel, poems, letters, journals and diaries and what-all, so that a popular penny ballad may follow a judicious bit of Dickens, and that lead to Tennyson, or Clough or a bit Leslie Stephen. It works so well as it does because Grigson isn't in the business of surveying the age, or dusting the monuments. What he's done instead is to catch something of the sound of seemingly the whole company of the Victorians as they bustle and talk and truck their very busy hour on the stage. This, more than any like object I've ever encountered has, if not the whole, then just enough of the times to both satisfy and sharpen the appetite for that most Victorian of pleasures, abundance!
To list even just the authors represented, or suggest the many topics, styles or points of view would produce nothing like the thing itself, but just confusion. That that was not the result of reading the book says more for it than anything I might add here. Indeed, this book can be read as I've just read it, front to back -- a rare temptation as anthologies go -- or opened where and when fancy takes the reader and it will provide all the pleasures of familiarity and discovery either way. It is a masterful piece of selection and conducting throughout.
It makes me want more: more of the writers herein that I know, and those I don't, and more of Grigson too. What better recommendation for such thing than that?
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