Page images






ANYTHING so charming as the verse in this volume stands in small need of elaborate introduction. Candidates for academic honor are brought forward with a catalogue of their abilities and virtues, but a word is enough to commend a smiling girl to our favorable attention. The gay Muse of Praed is not presented here for a critical degree, yet mayhap the reader's enjoyment will be keener if he receives a hint of her varied accomplishments.

When Winthrop Mackworth Praed was born in London in 1802, Keats was a child of seven, Shelley a boy of ten, and Wordsworth a young man of thirty-two, just become tranquil after the fervid inspiration of the French Revolution. British gentlemen in those days still considered Pope the poetic paragon of the world : Praed's father was such a gentleman, who also wrote fluent and correct couplets for family occasions, though the specimens offered in the official memoir by the Rev. Derwent Coleridge do not indicate that it was from the father that the poet's sense of humor came. His mother, who was of that family of Winthrops of which a younger branch is famous in the annals of New England, died a year after his birth, leaving him to the care of an elder sister. The future poet was a delicate, precocious, indoors child. His early reading was guided by the eighteenth-century taste of his father, yet his best loved authors were Plutarch and Shakespeare. At Eton, whither he went in due course, he took numerous prizes for English verse, and won distinction for his Latin lyrics as well as for the perfect calligraphy,– which seems to be characteristic of writers of vers de société. At Cambridge he was, in the decorous phrase of the excellent Coleridge, “not devoted exclusively, or even mainly, to the pursuit of University distinction.” Indeed, save for occasional moody fits, he exemplified to perfection the gay undergraduate of talent. Yet the talent

« PreviousContinue »