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TO THE VERY REVEREND THE DEAN OF ST. PAUL'S.
DEAR MR. DEAN,
You have given me great pleasure in allowing me to dedicate this little work to yourself. I hesitated to ask the favour, because the book might seem to be of too trifling a character, to be connected with so venerable a name ; but then I remembered your universal appreciation of every branch of our literature, and also the kindly interest which you took in the scheme when I first mentioned it to you.
I trust that the principle of my selection will meet your approval. I feel sure you will make allowance for many shortcomings, and will charitably believe that the Editor tried to do his best.
Dear Mr. Dean,
Yours very faithfully,
So many collections of favourite poetical pieces have appeared of late years, appealing to nearly every variety of taste, that some apology may seem due to the public for adding another volume to the number already in existence.
But although there have been sentimental, humorous, lyrical, descriptive, and devotional collections, there is another kind of poetry which was more in vogue in the reign of Queen Anne, and indeed in Ante-Reform-Bill times, than it is at the present day; a species of poetry which, in its more restricted form, bears somewhat the same relation to the poetry of lofty imagination and deep feeling, that the Dresden China Shepherds and Shepherdesses of the last century do to the sculpture of Donatello and Michael Angelo; namely, smoothly written vers de société, where a boudoir decorum_is, or ought always to.. be, preserved; where sentiment never surges into passion, and where humour never overflows into boisterous merriment. The Editor is not aware that a collection of this peculiar species of exquisitely rounded and
polished verse, which, for want of a better title, he has called Lyra Elegantiarum, has ever yet been offered to the public.
Hitherto this kind of poetry has remained difficult of access to the majority of ordinary readers, because its most finished specimens have often lain scattered among masses of verse, more ambitious in aim, but frequently far less worthy of preservation. It seems only reasonable, then, that those people who delight in this lighter kind of verse should be enabled to study their favourite pieces in a single volume.
In commencing his task the Editor's first endeavour was to frame a correct definition of vers de société and vers d'occasion, with sufficient clearness to guide him in making his selection, and he has been desirous of giving them their broadest signification. His second endeavour was to choose those pieces which most completely reached this ideal standard. But it will be easily understood that no exact line of demarcation can in all cases be maintained, and that such verse frequently approximates closely to other kindred species of poetry, such as the song, the parody, the epigram, and even the riddle.
Lest any reader who may not be familiar with this description of poetry should be misled by the adoption of the French title, which the absence of any precise English equivalent renders necessary, it may be as well to observe, that vers de société need by no means be confined to topics of artificial life. Subjects of the most exalted, and of the most trivial character, may