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Francis Turner Palgrave and The golden treasury Nelson, Megan Jane


In spite of the enormous resurgence of critical interest in minor figures of the Victorian era over the last twenty years, almost no attention has been paid to Francis Turner Palgrave (1824-1897). In his own age, he was respected as a man of letters, educator, art critic, poet, friend of Alfred Tennyson, and editor of The Golden Treasury of the Best Songs and Lyrical Poems in the English Language, first published in 1861. This dissertation attempts to make good that neglect in two ways: firstly, through an analysis of his life and times, an assessment of his writings as an art and literary critic, an examination of his considerable corpus of original poetry, and the compilation of the first comprehensive bibliography of his own publications. This bibliography is accompanied by a checklist of manuscript sources and a listing of secondary materials about Palgrave himself. Secondly, the dissertation makes the first systematic examination of the Golden Treasury, its genesis and editing principles, its critical reception, and its publication history. This detailed study is accompanied by eight appendices giving bibliographical information about the form and contents of the four major editions of the Treasury published in Palgrave's lifetime, along with a listing of sources and a checklist of contemporary reviews. Throughout the dissertation, the intellectual concerns that led Palgrave to develop a set of fixed principles for judging all art and literature are examined in order to establish that, like his friend Matthew Arnold, he was a committed Hellenist, who insisted that all poetry conform to what he perceived as the "Homeric" ideals of simplicity and unadorned language. The Golden Treasury, in particular, is based on an ideal of "unity" which Palgrave used to justify the many editorial excisions and variant readings which are such a feature of the volume's texts. It is impossible to account fully for the unprecedented success of the Golden Treasury, which has continued to be reprinted in a variety of editions from the time of its first publication until the present, but one of its most important features is that it is the first anthology of English lyric poetry to declare itself complete: Palgrave insisted that the book contained all the best lyrics in the English language. Just as significant is the fact that it is the first anthology by a professional educator who refused to make his selections on the basis of their morally improving qualities, but relied instead on poetic excellence alone. "Francis Turner Palgrave and The Golden Treasury," therefore, attempts to account for the extraordinary success of the Golden Treasury and to examine one of the nineteenth-century's more interesting minor figures, one who was a friend of some of the most brilliant men of his day, including Jowett, Browning, Arnold, Clough, and Gladstone; a recognised minor poet of the "contemplative" school which included Arnold and Clough; and a well-known champion of the Pre-Raphaelite painters.

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