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Poetry anthologies to treasure

Single volumes that fitted in a knapsack sustained many soldiers in the world wars, and have inspired countless schoolchildren to learn poems by heart

25 February 2023

9:00 AM

25 February 2023

9:00 AM

The Treasuries: Poetry Anthologies and the Making of British Culture Clare Bucknell

Head of Zeus, pp.344, 27.99

Francis Palgrave, the founder of the Public Record Office, didn’t like having his version of the past parcelled in neat gobbets. In his History of Normandy and England, he described anthologies as ‘sickly things’, adding that ‘cut flowers have no vitality’. His son, Francis Turner Palgrave, differed fundamentally, and, with Alfred Tennyson’s help, gathered what is still the greatest collection of English lyric poetry, The Golden Treasury, which sold 10,000 copies in six months after its publication by Macmillan in 1861 and, according to Clare Bucknell in this delightfully engaging survey of verse anthologies, had shifted 650,000 copies by 1939...

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