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This review is taken from PN Review 45, Volume 12 Number 1, September - October 1985.

DROPPING ALL HIS AITCHES The New Oxford Book of Eighteenth Century Verse, chosen and edited by Roger Lonsdale (Oxford University Press) £15.00

I have little contact with English journals out here in Tokyo. They arrive weeks late and tend to be read in batches, serious sessions which induce an odd mixture of fatigue, nostalgia, boredom and mild disgust. The temptation to do this is now something I have learned to resist most of the time, so I am not aware (on Christmas Eve, 1984) if this book has been greeted with the acclaim it deserves. The only paper which arrives by air is The Observer, and I noted that Kingsley Amis (or someone like that) had chosen it as one of his books of the year, which ought to mean my shrill pipe of praise is but a part of a whole chorus, delivered too late perhaps to be other than an unmelodious adjunct to something already ended, rather than any pertinent variation on a continuing main theme.

That first paragraph of mine, with its tendency towards an urbane self-parody in no sense self-critical (nor even self-deprecatory) but only self-congratulatory, is one of the English legacies from the eighteenth century. It is the kind of thing that can make one vomit, but it can also be taken as the now decadent, out-of-date expression of a civilizing mode of achieving a modest satisfaction with the way things are given in such a manner as to make the large areas of human experience it ignores seem potentially included in an attitude which, if superficial, is at least not evil, and, if ...


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