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This review is taken from PN Review 33, Volume 10 Number 1, September - October 1983.

The Beauties of Dryden, eds. David Hopkins and Tom Mason.
Rochester: Selected Poems, ed. Paul Hammond (Bristol Classical Press) n.p.
These volumes are part of a series of texts being published by the Bristol Classical Press and obtainable from the University's Department of Classics. The editorial material is sober and well-informed, and relatively full for the size of the volumes. The paper binding is stout and flexible; the books will stay open and should not come apart in a hurry. The type unfortunately gives the impression of a thesis or memorandum rather than of a book. No price is given, though price must surely be a determining factor in the circulation of these utilitarian volumes.

The texts are excerpts chosen for their quality - a collection of beauties such as the early nineteenth century offered for the humanising of young ladies, a task which no one would now venture to propose. The extracts are well chosen and the texts are scholarly. Selection on these principles naturally works better for the shorter poems of Rochester than for Dryden's admittedly unwieldy works. There must surely be some doubt whether it is not better for the student to be pitched into, say, Absolom and Achitophel, with all its faults, than to read such snippets as the taste of a teacher and editor, however excellent, suggests, mixed up with snippets of other poems and the whole arranged under subject-headings. The student who reads Absolom and Achitophel will have been introduced to Dryden, and may or may not return to him later; the student who has read these texts will have 'done' Dryden, but ...


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