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ALTHOUGH Parodies abound in English Literature no attempt has yet been made to publish a complete collection of these amusing Jeux d'esprit, many of which have been composed by our greatest humourists.
It is now proposed to publish, in monthly parts, a collection of Parodies, both in verse and in prose, drawn from every available source, and illustrative of all the most celebrated writings in the English Language, together with such notes, explanatory or bibliographical, as may be required to elucidate the text.
Each of the principal authors will be taken separately, and the series will commence with Parodies of the works of Alfred Tennyson, Poet Laureate, to be followed by Shakespeare, Swinburne, Wordsworth, Byron, Scott, Moore, Longfellow, Poe, Goldsmith, Gray, Lord Macaulay, Dickens, Carlyle, Ruskin, and a number of other favorite authors.
The Editor offers no apology for Purody in itself, suttice it to say it exists, that the public appear pleased with it, and that no man with literary tastes can entirely ignore it.
As will be seen from many examples here printed the object of a Parody is very seldom to ridicule its original, more often on the contrary it does it honor, if only by taking it as worthy of imitation or burlesque.
Every endeavour will be made to render the collection complete.
The Editor tenders his best thanks to those gentlemen who have kindly permitted extracts to be taken from their works, and will be grateful for information as to any Parodies which may have escaped his notice.
The series will be published in Monthly Parts, price Sixpence, or the first Six Parts will be sent, post free, to Subscribers for Two Shillings and Sixpence.
All subscriptions and conmunications to be addressed to
THE WORKS OF
ENGLISH & AMERICAN AUTHORS,
COLLECTED AND ARRANGED BY
Fellow of the Royal Geographical and Royal Historical Societies ;
"A Memoir of George Cruikshank,” etc.
HAVE, for many years past, been collecting Parodies of the works of the most celebrated British
and American Authors. This I have done, not because I entirely approve of the custom of turning high-class work into ridicule, but because many of the parodies are in themselves works of considerable literary merit. Moreover, as “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery," so does a parody show that its original has acquired a certain celebrity, for no author would waste his time, or his talent, in composing a burlesque of an unknown or obscure work.
Numerous articles on parodies are to be found scattered up and down in odd corners of old magazines and reviews, a few small books have been written on the topic; but, until now, no attempt has been made to give, in a connected form, a history of parody with examples and explanatory notes.
This, then, is what I propose to do in the following articles, and those who desire to possess a complete set of parodies on any favourite author, would do well to preserve these papers for future reference.
Parody is a form of composition of a somewhat ungracious description, as it owes its very existence to the work it caricatures; but it has some beneficial results in drawing our attention to the defects of some authors, whose stilted language and grandiloquent phrases have veiled their poverty of ideas, their sham sentiment, and their mawkish affectations.
The first attribute of a parody is that it should present a sharp contrast to the original either in subject, or treatment of the subject; that if the original subject should be some lofty theme, the parody may reduce it to a prosaic matter-of-fact narrative. If, on the other hand, the topic selected be one of every day life, it may be made exceedingly amusing if described in high-flown mock heroic diction. If the original errs in sentimental affectation, so much the better for the parodist. Thus many of Tom Moore's best known songs are mere windy platitudes in very musical verse, which
the fewer the alterations needed to produce a totally opposite meaning or ridiculous contrast, the more complete is the antithesis, the more striking is the parody; take for instance Pope's well-known lines :
“Here shall the Spring its earliest sweets bestow,
Here the first roses of the year shall blow," which, by the alteration of two words only, were thus applied by Miss Katherine Fanshawe to the Regent's Park when it was first opened to the public :
“ Here shall the Spring its earliest coughs bestow,
In this happy parody we have that “union of remote ideas,” which is said, and said truly, to constitute the essence of wit. Even the most serious and religious works have been parodied, and by authors of the highest position. Thus Luther mimicked the language of the Bible, and both Cavaliers and Puritans railed at each other in Scriptural phraseology. The Church services and Litanies of both the Catholic and Protestant Churches have served in turn as originals for many bitter satires and lampoons, directed at one time against the Church and the priests, at another time in equally bitter invective against their opponents.
To undertake the composition of parodies, as the word is generally comprehended—that is, to make a close imitation of some particular poem, though it should be characteristic of the authorwould be at times rather a flat business. Even the Brothers Smith in “ Rejected Addresses," and Bon Gaultier in his “ Ballads,” admirable as they were, stuck almost too closely to their selected models; and Phebe Cary, who has written some of the best American parodies, did the same thing. It is an evidence of a poet's distinct individuality, when he can be amusingly imitated. We can only make those the object of our imitations whose manner, or dialect, stamps itself so deeply into our minds that a new cast can be taken. But how could one imitate Robert Pollok's “ Course of Time," or Young's “ Night Thoughts,” or Blair's “Grave," or any other of those masses of words, which are too ponderous for poetry, and much too respectable for absurdity! Either extreme will do for a parody, excellence or imbecility; but it must at least have a distinct, pronounced character.
Certain well known poems are so frequently selected as models for parodies that it will only be possible to select a few from the best of them; to re-publish every parody that has appeared on Tennyson's “Charge of the Light Brigade," E. A. Poe's “ The Raven," Hamlet's Soliloquy, or Longfellow's " Excelsior,” would be a tedious, and almost endless task.
Prose parodies, though less numerous than those in verse, are often far more amusing, and it will be found that Dr. Johnson's ponderous sentences, Carlyle's rugged eloquence, and Dickens' playful humour and tender pathos, lend themselves admirably to parody.
The first portion of this work will be devoted to the parodies themselves, accompanied by short notes sufficient to explain such allusions as may, in time, appear obscure; the second will contain a full bibliographical account of all the principal collections of Parodies and Works on the subject, such as the “Probationary Odes,” Hone's Trials, the “Rejected Addresses,” and the late M. Octave Delepierre's Essai sur la Parodie. The latter work, which was published by Trübner & Co. in 1870, gives an account of old Greek and Roman, and of modern French and English Parodies. I had the pleasure of supplying Mr. Delepierre with the materials for his chapter on English Parodies, but, owing to the limited space at his command, he was only able to quote a verse or two of the best parody of each description. My aim will be to give each parody intact, except in the few cases where I have unable to obtain the author's permission to do so.
W. M. Thackeray was at Cambridge at the same time as Tennyson, and early in 1829 he commenced the publication of a small paper entitled “THE SNOB, a Literary and Scientific Journal, not conducted by members of the University.” This was published by W.H. Smith, of Rose Crescent, Cambridge, and ran for eleven weeks: its contents were humourous sketches in prose and verse, and the most remarkable paper amongst them is the following droll poem on Timbuctoo, which appeared on the 30th April, 1829, and has most unaccountably been omitted from recent editions of Thackeray's works :
To the Editor of the “ SNOB.” SIR,—Though your name be Snob, I trust you will not refuse this tiny “Poem of a Gownsman,” which was unluckily not sinished on the day appointed for delivery of the several copies of verses on Timbuctoo. I thought, Sir, it would be a pity that such a poem should be lost to the world ; and conceiving “THE SNOB” to be the most widely circulated periodical in Europe, I have taken the liberty of submitting it for insertion or approbation.-I am, Sir, yours, &c., &c..
Poet Laureate. Alfred TENNYSON, the third of seven brothers, was born August 5th, 1809, at Somersby, a sinall village near Horncastle, in Lincolnshire. His father, Dr. George Clayton Tennyson, was the rector of this parish, he was a man remarkable for his strength, stature and varied attainments as poet, painter, musician and linguist. In 1827, Alfred Tennyson, with his elder brother Charles, both then being scholars at the Louth Grammer school, published a small volume entitled “Poems by Two Brothers.” Shortly afterwards, these two brothers removed to Trinity College, Cambridge, and in 1829, Alfred Tennyson obtained the Chancellor's Gold Medal for his poem on “Timbuctoo,” His subsequent poetical works rapidly attracted attention, and, on the death of William Wordsworth, he was created Poet Laureate, the Warrant being dated the 19th November, 1850. As a poet he has achieved almost the highest fame, but in his numerous efforts as a dramatist he has been less successful.
For the consideration of the Parodies of Tennyson's poems, they may conveniently be divided into three periods, namely, his early Poems, Poems in connection with his appointment in 1850 to the office of Poet Laureate, and Poems since that date. Although Tennyson has suppressed many of his early works, yet he occasionally furbishes up, and re-issues as a new poem some of his youthful compositions.
Fastidious as he is known to be in his selection of what he thus re-publishes, it is still a matter of some surprise that he should have entirely suppressed his prize poem Timbuctoo, which would always be of interest as a specimen of his early work, and is, besides, far removed above the average of Prize Poems.
The poems were sent in for competition in the month of April, 1829; and on June 12, 1829, the Cambridge Chronicle recorded that “ On Saturday last, the Chancellor's Gold Medal for the best English poem by a resident undergraduate was adjudged to Alfred Tennyson, of Trinity College." Shortly afterwards the poem was published, and was favourably reviewed in The Athenæum, which, speaking of Prize poems generally, stated, “ These productions have often been ingenious " and elegant, but we have never before seen one " of them which indicated really first-rate “ poetical genius, and which would have done " honour to any man that ever wrote. Such, we “ do not hesitate to affirm, is the little work before “ us.”
TIMBUCT00.- PART I.
In Africa (a quarter of the world),
A mighty city lies, called Timbuctoo.
There stalks the tiger,—there the lion roars, 5
And then lies down 'neath trees called cocoa-nuts. 10 The lion hunt.
Quick issue out, with musket, torch, and brand,
The lion falls covered with horrid wounds.
At home their lives in pleasure always flow, 15
But many have a different lot to know ! Abroad,
They're often caught and sold as slaves, alas !
Thus men from highest joy to sorrow pass,