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IN asking the reader to travel with me for a season in the “realms of gold,” or rather in that English realm, which is the richest, the widest, and the most fertile, I do not undertake fully to explore the country. So vast a journey is far beyond my power as a traveller. How, indeed, would it be possible to explore a territory so spacious, and to point out every lovely object in this enchanting region? The amplest leisure and the largest knowledge will scarcely suffice for such a task. My purpose is a more modest one-namely, to point out some of the impressive features of a road rich in all that is fitted to gladden the eye and soothe the heart. In other words, and dropping Keats's metaphor, the attempt is made in these pages to give brief biographies of illustrious English poets and such a sketch of their works as may attract young readers to a study the delight in which must grow in proportion to the knowledge.
Let it be understood, then, that this book is intended to excite interest, but not to satisfy it-to show the reader where to look rather than to state comprehensively what he is likely to find. It may be added that no attempt is made to estimate the position of living poets, and that it has been found necessary to omit many names which would hold no mean place in a systematic history of English verse.