“While this collection of poems was being made,” he tells us, “a well-known author and critic took occasion to gently ridicule (sic) anthologies and anthologists. He suggested, as if the force of foolishness could no further go, that the next anthology would deal with dogs.”
“Undismayed by this,” to use his own words, Mr. Leonard proceeded to prove it. Now it is obvious that no man can set a term to literary activity if it depend on the Briton’s notorious unwillingness to recognize that he is beaten. I might dare, for instance, a Scotsman to compile an anthology on “The Eel in British Poetry”; but of what avail is it to challenge an indomitable race?
I am sorry Mr. Leonard has not given the name of this critic; but have a notion it must be Mr. Andrew Lang, though I am sure he is innocent of the split infinitive quoted above. It really ought to be Mr. Lang, if only for the humor of the means by which Mr. Leonard proposes to silence him. “I am confident,” says he, “that the voice of the great dog-loving public in this country would drown that of the critic in question.” Mr. Leonard’s metaphors, you see, like the dyer’s hand, are subdued to what they work in. But is not the picture delightful? Mr. Lang, the gentle of speech; who, with his master Walton, “studies to be quiet”; who tells us in his very latest verse
“I’ve maistly had
O’ this world’s din”—
—Mr. Lang set down in the midst of a really representative dog show, say at Birmingham or the Crystal Palace, and there howled down! His blandi susurri drowned in the combined clamor of mongrel, puppy, whelp, and hound, and “the great dog-loving public in this country”!
“Solvitur ululando,” hopes Mr. Leonard; and we will wait for the voice of the great dog-loving public to uplift itself and settle the question. Here, at any rate, is the book, beautiful in shape, and printed by the Constables upon sumptuous paper. And the title-page bears a rubric and a reference to Tobias’ dog. “It is no need,” says Wyclif in one of his sermons, “to busy us what hight Tobies’ hound”; but Wyclif had never to reckon with a great dog-loving public. And Mr. Leonard, having considered his work and dedicated it “To the Cynics”—which, I suppose, is Greek for “dog-loving public”—observes, “It is rather remarkable that no one has yet published such a book as this.” Perhaps it is.
But if we take it for granted (1) that it was worth doing, and (2) that whatever be worth doing is worth doing well, then Mr. Leonard has reason for his complacency. “It was never my intention,” he says, “to gather together a complete collection of even British poems about dogs.”—When will that come, I wonder?—“I have sought to secure a representative rather than an exhaustive anthology.” His selections from a mass of poetry ranging from Homer to Mr. Mallock are judicious. He is not concerned (he assures us) to defend the poetical merits of all this verse:—