5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Upon seeing the other review for this book, I felt I had to jump to its defence and give a more balanced picture.
I bought this book while studying Decadence and Aestheticism at university and found it rather useful. The only other anthology along these lines I can think of is Beckson's 'Aesthetes and Decadents of the 1890s', but - as usual - this Penguin Classics volume offers illustrates the spectrum of poetry from the movement with a wide range of examples, featuring household names like Wilde and Dowson as well as some of the slightly more obscure poets such as Naidu, Henley and de Tabley.
For studying the Decadent movement, this is a great resource. It could be said that the sole focus on poetry prevents the anthology from serving as a full explanation and compendium of Decadence, as the prose efforts of Symons, Beerbohm, Wilde, Le Gallienne, Pater and many others, are useful in gaining a full understanding of the movement. But at the same time, if you're familiar enough with the prose side of things, it's tremendously useful to have this thoroughly extensive collection of verse. What I particularly like in this volume is the small selection of parodies of Decadent verse in the last few dozen pages, which gives an important balance to the collection and reminds readers that Decadence was as much defined by the anti-Decadent sentiments which coexisted at the time.
In terms of reading for pleasure, this book is something which can only be dipped into, as is often the case with poetry anthologies. It is true that much of the imagery, with shared motifs amongst different poets (and even recurrent throughout several poems of any given poet), which can induce boredom and disillusionment after a while. But if you read the verses with an analytical and comparative frame of mind, it's very interesting to see how the same themes and images are handled differently by various poets.
The reason I haven't given this anthology 5 stars is because the self-indulgent and opulent verse doesn't quite lend itself to this huge punch bowl into which have been poured a dozen or so different spirits of the Decadent age. I have seen other Penguin anthologies arrange verse by subject matter, which often makes for more interesting reading that giving authors their own block sections. Breaking up verse with prose (either an editor's explanitory notes or with contemporary sources) could also have made this volume slightly more palatable. And no matter how many different poems this resource offers, I firmly believe that this period of literature offers the richest rewards to those who visit the texts in their original editions. Although the two Beardsley poems in here are shown alongside their original illustrations (from The Savoy magazine), nothing is of greater value than picking up one of those late Victorian periodicals and seeing the text for yourself. Despite these criticisms, I suppose that this anthology should at least set you on your way to making such lines of enquiry, or even bring convenience and joy to those already family with the verses in their original textual domains.
0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 19 February 2012
The product came quickly and I had no problems at all. The book is in great shape and I got it for much cheaper than the book store. Thanks!
1 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on 16 November 2009
I was really interested in exploring English decadent poetry but after reading this collection, I could completely relate to the Chinua Achebe statement that 'art for arts sake was nothing more than deodorised dogs--t'.
It was hard to find these poems interesting. Even the Oscar Wilde ones didnt grip me at all and made me question Oscar Wilde's brilliance in writing.
I just found the poems self-indulgent, pretentious, lacking in substance and the countless referencing to various flowers, particularly roses and asphodels is countless and in more than one poem, which ever writer it is, which makes you doubt the originality of each writer. I get the feeling this was a very weak decade in art and a cheap mimic of the French Decadence (baudelaire, huysmans, etc.), who I believe capture the true essence of decadence in its twisted representation of beauty and objects.
Sorry but don't think the brits do it as well. Apart from 'The Picture of Dorian Gray' I'd stick to the French, they do it best!