Valentine Cunningham's magnificent anthology presents the cornucopia of Victorian poetry as never before within a single volume. All the major poets of the period - Tennyson, Robert Browning, John Clare, Matthew Arnold, Gerard Manley Hopkins, the Brontees, the Rossettis, George Eliot, Swinburne, Housman, Hardy, Wilde, Yeats - are very generously represented, with complete texts of a wide range of key poems.
Also represented are many of the writers who are on the cusp of the central canon, some with their poetic talents already acknowledged - Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Clough, Meredith, Robert Louis Stevenson, Edward Lear, Lewis Carroll - others awaiting the wider recognition they deserve, such as Edward Carpenter, W. E. Henley, and the many women this collection makes a point of featuring: 'Michael Field', Laetita Landon, Amy Levy, Alice Meynell, Constance Naden, Edith Nesbit and Augusta Webster.
Here is unique access to the immense and arresting variety of Victorian poetic producers: the street balladists and self-taught working-class poets, the Pre-Raphaelites, Spasmodics, medievalizers, university wits, social realists, hymn-writers, satirists, parodists, story-tellers, symbolists and decadents - all variously engaged in the big issues of the time - faith and doubt, sexuality, gender roles, war, imperialism, poverty, industrialism, the city, the natural world, the functions of writing and criticism; everything, in short, from snow to dentists, cod-liver oil to angels in the house, railway trains to hexameters.
In addition, the great conversation going on within Victorian poetry about the role of the poet and the nature of poetry and poetic work is afforced by main prose pieces from the period's critical debate, not least in the journals and reviews.