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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
Charles Stuart Calverley (1831–1884)
Critical and Biographical Introduction
 
NO one ever attained greater fame with few, slight, and unserious books than this English author. His name rests upon four volumes only:—‘Verses and Translations’ (1862); ‘Translations into English and Latin’ (1866); ‘Theocritus Translated into English Verse’ (1869); and ‘Fly-Leaves’ (1872). ‘Fly-Leaves’ holds a unique place in English literature. It is made up chiefly of parodies, which combine the mocking spirit with clever imitations of the style and affectations of familiar poets. They are witty; they are humorous; they are good-natured; and they are artistic and extraordinarily clever. His satirical banter shown in these verses—most of which are real poems as well as parodies—has been classed as “refined common-sense,” and “the exuberant playfulness of a powerful mind and tender and manly nature.” It contains also independent literary skits and comiques which are quite equal in merit to the parodies.  1
  Calverley was born at Martley, Worcestershire, December 22d, 1831, the son of the Rev. Henry Blayds, a descendant of an old Yorkshire family named Calverley. In 1852 Mr. Blayds resumed the name of Calverley, which had been dropped at the beginning of the century. Calverley was more famous at Harrow for his marvelous jumping and other athletic feats than for his studies, but even at this period he showed great talent for translating from the classics, and astonished every one by his gifts of memory. A few Latin verses won for him the Balliol scholarship in 1850, and in the next year he received at Oxford the Chancellor’s prize for a Latin poem.  2
  In 1852 he went to Cambridge, and shortly after won the Craven scholarship, as well as numerous medals and prizes for his attainments in Greek and Latin. This was the more remarkable inasmuch as he was extremely indolent and very fond of society, preferring to entertain his friends by his witty songs, his charming voice, his clever caricatures—for he had talent with his pencil—and his brilliant conversation, rather than to apply himself to routine work. His comrades used to lock him into a room to make him work, and even then he would outwit them by dashing off a witty parody or a bit of impromptu verse. Among his literary jeux d’esprit was an examination paper on ‘Pickwick,’ prepared as a Christmas joke in exact imitation of a genuine “exam.” The prizes, two first editions of Pickwick, were won by W. W. Skeat, now famous as a philologist, and Walter Besant, known to the public as a novelist.  3
  Calverley remained in Cambridge as tutor and lecturer, and was presently called to the bar. It seemed the irony of fate that the famous athlete should receive an injury while skating which compelled him to abandon his profession, and for seventeen years practically abandon work. He died at Folkestone, on February 17th, 1884.  4
  That he was adored by his friends, and possessed unusual qualities of character as well as mind, may be seen in the memoir published by Walter T. Sendall with the ‘Literary Remains’ (1885). Apart from his wit, Calverley has a distinct claim to remembrance on account of his remarkable scholarship. His translations from Greek and Latin have won the enthusiastic admiration of specialists and students of the classics. Dr. Gunson, tutor of his college, an accomplished Latinist, declared that he thought Calverley’s Horatian verse better than Horace’s, being equally poetical, and more distinguished in style. These works not only attest his mastery of ancient languages, but also his acquaintance with the beauty and capacity of English verse, into which he has put a grace of his own. His numerous renderings of Latin into English and English into Latin show his ease and dexterity of both thought and touch, and his translation of Theocritus is considered by authorities to be a masterpiece of literary workmanship.  5
 
 
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