First published in 1949, this book presents the collected works of Christopher Smart, the eighteenth-century poet whose life has an attraction for the curioso of literature. There is the early marriage with Anne Vane, his secret marriage, eighteenth-century Cambridge life, the intrigues of Grub Street, and, finally, insanity and confinement in an asylum. Smart remains a strange, enigmatic figure, repulsive or attractive according to the temperament of the investigator.
His poetry is not easy to disentangle from his character – egocentric, given to exhibitionism, childish, oscillating between the extremes of self-belittlement and self-glorification; but he has his own claim to fame. Few other poets match him in directness of expression. He is a poet with the eye of a painter, developed in an unusually high degree. He has a stereoscopic vision which makes the object leap to the eye, the painter’s sense of physical texture and his skill in composing a picture. Then again, there is his versatility. He practised almost every kind of poetry and gave to each kind his own personal inflection.
It is the aim of this edition to present as complete a text as possible in the way that Smart himself would have seen it and, in giving some account of the poet’s life, to link his poetry with it. The book will be of interest to students of eighteenth-century literature and history.