A History of Representative Poetry

By Ian Lancashire



Representative Poetry (1912) included 92 poems by 14 poets as well as eight anonymous ballads. Professor William John Alexander, Chair of the Department of English at University College, and Dr.William Hall Clawson, a lecturer in that department, acted as co-editors. They covered only the 18th and 19th centuries, from Pope to Morris, because the first-year literature courses at Toronto, 1b and 1c, were limited to readings in those periods. The Calendar of the University of Toronto for the Year 1910-1911 (Toronto: University Press) specified use of Manly's English Poetry for those two courses. The 1911-12 and 1912-13 calendars name no textbook, but in 1913-14 entries for both 1b and 1c have a parenthetical note stating that "The poetical selections in this paragraph are contained in `Representative Poetry', Students Book Department, University of Toronto" (150).

English Studies at Toronto: A History (1988) describes how this textbook was financed:

The first edition of Representative Poetry was of 1,500 copies, and the original price was $1.00. In the first year 375 copies were sold. But the costs of printing and binding proved to be higher than estimated and in 1913 the price was increased to $1.30. As Alexander explained in a letter justifying the increase, which he wrote to the University Bursar, the man ultimately responsible for the Press accounts, the staff in English, which had found it impossible to find a suitable selection of poetry for the First Year, in providing one wanted it to be sold as nearly as possible at cost. The preparing of the notes would be paid for at the hourly rate of $1.00, the amount provided for staff members by the Department of Education when marking matriculation papers, and any surplus would be used for the purchase of books for the University library; this was not "a private enterprise" but a venture "undertaken for the benefit of the University." (65)

Judging by the honoraria awarded Alexander and Clawson for editing and commentary, $300 and $100, respectively, Alexander had done three-quarters of the notes.

No records about the printing survive from either the Department of English or the Press itself but Representative Poetry had come out at least by November 1912, when a student named Maud McFadden dated her copy. Until 1911 the University Press had acted as a printer only, but early in 1912 it began publishing textbooks on behalf of the faculty for teaching purposes. The University Monthly (March 1912, p. 249) announced a book entitled The Ethics of Freedom, available from the University Press for $1.00. James Gibson Hume (1860-1949), who applied for the chair of metaphysics and ethics in 1889 and gave the inaugural lecture in 1891, here "selected, translated and arranged" the notes of his former teacher, George Paxton Young. Another textbook, A Short Handbook of Latin Accidence and Syntax, by Professor J. Fletcher, also came out in 1912. It is not clear which of these books was published first, but Representative Poetry, which went through four major re-editings and numerous reprintings (with minor changes or corrections) until the 1960s, was no doubt the Press' first best-seller, as Robin Harris says (65).


The 1916 edition greatly expanded the numbers of poets and poems represented in the anthology in order to meet the needs of all years of the General Course in English. Although at 492 pages it was five pages fewer than the 1912 edition, the 1916 Representative Poetry offered 69 poets instead of 14, and 404 poems instead of 92. Four centuries, twice the number of periods, were covered by the two co-editors: the first poet in the collection was Sir Thomas Wyatt in the early 16th century, and the last again William Morris. Alexander and Clawson and the Press tripled the amount of text that could be included by leaving out Tennyson's complete In Memoriam, by reducing the type size, and by using two columns instead of one.

Robin Harris describes the making and sales of this second edition:

The 2,650 copies of this edition, which sold at $1.50, had been disposed of by the spring of 1920, yielding, after $300 honoraria to both Alexander and Clawson, a profit of close to $2,500. On the campus, copies were sold at the Victoria College Book Room and at St. Michael's College as well as by the Press, which operated its own bookstore. Through the mail there were substantial orders from private schools in Toronto, which used it for the senior matriculation classes which paralleled those of the first university year, and from a few colleges in Canada and the United States. The 1919 sales included 10 to Brandon College in Manitoba and 118 to St. John's University in Collegeville, Minnesota.

Prescribed in five central courses in the English Program as outlined in the 1917-18 Calendar, 1b, 2c, 3b, 3d, and 4b, Representative Poetry in a short five years had replaced and now rivaled John Matthew Manly's English Poetry and other textbooks.


The third edition was considerably enlarged. The new materials consisted of 25 Canadian poems by Bliss Carman, Archibald Lampman, John Macrae, Marjorie Pickthall, and Duncan Campbell Scott, as well as an appendix of supplementary work by Tennyson and Browning. Robin Harris describes the honoraria as "$125 for Alexander, $100 for Clawson, and $30 for Gladys Wookey, by this time a lecturer" (66).


The "Fourth Edition Revised and Enlarged" was made few important changes, only eliminating the appendix and shifting just one of its poems, Browning's "An Epistle," into the text proper.


At 512 pages, the fifth edition seems to have been almost identical with the fourth edition.


On Oct. 5, 1930, the Department appointed a Supervising Committee to examine Representative Poetry. Robin Harris summarizes the sixteen recommendations of its report, made Oct. 28:

the first ... was that the book be completely revised. Other recommendations were that the general plan stated in the existing preface be retained; that the anthology be in two volumes rather than one; that American poets be included in an appendix; and that `the type, paper and binding be improved so that they should no longer be loathsome to the eye.' The final recommendation was `that an editorial committee be appointed immediately with power to revise the volume.' The report was approved on the motion of Herbert Davis, seconded by W. H. Clawson. (92)

The Committee was chaired by Robert S. Knox, who came to University College in 1920. The Committee consisted of Clawson (who handled half the text), Herbert J. Davis (initially responsible for Vol. I), N. J. Endicott (who did the other half and replaced Davis for Vol. I notes), J. F. MacDonald, and J. D. Robins (responsible for Vol. II notes). At the Departmental meeting of May 8, 1935, Endicott and Macdonald, following Alexander's practice, stated that all notes "were to be explanatory, rather than critical." All members of the Department were offered a chance to see the notes before they went to the Press, but the deadline for their suggestions was June 1. In the fall, Toronto classes were using the 1935 edition. It had more than 1,600 pages in two volumes. Clawson received a $250 honorarium for his work, and another $1220 was handed out to others on the team ($500 for Endicott, and $150 for Davis, Macdonald, and Robins) at a Department meeting on October 8. Northrop Frye was one of two graduate assistants who worked with them and earned some much-appreciated funds for this edition (Harris, 93).


The sixth edition proved successful. Both the University of Manitoba and Grade 12 in the Manitoba secondary school system (by 1937) were using Representative Poetry and received a ten percent discount for doing so.

After a mild dispute with the Press over its ten percent profit on sales, Endicott reported on November 22, 1937, that the Representative Poetry committee recommended reprinting Vol. II, with "alterations and additions," including Arnold's "Sohrab and Rustum" (which the University of Manitoba had requested). The revised sixth edition appeared in 1938, carried out by Endicott and James R. MacGillivray, who received $75 honoraria each (meeting of Dec. 12, 1938). Sales were satisfying, if not brisk. From June 11, 1940, to April 15, 1941, Vol. I sold 247 copies (127 to Manitoba) and Vol. II some 273 copies (100 to Manitoba). At that Departmental meeting, on April 25, 1941, Endicott and MacGillivray were appointed again to prepare "a new edition," but nothing came of it then. The same was true of Kathleen Coburn's motion, seconded by A. S. P. Woodhouse, just appointed Chairman, that "a volume of Representative Criticism, paralleling Repres. Poetry" be considered (meeting of Oct. 16, 1944). Funds from sales were instead applied to a new series, the University of Toronto Department of English Studies and Texts, the first volumes of which were by A. E. Barker and F. E. L. Priestley.

Knox informed the Department at a meeting on Feb. 26, 1945, that the University of Manitoba would no longer be using Representative Poetry, but a year later, on April 22, 1946, MacGillivray was again appointed to "make such minor changes as have come to his notice" in reprinting the second volume again. Vol. I sold 431, 381, and 342 copies, and Vol. II 284, 303, and 267 copies, from 1944 to 1946, so that the loss of Manitoba income was not alarming. In 1947 a medieval supplement to Representative Poetry (holding additional works by Chaucer and other pre-1500 poets) came out. The Department remained vigilant to the Press profit margin. When it rose to twenty percent, Marshall McLuhan successfully moved at a meeting on Nov. 15, 1948, that the Press reduce its service charge when its costs go down or when the book prices are raised.

In the 1950s, the Department increased in size even as the old guard of Representative Poetry editors declined: Herbert Davis retired in 1937, J. F. MacDonald in 1948, Clawson in 1950, and John D. Robins in 1952. Only Knox, Endicott, and MacGillivray remained. After F. E. L. Priestley's complaint, at a meeting on November 17, 1952, that Victorian poetry selections, particularly of Tennyson and Browning, were "unsatisfactory." This led to the publication of a Victorian supplement in 1953, containing additional poems by Arnold, Browning, and Tennyson.


About Representative Poetry itself nothing was done immediately, but early in 1954 Philip A. Child, Hugh Mallon, A. S. P. Woodhouse, and Kenneth Maclean -- representing the four colleges -- recommended that Representative Poetry needed revision to make the "volumes effective for the General Courses and usable for the Honours Courses." The Department, meeting on Feb. 15, moved that revision begin at once and called on Knox, as chair of the Supervising Committee, to appoint a General Editor. On May 3, Knox reported on his appointments: Endicott as General Editor, H. S. Wilson as Vol. I editor, and Priestley as Vol. II editor. They were instructed to provide "additional selections from some of the minor poets, more particularly in the 18th century, the Romantic and the Victorian periods." Cost estimates were to be supplied to the Department in the fall. Woodhouse also suggested that Endicott circulate to Department members a notice asking for suggestions, deletions, and additions.

At the next meeting, on Sept. 27, 1954, Endicott reported bad news. The Department was losing $1.32 per copy on sales. Five days later he and Millar MacLure successfully moved, at a specialRepresentative Poetry meeting, that prices for Vols. I and II should be raised to $4.50 and $3.25. By the meeting of Nov. 21, however, the prices had soared to $6.00 and $4.00 (and even these gave the Department only a small profit) and the re-editing was still "pending," although Endicott had been placed on the Supervisory Committee. On Jan. 4, 1956, Knox presented the Department with a report of that committee's meeting of Dec. 12. Revision of Vol. I under H. S. Wilson was planned for 1958-59, and of Vol. II under Priestley for 1959-60, but Endicott had resigned as General Editor. A replacement would have to be found. Knox explained that Representative Poetry would "provide anthologies for use in courses 1b, 2b, and 3b," that "the volumes should provide not merely texts for teaching purposes but good general anthologies," that the representation of major and minor poets would remain the same (a change of mind), and that "excerpts from plays other than songs" be excluded. By September, 1956, 1200 more copies of Vol. II were ordered printed, and H. S. Wilson resigned as Vol. I editor, likely for reasons of ill health. Knox then retired at the close of the 1956-57 academic year. The plans for a re-edition had fallen apart. The Department, after "considerable discussion" at a meeting on Nov. 18, 1957, again asked the Supervisory Committee to report for the next meeting. In December, and again in September 1958, there was no report.

It was Norman Endicott, the only 1935 editor still active in the Department, who rescued Representative Poetry. He addressed the Department on Nov. 2, 1959. He argued

the first choice before the Department was whether to drop Representative Poetry or to keep and revise it. If we decided to keep it, the next choice was whether to revise it immediately for use next year or to take more time over the task. His Committee felt strongly that immediate revision was impossible and that at least two years was needed.

The ensuing discussion revealed a divided Department:

some defended Representative Poetry as a source of money, as a guarantee of stability in the curriculum, as a collection of things (prescribed or note) which a lecturer in the General Course found useful to have available, and as a good thing for a student or graduate to own. Others critized it as bulky and unattractive, pointed out gaps in the material and doubted the value to the teacher or student of such large-scale anthologies. It was, however, agreed that the value to the General Course along should be the basis of the Department's decision.

Endicott then agreed to survey faculty of what they believed the General Course needed. Jay Macpherson, Donald Theall, Father Dorsey, and Hugh MacCallum, representing years 1-4 of the program, were asked "to investigate alternative [paperback] texts for courses in which we use" Representative Poetry.

The crunch came at the meeting of November 30. Endicott glossed over the fact that there were too few replies to his survey to reconvene the Supervisory Committee and put it forcefully that the response "seemed to favour a 3 vol. revision."

Most of those who spoke supported revision, although for a variety of reasons: Representative Poetry, some claimed, was both less expensive for students and more profitable for the Department. Father Dorsey and Professor [Christopher] Love recommended revision because we had an obligation to produce the best possible product for the money. Professor [Douglas] Grant, seconded by Professor Priestley, then moved that a new version of Representative Poetry be prepared. We can't expect perfection, he asserted, but we can produce a reasonable anthology which will also make money for the Department.

These faculty, from University, St. Michael's, and Victoria Colleges, prevailed, but only after the motion was reworded by Dorsey and Grant to recommend assent "in principle" and after two dissenting votes deprived the movers of unanimous support. When Woodhouse and Love went on to move that the sixth edition be reprinted in the interim, the controversy resurfaced:

Father Shook wondered whether it might not be better to use paper-backs and then come out with a new edition; Professor Buitenhuis and Father Dorsey thought that a period of experiment with paper-backs might be a useful experience for the Department; but other argued that such experiments might be hard on the students and provoke needless controversy in the Department.

The motion passed, just, at 17 votes for, and 14 votes against.

On January 18, 1960, Endicott reported that Mr. Jeanneret and Miss Harman of the Press were interested in the proposed new edition and estimated copies to sell at $6.00 each. A month later, on Feb. 29, Endicott reported that there would be three volumes, each with about 400 pages and 48 pages of notes. Seconded by Father Shook, Endicott successfully moved that Priestley, whom Woodhouse had already promised one-half release time for the work, be the General Editor. Endicott and Priestley laid out the job of General Editor clearly before the vote. They

pointed out that the editor was expected to supervise the editing not do it all himself, and that he should be at liberty to seek special aid from members of the Department or to appoint assistant editors as he saw fit. Suggestions on policy should be sent to the editor; the Department as a while should then determine a policy; and when the details of editing began, the editor would of course need to discuss them with individuals or groups within the Department. Doubtful matters of detail, like the inclusion of Chaucer or of American poetry, would have to be decided at an early stage.

Representative Poetry began in 1912 with two editors, the head professor and his assistant. As steered by Endicott, the last print edition became a genuinely Department-wide initiative. Editing was decentralized so that as many members of a divided Department would have a stake in the new edition. Experts in different fields took on, not just different periods, but specific poets. John Robson's question, whether assistant editors were likely to be given time off," showed also that release time had become more important than cash honoraria. After Endicott answered that the college heads "seemed willing to do whatever was possible in this regard," the future of Representative Poetry fell to Priestley, whose first research book had been published with Department profits from sales of the textbook.

The seventh edition, renamed the "third" on the title-pages, came out in the fall of 1962 (Vol. I) and 1963 (Vols. II-III), but not without much difficulty. Priestley first announced that Millar MacLure would be "an assistant editor" (April 11, 1960), but F. David Hoeniger, also of Victoria College, replaced him that fall (Oct. 3). A month later Hoeniger read the names of editors for the first two volumes, "explained the exclusion of Chaucer and certain modern poets owing to copyright problems," and set a deadline of April 1961 for Vol. I manuscripts (Nov. 14). However, Priestley had to report on Oct. 1961, that materials for Vol. I were still outstanding. Continuing good sales by the old edition (824 copies of Vol. I, and 540 of Vol. II, in 1960-61) must have persuaded the Press to take on the costs of producing the new edition, costs that were heavy. In reporting this negotiation (Sept. 17, 1962), MacGillivray explained that the Department would get ten percent royalties on print sales, and "of movie rights, 50%!" The 13th and last section of the standard Memorandum of Agreement between the Press and "The Department of English, University of Toronto," represented by Robin S. Harris, chairman, on September 27, 1962, was an important codicil:

Since the heavy costs involved for the Publisher in compilation of this work (copy-editing, typesetting, make-up, proofreading) must be spread over several printings in order to make possible a reasonable list price, the Department of English, University of Toronto, undertakes to continue to prescribe it as a required text for a minimum of six years from the time of publication of Volume III.

Hoeniger's four-page report, read at a meeting on Nov. 5, well conveys the excitement and satisfaction that followed the appearance of Vol. 1 in a bright blue cover. He received an honorarium of $400 for his work, three assistants $70 each, and a fourth assistant $35. Another $500 was allotted to hire Margaret Avison or a Mrs. Hewitt to work on Vols. 2-3. At a meeting of Oct. 7, 1963, Priestley reported that Vol. III was finished. Father Madden and David Knight successfully moved a vote of thanks to all the contributors, especially to Priestley and Hoeniger "as general and associate general editors." The Department donated the remainders of the old edition (96 copies of Vol. I and 382 copies of Vol. II) to "be sent through the World University Service to Sierra Leone, where the need for such texts is acute" (Nov. 18).


From 1965 to 1969 the Press sold fewer and fewer copies of Representative Poetry. Faculty members did not like its limitations, especially the omission of American, Canadian, and modern poets, but the main problem was the introduction of the New Program. The Minor, the Major, or the Specialist degrees that replaced the old General/Pass and Honours system undermined the old 1b, 2b, and 3b sequence of courses. Both students and faculty had increased freedom in what they could study. Robin Harris summarizes how the Department and the Press responded to the loss of $20,000 in unsold inventory:

In the circumstances, the Press reacted very considerately. In March 1970, the Department agreed to waive its royalties and to prepare a statement about the volumes which would be useful in the Press's campaign to sell the volumes to other institutions, such as community colleges. Such a statement was prepared but, in the words of the Director of the Press, "it did not produce the results we had hoped for." In 1971 the Press wrote off the remaining stock and donated the copies to the Overseas Book Centre. Copies of the final edition of Representative Poetry are likely to be found in various Third World countries. (170)


In early 1994, encouraged by Linda Corman, Librarian of Trinity College, I undertook a trial electronic edition of Representative Poetry (1962-63, 1967) as an experiment both for a planned main Library Web site and for a CD-ROM of literary texts to come out with Using TACT with Electronic Texts (Modern Language Association of America, 1996). Wally Brooker, Permissions Officer at the University of Toronto Press, gave me permission on April 7 for Volume III, and then on June 8 for Volumes I-II. The title page, which stated "Prepared by members of the Department of English at the University of Toronto," was vague about copyright. Given that the Department in 1970-71 had abandoned the series and all royalties in favour of the Press, and that I, one of the Department's "members", had founded the Humanities Computing Centre in 1986, the decision seemed harmless and uncontroversial.

Sian Meikle, a member of the Library's Web development team, agreed to advise on Web design. Sharine Leung, then with the Centre for Computing in the Humanities (which I directed), did a rough scanning of the three volumes over the summer (except for the notes). On September 14 I notified the Acting Chairman, Brian Corman, that an encoded version of the third edition was on the EPAS host and that I had notified as many of the original editors whom I could locate.

Three well-wishing letters arrived from Peter Morgan, Eleanor Cook, and David Hoeniger. As M.A. student at Toronto, I had taken a marvellous graduate course in 19th-century journal literature from Morgan. He expressed the hope that I "will overcome any problems of age; after all, the work is over twenty years old." In a few years I came to realize how shrewd the advice of my teacher was. Cook told me, what the records did not, that she had been the Press's copy editor for the textbook, not an editor. Hoeniger's letter was most encouraging. As General Editor of the Revels series, he had shepherded my first book, an edition of Two Tudor Interludes (1980), into print. He expressed his wish that the electronic edition "may well be a great service to many future students" and noted

I recall the time when many of us in the English Department collaborated in the Anthology in the hope that it would prove to be a useful text for both many instructors and undergraduate students at Toronto, and how pleased we were about the reception of the anthology in other places. And I recall how not many years after, the anthology was killed by our colleagues because in their excess individualistic zeal they insisted that each should choose his own text and selection, never mind the great increase in costs for our students, nor the loss of income to the Department.

Not everyone thought RPO unqualifiedly good news. Some members of the Department's Library Committee had reasonable doubts about the old-fashioned editing method. Poems, as I came to appreciate, occasionally lacked a stated source; and I would have to supply it.

At first I did not know how best to publish the print volumes that Sharine Leung had rough-scanned and I had proofed and corrected. An exhaustive SGML tag-set had just come out from the Text Encoding Initiative, the founding meeting of which, at Vassar College, I had attended in 1987. The World Wide Web, however, used HTML, the equivalent of a typesetting language, and ignored content tags such as TEI recommended. The TACT text-analysis software to be published by MLA used other encoding systems, and neither was SGML or HTML. Availability and usability, offered by the Web, mattered most, and I determined to use UNIX utilities like sed and perl to generate both HTML and TACT versions from a basic SGML file.

Sian Meikle and I then turned our minds to re-structuring the electronic text. She wisely and firmly argued that each poem be a separate document with multiple links, both to its poet's document and to my author, title, and first-line indexes. She foresaw that the Internet medium itself -- quick on-line retrieval by a reader sometimes very far away -- had to dictate the file structure. Readers should not have to wait for more than a few seconds before seeing a poem. That decision meant that every poem must include all information necessary to identify itself and those responsible for it. By October 1994 she had set up a main directory on the Library's server, which we called UTEL (University of Toronto English Library), and had placed the rp subdirectory within it, and inside that, other subdirectories for poemsauthors,images, and notes.

We first demonstrated a fragment of RP at a meeting of the Task Force on the Electronic Library System on Monday October 24 in the Robarts Library second-floor conference room. Over the next month, Meikle and I hammered out templates for each kind of file, using Professor Frye's selection of Blake as a pilot. On November 7, we presented UTEL and RP at the ARL-AAUP conference on Scholarly Publishing on the Electronic Networks, in Washington, DC. We were one of only a few "content-providers" in the room. There was speculation about which researchers would be "Web-worthy" in the new on-line future, dominated as it was by information giants like Chadwyck-Healey, the University of Michigan, and the University of Virginia.

Re-editing everything into its appropriate file, devising a bibliography of primary sources, and getting sed and perl to generate the needed HTML files took the rest of the month. In late November 1994, I sent a memo to the Department of English announcing the electronic re-publication of the last print edition of Representative Poetry (1962-67). Version 1, with four additional poets (Elizabeth I, Aemilia Lanyer, Anne Killigrew, and Thomas Randolph), came out December 15. (The first revised set of files, correcting formatting errors, went up on December 31, 1994.) The memo described how to access UTEL, andRP within it, 725 poems by 70 poets from Wyatt to Swinburne and included the text of a brief statement of what RPO was, drafted after advice from Peter Seary:

Representative Poetry is a historical collection of texts for "the ordinary reader." It was edited from 1912 to 1967 by faculty who were formerly members of the University of Toronto combined Departments of English, which wished, in the words of the General Editors of the last edition of 1962-67 (termed the third edition, but apparently the eighth) "to prepare its own anthology of poetry for the use of students, particularly in the pass (now the general) course." This teaching anthology came to be used widely outside Toronto in Canada and in some US institutions. As a cooperative, non-commercial venture by faculty with widely differing approaches to their common subject, Representative Poetry was unusual then, as now.

A friend wrote back, warning "you'll be attacked as `condescending' for using terminology such as the above ["the ordinary reader"]. Today, as you know, nobody is `special' or `expert,' and on the other hand, nobody is `ordinary'!"

From late 1994 to January 2001, RPO has gone through twelve versions. On August 2, 1995, the first of these, nine poets were added, including the first Canadian, Dr. John McCrae. That fall, Harvey Kerpneck contributed the first set of notes, to his editions of Arnold and Meredith. As of March 14, 1996, there were 87 poets, the nine additions being Brooke, Carroll, Dowson, Hopkins, Housman, Owen, Rosenberg, Hoskyns, and Edward Thomas. Version 2.0 (August 31, 1996) had 111 more poets, including many women writers, poets who, though in the 1935 edition of Representative Poetry, were dropped from the 1960s edition, and critical prose originally published in the MLA Using TACT with Electronic Texts. The first American poets as well as notes from the 1962-67 edition (which led to a revised format for these documents) came on-line April 15, 1997. By the next year, both 1912 and 1916 editions and a new timeline index had been incorporated. Since 1998, RPO has acquired many modernist poets, South African poets, a calendar index, a glossary, and the works of two living writers, Marge Piercy and Mark Doty.

Representative Poetry On-line has thus welcomed many poets, poems, and indexes that its editors would have loved to put in but could not, for lack of space. Although I have become the sole selecter, editor, indexer, proofreader, and e-type-setter since 1967, self-appointed and unpaid, many persons have volunteered their time. Sian Meikle has continuously advised on encoding structure (especially the notes and the headers). Marc Lalonde reviewed all files for formatting errors that year. Until it was possible to set me up with direct ftp access, he moved files of succeeding versions onto the Library's Web site. They and recently Allen Forsyth ensured that readers have a good search engine for keywords. My students Daniel Kim, Melinda Robinson, and Katrine Raymond volunteered their help and made important contributions. Each year I teach from RPO a course in Reading Poetry (ENG 201Y), I learn more about the poems both by having to keep up with my students and by listening to them. Readers from around the world have reported corrections and made suggestions. 

One of the greatest changes has been in my relation as editor to RPO readers. Iexchange e-mail with hundreds of them now each year. The high standards they expect of this anthology, their love for poetry, and their willingness to assist have vindicated the "ordinary reader" whom F. E. L. Priestley and David Hoeniger addressed in the preface to the last print edition. Their "ordinary reader" knows about poems and responds to them with an honest, deep feeling that would humble any academic, as it has me. The ordinary reader also testifies to the wisdom of the title that Professor Alexander and Mr. Clawson chose in 1912. It has earned its keep over the past 90 years. To represent poetry well, an anthology must esteem poets of all ages, regions, periods, and genders. No widely loved poem, from whatever source, is ever minor.

January 27, 2001



  • Department of English Minutes, 1932-64. A71-0010/001-002. University Archives.
  • Harris, Robin S. English Studies at Toronto: A History. Foreword by Northrop Frye. University of Toronto: Governing Council, 1988. PR 53 T67H37 Robarts Library
  • Lancashire, Ian. "An Electronic Edition of Representative Poetry: Design Issues and Programming Tools," CCH Lectures Series, Feb. 2, 1995. Abstract.
  • --. "Representative Poetry and the World Wide Web." The University of Toronto Libraries Newsletter (Spring 2000): 2.
  • --. "Representative Poetry On-line: Updating an historical English teaching anthology." Text Technology 6.3 (Autumn 1996): 139-47.
  • --. "University of Toronto English Library (UTEL)." May 23, 1997. 5. Research Libraries Group Web site, summarized in RLIN Focus (August 1997).
  • --, with John Bradley, Willard McCarty, Michael Stairs, and T. R. Wooldridge. Using TACT with Electronic Texts: Text-Analysis Computing Tools 2.1. New York: Modern Language Association of America, 1996.
  • -- and Sian Meikle. "The University of Toronto English Library." ARL-AAUP conference on Scholarly Publishing on the Electronic Networks. Washington, DC, November 7, 1994.