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VERS DE SOCIÉTÉ AND PARODY.
ARTIFICIAL forms of society inevitably develop artificial forms of literature. As the comparative anatomist reconstructs a whole animal from a tooth or a toe-bone, so the philosophical speculator or the skilful critic may guess at the most complex conditions of life from a song or even a versicle. This service has been rendered by Mr. James Davies in his studies of Tibullus, Catullus, and Propertius ; and Horace and Juvenal have yielded worlds to scholars like Conington and Sellar. The same problems, we may well believe, will remain for future workers in reference to our time. They will, perhaps, guess more efficiently at our manners and our modes of thought, at the pastimes of our lighter hours, and our airiest talk “across the walnuts and the wine," by reference to the verses of Praed and Locker, Mortimer Collins, Calverley, Tom Hood, Austin Dobson, and their confrères, than by study of sterner literature. It is only preparing the way, by a very slight stage, if we endeavour at present to make clear to ourselves the action and functions of two forms of artificial literature — that of Parody and Society-Verse, — on which it is quite certain that some characteristics of our day have specially impressed themselves, as is testified by the great demand for such productions. And if it should seem to any reader that we venture on themes too light and frivolous, then we have simply to reply that if, as we have already suggested, the reader will but project his soul far enough forward, and look at matters present as if they were distant, he may, if he pleases, be philosophic enough in his meditations.