From Chaucer to Vikram Seth and Victoria Wood; from Byron to John Updike; from Augustan satire to advertising jingles; from G. K. Chesterton to Wendy Cope - this superb anthology is notable above all for its breadth. It is truly international in scope, bringing together poets from far beyond the British Isles. Drawing on many different types of verse, from epigrams to street ballads, from clerihew to music-hall lyrics, from the double-dactyl of the calypso, it offers an exceptionally wide range of comic pleasures. The poems in this collection are by turns subtle, down-to-earth, macabre, ingenious, acerbic, ribald, and cheerful; written to amuse, they call forth laughter and delight in equal measure. The established classics of comic verse, writers such as Tom Hood, W. S. Gilbert, and Ogden Nash, are represented in force, but many unfamiliar or unexpected names are also included. This collection undoubtedly contains matter of great historical interest, but the emphasis throughout is firmly on enjoyment.
John Gross is a writer and reviewer. He was editor of the Times Literary Supplement from 1974 to 1981, on the staff of the New York Times from 1983 to 1988, and theatre critic of the Sunday Telegraph from 1998 to 2005. His books include The Rise and Fall of the Man of Letters (1969; new edn 1991), Shylock: A Legend and Its Legacy (1992), and a memoir A Double Thread (2002). He has edited the Oxford Books of Aphorisms (1983), Essays (1991), and Literary Anecdotes (2006), and The New Oxford Book of English Prose (1998). His most recent anthology is After Shakespeare (2002).