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Mew Edition, Revised,
With Supplement on English Literature in America.

London, Edinburgh, and New York.


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THIs History of English Literature is essentially biographical, for true criticism cannot separate the author from his book. Leaving entirely out of sight what is no light matter in a work written for the young—the living interest thus given to a subject for which some have little love—so much do the colour and the flavour of that wonderful Mind-fruit, called a Book, depend upon the atmosphere in which it has ripened, and the soil whence its sweet or sour juices have been drawn, that these important influences cannot be overlooked in tracing, however slightly, the growth of a Literature. It has, accordingly, been my principal object to show how the books, which we prize among the brightest of our national glories, have grown out of human lives—rooted oftener, perhaps, in sorrow than in joy; and how the scenery and the society, amid which an author played out his fleeting part, have left indelible hues upon the pages that he wrote. Instead of trying to compress the History of our Books into the framework formed by the accession of our Sovereigns, I have adopted a purely literary division. Selecting such great landmarks as the Birth of Chaucer, and the Introduction of Printing, I find that Ten Eras, each possessing a very distinct character, will embrace every name of note, from the oldest Celtic bards to Tennyson and Carlyle. The Pre-English Era takes a rapid view of British books and book-makers before the birth of Chaucer, about whose day the true English Literature began to exist. In the nine remaining Eras an entire chapter is devoted to each greatest name, writers of less mark being grouped together in a closing section. Short illustrative specimens, intended mainly to form the basis of lessons on variety of style, are appended to all the leading lives. Since names that cannot be passed over grow very thick towards the end, the closing chapters of the last two Eras have been arranged upon a plan which prevents confusion, and, by the use of Supplementary Lists, admits the mention of many authors who must otherwise have been left out. w

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