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deavoured to produce a volume which might serve as a useful outline Introduction to English Literature both to the English and the foreign student. This little work, it is needless to say, has no pretensions whatsoever to the title of a complete Course of English Literature : it is merely an attempt to describe the causes, instruments, and nature of those great revolutions in taste which form what are termed “Schools of Writing.” In order to do this, and to mark more especially those broad and salient features which ought to be clearly fixed in the reader's mind before he can profitably enter upon the details of the subject, only the greater names—the greater types of each period—have been examined; whilst the inferior, or merely imitative, writers have been unscrupulously neglected : in short, the author has marked only the chief luminaries in each intellectual constellation; he has not attempted to give a complete Catalogue of Stars.
This method appears to unite the advantages of conciseness and completeness ; for, should the reader push his studies no farther, he may at least form clear ideas of the main boundaries and divisions of English literature; whilst the frequent change of topic will, the author trusts, render these pages much less tiresome and monotonous than a regular systematic treatise.
He has considered the greater names in English literature under a double point of view: first, as glorified types and noble expressions of the religious, social, and intellectual physiognomy of their times ; and secondly, in their own individuality: and he hopes that the sketches of the great Baconian revolution in philosophy, of the state of the Drama under Elizabeth and James the First, of the intellectual character of the Commonwealth and Restoration, of the romantic school of fiction, of Byronism, and of the present tendencies of poetry, may be
found—however imperfectly executed—to possess some interest, were it only as the first attempt to treat, in a popular manner, questions hitherto neglected in elementary books, but which the increased intelligence of the present age renders it no longer expedient to pass over without remark.
The work was written in the brief intervals of very active and laborious duties, and in a country where the author could have no access to an English library of reference : whatever errors and oversights it may contain on minor points will, therefore, he trusts, be excused. The only merits to which it can have any claim are somewhat of novelty in its plan, and the attempt to render it as little dry—as readable, in short—as was consistent with accuracy and comprehensiveness.
It is proposed that this volume shall be followed by a second, nearly similar in bulk, and divided into the same number of chapters, containing a selection of choice passages from the writers treated of in these pages, and forming a Chrestomathia to be read with the biographical and critical account of each author. The student will, therefore, at once have before him a distinct view of the literary character and genius of each great writer, and striking extracts from that writer's works; he will thus be insensibly led, not only to form his taste and fill his memory with beautiful images and thoughts, but to acquire a clearer notion of the peculiar merits of each author than he could obtain from the meagre and unconnected fragments to be found in the existing collections of English prose and verse.
London, August 10th, 1847.