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NEW EDITION BY DAVID PATRICK, LL.D.
A HISTORY CRITICAL AND BIOGRAPHI-
CAL OF AUTHORS IN THE ENGLISH
W. & R. CHAMBERS, LIMITED
Amongst Contributors to the present Volume are
Dr STOPFORD BROOKE.
In this first volume old English literature as a whole and all the writers who used to be called Anglo-Saxon-Cadmon, Bæda, Ælfred, and the rest are dealt with by Dr Stopford Brooke. See pages 1-31.
Mr A. W. POLLARD.
Mr A. W. Pollard has charged himself with
31-119 and 150-162.
Mr SIDNEY LEE.
The article on Shakespeare is contributed by Mr
Mr ANDREW LANG.
Mr Andrew Lang has dealt with the Ballads,
Dr S. R. GARDINER.
The essay on
Mr A. H. BULLEN.
Mr A. H. Bullen, besides revising articles on several Elizabethan dramatists, has described Restoration literature. See pages 729-735.
than before. The area of its currency has grown with the political and commercial sway of the people who speak it. In Elfred's time the Low Dutch dialects called English, and spoken by a few hundred thousand islanders, were unknown outside the island. Queen Elizabeth ruled scarcely three million subjects, many of whom were not of English speech; while to many more in the north and west, who heard it or essayed to read it, Shakespeare's literary London dialect was barely intelligible. And now English, with no essential differences, is the mother-tongue of more than a hundred and twenty millions of men and women, scattered over all the quarters of the planet. Some fifty millions of Britons at home and abroad rule about a fourth of the inhabitants of the globe. In the United States the daughter nation now reckons her seventy-five millions, mainly of British stock, and, with trifling exceptions, all of English speech. To multitudes of the darker-skinned subjects of the British crown, English is only less familiar than their own vernaculars, and English literature a main instrument of education. English is becoming more and more the language of commerce among men of all kindreds. And the writings of English authors, now read and studied by the educated of all races, are an element of culture in every civilised country.
we have a cloud of witnesses to the contrary: our divines, our sages, our poets, our storytellers, our men of science, our historians, have uttered in our tongue words which the world will not willingly let die. It is no dream indeed that the other sheaves have made obeisance to our sheaf; Shakespeare is not the only Englishman who has won the willing homage of the world.
In that vast English library which has been steadily growing for fourteen hundred years, there is happily much that concerns us not, much that is no part of our national inheritance. There are more than enough of books that are no books, of literature that does not deserve the name, of poems that are not poetry, of prose which is a mere waste of weary words. Even so, of English books new and old that it is worth our while to know, or know about, there are many more than would suffice for a lifetime of hard reading. British publications multiply by thousands in a year, and American volumes at an almost equal rate. The flood, constantly swelling, threatens to engulf even the strongest swimmer. Year by year the need becomes greater for an approved mentor, a comprehensive guide; and such a Vademecum Dr Robert Chambers devised and called, not unjustly, a CYCLOpædia of EnglISH LITERATURE, the first of its kind in Britain.
On a plan greatly more comprehensive than the time-honoured Elegant Extracts of Vicesimus Knox, this Cyclopædia of English Literature-like all the old cyclopædias systematic and not alphabetic, and following the chronological order as obviously the only practicable one-aimed to give a conspectus of our literature by a series of extracts from the more memorable authors set in a biographical and critical history of the literature. itself. Dr Chambers laid the plan in 1841, and for realising it secured the help of his friend Dr Robert Carruthers of Inverness. The outcome of their joint labours, which began to appear before the close of 1842, was completed in two volumes in 1844, and was brought down to date and reprinted in 1858. It was revised and extended under the charge of Dr Carruthers in 1876; and a fourth reissue, again incorporating new matter, took place a dozen years later. But a keener interest in our older literature and a fuller knowledge of it, new facts, new theories, and new light on a thousand points, the increasing supply of new materials for selection, the continued activity of accepted authors, the rise of new and brilliant stars, and all that is implied in the unabated continuity of the literary life of the nation, have rendered necessary a much more thorough-going revision. and reconstruction; a completely new edition is imperatively demanded.
'Tis sixty years since-just sixty years since Dr Chambers began work on the first edition. Coleridge had then been dead for half-a-dozen years, but Southey was still laureate and Wordsworth was in vigorous health. Tennyson had not yet published those two volumes that gave him a secure place amongst English poets. John Ruskin, Charles Kingsley, and Matthew Arnold were still at Oxford, and William Morris was a schoolboy. Marian Evans, at Griff, had as yet no literary ambitions, and George Meredith had not sent his first contribution to Chambers's Journal. Macaulay was M.P. for
Edinburgh, but had not published his Lays or begun his History. The reputation Carlyle had made by the French Revolution was but five years old, Thackeray's first volume was lately published, and Dickens had issued only a very few of the long series of his stories. Darwin had not yet put on paper the first rough sketch of his evolution theory, and Huxley was a young medical student. Emerson was hardly known in England; Longfellow and Lowell had each published but one volume of original
verse; and The Autocrat of the BreakfastTable' had made but a few desultory efforts in literature. Howells was an infant, and Henry James was not yet born. A vast proportion of what gives character to modern letters had not yet been written or thought out. Upper and Lower Canada had just been united, the New Zealand Company had only begun to plant the colony, and the first great rush of free settlers had not yet given promise of the future Commonwealth of Australia.
Sixty years after Dr Chambers and Dr Carruthers addressed themselves to their task, we stand in a new century, and, as regards literature, in a new world. In the new edition, of which the first volume now appears, the essential plan has been retained. The aim has been to carry that plan out even more perfectly, and to make the new work more fully representative of our present and past literary history at the commencement of the Twentieth Century than the first edition was for the middle of the Nineteenth. Neither then nor now has a pedantic attempt been made to draw a hard-and-fast line between what is by right and what is not a part of pure or national literature, and to include only what wholly approves itself before the strictest canons of the higher criticism of the day. The selection was made on a more catholic, comprehensive, and historical plan: nobody being excluded whom the general consensus of the ages has adjudged worthy of remembrance. In literature more than in most things human die Weltgeschichte ist das Weltgericht, history is the supreme and final judge; in the end it is the best books that live.
Our enterprise has a quite definite aim, and from the nature of the case its scope is limited
severely limited by the boundlessness of the materials with which it deals. It is not, and is not meant to be, an anthology of the perfect models of our prose and verse, a chrestomathy of purple patches, a collection of elegant extracts. The acknowledged gem should be there, if the man is mainly known by some one noble passage, one sonnet, one song, one aphorism or sententious saying; but something there should be, as a rule, to illustrate his average achievement, the standard by which he may fairly be judged. Nor does the work profess to be a marrow of our literature, or to give the spirit and quintessence of the several authors; still less does it aim to