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SIR PHILIP SIDNEY's famous book, The Countess of Pembroke's Arcadia (p. 45), is too leisurely in movement and too complicated in structure to be well illustrated by a continuous selection, except as to its style, but the passage here presented seems better suited than any other of similar length to convey an idea of the nature of the story and the sources of its charm for Sidney's contemporaries. The selection from JoHN LYLY's Euphues and his England (p. 57) may seem to some teachers shorter than is warranted by Lyly's reputation and his indubitable services to English prose. But the characteristics of his style are such as can be exhibited in comparatively small compass; and its excessive ornamentation soon becomes monotonous and unendurable. Moreover, it is not by its ornamental but by its structural features that it rendered its services to English prose, and the most significant of these, as Professor Morsbach has recently shown, is exact balance of accents in correlative phrases and clauses. This very important feature can easily and quickly be worked out by teacher or pupils; and the process, if applied to several authors, cannot fail to be profitable. Robert GREENE (p. 64) is fully discussed in all histories of English Literature. I wish here only to explain that I have given three selections from works attributed to him, not because I regard him as more important for the history of English prose than some others less generously represented, but for other reasons. In the first place, if all three are really by Greene, they deserve attention as presenting three different styles and kinds of writing; in the second place, at least two of them are of special interest to historians of literature and are often quoted for the illustration of Elizabethan life. I confess that, in my opinion, the most famous of the three, the Groat's Worth of Wit, is, as some of Greene's friends declared when it was published (after his death), not the product of Greene's pen, but the work of Henry Chettle. Professor Vetter's arguments against Greene's authorship' seem to me conclusive, and it would not be difficult to add to them. The length of the extract from DEKKER's Gull's Hornbook (p. 89) will no doubt be excused, even by the student, for the sake of its vivid picture of the way in which the “young bloods” of Shakspere's day and those who wished to be thought such conducted themselves. The advice is of course ironical throughout, but, like many another humorist who has poked fun at men with a grave face, Dekker has been supposed by some readers to have written a serious guide for frivolous men. Robert BURTON (p. 97) will doubtless be little to the taste of the ordinary modern reader, not only because of his love for Latin phrases and quotations with uncouth references, but also because of the quaint style and fantastic humor which have endeared him to so many of the greatest lovers of literature. His book is, as might be expected, the product of an uneventful life of studious leisure, passed in the quiet shades of the University of Oxford. The best way to learn to love it is to read it in the same circumstances in which it was produced; the leisure of a long and lazy summer day or a quiet winter night is almost indispensable for a full appreciation of its shrewd sense and whimsical humor. The passage here given contains not only the brief anecdote from which Keats developed his beautiful poem Lamia, but also, if not the sources, at least analogues, of Balzac's remarkable story, A Passion in the Desert, and F. Anstey's A Tinted Venus. The notes not in brackets are those of the author himself. They have been retained in their original form because, not only in their range, but even in their occasional vagueness, they are characteristic of the author. Leviathan (p. 102) is the strange title given by THOMAS HoBBEs to his book on government, or, as he calls it, “the matter, form, and power of a commonwealth.” The most distinguishing features of Hobbes are his entire freedom from mysticism, his conviction that all error and all ignorance are the results of a failure to reason clearly and sensibly,
* Abhandl. d. 44ten Sammlung d. deut. Schulmänner (Teubner, 1897).
and his thoroughgoing application of his principle that “there is no conception in a man's
Pepys is often ungrammatical, but he is never dull in manner or unprovided with interesting material. The carelessness of his style is due in no small measure to the nature of his book. He wrote for his own eye alone, using a system of shorthand which was not deciphered until 1825. That he was a man of cultivation is proved by the society in which he moved, by his interest in music and the drama, by the valuable library of books and prints which he accumulated and bequeathed to Magdalene College, Cambridge, by his interest in the Royal Society, and by the academic honors conferred upon him by the universities. SHAFTESBURY's Characteristics (p. 197) is another notable example of the high development which English prose style had obtained at the beginning of the eighteenth century. His philosophy, like most of the philosophy of the time, seems to us of the present day to be singularly lacking in breadth, depth, and solidity of content, but there can be no question of the clearness and grace of his presentation of it. Occasionally, to be sure, Shaftesbury's style becomes florid and acquires a movement inappropriate to prose, but such occasions are rare and in the main his prose will bear comparison with the best of its time. In such a volume as this it is, of course, impossible to illustrate the work of the novelists as novelists; and considerations of space have made necessary the omission of all but a few of the most notable. In some cases it has been necessary to choose an extract from a novel in order to present the writer at his best; but wherever it is possible a selection has been chosen with a view to presenting the writer only as a writer of prose, leaving the more important aspect of his work to be presented in some other way. Thus from Fielding chapters have been chosen which give his theory of narrative art. Whatever may have been the real basis for MACPHERSON's so-called translation of the Poems of Ossian (p. 275), the work exercised a great, and, indeed, almost immeasurable, influence upon English and other literatures. Some persons may be disposed to criticise the inclusion of an extract from this translation in this volume rather than in the volume of poetry, but the translation itself is rhythmical prose, and it would not be difficult to show that it has exercised an equal or even greater influence upon prose than upon poetry. The question as to Macpherson's responsibility for the poems will probably never be entirely resolved. Celtic poems bearing considerable resemblance to his translations undoubtedly existed in considerable number, but it seems certain that his work was in no case merely that of a translator. The long chapter from Boswell's Life of Johnson is full of the prejudice and injustice of the author toward Oliver Goldsmith, whose ideas were often too advanced for such stanch worshipers of the established order as both Boswell and his master, Johnson, were, and whose personal sensitiveness made him, despite his intellectual independence, constantly the victim of the great dictator's methods of argument. That this chapter has had no little influence in the formation of false opinion about Goldsmith and even in promoting misunderstanding of his work, there can be little doubt; but it illustrates Boswell's method so well and presents Johnson so interestingly that I have not hesitated to print it. THE LETTERS OF JUNIUS (p. 292) produced in their day a very great sensation, and their fame has been heightened by the mystery surrounding their authorship. Many of the prominent men of the time were accused of writing them and not a few either shyly admitted or boldly claimed the credit and the infamy. The reason why the real author did not appear and establish his claims was, as De Quincey long ago pointed out, that he could not assert his right to the literary fame without at the same time convicting himself of having made improper use of his official position under the government to obtain the information which made his attacks so effective. Historians of English literature have long accustomed us to believe that these letters depended for their success solely upon their literary style, their bitterness of invective, and their sardonic irony; but, although they are remarkable as literature, the special feature which aroused the fears of the government was the fact that no state secret seemed safe from the author and that he might at any moment reveal matters which it was important to keep unknown. Recent researches have made it practically certain that Junius was Sir Philip Francis, who was a clerk in the war office during the period of the publication of the letters. If FRANCIS JEFFREY (p. 320) was unjust in his reviews of Wordsworth, lovers of Wordsworth — and who is not? — have been at least equally unjust in their treatment of Jeffrey. Sentences have been quoted, often in garbled form and always without the context, to illustrate the unfairness and stupidity and poetic insensibility of Jeffrey. Most sane critics of the present day differ from Jeffrey mainly in emphasis, they recognize that Wordsworth really had the defects which Jeffrey pointed out, and that they are grave. But in literature only the successes count, the failures fall away and should be forgotten. The Selection here printed presents Jeffrey in his most truculent mood; another selection, the review of the Excursion, was planned for this volume, but the limitation of our space necessitated its omission. LEIGH HUNT (p. 354) hardly deserves to be retained in a book from which it has been necessary, on account of lack of space, to exclude so many of his betters, but the interest of comparing his version of the Daughter of Hippocrates with Sir John Mandeville's prose (p. 6) and William Morris's poem (English Poetry, p. 551) was too great for my powers of resistance. Mandeville's version is a masterpiece of simple vivid narration, Morris's a wonder of visualized color and form and action, while Hunt's is a bit of clever but feeble prettiness, the work of a man totally deficient in distinction and power. These versions may help the student to understand when borrowing is not plagiarism — a task apparently too difficult for many who are sincerely interested in the problem. The long selection from MACAULAY's famous chapter on the state of England at the time of the Revolution of 1688 (p. 382) is of course out of proportion to his importance among writers of English prose; but teachers who are tired of reading over and over again his biographical sketches will doubtless welcome it as a change, and both teachers and pupils will surely find it valuable for the vivid picture it gives of the physical and social background against which so large a part of English literature must be seen if it is to be seen truly. Moreover, in style it presents Macaulay at his best. The title Mabinogion (p. 521) was given by LADY CHARLOTTE GUEST to the Welsh tales which she translated from the Red Book of Hergest, a collection of bardic materials. The Red Book was apparently written in the fourteenth century, but all of the stories probably took their present form earlier, and some of them are, in some form, of great Antiquity. The term Mabinogion, though it has been generally accepted, does not properly include the tale here given. A young man who aspired to become a bard was called a Mabinog and was expected to learn from his master certain traditional lore called Mabinogi. Four of the tales included in the Red Book are called “branches of the Mabinogi.” Lady Charlotte Guest treated Mabinogi as a singular, meaning a traditional Welsh tale, and from it formed the plural Mabinogion, which has since been widely used as she used it. Her translation was published in 1838–1849, and has been greatly admired for its preservation of the simplicity and charm of the originals. The story here printed is not Purely Welsh, but has been affected in greater or less degree by the form and ideas of hurian romance as developed in France and England under the influence of chivalry.