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INTRODUCTION Francis Bacon, in one of his prose fragments, draws a memorable distinction between "arts mechanical" and "sciences of conceit." "In arts mechanical," he says, "the first device comes shortest, and time addeth and perfecteth. But in sciences of conceit the first author goeth farthest, and time leeseth and corrupteth.... In the former, many wits and industries contributed in one. In the latter, many men's wits spent to deprave the... more...

By the 11th of November, then, The Lord of the Isles had made great progress, and Scott had also authorized Ballantyne to negotiate among the booksellers for the publication of a second novel. But before I go further into these transactions, I must introduce the circumstances of Scott's first connection with an able and amiable man, whose services were of high importance to him, at this time and ever after, in the prosecution of his literary... more...

CHAP. I. 1759-1775. It has always appeared to me, that to give to the public some account of the life of a person of eminent merit deceased, is a duty incumbent on survivors. It seldom happens that such a person passes through life, without being the subject of thoughtless calumny, or malignant misrepresentation. It cannot happen that the public at large should be on a footing with their intimate acquaintance, and be the observer of those... more...

CHAPTER I. BIRTH AND EDUCATION—CAMBRIDGE. I cannot, perhaps, more fitly begin this short biography than with some words in which its subject has expressed his own feelings as to the spirit in which such a task should be approached. "Silence," says Wordsworth, "is a privilege of the grave, a right of the departed: let him, therefore, who infringes that right by speaking publicly of, for, or against, those who cannot speak for themselves,... more...

I. PRELIMINARY It is over twenty years since the death of Washington Irving removed that personal presence which is always a powerful, and sometimes the sole, stimulus to the sale of an author's books, and which strongly affects the contemporary judgment of their merits. It is nearly a century since his birth, which was almost coeval with that of the Republic, for it took place the year the British troops evacuated the city of New York, and only... more...


EARLY YEARS AND SURROUNDINGS Irving's name stands as the first landmark in American letters. No other American writer has won the same sort of recognition abroad or esteem at home as became his early in life. And he has lost very little ground, so far as we can judge by the appeal to figures. The copyright on his works ran out long since, and a great many editions of Irving, cheap and costly, complete and incomplete, have been issued from many... more...

I. PRELIMINARY. It is over twenty years since the death of Washington Irving removed that personal presence which is always a powerful, and sometimes the sole, stimulus to the sale of an author's books, and which strongly affects the contemporary judgment of their merits. It is nearly a century since his birth, which was almost coeval with that of the Republic, for it took place the year the British troops evacuated the city of New York, and... more...

CHAPTER I INTRODUCTORY SUMMARY Four Scotchmen, born within the limits of the same hundred years, all in the first rank of writers, if not of thinkers, represent much of the spirit of four successive generations. They are leading links in an intellectual chain. DAVID HUME (1711-1776) remains the most salient type in our island of the scepticism, half conservative, half destructive, but never revolutionary, which marked the third quarter of the... more...

PREFACE "Generally speaking," Goethe has himself said, "the most important period in the life of an individual is that of his development—the period which, in my case, breaks off with the detailed narrative of Dichtung und Wahrheit." In reality, as we know, there is no complete breach at any point in the lives of either nations or individuals. But if in the life of Goethe we are to fix upon a dividing point, it is his departure from... more...

PRIOR. Matthew Prior is one of those that have burst out from an obscure original to great eminence. He was born July 21, 1664, according to some, at Winburn, in Dorsetshire, of I know not what parents; others say, that he was the son of a joiner of London: he was, perhaps, willing enough to leave his birth unsettled, in hope, like Don Quixote, that the historian of his actions might find him some illustrious alliance. He is supposed to have... more...