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CHAPTER I A SHORT HISTORICAL SKETCH OF ASTRONOMY Astronomy is the oldest and most sublime of all the sciences. To a contemplative observer of the heavens, the number and brilliancy of the stars, the lustre of the planets, the silvery aspect of the Moon, with her ever-changing phases, together with the order, the harmony, and unison pervading them all, create in his mind thoughts of wonder and admiration. Occupying the abyss of space... more...

Chapter I. The Historical Scope of the Subject. . . . . . . . . . Literature and Science. There are two words in the English language which are now used to express the two great divisions of mental production—Science and Literature; and yet, from their etymology, they have so much in common, that it has been necessary to attach to each a technical meaning, in order that we may employ them without confusion. Science, from the... more...

LIFE OF SHAKESPEARE. Shakespeare, by general suffrage, is the greatest name in literature. There can be no extravagance in saying, that to all who speak the English language his genius has made the world better worth living in, and life a nobler and diviner thing. And even among those who do not "speak the tongue that Shakespeare spake," large numbers are studying the English language mainly for the purpose of being at home with him. How he... more...

CHAPTER I THE RENAISSANCE (1) There are times in every man's experience when some sudden widening of the boundaries of his knowledge, some vision of hitherto untried and unrealized possibilities, has come and seemed to bring with it new life and the inspiration of fresh and splendid endeavour. It may be some great book read for the first time not as a book, but as a revelation; it may be the first realization of the extent and moment of what... more...

Shakespeare's England and London Shakespeare lived in a period of change. In religion, politics, literature, and commerce, in the habits of daily living, in the world of ideas, his lifetime witnessed continual change and movement. When Elizabeth came to the throne, six years before he was born, England was still largely Catholic, as it had been for nine centuries; when she died England was Protestant, and by the date of Shakespeare's death it... more...


Dr. Johnson's Preface to Shakespeare is one of the most famous critical essays of the eighteenth century, and yet too many students have forgotten that it is, precisely, a preface to the plays of Shakespeare, edited by Dr. Johnson himself. That is to say, the edition itself has been obscured or overshadowed by its preface, and the sustained effort of that essay has virtually monopolized scholarly attention—much of which should be directed... more...

The Problem of a Preface A peculiar difficulty arrests the writer of this rough study at the very start. Many people know Mr. Bernard Shaw chiefly as a man who would write a very long preface even to a very short play. And there is truth in the idea; he is indeed a very prefatory sort of person. He always gives the explanation before the incident; but so, for the matter of that, does the Gospel of St. John. For Bernard Shaw, as for the mystics,... more...

When I was honoured by the invitation to deliver this course of lectures, I did not accept without some hesitation. I am not qualified to speak with authority upon such subjects as have been treated by my predecessors—the course of political events or the growth of legal institutions. My attention has been chiefly paid to the history of literature, and it might be doubtful whether that study is properly included in the phrase 'historical.'... more...

CHAPTER I THE LIFE OF SHAKESPEARE Stratford-on-Avon is cleaner, better paved, and perhaps more populous than it was in Shakespeare's time. Several streets of mean red-brick houses have been built during the last half century. Hotels, tea rooms, refreshment rooms, and the shops where the tripper may buy things to remind him that he has been where greatness lived, give the place an air at once prosperous and parasitic. The town contains a few... more...

CHARACTERISTICS OF VICTORIAN LITERATURE That which in England is conveniently described as the Victorian Age of literature has a character of its own, at once brilliant, diverse, and complex. It is an age peculiarly difficult to label in a phrase; but its copious and versatile gifts will make it memorable in the history of modern civilisation. The Victorian Age, it is true, has no Shakespeare or Milton, no Bacon or Hume, no Fielding or... more...