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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...

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...

THE DEGRADATION OF BEAUTY Some time ago I found myself at an exhibition of Post-Impressionist pictures, under the ægis of an artist who was himself of that persuasion. Indeed, he was one of the exhibitors, and I was constrained to express my opinions in the form of questions. We passed before a picture which to my untutored eyes was formless, meaningless and ugly. It was by a well-known artist, and my instructor admired it. He said it... 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...

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...


INTRODUCTION. 1. Tongue, Speech, Language.—We speak of the “English tongue” or of the “French language”; and we say of two nations that they “do not understand each other’s speech.” The existence of these three words—speech, tongue, language—proves to us that a language is something spoken,—that it is a number of sounds; and that the writing or printing of it upon paper is a quite... more...

INTRODUCTION. I. The death of John Dryden, on the first of May, 1700, closed a period of no small significance in the history of English literature. His faults were many, both as a man and as a poet, but he belongs to the race of the giants, and the impress of greatness is stamped upon his works. No student of Dryden can fail to mark the force and sweep of an intellect impatient of restraint. His 'long-resounding march' reminds us of a... more...

CHAPTER I. A PRELIMINARY VIEW. Anglo-Saxon literature is the oldest of the vernacular literatures of modern Europe; and it is a consequence of this that its relations with Latin literature have been the closest. All the vernacular literatures have been influenced by the Latin, but of Anglo-Saxon literature alone can it be said that it has been subjected to no other influence. This literature was nursed by, and gradually rose out of, Latin... more...

CHAPTER I. Walter Scott.[1] It was reserved for Walter Scott, "the Ariosto of the North," "the historiographer royal of feudalism," to accomplish the task which his eighteenth-century forerunners had essayed in vain. He possessed the true enchanter's wand, the historic imagination. With this in his hand, he raised the dead past to life, made it once more conceivable, made it even actual. Before Scott no genius of the highest order had lent... more...

Chapter I THE COURAGE OF HUGH WALPOLE i Says his American contemporary, Joseph Hergesheimer, in an appreciation of Hugh Walpole: “Mr. Walpole’s courage in the face of the widest scepticism is nowhere more daring than in The Golden Scarecrow.” Mr. Walpole’s courage, I shall always hold, is nowhere more apparent than in the choice of his birthplace. He was born in the Antipodes. Yes! In that magical, unpronounceable... more...