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DICKENS A ‘Frightful Minus’ Mr. Andrew Lang is delightfully severe on those who ‘cannot read Dickens,’ but in truth it is only by accident that he is not himself of that unhappy persuasion.  For Dickens the humourist he has a most uncompromising enthusiasm; for Dickens the artist in drama and romance he has as little sympathy as the most practical.  Of the prose of David Copperfield and Our Mutual Friend, the... more...

LECTURE I INTRODUCTORY WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 25, 1916 I In the third book of the "Ethics", and in the second chapter, Aristotle, dealing with certain actions which, though bad in themselves, admit of pity and forgiveness because they were committed involuntarily, through ignorance, instances 'the man who did not know a subject was forbidden, like Aeschylus with the Mysteries,' and 'the man who only meant to show how it worked, like the fellow... more...

I.—Mr. Pepys   Mr. Pepys was a Puritan. Froude once painted a portrait of Bunyan as an old Cavalier. He almost persuaded one that it was true till the later discovery of Bunyan’s name on the muster-roll of one of Cromwell’s regiments showed that he had been a Puritan from the beginning. If one calls Mr. Pepys a Puritan, however, one does not do so for the love of paradox or at a guess. He tells us himself that he... more...

INTRODUCTION A section of a long and splendid literature can be most conveniently treated in one of two ways. It can be divided as one cuts a currant cake or a Gruyère cheese, taking the currants (or the holes) as they come. Or it can be divided as one cuts wood—along the grain: if one thinks that there is a grain. But the two are never the same: the names never come in the same order in actual time as they come in any serious study... more...

SOME THOUGHTS OF A READER OF TENNYSON Fifty years after Tennyson’s birth he was saluted a great poet by that unanimous acclamation which includes mere clamour.  Fifty further years, and his centenary was marked by a new detraction.  It is sometimes difficult to distinguish the obscure but not unmajestic law of change from the sorry custom of reaction.  Change hastes not and rests not, reaction beats to and fro, flickering... more...


INTRODUCTION Gay's concern in his survey of The Present State of Wit is with the productions of wit which were circulating among the coffee-houses of 1711, specifically the large numbers of periodical essays which were perhaps the most distinctive kind of "wit" produced in the "four last years" of Queen Anne's reign. His little pamphlet makes no pretence at an analysis of true and false wit or a refining of critical distinctions with regard to... more...

1 My Dear Antony, The letters which I wrote "On the world about you" having shown you that throughout all the universe, from the blazing orbs in infinite space to the tiny muscles of an insect's wing, perfect design is everywhere manifest, I hope and trust that you will never believe that so magnificent a process and order can be without a Mind of which it is the visible expression. The chief object of those letters was to endorse your... 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...

The beginnings of Literature in England. Two poets of the best period of our old poetry, Caedmon and Cynewulf. The language they wrote in. The monastery at Whitby. The story of Caedmon's gift of song. How many of us I wonder, realise in anything like its full extent the beauty and the glory of our Catholic heritage. Do we think how the Great Mother, the keeper of truth, the guardian of beauty, the muse of learning, the fosterer of progress, has... more...

Introduction My aim in this little book has been to give short sketches and estimates of the greatest modern English writers from Macaulay to Stevenson and Kipling. Omissions there are, but my effort has been to give the most characteristic writers a place and to try to stimulate the reader's interest in the man behind the book as well as in the best works of each author. Too much space is devoted in most literary criticism to the bare facts... more...