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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...

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...

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...

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...

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...


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...

I.—ON THE DISINTERMENT OF NAPOLEON AT ST. HELENA. MY DEAR ——,—It is no en the Voyage from St. Helena asy task in this world to distinguish between what is great in it, and what is mean; and many and many is the puzzle that I have had in reading History (or the works of fiction which go by that name), to know whether I should laud up to the skies, and endeavor, to the best of my small capabilities, to imitate the... 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...

CHAPTER IBALLAD CHARACTERISTICS 'Layés that in harpingBen y-found of ferli thing;Sum beth of wer, and sum of wo,Sum of joye and mirthe also;And sum of treacherie and gile;Of old aventours that fell while;And sum of bourdes and ribaudy;And many ther beth of faëry,—Of all things that men seth;Maist o' love forsoth they beth.' The Lay of the Ash. Who would set forth to explore the realm of our Ballad Literature needs not to... more...