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CHAPTER I NATURE AND OFFICE OF CRITICISM 1. Purpose of Literary Study. The study or reading of literature ordinarily has a threefold purpose,—knowledge, pleasure, and culture. This purpose shows us both the character of the literature which should be read and the manner in which it should be read. As a rule we should read only books of recognized excellence, and read them with sympathetic intelligence. Trashy books, whatever pleasure they... 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...

INTRODUCTION The earliest history of the Slavic nations is involved in a darkness, which all the investigations of diligent and sagacious modern historians and philologians have not been able to clear up. The analogy between their language and the Sanscrit, seems to indicate their origin from India; but to ascertain the time at which they first entered Europe, is now no longer possible. Probably this event took place seven or eight centuries... more...

CHARLOTTE BRONTË Objection is often raised against realistic biography because it reveals so much that is important and even sacred about a man's life. The real objection to it will rather be found in the fact that it reveals about a man the precise points which are unimportant. It reveals and asserts and insists on exactly those things in a man's life of which the man himself is wholly unconscious; his exact class in society, the... more...

I.   LD King Cole Was a merry old soul, And a merry old soul was he; He called for his pipe, And he called for his bowl, And he called for his fiddlers three. Every fiddler, he had a fiddle, And a very fine fiddle had he; Twee tweedle dee, tweedle dee, went the fiddlers. Oh, there's none so rare, As can compare With King Cole and his fiddlers three! [The traditional Nursery Rhymes of England commence with a legendary satire... more...


When I first met Belloc he remarked to the friend who introduced us that he was in low spirits. His low spirits were and are much more uproarious and enlivening than anybody else's high spirits. He talked into the night; and left behind in it a glowing track of good things. When I have said that I mean things that are good, and certainly not merely bons mots, I have said all that can be said in the most serious aspect about the man who has made... more...

INTRODUCTION These papers were originally published as prefaces to the separate books of Dickens in one of the most extensive of those cheap libraries of the classics which are one of the real improvements of recent times. Thus they were harmless, being diluted by, or rather drowned in Dickens. My scrap of theory was a mere dry biscuit to be taken with the grand tawny port of great English comedy; and by most people it was not taken at... more...

PRELIMINARY I The writing of this preliminary chapter, and the final survey and revision of my Whitman essay, I am making at a rustic house I have built at a wild place a mile or more from my home upon the river. I call this place Whitman Land, because in many ways it is typical of my poet,—an amphitheatre of precipitous rock, slightly veiled with a delicate growth of verdure, enclosing a few acres of prairie-like land, once the site of... more...

PREFACE What I aim at in this book is little more than to give complete reflection to those great figures in Literature which have so long obsessed me. This poor reflection of them passes, as they pass, image by image, eidolon by eidolon, in the flowing stream of my own consciousness. Most books of critical essays take upon themselves, in unpardonable effrontery, to weigh and judge, from their own petty suburban pedestal, the great Shadows they... more...

OMAR CAYENNE I Wake! For the Hack can scatter into flight Shakespere and Dante in a single Night! The Penny-a-liner is Abroad, and strikes Our Modern Literature with blithering Blight. II Before Historical Romances died, Methought a Voice from Art's Olympus cried, "When all Dumas and Scott is still for Sale, Why nod o'er drowsy Tales, by Tyros tried?" III A cock-sure Crew with Names ne'er heard before Greedily... more...