The present work is intended for such students as have already an elementary knowledge of the main facts of English history, and aims at meeting their needs by the use of plain language on the one hand, and by the avoidance, on the other hand, of that multiplicity of details which is apt to overburden the memory.
At the close of the book I have treated the last eleven years, 1874 to 1885, in a manner which precludes all expression of my own views, either on the characters of the actors or on the value of the work performed by them; and something of the same reticence will be observed in the pages dealing with the years immediately preceding 1874. We have not the material before us for the formation of a final judgment on many points arising in the course of the narrative, and it is therefore better to abstain from the expression of decided opinion, except on matters so completely before the public as to leave no room for hesitation. Especially is this rule to be observed in a book addressed to those who are not yet at an age when independent investigation is possible.
I hope it will be understood that in my mention of various authors I have had no intention of writing a history of literature, however brief. My object has been throughout to exhibit that side of literature which connects itself with the general political or intellectual movement of the country, and to leave unnoticed the purely literary or scientific qualities of the writers mentioned. This will explain, for instance, the total omission of the name of Roger Bacon, and the brief and, if regarded from a different point of view, the very unsatisfactory treatment of writers like Dickens and Thackeray.
Those of my readers who have complained that no maps were to be found in the book may now be referred to a 'School Atlas of English History,' recently edited by me for Messrs. Longmans & Co. To include an adequate number of maps in this volume would have increased its size beyond all fitting limits.
In the spelling of Indian names I have not adopted the modern and improved system of transliteration. Admirable as it is when used by those who are able to give the right sound to each letter, it only leads to mispronunciation in the mouths of those who are, as most of the readers of this volume will be, entirely in the dark on this point. The old rough method of our fathers at least ensures a fair approximation to the true pronunciation.
My warmest thanks are due to Mr. George Nutt, of Rugby, and to the Rev. W. Hunt. Mr. Nutt not only looked over the proof-sheets up to the death of Edward I. with excellent results, but gave me most valuable advice as to the general arrangement of the book, founded on his own long experience of scholastic teaching. The Rev. W. Hunt looked over a considerable portion of the remaining proof-sheets, and called my attention to several errors and omissions which had escaped my eye.
The illustrations have been selected by Mr. W. H. St. John Hope, Assistant-Secretary of the Society of Antiquaries. He wishes to acknowledge much valuable assistance given to him in the choice of portraits by George Scharf, Esq., C.B., F.S.A., who is recognised as the highest authority on the subject.
I am indebted to Her Majesty the Queen for permission to engrave two of the portraits appearing in the following pages—viz., those of Bishop Fisher, on p....