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JUSTLY EMINENT AS SCHOLAR, TEACHER, AND WRITER AND AS CONSTANT AND GENEROUS
IN FRIENDSHIP AS HE IS
The present collection is intended to serve as a supplement to a general course in the history of English literature, from its beginnings to the end of the Victorian era. With our modern methods of teaching, which insist upon some knowledge of the works of the authors, in addition to the study of literary history and biography, collections of this kind have become almost indispensable. In the rapid survey of the whole extent of English literary history, which is often undertaken before any careful and minute study of an especial author, or period, or literary form, is begun, the student is apt to find himself confused and discouraged by references to authors whose names mean nothing to him, and to works with whose very titles he is unfamiliar. Many of the books referred to are expensive, or, for some other reason, not readily accessible; 1 some of these are only obtainable in an English which repels him by its strangeness, or which he finds wholly unintelligible. In any case, to master all of the works mentioned in such a general course would be the labor not of a college year, but of a life time. Even if it were possible, such
a omnivorous reading would be far from desirable in this early stage of literary study. One whose immediate purpose is to fix clearly in his mind the topography of a whole continent, who seeks to see distinctly the general trend of its coast-line, the general disposition of its great mountain ranges, its rivers, and its plains, will do well to disregard for the time the windings of some obscure and tributary stream. The familiar words of Bacon have lost none of their force by frequent repetition: “Some books are to be read only in parts; others to be read, but not curiously; and some few to be read wholly, and with diligence and attention.” A few pages are enough to give one a very fair notion of the general character of the AngloSaxon Chronicle, and a chapter or two of Bede's Ecclesiastical History will at least help to make that book something more than a disembodied title, and clothe it with the form and substance of reality. That such a method of approach is, and should be, a mere preliminary to fuller studies, is obvious enough: that it is a wise, almost a necessary, preliminary, few sensible persons will, I think, be disposed to deny.
To represent a vast, varied, and ancient literature like the English,-a literature practically limitless, --in a book of reasonable compass, and in a manner at all adequate to the student's needs, is no easy task. The present collection is the result of more than twenty years of effort and experiment. As long ago as 1892, I published a volume containing a number of representative English masterpieces in prose and verse, with a setting of historical and biographical comment. This was followed by a collection of Standard English Poems, from Spenser to Tennyson; a companion book of Standard English Prose, from Bacon to Stevenson; and a collection of Early English Poems, translated or modernized in collaboration with Dr. J. Duncan Spaeth, of Princeton University. The three books last named have been used freely in the making of the present collection; but while many of the old selections have been retained, I have taken advantage of this opportunity for revision and rearrangement, so that the present book is not a more consolidation
1 Rolle's Pricks of Conscience, is a glaring example of a book which is constantly referred to, and practically very difficult to procure. I know several large libraries that have not a single copy of it in any form, and have, so far, been unable to secure one.