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THE present work, the first of its kind in Great Britain, was originally published in 1843. It was designed and commenced by the late Dr ROBERT CHAMBERS-always zealous and indefatigable, as he was successful, in the promotion of literature and public improvement. The work was undertaken for the purpose of supplying what was considered a deficiency in the literature addressed at that time to the great body of the people—namely, a chronological series of extracts from our national authors —a concentration of the best productions of English intellect, from Anglo-Saxon to recent times, set, as it were, in a popular biographical history of our literature. Great efforts had previously been made for the diffusion of useful knowledge, and for popularising scientific information; but there was no work, at once cheap and comprehensive, which sought to bring the treasures of imaginative and historical literature within the reach of the busy mercantile and industrial classes of society. This CYCLOPÆDIA, which aimed at supplying the want, was received with great favour, both in this country and in America. Gratifying proofs of its usefulness have been received from various quarters and from numerous readers, who have acknowledged that their earliest love of literature, and their veneration for our great authors from CHAUCER to WORDSWORTH, were first called forth by the successive monthly parts of this work.
After the lapse of fifteen years, during which literature and literary information had greatly increased, a Second Edition of the CYCLOPÆDIA was issued, bringing it down to the year 1858. This edition also was highly successful.
A further interval of eighteen years having taken place, a Third Edition is now offered to the public, carefully revised, continuing the extracts and biographical notices to the present time. One distinguishing feature of this period has been the advance in American literature. The New World has nobly vindicated its claim to be associated with the Old in the arts which dignify and adorn social life; and there only wants an international law of copyright to completely assimilate and do equal justice to British and American authors.
It would have been impossible to have rendered the present work as complete as it now appears, without the sanction of living authors and publishers, proprietors of copyrights; and the great liberality and courtesy with which permission to make extracts has been granted, demands the grateful acknowledgments of the Editor and Publishers. It remains to be added that, for the revision of the second and third editions of the work, we have been indebted to ROBERT CARRUTHERS, LL.D., of Inverness, whose excellent literary knowledge and taste are conspicuously observable in the present improved edition.
W. & R. C.
EDINBURGH, March 1876.
CONTENTS OF FIRST VOLUME.
FROM THE EARLIEST TIMES TO 1400 A.D.
SONG, 'Summer is Coming in'-Squire of Low Degree..
ANDREW WYNTOUN (died after 1420)..
Macbeth and the Weird Sisters..
St Serf and Satan....
JOHN FORDUN (died about 1385).
SIR JOHN DE MANDEVILLE (circa 1300-1372)..
The Beginning of Mohammed..
Lecture on Christian Vices
JOHN DE TREVISA (translator, 1387)
JOHN WYCLIFFE (1324-1384).
Gospel of St Mark, chap. i.....
The Mendicant Friars.
Extracts from Piers the Plowman
The Monk, Friar, Franklin, Wife of Bath, Poor Parson
JOHN LELAND (circa 1506-1552), and GEORGE CAVENDISH
The Nurse to Romeus..
Epistle to the Countess of Cumberland..
Richard II. the Morning before his Murder.
WILLIAM SHAKSPEARE (1564-1616)..
Morning-The Sun-Plurality of Worlds.
Raleigh's Verses before his Execution.
Passions are likened best to Floods and Streams.
JOHN MARSTON (died about 1634), THOMAS CHURCHYARD
Sonnets by THOMAS WATSON...
Picture of Court-life..
JOHN WEBSTER (early half of 17th century)..