Page images

judgment and description, general and particular, in the following pages to be, unless the contrary is stated, based on original reading and thought. My dates and my biographical facts I take for the most part from others; and though I shall be glad (after verification) to make any correction, I shall not feel deeply convinced of sin if it turns out that I have dated this poet's Tears of Melancholy in March 1593, when the true date is May 1595 ; or asserted that that poet's grandmother was Joan Smith, who is buried at Little Peddlington, instead of Jane Smith, who was married at Kennaquhair. These things, interesting perhaps and sometimes valuable in their own way, are but ancillary, if even that, to the history of literature in the proper and strict sense; and it is the history of literature in the proper and strict sense with which I have to deal.

As to my manner of dealing with it, that, I suppose, must be left to the appreciation of the reader. Being strongly convinced that in order to understand the literary history of a period it is necessary to study the minor as well as the major illustrations of it, I have given what some may think disproportionate space to authors who have seldom before found much if any room in succinct histories of the kind ; and I have endeavoured rather to map out the country carefully than to write about it brilliantly. In regard to the extracts which, though they curtail the available space somewhat, it seemed, to others

besides myself, desirable to give, I have neither been afraid of a piece because it has been frequently given before, nor thought myself obliged to give it for the same

Of Shakespere, Spenser, Milton, and Bacon I have thought it best to give no extracts at all.



Difficulty of writing about Shakespere-His life-His reputation in England

and its history--Divisions of his work—The Poems—The Sonnets—The
Plays—Characteristics of Shakespere-Never unnatural— His attitude to
morality–His humour-Universality of his range-Comments on him-
His manner of working-His variety-Final remarks— Dramatists to be
grouped with Shakespere- Ben Jonson-Chapman-Marston-Dekker


« PreviousContinue »