Page images

ten centuries of English literature prior to the eighteenth, the materials in most American libraries are far less abundant, and from many of them are to a lamentable extent wanting.

Accordingly, in this Manual -- which herein retains the general plan adopted in the “ First Sketch ” — the first ten centu

ries are treated with the greater fulness of detail; while, beginning with the eighteenth century, and coming down to the very border of the present year, the narrative, though embracing a still larger throng of names, grows less and less minute, and becomes finally a mere outline, - guiding the student, indeed, to all the great forms of recent English literature, and to the names of the chief writers who have illustrated each form, but leaving to the student the pleasure and the gain of filling in the sketch by studies which he can easily make for himself, and in which he will be sure to reap an ample reward both in knowledge and in delight.

It is of the utmost importance, even in the use of a textbook on English literature, that students should be saved from lapsing into a passive and listless attitude toward the subject, and should be so skilfully steered in their work that they may come to know for themselves the exhilaration of original research. If I may refer to my own experience as a teacher, I would say that in my introductory course upon English literature - įn which course only do I use a text-book — I have found it a great advantage, while my pupils were engaged in reciting from the text-book upon the earlier periods of English literature, to parcel out among them, for direct study in the library, the most celebrated works in prose and poetry belonging to the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries ; with the understanding that each student, in his turn, is to have the opportunity of reporting upon the topic assigned to him, as it shall be reached by the class in the regular process


of the work. For some such method, this Manual is particu-
larly adapted.
It is my carnest hope that this book may prove to be the

among others developed originally in this country, as well as drawn hither from England, France, and Germany of giving a healthy impulse and guidance to the study of English literature in America ; and it has occurred to me that many readers of the present volume may be glad to have here a few words respecting the noble-minded English scholar and writer to whom they are chiefly indebted for it.

[ocr errors]

Henry Morley was born in London in 1822, and received his education at the Moravian school of Neuwied-on-the-Rhine, and at King's College, London. In 1844, at Madeley, in Shropshire, he began professional life as a physician. After four years of medical practice, he yielded to the strong bent of his nature toward educational work, and established near Liverpool a school to be conducted on an original method, which proved very successful, and of which he subsequently published a description. In 1851, he reluctantly abandoned this school, in oriler to enter upon an active literary career in London. He at once became associated with Charles Dickens in the editorial management of “Household Words," and so continued for six years. Near the end of that time, he joined the staff of “ The Examiner," of which he was the editor-in-chief from 1859 to 1864. Two years before he attained the latter position, he also became lecturer on English literature in King's College. In 1865, he was made professor of English literature in University College, London, — his immediate predecessors in that office

being David Masson and Arthur Hugh Clough. He still retains his professorship in University College ; but, in 1870, he added to its duties those of examiner in English language, literature, and history, to the University of London.

During this long period of activity, first as physician, then as educator and journalist, he has likewise been a diligent student, and a prolific writer. The versatility of his literary labors is something notable. His interest in questions relating to sanitary science has been shown in many separate papers upon the subject, and especially in two books : “ Tracts upon Health for Cottage Circulation,” 1847; and “How to Make Home Unhealthy," 1850. In poetry, and in prose fiction, he has published “ The Dream of the Lily Bell," 1845 ;

• Sunrise in Italy," 1847; and two volumes of “Fairy-Tales," 1859 and 1860. In biography, his publications are many and important: “ Life of Bernard Palissy of Saintes,” two volumes, 1852 ; “ Life of Jerome Cardan," 1854; “Life of Henry Cornelius Agrippa," 1856; “Clément Marot, and Other Studies," 1871. In 1851, his attention to certain educational problems was shown in a book entitled “ A Defence of Ignorance.” In 1866, he compressed into a book his special work as a dramatic critic: “ The Journal of a London Playgoer from 1857 to 1866.”

It is, however, in the immense field of English literary history and criticism that his principal work has lain; and in this field, also, he takes eminent rank among living English authors, both for the range and minuteness of his researches, and for the value of the books which those researches have enabled him to produce. Besides his “ First Sketch of English Literature," he has published “Gossip and Memoirs of Bartholomew Fair," 1857; “ The Spectator,” original and corrected texts, with introduction and notes, 1868; “Tables of English Literature," and - Notes of Literature," 1870; “Shorter English Poems,

“ from the Earliest Period to the Present Time,” “ Illustrations of English Religion,” and “The English Drama,” – the last three books having appeared within the last two or three years. All of these works, numerous and extended as many of them


are, may be regarded as but incidental productions when compared with the one great literary task of his life, expressed in his " English Writers." of this work, Vol. I., Part I., “The Celts and Anglo-Saxons," and Vol. I., Part II., “From the Conquest to Chaucer," appeared in 1864; while Vol. II., Part I., " From Chaucer to Dunbar,"' appeared in 1867.

I must not close this Preface without recording here some grateful, even if inadequate, mention of the painstaking and generous assistance I have received, while this book has been passing through the press, from my friend and associate, Professor Isaac N. Demmon. In many important ways the book has been improved by his good taste, his trained literary judgment, and his wide and accurate scholarship.


June 3, 1879,

« PreviousContinue »