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ELIZABETH TO VICTORIA
CHOSEN AND ARRANGED
JAMES M. GARNETT, M.A., LL.D.,
PROFESSOR OF THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE AND LITERATURE
IN THE UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA.
BOSTON, U.S.A. :
All Rights RESERVED.
TYPOGRAPHY BY J. S. CUSHING & Co., Boston, C.S.A.
PRESSWORK BY Ginn & Co., Boston, U.S.A.
A PREFACE may be expected to give the raison d'être of a book, especially of a book of selections, when one might think this business overdone. But, in the words of Leigh Hunt (Preface to Imagination and Fancy), “ The Editor has often wished for such a book himself; and as nobody will make it for him, he has made it for others,” — and for himself, I would add.
I have long wished to use with my class in English Literature Professor Minto's Manual of English Prose Literature, but I thought it useless for students to study the lives of authors and detailed criticism of their style without having in hand examples of that style of sufficient length to enable the student to form some idea of the justness of the criticism. It is true that we have two recent books of prose selections : Saintsbury's Specimens of English Prose Style from Malory to Macaulay, and Galton's English Prose from Maundeville to Thackeray, but neither of them suited my purpose. Mr. Saintsbury's book contains too many authors and too brief specimens of their style. A book containing ninety-six authors, with specimens varying from two to six pages, would not fulfil the object I had in view. But Mr. Saintsbury has prefixed to his volume an excellent essay on English Prose Style, which should be reprinted in pamphlet form for use with any book of selections. Mr. Galton's book is not liable to the above objection to the same extent, as it contains fifty-six authors, and the selections are of greater length ; but some of the authors might be omitted without much loss, and some of the selections here also are too short. I wished, moreover, to suit the selections, as far as was consistent with the object of giving a satisfactory view of the progress of English prose for the last three hundred years, to the leading authors criticised in Professor Minto's Manual, and this has been done in the main, the chief exceptions being the writers of the present century, most of whom Professor Minto has criticised all too briefly. The book may, however, be used in connection with any Manual of English Literature.
I cannot expect to satisfy everybody. Some, perhaps, will criticise omissions; others, inclusions. Reasons might be given for the choice of the authors and pieces selected, but it would prolong this Preface to too great length. I should have been glad to include more authors, but I had to bear in mind the compass of a single volume, and I fear that the book is already too bulky. This restriction has, too, prevented me from beginning earlier ; but the middle of the reign of Elizabeth was, I think, the beginning of the formation of an English prose style, as it was the beginning of our modern poetry and drama, for Lyly's Euphucs was contemporary with Spenser's Shepherd's Calendar, and Lyly's comedies were the first worthy of consideration from a literary point of view. The historical student should extend his studies at least as far back as Wyclif and Chaucer, to see English prose in the making ; but the general reader will seldom take up the prose authors before Lyly, and will need more help to interpret them.
I have appended brief notes to these selections, purposely limited to explanations of words and allusions that I thought desirable for the student, but not intended to take the place of the classical, biographical, or verbal dictionary. The labor of identifying the Latin quotations has been great, and will be appreciated by those only who have undergone similar labor. Some of the quotations have, notwithstanding, eluded my search. The book has occupied much longer time than I anticipated when it was undertaken. The proof has been read repeatedly and with great care, but as I cannot flatter myself that all errors of the press have been eliminated, I shall be obliged for information as to those detected. That the volume may contribute to acquaint the student practically with the formation of English prose style, and may prove to be a help to the teacher, is the earnest wish of the compiler.