Page images





[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors]





The following articles in this volume are copyright, 1901, by J. B. LIPPINCOTT COMPANY in the United States of America :

From the Beginnings till after the Norman Conquest. By Stopford A. Brooke.
Middle English Literature to “The Arthurian Legend," page 35. By Alfred William Pollard.
Chaucer. By Alfred William Pollard.
William Caxton. By Alfred William Pollard.
The English Bible. By Alfred William Pollard.
Elizabethan and Jacobean Literature. By Edmund Gosse.
Edmund Spenser to the poem “ April,” page 298. By Edmund Gosse.
William Shakespeare. By Sidney Lee.
The Ballads, Scottish and English, to the fourth paragraph on page 524, beginning “Several ballads,” etc.

By Andrew Lang.
The Civil War and the Commonwealth. By Samuel R. Gardiner.
The Restoration. By A. H. Bullen.
John Dryden to “I. Dryden's Poems,” page 797. By George Saintsbury.

[ocr errors]


HEN Ælfred was


For it is not by reason of the vast numbers king of Wessex, it seemed as of those who speak it, or of the other myriads if the Danes were to blot out for whom it is a second vernacular, an innot only the English power dispensable lingua franca, that English claims but the English tongue, and rank amongst languages, but in virtue of the put Danish in the place thoughts that breathe and burn in English

of English throughout these words. English literature is in the fullest islands. The same Ælfred who made the first sense of the term a great literature; the Cyclopædia of earlier English song and story English pen

English pen has been mightier than the saved the English land and folk and speech English sword or the English steam-engine. from Danish thraldom. The English language Is it the irony of history that in the nation held its own when, later, Danish kings did of shopkeepers one singer after another should rule the land; it showed its irrepressible vitality be found endowed with a double portion of during three centuries of depression under the spirit of poesy? And if it be said Norman-French supremacy, and triumphantly as often it is said that we are the most reasserted itself in greater flexibility and vigour materialistic nation on the face of the earth, than before. The area of its currency has we have a cloud of witnesses to the contrary : grown with the political and commercial sway of our divines, our sages, our poets, our storythe people who speak it. In Ælfred's time the tellers, our men of science, our historians, have Low Dutch dialects called English, and spoken uttered in our tongue words which the world by a few hundred thousand islanders, were un- will not willingly let die. It is no dream known outside the island.

Queen Elizabeth indeed that the other sheaves have made ruled scarcely three million subjects, many of obeisance to our sheaf; Shakespeare is not whom were not of English speech; while to the only Englishman who has won the willing many more in the north and west, who heard homage of the world. it or essayed to read it, Shakespeare's literary In that vast English library which has been London dialect was barely intelligible. And steadily growing for fourteen hundred years, now English, with no essential differences, is there is happily much that concerns us not, the mother-tongue of more than a hundred and much that is no part of our national inheritance. twenty millions of men and women, scattered There are more than enough of books that are over all the quarters of the planet. Some no books, of literature that does not deserve the fifty millions of Britons at home and abroad name, of poems that are not poetry, of prose rule about a fourth of the inhabitants of the which is a mere waste of weary words. Even globe. In the United States the daughter so, of English books new and old that it is nation now reckons her seventy-five millions, worth our while to know, or know about, there mainly of British stock, and, with trifling ex- are many more than would suffice for a lifeceptions, all of English speech. To multitudes time of hard reading. British publications mulof the darker-skinned subjects of the British tiply by thousands in a year, and American crown, English is only less familiar than their volumes at an almost equal rate. The flood, own vernaculars, and English literature a main constantly swelling, threatens to engulf even

instrument of education English is becoming the strongest swimmer. Year by year the © more and more the language of commerce need becomes greater for an approved mentor,

among men of all kindreds. And the writings a comprehensive guide; and such a Vadeof English authors, now read and studied by

Dr Robert Chambers devised and the educated of all races, are an element of called, not unjustly, a CycloPÆDIA OF ENGLISH culture in every civilised country.

LITERATURE, the first of its kind in Britain.

[ocr errors]




plan greatly more comprehensive verse ; and “The Autocrat of the Breakfastthan the time-honoured Elegant Extracts of Table' had made but a few desultory efforts in Vicesimus Knox, this Cyclopædia of English literature. Howells was an infant, and Henry Literature — like all the old cyclopædias James was not yet born. A vast proportion of systematic and not alphabetic, and following what gives character to modern letters had not the chronological order as obviously the only yet been written or thought out. Upper and practicable one- :---aimed to give a conspectus Lower Canada had just been united, the New of our literature by a series of extracts from Zealand Company had only begun to plant the more memorable authors set in a bio- the colony, and the first great rush of free graphical and critical history of the literature settlers had not yet given promise of the future itself. Dr Chambers laid the plan in 1841, and Commonwealth of Australia. for realising it secured the help of his friend Sixty years after Dr Chambers and Dr Dr Robert Carruthers of Inverness. The out- Carruthers addressed themselves to their task, come of their joint labours, which began to we stand in a new century, and, as regards appear before the close of 1842, was completed literature, in a new world. In the new edition, in two volumes in 1844, and was brought down of which the first volume now appears, the to date and reprinted in 1858. It was revised essential plan has been retained. The aim and extended under the charge of Dr Carruthers has been to carry that plan out even more in 1876; and a fourth reissue, again incorpo- perfectly, and to make the new work more rating new matter, took place a dozen years fully representative of our present and past later. But a keener interest in our older litera- literary history at the commencement of the ture and a fuller knowledge of it, new facts, Twentieth Century than the first edition was new theories, and new light on a thousand for the middle of the Nineteenth. Neither then points, the increasing supply of new materials now has a pedantic attempt been made for selection, the continued activity of accepted to draw a hard-and-fast line between what is authors, the rise of new and brilliant stars, and by right and what is not a part of pure or all that is implied in the unabated continuity national literature, and to include only what of the literary life of the nation, have rendered wholly approves itself before the strictest necessary a much more thorough-going revision canons of the higher criticism of the day. and reconstruction; a completely new edition The selection was made on a more catholic, is imperatively demanded.

comprehensive, and historical plan: nobody 'Tis sixty years since-just sixty years since being excluded whom the general consensus of Dr Chambers began work on the first edition. the ages has adjudged worthy of remembrance. Coleridge had then been dead for half-a-dozen In literature more than in most things human years, but Southey was still laureate and die Weltgeschichte ist das Weltgericht, history Wordsworth was in vigorous health. Tennyson is the supreme and final judge; in the end it had not yet published those two volumes that is the best books that live. gave him a secure place amongst English poets. John Ruskin, Charles Kingsley, and Matthew Our enterprise has a quite definite aim, and Arnold were still at Oxford, and William Morris from the nature of the case its scope is limited was a schoolboy. Marian Evans, at Griff, had-severely limited by the boundlessness of as yet no literary ambitions, and George Mere- the materials with which it deals. It is not, dith had not sent his first contribution to and is not meant to be, an anthology of the Chambers's Journal. Macaulay was M.P. for perfect models of our prose and verse, a Edinburgh, but had not published his Lays chrestomathy of purple patches, a collection or begun his History. The reputation Carlyle of elegant extracts. The acknowledged gem had made by the French Revolution was but five should be there, if the man is mainly known years old, Thackeray's first volume was lately by some one noble passage, one sonnet, one published, and Dickens had issued only a very song, one aphorism or sententious saying; but few of the long series of his stories. Darwin something there should be, as a rule, to illushad not yet put on paper the first rough sketch trate his average achievement, the standard by of his evolution theory, and Huxley was a which he may fairly be judged. Nor does the young medical student. Emerson was hardly work profess to be a marrow of our literature, known in England; Longfellow and Lowell or to give the spirit and quintessence of the had each published but one volume of original | several authors; still less does it aim to


render its readers independent of the authors Johnson will no longer have a hundred and themselves or relieve them from the duty and thirty pages intercalated between the sections pleasure of studying the original works. In no devoted to him, nor Scott more than two case will one rise from articles of ours flattering hundred pages ; each author is presented conhimself that now he knows his author and may tinuously and once for all. Reference is consider that subject settled. What we give

further facilitated by improved typography. him is little more than a catalogue raisonné, The historical surveys prefixed to the several an illustrated conspectus, a finger-post to the sections are entirely new, and so are a large best books, a guide to that of which he is in proportion of the critical and biographical search, to what he needs, to what will interest articles; a larger number have been almost him, to what he can read with pleasure and entirely rewritten ; no single article remains as profit. The very shortness and fewness of the it was, historical facts having been verified excerpts is a security that they shall only be and corrected, and critical judgments carefully taken as samples; they are meant to whet the reconsidered. In very many cases the illusappetite, to stimulate curiosity, to be stepping- trative extracts are all different from those stones to the veritable books.

formerly given ; where the passages in the old The essential plan of the original Cyclopædia

issue seemed well suited for the purpose in of English Literature, approved by generations hand, they have been scrupulously verified, and, of diligent readers and the testimonies of many

in the case of the more interesting authors, who have themselves earned the best right to a rule extended and added to. There testify, has been adhered to and developed. has been a constant effort to secure passages The extension from two to three volumes of like interesting in themselves, and least likely to size has made room for the much-required addi- suffer through separation from their context. tion of new materials in all sections of the work. Appropriating a famous classification, we trust Old English literature, formerly discussed in there may in our three volumes be found no three pages, now occupies more than ten times passages that are not for some reason worth the

space; Middle English has no longer only reading at least once, few that are worth readsome twenty pages allotted to it, but ninety. ing once but once only, far more that are In the first volume alone over fifty authors not worth at least two or three readings in a lifenamed or hardly named in the older issues are time, and very many that are worth reading treated-shortly, but it is hoped fairly-and again and again for ever. illustrated by selections from their works : The work of the editorial staff has been much Roper and Cranmer, Sir Thomas North and more largely supplemented than formerly by Philemon Holland, Florio and Zachary Boyd, contributions or series of contributions from Gervase Markham and Kenelm Digby, William the admirably competent pens of writers of Prynne and Samuel Rutherford. Thomas Cam- approved authority, as from Dr Stopford pion, who had been forgotten by the world, Brooke, Professor Bradley, Professor Hume is now in his rightful place; Aubrey, formerly Brown, Mr A. H. Bullen, Mr Austin Dobson, dismissed in a sentence or two, is now repre- Dr Samuel R. Gardiner, Mr Gosse, Professor sented by a series of characteristic paragraphs. W. P. Ker, Mr Lang, Dr T. S. Law, Mr And as it is profitable not merely for the relief Sidney Lee, Mr A. W. Pollard, Professor of contrast but for our insight into progress and Saintsbury, Mr Gregory Smith, Dr William decadence to glance at the handiwork of the Wallace, and others whose names will be found eccentric, the hopelessly mediocre, and even appended to their articles. American authors those justly or unjustly condemned to the lower will, in the second and third volumes, contricircles of literary lost souls, the Ogilbys and the bute articles on American men of letters and Flecknoes, the Stanyhursts and the Drunken their works. Barnabys, Coryate's Crudities and Boorde's In this first volume old English literature as Peregrinations, are treated as having their part a whole and all the writers who used to be in our literary history. Additions and changes called Anglo-Saxon-Cadmon, Bæda, Ælfred, of all kinds are innumerable.

and the rest—are dealt with by Dr Stopford The inconvenient arrangement by which an Brooke. Mr A. W. Pollard has charged himauthor was dealt with

as poet, dramatist, self with Middle English and almost all the novelist, essayist, and historian in separate writers down to Reformation times-Layamon, sections of the work has been departed from. the Ormulum, the Chronicles and Romances,

« PreviousContinue »