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FROM THE TWELFTH CENTURY TO
THE PRESENT DAY
M.A. OXON; HON, LL.D. ABERD. ; HON, D.LITT. DURH. ; PROFESSOR OF RHETORIC AND
ENGLISH LITERATURE IN THE UNIVERSITY OF EDINBURGH
Not many prefatory words are, I think, necessary to this volume. I have indeed to acknowledge, with the most sincere thanks, the gratifying and almost unhoped-for approval given by some competent and impartial critics to the first. Unfavourable comment seems to have very mainly reduced itself either to a reiteration of the views which prefer German theory to English fact, or to an amplification of the argument, “I know and care very little about this subject ; therefore nobody has any business to write a book, and especially a big book, on it.” This latter syllogism is perhaps a little inconclusive ; at any rate, I do not propose to rebut it. Nor would it be of much use to cope directly with those whose prejudices against classical nomenclature and quantitative valuation lead them to deny the possibility of “scanning' Shakespeare and Milton. It is better to disprove the impossibility by the simple expedient of going and doing it. As for the objection, which has actually been made, that this book will not make poets : I can only say, “God forbid that it should attempt to do so !"
One point, however, is of too much importance to be wholly omitted. A reviewer in The Guardian (of whom I have no complaint to make on the whole, and who seemed, indeed, to be not so much dissatisfied with my prosodic conclusions as shocked at my Chaucerian heresies) commented on the note at vol. i. p. 299– respecting the more than probable unconsciousness of early