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In proposing to give an account of the Rise and Progress of English Literature within the space of some three hundred pages, it is desirable—in order to avoid misconception, and perhaps in a measure to anticipate certain not unreasonable objections to books of brief compass-that the precise nature of the account here intended should be clearly defined ; and that both what it includes and what it does not include should be plainly set forth. And, first, as to what it does not include. Inviting as it might be to swell this Introduction with promises, it must at the outset be admitted that original research and a philosophic plan do not come within its scheme. To trace the growth and development of those great latent forces which have determined the direction and the course of English Literature to recount its history,' and 'to seek in it for the psychology of the people,' must be left to larger and more ambitious works. In this it is simply designed to give a concise and, as a rule, chronological record of the principal English authors, noting the leading characteristics of their productions, and, where necessary, the prominent events of their lives. Its primary object is to assist those whose time and opportunities are restricted ;--an object prescribing very definite limits. But, within these limits, care has been taken to make the dates and facts as accurate as possible, to verify all statements from trustworthy sources, and, as far as is consistent with its plan, to avert the charge of superficiality. In other words, cursory though the work must necessarily be in many respects, the compiler has endeavoured, as far as it goes, to render it exact in detail and particulars, and to make it, if possible, better than the engagement of his title-page. "A meane Argument,' writes Ascham in The Scholemaster, 'may easelie beare the light burden of a small faute, and haue alwaise at hand a ready excuse for ill handling : And, some praise it is, if it so chaunce, to be better in deede, than a man dare venture to seeme.'
The Divisions or Chapters, in which the book is arranged, are shown so clearly in the foregoing table of Contents that it would be superfluous to repeat them here. The reader is warned, however, that they are not scientific, but conventional :--not adopted because our national literature can, in the author's opinion, be unalterably pigeon-holed in the compartments in question ; but because it has been found easier and more convenient to class them in this manner. With a view to curtail mere lists of lesser names, & number of the least important have been consigned to a Dictionary Appendix ; and in illustration of those portions of the earlier chapters which deal with the formation of the language, a few Extracts are printed at the end of the volume. As exhibiting, even in an imperfect degree, the structure of English at different periods, these passages may not be without interest ; but they can scarcely be regarded as typical samples of the literary quality of the works from which they are taken. For such, the student is referred to some of the professed collections of longer specimens, or, better still, to the authors themselves. A great writer,' it has been aptly said, 'does not reveal himself here and there, but everywhere. To be studied to any good purpose, he can only be studied as a whole.
FROM A.D. 600 TO THE NORMAN CONQUEST.
1. THE COMING OF THE ENGLISH.-2. THE OLD ENGLISH LANGUAGE, ITS DIA.
LECTS AND VERSIFICATION.-3. THE EPIC POETRY.-4. THE INTRODUCTION
1. The Coming of the English.-There is a strange appropriateness in the fact that the poem which perhaps contains the oldest verse of the wide-spread English race should be a record of wanderings. It bears the name of Widsit—the Far-Journeyer.
Always wandering with a hungry heart,' this old English scóp, like Tennyson's Ulysses, could not rest from travel,' and in the bald lines of his verse he 'unlocks his word-hoard' to tell how he had
travelled through strange lands, and learnt Of good and evil in the spacious world,
Parted from home friends and his kindred dear. · These 'home friends' were those of the mainland, for the poem in its earliest portions goes back * to the days when the English tribes dwelt on and near the Cimbrian peninsula. To this day between the Fiord of Flensborg and the river Slei in East Sleswig the little district of Angelo preserves the name of the Angles; northward were the Jutes, while to the south along the coast and
As to the conflicting views in regard to the date of Widsid, see Stopford Brooke's History of Early English Literature, 1893, i. 323–326.