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FOR READERS AND WRITERS
A DICTIONARY OF FAMOUS CHARACTERS AND
OPERA AND POETRY
TOGETHER WITH DATES AND PRINCIPAL
EDITED BY HENRIETTA GERWIG
This Handbook for Readers and Writers has been compiled with the needs of the general reader of present-day America constantly in mind. Other volumes of the sort (a number of which are mentioned among those below) are either lacking in recent material or have, for the most part, limited themselves to special fields, which they are able, therefore, to cover more thoroughly than a single volume of this scope may hope to do. Such claim as this Handbook has to usefulness is, on the other hand, based largely on the fact that it makes available in a single volume a wide range of material. Intended primarily for the general reader who, through necessity or inclination, is apt to have room on his library shelves for only one such reference book, it is, as the title-page indicates, “ a dictionary of famous characters and plots in legend, fiction, drama, opera and poetry, together with dates and principal works of important authors, literary and journalistic terms and familiar allusions."
The Handbook owes much to previous compilations in the same field, particularly to A Dictionary of Phrase and Fable and The Reader's Handbook by Rev. E. Cobham Brewer (d. 1897), an English clergyman, who gave to the task of their editing long years of scholarly and painstaking research. Much of the material in the Crowell's Handbook has been taken from these two huge volumes, each well over a thousand pages, the first of which (revised by Cassell since the World War) treats of mythology and popular allusion, the second of character and plot in literature. In each of these fields, but particularly the latter, the material has been subject to extremely detailed revision, much that was judged of interest to the British reader of thirty years ago has been omitted and a great deal added. Relative values shift with the passing of the years; in the revised edition of The Reader's Handbook which was on the press at Dr. Brewer's death, a bare mention was made of Adam Bede and a dozen times the space devoted to literary effusions long since forgotten by all except the student of literary curiosities. Most of the material relating to the Victorian period, therefore, as well as to more recent literature, has been newly prepared. Special attention has been given, not only to American literature and allusion, hardly touched in the British books, but to the fiction, drama and catch phrases of the present generation, for however much thumbing over the pages of old books of reference and criticism may prove the fallibility of the judgment of the hour, contemporary allusion has nevertheless a genuine value at any given moment.
Of the many other books consulted from time to time in the compilation of this Handbook, especial acknowledgment is due to the following: The Bookman's Manual by Bessie Graham; A Dictionary of English Phrases by Albert M. Hyamson; The Reader's Digest of Books by Helen Rex Keller; A Short Handbook of Literary Terms by George G. Loane; Shakespearean Synopses and Opera Synopses by J. Walker McSpadden; The American Novel and The Contemporary American Novel by Carl Van Doren; Heroes and Heroines of Fiction; Classical, Medieval, Legendary and Heroes and Heroines of Fiction; Modern Prose and