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The author's main purpose has been to write a compact yet broadly suggestive historical introduction to English literature for use by students and by general readers. The method is somewhat different from that ordinarily pursued. In the first place, direct and separate discussion of general English history has been avoided, in the belief that so brief a book on literature ought not to turn aside for a moment from its proper aim of treating great literary works, personalities, and movements. Yet opportunity has been constantly sought to suggest and imply the historical background indirectly through the literary treatment, and an outline of historical facts and movements has been furnished in the Appendix. In like spirit, biographical details have been given mainly for the sake of their significant relation to the literature. This principle has been applied with moderation and restraint and with care to avoid forcing its application to unwise extremes.
Unity has been given to the discussion by a reasonable emphasis upon the great life forces which from age to age have determined the general character of English literature, and by a continuous endeavor to illustrate the working of those forces through a discussion of leading authors and works. The purpose has been to present the spirit of the literature as well as the essential facts, the great movements as well as the individual writers.
Here again, the author has kept in mind the danger of extremes, and has sought to avoid urging general principles beyond the clear evidence of historical fact. Exceptions and indi
vidual peculiarities have been duly noted, and the aim has been to make clear the relation of each writer to the general movement, whatever that relation might be. Within such limits, the discussion of great literary impulses is fully justified, and ought to prove suggestive and stimulating as well as unifying
Each chapter marks a chronological advance on the preceding chapter, except in the last book. There, for reasons suggested in the text, the three chapters deal with three separate departments of the literature of a single period - prose, the novel, and poetry. The titles of the various books and chapters are in harmony with the purpose to make the volume a discussion of literature and literary movements rather than of general English history. Various helps to more extended study are given in an Appendix, where they may be easily referred to in connection with the treatment of each period, but where they will not interfere with the continuous reading of the text.
W. H. C.