« AnteriorContinuar »
Published November, 1914
W. F. HALL PRINTING COMPANY, CHICAGO
HIS book has been written with the conviction that it is
better to dwell upon the few great names than to hasten over the many. To study many writers may be one way of covering the field with conscientiousness, but it is also an infallible method of covering the reader with confusion when he tries to recall the details concerning the many obscure writers who long ago trod the path of dusty death. Will not less confusion arise, will not both pleasure and profit be greater, if the emphasis be placed upon the few? To be ignorant of Crabbe, Crashaw, Suckling, and Blake, may be of discredit to the specialist in literature, but neither the general reader nor the college student feels any embarrassment when the public discovers his ignorance of these worthies. But the teacher of literature, after his class has made a rapid survey of the whole field of English literature, is almost painfully embarrassed to learn from his students that Byron was blind, that Keats wrote the Adonis when under the influence of opium, and that Browning's Ring and the Book is based on Malory's Morte d'Arthur. He then asks himself whether it is not better to learn a few things well, or many things about the few greatest writers, than to attempt to learn so many details about the relatively unimportant?
Interest, like appetite, grows by what it feeds on. To know well the twenty great masters I have selected is likely to produce an interest that shall forever enrich and enlarge the life of the student. The great purpose of any book about literature and the makers of literature is to lead the reader to the literature itself. But to know that literature one should know the men who produced it, their philosophy of life, their limitations and aspirations, and the spirit of the age in which they lived and worked. It is hoped that this book may be one of many modern influences
in awakening, stimulating, and maintaining an interest in those great masters whose works have become the priceless heritage of all the English-speaking peoples.
No two men would likely agree on the twenty most important names in English literature. I acknowledge my choice has been made somewhat arbitrarily, but it has been made with deliberation. I have used my best judgment as influenced by a variety of reasons. I hesitate to exclude Spenser, Jonson, Bunyan, DeFoe, Addison, Fielding, Lamb, Macaulay, Stevenson, to name but a few, but to carry out my plan there had to be exclusion of even great writers. The title, Masters of English Literature, does not assume that these twenty are the only masters.
An “Introductory” chapter is included so as to present a very brief survey of the whole field of English literature At the end of each chapter there is a list of books and magazine articles. It is hoped that these reference lists will be especially helpful to those who wish to make a fuller study of the author. Instead of inserting separate chapters on the literary movements and tendencies of the age, I have included such matter in the body of the biographical and critical comment on each author.
Lest by the unthinking I may be charged with lack of appreciation of the names of Hawthorne and Longfellow, of Poe and Emerson, may I add that this book aims to cover only the British field?
EDWIN WATTS CHUBB. Ohio University.