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“Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested. That is, some books are to be read only in parts; others, to be read, but not curiously; and some few to be read wholly, and with diligence and attention. Some books also may be read by deputy, and extracts made of them by others. Reading maketh a full man; conference, a ready man; and writing, an exact man. And therefore, if a man write little, he had need have a great memory; if he confer little, he had need have a present wit ; and if he reads little, he had need have much running, to seem to know that he doth not. Histories make men wise ; poets, witty; the mathematics, subtle ; natural philosophy, deep; moral, grave; logic and rhetoric, able to contend."
The American Educational Series.
TYPICAL SELECTIONS FROM SOME OF THE BEST
BRITISH AND AMERICAN AUTHORS,
FROM SHAKESPEARE TO THE PRESENT TIME,
Chronologically Arranged ;
WITH BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SKETCHES,
AND NUMEROUS NOTES,
NEW YORK AND CHICAGO :
Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1874,
BY IVISON, BLAKEMAN, TAYLOR, & co., in the Office of the Librarian of Congress, at Washington.
894 C362 Ejve, Psych.
The compiler of this work has not designed to make a compendium of English Literature, but to provide the means of acquiring a fair knowledge of that literature, for those who may not be able to procure a regular course of study on the subject. So far as gradation is concerned, the book is intended to fill the place usually occupied by the “ Sixth” “ Advanced” Reader. The extracts will be found of suitable length, and in other respects well adapted, it is hoped, for this purpose. In the ordinary catalogue of common-school studies literature, practically, holds but a humble place: its value to the mass of scholars has been underestimated, and it has been esteemed a branch of knowledge really useful only to the few who aspire to a liberal education." Public sentiment has fortunately undergone a change touching this matter, within a few years; and in the hope of furthering that change and confirming literature in its true place among school studies, this book has been prepared. The people of the United States are, above all others, a nation of readers, and no thoughtful person need be told how potent in the formation of character and in the shaping of the national life is the influence of books. The rapid increase of our schools in numbers and efficiency, the multiplication of public libraries, and the ever-growing volume of new publications, indicate beyond the possibility of doubt that, practical people though we are, we find in books the chief source of our intelligence and national strength. Books embody the accumulated wisdom of ages; in them we have the garnered experience of centuries long past; in them we find, so to speak, formulas for our guidance, precedents in the conduct of our fathers, which time has stamped with the validity of rules. Human nature is, in effect, unchanged since the earliest days of the world; and the record of its thought and manifestations, which consti
tutes the history of civilization, is the most precious inheritance that could have come down to us. The literature of a nation is its history in the subtlest form; and he who intelligently reads it apprehends the spirit of the time, while history itself gives him only results. Literature is, indeed, the most faithful expression of the national spirit, which seems to inspire and inform it; and the reader of this volume can readily trace in the chronologically arranged extracts from her writers the many stages that mark the vicissitudes of England's thought: religion, politics, general culture, all disclose their changing features in the theology, the poetry, and the drama of succeeding centuries.
English Literature, it is hardly necessary to say, antedates the time at which our extracts begin. Its birth is generally assigned to the last half of the fourteenth century. Three chief forces produced it, - classical learning, the influence of Italian culture, and Norman poetry, known as Romance literature, which was gradually introduced into England after the Conquest. But of this period — and of the earlier centuries to which belong the Saxon poem of Beowulf, Caedmon's paraphrase of Scripture, the Ecclesiastical History of the Venerable Bede (who lived 673 – 735), Layamon's "Brut," the metrical Chronicle of Robert of Gloucester, etc., etc. — it has been thought best to reproduce in this volume no representative fragments, for the reason that these archaic writings are valuable only to the professed scholar. The same reason operates, less powerfully indeed, to exclude specimens of Chaucer's poems. He was, it is true, the founder of English literature, and the first who demonstrated that the English language was susceptible of forcible and harmonious arrangement in rhythmical form. But his writings present serious obstacles to the ordinary reader in their multitude of obsolete words and phrases, and an acquaintance with them may properly follow the study of more modern writers. Moreover, the reform which he inaugurated in letters was not steadily progressive. The century immediately following his life was notably barren of literary growth; a barrenness mainly due to the stern repression of free inquiry by the ecclesiastical authorities, and secondarily to the prevalence of civil wars, which diverted attention from the peaceful pursuit of letters. Near the close of this century, however, printing was introduced into England, as if in preparation for the season of intellectual activity which was near at hand. This season is known as the Elizabethan age, the reign of Queen Elizabeth, and has been called the creative period in English literature.