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A.D. CHAP. TAGE
600 (?) Extract I. Opening Lines of' Beowulf
900 (?) „ II. The Acts of Severus, by King Alfred .
937 „ III. The Battle of Brunanburh.
1000 (?) „ IV. The Grave
1160 (?) „ V. Close of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle .
1200 „ VI. The Dream of Brutus, by Layamon .
1250 (?) „ VII. The Finding of Christ in the Temple, by Orm . 228
1340 (?) „ VIII. King Arthur and the Round Table, by Robert
of Brunne 229
1346 „ IX. The Battle of Neville's Cross, by Laurence
1356 „ X. The Lady of the Land, by Sir John Mandeville 231
1377 „ XI. The Description of Sloth, by William Langland 232
1380 „ XII. The Parable of the Tares m the Wheat, by John
1387 „ XIII. The Substitution of English for French, by
John of Trevisa 234
13-? „ XIV. The Vision of Philosophy, by Geoffrey Chaucer 234
1390 „ XV. The Portrait of the Schipman, by Geoffrey
1449 „ XVI. The Scheme of the 'Repressor,' by Reginald
1485 „ XVII. Sir Ector's Lament for Sir Lancelot, by Sir
Thomas Malory 237
1525 „ XVIII. The Parable of the Tares in the Wheat, by
William Tyndale 238
1535 „ XIX. A Letter from Prison, by Sir Thomas More . 238
1549 „ XX. The Bishop and Robin Hood, by Hugh Latimer 239
In proposing to give an account of the Rise and Progress of English Literature within the space of some two 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 what it includes, and what it does not include, should bo plainly set forth. And, first, as to what it does not include. Attractive as it might be to swell the preface 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 account of the princi pal English authors, noting the leading characteristics of their productions, and, where necessary, the prominent events of their lives. Like that of the other books in the series to which it belongs, its primary object is to assist those whose time and opportunities are restricted;—an object prescribing 5 B
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 reliable sources, and, as far as is consistent with its plan, to avert the charge of superficiality. In other words, cursory though it must necessarily be in many respects, the author has endeavoured, so 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,' says one of the earliest English prose writers,* ' may naselie beare the light burden of a small faute, and haue alwaise at hand a ready excuse for ill handling: And, some praise it in, if it so chaunce, to be better in deede, than a man dare venture to seeme.'
The eight Divisions or Chapters, in which the book is arranged, are shown so fully 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 it is the writer's opinion that our national literature can be unalterably pigeon-holed in the compartments in question; but be * cause, in grouping the minor round the major authors, it has been found easier to class them in this manner. With a view to curtail mere lists of lesser names, a 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 our language, a few Extracts are printed at the end of the volume. As exhibiting, in some imperfect degree, the condition of English at different periods, these last may be of interest; but can scarcely be regarded as typical samples of the works from which they are taken. Eor such, when required, the student is referred to some of the professed collections of longer specimens, f or, better still, to the authors themselves. 'A great writer,' it has been aptly said, 'does not reveal himself here and there, but everywhere;' and, to be studied to any good purpose, can only be studied as a whole.
* Bokct Aficham : The Scholemaster, 1K70 (Arber's Reprint, p. 65).
t E.g. tUe Specimen* of Early JEnglkh in the Clarendon Press Series; Hale's longer English Poeins, Payne'6 Studies in English Poetry and Studies in English Prose, etc From the useful * Introduction' to tlio last-named book we arc indebted for some assistance in our earlier pages.