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INTRODUCTION

THERE is always an intimate connection between a country's history and its literature. If by a strange combination of circumstances we were compelled to choose between the historical records of our country and the writings of our poets, dramatists, novelists, essayists, and critics, we should perhaps prove our wisdom by relinquishing the first alternative. But such a contingency is most unlikely, and we may doubtless reckon on being able to the end of time to illustrate the work of the professional historians by the productions of those who may perhaps be called the unconscious historians of a nation's life and progress. Where can we learn better the likeness of mediæval England than in the poems of Langland and Chaucer, of mediæval Italy than in the great epic of Dante? Who reveals the secret of England's greatness under Elizabeth more clearly than Spenser and Shakespeare? And is not our knowledge of the days of Anne and the first Georges largely based on the writings of Pope, Addison, and Swift?

It is generally admitted that the most striking feature in the history of Great Britain is its vast colonial expansion. That expansion is still, and has been for some three centuries, so unique and important a factor in our national life that it has necessarily left its mark on our literature. An attempt is made in this volume, we believe for the first time, to bring together from the writings of our great authors some passages which may serve as a first-hand and contemporary commentary on the growth of Greater Britain.

An historical treatise on the expansion of England, even were it within the powers of the author, is beyond the scope of this introduction. But it will perhaps render the main contents of the volume more useful if we trace rapidly, and very generally, the story of the English colonies, in so far as is necessary for the right understanding and appreciation of the selected literary passages.

The invention of the mariner's compass made it possible for Columbus to discover America, and the success of his voyage roused that living spirit of adventure in men's hearts which was so special a characteristic of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Out of it grew a desire to colonize, to form plantations, as the settlements were called in the days of Elizabeth and James I. A British colony is a totally different thing from a Greek or Roman colony. Great Britain has never practised nor encouraged what has been called the “natural colonization ” of the Greeks and Romans. A colony is in every case a settlement made in a foreign land. Greek colonies, however, were never governed by the mother country; they somewhat resembled what gardeners call a layer, that is, a portion of the parent tree with stem, twigs, and leaves embedded in fresh soil, where it is severed after it has taken root. The ties between Greece and her colonies were purely ties of sentiment based on similarity of race and religion. The Roman colony took the form of a military settlement in territory subject to the mother country. A British colony has been defined as “a community politically dependent, in some shape or form, the majority, or the dominant portion of whose members belong by birth or origin to the mother country, such persons having no intention to return to the mother country.”

If the beginnings of our empire across the seas is connected with the love of adventure, it is as closely connected with the love of the sea characteristic of an island and maritime people. The sea is indeed the most important factor in the making and keeping of Greater Britain, for without command of the sea, our colonial supremacy would be impossible. England's sea-power may be said to have begun with the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588. But some ten years earlier the superior strength of the English navy seems to have been recognized by foreign nations. In William Harrison's description of England prefaced to the first edition of Holinshed's Chronicle (1577), we read “that for strength, assurance, nimbleness, and swiftness of sailing "no ships in the world were to be compared with the English in the common opinion of foreigners. From the time of Alfred, English kings recognized the necessity of protecting the coasts by means of “ships royal," that is, ships provided at the cost of the nation. But it was

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