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HARVARD COLLEGE LIBRARY
Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1880, by
HARPER & BROTHERS,
In the Office of the Librarian of Congress, at Washington.
In the prescribed curricula of most high-schools, English literature and rhetoric find an important place. Yet, perhaps, no subjects are less satisfactorily taught. The study of English literature is, for the most part, confined to a cram on the personal biography of authors; at the best, it is a reading about literature rather than a reading in literature. The study of rhetoric is, for the most part, confined to the learning of abstract definitions and principles. This is an acquisition certainly not to be undervalued; for there is only a half-truth in Butler's famous aphorism, that
“All a rhetorician's rules
Yet assuredly it is a barren knowledge, that of the “rhetorician's rules," unless these are seen and felt as they find, spontaneous embodiment in the great creations of the masters of literary art.
This volume of masterpieces is designed to occupy a place at the meeting-point of literature and rhetoricto restore the twain to their natural and fruitful relationship. On the side of literature it is intended as the ac
companiment of any class-book on that subject, furnishing a body of texts to be carefully read in connection with the biographical and critical study of particular authors, as pursued in the class-book. On the side of rhetoric it supplies a working outfit of definitions and principles, thus teaching the pupil to “name his tools;" and, further and more important, it applies the canons of the literary art to the analysis of the texts here presented. To this study I have given the name “ Literary Analysis,” as a conveniently elastic designation under which may be brought a great variety of exercises, grammatical and rhetorical, logical and etymological. The Literary Analysis is a new feature (at least I am unacquainted with any class-book of selections in which the kind of work here developed is given); and it is one from which most valuable results are anticipated. For surely such studies as are called for in the present work cannot fail to bring the pupil into close and friendly contact with those mighty minds whose“ volumes paramount " constitute the literature of our language : so that he will no longer be reading merely about the masters, but reading the masters themselves-ascending with them into the “heaven of their invention,” and feeding his soul on the divine bread of their high imaginings.
The choice of authors to be represented by typical selections in this volume has been no easy task, for in the splendid galaxy of our English and American literature are unnumbered stars.
“They are all fires, and every one doth shine.” In the embarrassment of riches, this principle of selection was laid down: that the authors chosen should not only be of the first rank, but that as far as possible they should represent epochs of literature, marked phases of style, distinctive contributions to literary method. Under the guidance of this rule forty masters have been here brought together. They all belong to the dii majores, and sit serenely, each in his chair, on the topmost peaks of Olympus. The first name is that of Shakespeare; the last that of Huxley. It is a significant conjuncture; for in passing from the former to the latter, and saluting, as we go, the mighty shades of Milton, Dryden, Pope, Johnson, Burke, Burns, Scott, Macaulay, and their earlier and later peers, we complete that great cycle of evolution which connects the romanticism of the sixteenth century with the scientism of the nineteenth.
If the choice of authors was difficult, that of pieces to represent them was scarcely less so. Of the selections finally decided on, after much deliberation, this much, at least, may be said: that each has a claim founded on some peculiar power, pathos, beauty, or grandeur; that each is “a gem of purest ray serene.” It should also be added that care has been taken that, as far as possible, each selection should be a complete .piece. Thus, of Milton, the two poems L'Allegro and Il Penseroso are given entire; Bacon is represented by two complete essays; Addison's four best Sir Roger de Coverley papers are reproduced in full; Pope moralizes the whole of his First Epistle of the Essay on Man ; Gray the whole of the Elegy; and Goldsmith the whole of the Deserted Village; and so on. And even in the case of authors who must necessarily be represented by extracts, this at least has been sought: that each piece should have a certain unity, should show a beginning, mid
dle, and end; for unless a piece fill this requirement it is ' valueless as a study in literary art.
The attention of teachers is called to the fact that each author is introduced by an appropriate“ Characterization” by a distinguished critic. Thus we have the merits of Shakespeare and Pope set forth by Dr. Johnson; of Bunyan and Byron by Taine; of Addison and Johnson by Macaulay; of Goldsmith and Irving by Thackeray; of Thackeray by Dickens; of Lamb by De Quincey; of Burns by Carlyle; of Carlyle and Wordsworth by Lowell ; of Bryant by Curtis ; of Holmes by Whittier. These fine appreciations will, it is thought, whet the pupil's appetite for the “feast of fat things ” that awaits him in the authors themselves.
WILLIAM SWINTON. NEW YORK, March, 1880.
*** In the preparation of the “Notes,” I have to acknowledge indebtedness to the Clarendon Press series of British classics, to the “ Longer English Poems” of Hales, and to Rolfe's excellent editions of Shakespeare, Gray, and Goldsmith. Acknowledgments are also due to Messrs. Houghton, Osgood, & Co., G. P. Putnam's Sons, and Messrs. A. S. Barnes & Co., for kind permission to use selections from works published by them.