« PreviousContinue »
PROFESSOR OF ENGLISH LITERATURE IN UNIVERSITY COLLEGE,
WITH AN ENTIRE RE-ARRANGEMENT OF MATTER, AND WITH
NUMEROUS RETRENCHMENTS AND ADDITIONS,
MOSES COIT TYLER,
PROFESSOR OF ENGLISH LITERATURE IN THE UNIVERSITY
Avery's Natural Philosophy.
Just revised by President Chapin of Beloit College.
COPYRIGHT, 1879, SHELDON & Co.
Electrotyped by Rand, Avey, & Co., Boston.
This volume may be described as an evolution from “ A First Sketch of English Literature," written by Professor Henry Morley of London, and first published there in 1873. Notwithstanding its title, that book is by no means a slight affair : it has, in fact, upwards of nine hundred closely-printed pages ; and its rather self-depreciatory name was given to it, doubtless, in consideration of the larger and more elaborate account of English literature on which its author has been engaged during the past twenty years, and of which three notable portions have been already issued.
In spite of some disadvantages in its construction, the “ First Sketch of English Literature” is, for fulness of learning and for vigor and wholesomeness of thought, probably the best book of the kind hitherto produced in our language. It seems to have been intended as a text-book for college-students in England. However well it may be suited to the methods and conditions of English studies there, it has certain peculiarities that hinder its successful use by students in this country. Under the sanction of Professor Morley's courteous and generous consent, I have undertaken to make such changes in the book as my own acquaintance with it in the class-room had suggested to me as being the most desirable.
It is, of course, due to Professor Morley, that he should have, if possible, no responsibility except for his own part in this Manual; and I have tried to express, even upon the title-page, the nature of the changes which his “ First Sketch ” has undergone at my hands. The precise range and detail of those changes, however, it is impossible for me fully to point out, either upon the title-page or here.
In general, I may say that the substance of this Manual is Professor Morley's, and that the construction of it is mine. Even with reference to the substance of the book, however, I ought to explain that it differs in many respects from the “ First Sketch.” I have retained from that work the essential part of every thing bearing directly upon English literature ; but I have tried to leave out every thing whose relation to English literature was either indirect, or, for American readers, bewildering : such as, on the one hand, extended references to Italian, French, and Spanish literatures; or, on the other hand, a multitude of incidental allusions — genealogical, domestic, local, and titular — that would perplex no student in England, but are sure to perplex most students in America. But my changes in the substance of the “ First Sketch ” have not been confined to those of omission. Wherever I thought it desirable, I have freely added materials not in the original work: for example, all of the Introduction excepting the first section ; several pages of the chapters on the fifteenth century ; the larger part of the account of the nineteenth century; besides many of the paragraphs of introduction and transition scattered through the book. But the most of my work upon the substance of this Manual cannot be here specified ; it consists of innumerable small bits of alteration and addition, fitted in and mixed up with the original materials, and no longer distinguishable from them except by a careful collation of the two books item by item.
In a large book like this — a book of minute historical, biographical, and bibliographical statement — the liability to errors in dates, names, quotations, and other small details, is something enormous. My endeavor to detect all inaccuracies whatsoever to be found in the materials which compose the present work has cost an amount of labor and anxiety that would hardly be imagined, except by those who know from experience what it is to go through, sentence by sentence, a book of this sort, and try to verify every fact asserted or implied in it. As the book now stands, it will be found, I think, far more trustworthy, even in this sacred matter of precision in small things, than most other works of the kind. Yet I know that, in spite of all my effort to keep them out, some inaccuracies must still have crept into the book ; and I shall be exceedingly grateful to any reader who will kindly notify me of any error, whether large or small, which he may discover in it.
In the citation of book-titles, many of which, especially in the times before the eighteenth century, are long and diffuse, Professor Morley, in his “ First Sketch,” has followed a custom which has hitherto prevailed in such books, and which may perhaps be adapted to the convenience of the general reader, but which is not strictly scientific; he has often given, in quotationpoints but without signs of ellipsis, only the leading words of a title : thus, “ Tragical History of Doctor Faustus,” instead of “ The Tragical History of the Life and Death of Doctor Faustus.” Moreover, in the spelling of old book-titles, his usage is not uniform, even for the same period, even for the same author; some titles are given in the antique spelling, others are modernized in part, and still others are modernized altogether. I confess that while for the ordinary uses of a text-book these methods of citation may be sufficient, and do certainly correspond to the common practice, I regret their adoption by Pro