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85 PREFACE TO THE FIRST EDITION.
1890 BASIL VALENTINE said, in his Triumphant Chariot of Antimony, “The shortness of life makes it impossible for one man thoroughly to learn Antimony, in which every day something of new is discovered.” What shall we say then of all the best thought of the best men of our nation in all times? beginner think that when he has read this book, or any book, or any number of books for any number of years, he will have thoroughly learned English Literature. We can but study faithfully and work on from little to more, never to much. Basil Valentine felt in his own way with that teacher of the highest truth who wrote, “If any man think he knoweth anything, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know.”
This book is but a first sketch of what in "English Writers" it is the chief work of my life to tell as fully and as truly as I can. But ng labour of this kind is intended to save any one the pains of reading good books for himself. It is useful only when it quickens the desire to come into real contact with great minds of the past, and gives the kind of knowledge that will lessen distance between us and them.
Together with a first outline of our literature, some account of the political and social history of England should be read; and while each period is being studied, direct acquaintance should be made with one or two of its best books. Whatever examples may be chosen should be complete pieces, however short, not extracts, for we must learn from the first to recognise the urity of a true work of genius.
PREFACE TO THE TWELFTH EDITION.
FORMER Editions of this book touched very lightly on the Literature of the Nineteenth Century. An arrangement with Baron Tauchnitz, at whose request I wrote some account of "English Literature in the Reign of Victoria” for Number Two Thousand of his “Collection of British Authors,” gives to his publishing house the copyright of that little book as a separate work, in England as well as in Germany, and to me the right of using any part of it in aid of the completion of this Sketch. Some part of the Tauchnitz, volume has, therefore, with thanks to that friendly firm, been incorporated with new matter and serves now to secure for the “First Sketch of English Literature” (living writers excepted) the same fulness of detail in Victorian as in Elizabethan Literature.
Toe REIGN OF ELIZABETH