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TO THE REA DE R.
The author of the following pages has been engaged, during some years, as Professor of English Literature in the Imperial Alexander Lyceum of St. Petersburg; and, both in the discharge of his duties there and in his private teaching, he has very frequently felt the want of a Manual, concise but comprehensive, on the subject of his lectures. The plan generally adopted in foreign countries, of allowing the pupil to copy the lecturer's manuscript notes, was in this case found to be impracticable; and the oftenrepeated request of the students to be furnished with some elementary book, as a framework or skeleton of the course, could only be met by a declaration, singular as the fact might appear, that no such work, cheap, compendious, and tolerably readable, existed in English. The excellent volumes of Warton are obviously inapplicable to such a purpose; for they only treat of one portion of English literature - the poetry; and of that only down to the Elizabethan age. Their plan, also, is far too extensive to render them useful to the general student. Chambers's valuable and complete • Cyclopaedia of English Literature' is as much too voluminous as his shorter sketch is too dry and list-like; while the French and German essays on the subject are not only limited in their scope, but are full of very erroneous critical judgments:
Induced by these circumstances, the author has endea.
poured to pruduce a volume which might serve as a useful outline Introduction to English Literature both to the English and the foreign student. This little work, it is needless to say, has no pretensions whatsoever to the title of a complete Course of English Literature: it is merely an attempt to describe the causes, instruments, and nature of those great revolutions in taste which form what are termed “Schools of Writing.” In order to do this, and to mark more especially those broad and salient features which ought to be clearly fixed in the reader's mind before he can profitably enter upon the details of the subject, only the greater names — the greater types of each period — have been examined; whilst the inferior, or merely imitative, writers have been unscrupulously neglected: in short, the author has marked only the chief luminaries in each intellectual constellation; he has not attempted to give a complete Catalogue of Stars.
This method appears to unite the advantages of conciseness and completeness; for, should the reader push his studies no farther, he may at least form clear ideas of the main boundaries and divisions of English literature; whilst the frequent change of topic will, the author trusts, render these pages much less tiresome and monotonous than a regular sytematic treatise.
He has considered the greater names in English literature under a double point of view: first, as glorified types and noble expressions of the religious, social, and intellectual physiognomy of their times; and secondly, in their own individuality: and he hopes that the sketches of the great Baconian revolution in philosophy, of the state of the Drama under Elizabeth and James the First, of the intellectual character of the Commonwealth and Restoration, and of the romantic school of fiction, of Byronism, and of the present tendencies of poetry, may be found — however imperfectly executed - to possess some interest, were it only as the first
attempt to treat, in a popular manner, questions hitherto neglected in elementary books, but which the increased intelligence of the present age renders it no longer expedient to pass over without remark.
The work was written in the brief intervals of very active and laborious duties, and in a country where the author could have no access to an English library of reference: whatever errors and oversights it may contain on minor points will, therefore, ho trusts, be excused. The only merits to which it can have any claim are somewhat of novelty in its plan, and the attempt to render it as little dry -- as readable, in short -- as was consistent with accuracy and comprehensiveness.