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many others, Messrs. Garnett, Wilson, Anderson, and Soulsby, of the British Museum, for the valuable help accorded to him both during, and after, his visits to that treasury of learning. Nor must he omit to express his obligation to Mr. Richard Savage for his guidance in the home of Shakespeare, at Stratford-on-Avon.
THE CHARACTER OF ENGLISH LITERATURE
HISTORY of literature is a history of man's works. Whatever influences of soil or climate, whatever development of Church or State we may be willing to admit, mankind is here carrying on, in full view of his fellow-creatures, all that defines the destinies of a people in relation to their inner and external life.
A writer would thus be more than justified in prefixing a sketch of the character of a nation to each history of literature, were it not that the influence of his personal likes and dislikes might throw doubt upon its accuracy and impartiality; besides, every reader does not possess a personal knowledge of the nation so depicted. However, in no other artificial manifestation is the true character of a nation so completely disclosed as in its literature, and thus it is that every history of literature, which is not a mere study in philology or in bibliography, becomes at the same time a history of national character.
According to all written authority, England boasts the most ancient literature among all Christian nations. This very fact gives it a position in the foremost rank in the great literatures of the world. For twelve centuries the mighty voice of this island people has been resounding in the great chorus of civilisation, and at no single period has that voice been so drowned that the tones of its clear and unrestrained utterance could not be heard.
It is not only true, as Macaulay has remarked, that English literature is England's most brilliant and most enduring possession; it is also one of the richest treasures of human culture. It is no exaggeration to maintain that up to the revival of German poetry in the eighteenth century no literature has surpassed the English in lustre, in luxuriance, or in grandeur. The literature of England from the fourteenth to the early part of the nineteenth century will bear full comparison even with the many-sided genius of the literature of France, all the grace of the poetry of Italy, and all the wealth of the drama of