« EelmineJätka »
READINGS IN ENGLISH LITERATURE is issued by the publishers as a companion volume to their Elementary HISTORY OF ENGLISH LITERATURE, and as a text-book for those who are engaged in that study. In selecting the readings the main objects have been twofold.
1. To fix upon such authors as in a general history of literature justly claim a prominent place, and to extract from their works one or more striking and characteristic passages as specimens of their peculiar gifts and powers; such passages as seemed suitable for reading in a public school, and were susceptible also of critical dissection and analysis, so that the writer's method and skill in handling his subject might be considered, and his historical place and value truly determined. To aid in this, a brief notice prefixed to each writer records the time in which he lived, and the titles of his principal works.
In the space at command, and with such a long line of worthies, to exhibit, it was not practicable to insert, in most cases, more than one extract from each author; but the acknowledged masters in prose composition, Milton, Taylor, Burke, etc., have been drawn upon more freely.
2. The readings have been chosen with more regard to the style than to the subject-matter. In an advanced English class it is not so much the scientific or historical
information imparted in the lesson, the philosophical thought embodied in it, the logical process employed, the moral maxim or religious truth inculcated, that forms the proper subject of inquiry, as the way and manner in which these facts, thoughts, or truths are expressed, elucidated, and enforced. In short, it is the style which has to be considered, the teacher aiming not to teach grammar, not even to inform the understanding, but to cultivate the taste, lay the basis of a sound critical judgment, and instruct the pupil in the theory and practice of composition. A correct and elegant style is nowise to be acquired more happily than by the imitative study of good models; hence Dr. Johnson, however we may question the superiority of the model whom he set up, was right in advising his disciples to give their days and nights to the pages of Addison.
It is not to be understood that all the readings are cited as patterns of good composition; on the contrary, some may be found defective in structure, slovenly in arrangement, ambitious in ornamentation, or vicious in taste. But several of them are given as remarkable illustrations of what is most effective, finished, and beautiful in rhetorical art; all are offered as, on the whole, fair representations of the manner of the different authors; and it will be the province of the pupil to find, or the master to point out, the merits and defects of each.
GLASGOW, April, 1874,