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A FIRST SKETCH

OF ENGLISH LITERATURE

A FIRST SKETCH

OF

ENGLISH LITERATURE

BY

HENRY MORLEY, LL.D.
Late Professor of English Language and Literature at University College,
London, and sometime Examiner in English Language, Literature

and History to the University of London

NEW AND ENLARGED EDITION, BRINGING THE WORK
DOWN TO THE DEATHS OF SWINBURNE AND MEREDITH

THIRTY-SIXTH THOUSAND

CASSELL AND COMPANY, LTD
London, New York, Toronto and Melbourne

1912

First Edition May 1873.
Reprinted July 1873, September 1875, November 1876, July 1878, May 1879
August 1880, September 1881, September 1882, October 1883, December 1884.
Revised September 1886. Reprinted August 1887, December 1888,

July 1890, January 1892, July 1894. July 1896.
New Edition June 1901. Reprinted December 1904.

New and Enlarged Edition July 1912.

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PUBLISHERS' NOTE

In his preface to the first edition of this book Professor Henry Morley quoted Basil Valentine, who, in his Triumphant Chariot of Antimony, said, “The shortness of life makes it impossible for one man thoroughly to learn Antimony, in which every day something of new is discovered.” What then, the author asked, what then shall we say of all the best thought of the best men of our nation in all times ? Let no 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." No record of writers, such as is this work, 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 some of its best books. Whatever examples may be chosen should be complete pieces, not extracts, for we must learn from the first to recognise the unity of a true work of genius.

So Professor Morley wrote forty years ago, and his words. are as true now as when they were written : critical and historical work in literature is only of value in bringing readers to study literature itself at first hand ; but in that way its value is great, and those who love the masterpieces of

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