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hope and joy, the sorrow and despair, the fixed resolve and the unquenchable aspiration of those who have striven and labored and held on high the torch of clear thinking, of high ideals, and of worthy living.
Here we behold the dawn of a new literature, the gradual mastery of word and phrase through which artistic perfection of many kinds is attained. Among this distinguished company are the poets, essayists, and novelists who have expressed in lasting form the meaning which they found in the interesting world about them.
The most satisfactory method for any person who wishes to gain the greatest profit and pleasure from literature is to read it, unencumbered with so-called "helps" and annotations. Its highest function is not to inform but to delight. We have tried to supply a thread of simple, critical comment, as introductory to the respective sections, to which the reader may turn for assistance in acquiring a connected story of the development of English literature. But we believe this is secondary in importance to the literature itself which is its own best advocate. For the intimate association that attaches to the representation of the writers themselves, we have here reproduced the portraits of some of the best known of English poets, prose writers, and novelists.
We cherish the hope that this book, brought together after many years of pleasurable reading and choosing, may point the way to some of the greatest delights and happiest experiences that can come to those who will to live fully and nobly.