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that the less prominent authors, a list of which is prefixed to each period, be made from time to time the subject of essays and discussions in class.
This will be found upon trial an interesting and profitable exercise.
The plan here adopted is the outgrowth of long experience; and it is believed that the faithful use of the book in the class-room can hardly fail to cultivate a taste for English literature, to give a clear conception of the general course of its development, to impart a considerable knowledge of our leading classic authors, and to stimulate further study in this interesting and valuable department of liberal culture.
F. V. N. PAINTER. SALEM, VIRGINIA.
History treats chiefly of the deeds of a people; literature records their thoughts and feelings. It is thus intimately connected with the intellectual life of a nation, of which it is the product and expression. No literature is fully intelligible without an acquaintance with the conditions under which it originated. The three leading factors that determine its character are race, epoch, and surroundings. Each race has its fundamental traits, which give it individuality in the world. The Teuton, with his serious, reflective, persistent temper, is quite different from the Celt, with his vivacity, wit, and ready enthusiasm. These differences are naturally reflected in the literature of the two races.
Again, every age has its peculiar interests, culture, and tendencies. Literature cannot divorce itself from the spirit of the time in which it is produced. For instance, the dramas of Shakespeare, which reflect all the intellectual wealth and freedom of the age of Elizabeth, could not have been written in the rude period of the Norman Conquest.
The third great formative principle in literature is environment, or physical and social conditions. The literature produced in the presence of a sterile soil and rigorous climate must necessarily be different in tone and coloring from that produced in the midst of fruitful fields and under sunny skies. And, in like manner, its quantity and quality will be affected, to a greater or less degree, by a state of war or peace, intelligence or ignorance, wealth or poverty, freedom or persecution.
It is not enough to be acquainted with the isolated facts of a literature; we should study them in connection with the various causes by which they were moulded and by which they are bound together in unity. This study of causes and influences gives us a philosophy of literature, without which an acquaintance with separate authors will leave us superficial. But it is a mistake to suppose that race, epoch, and surroundings will explain everything in literature; there is a personal element of great importance. From time to time men of great genius appear, and rising by native strength high above the level of their age, become centres of a new and weighty influence in literature. This truth is exemplified by Luther in Germany, and Bacon in England, each of whom profoundly affected the subsequent literary development of his country.
English literature embodies the results of English thought and feeling It shares in the greatness of the English people. It combines French vivacity with German depth. If Germany excels in scholarship, and France in taste, England has produced a literature that in comprehensive scope and general excellence is second to none. No department of literature has been left uncultivated. Poets have sung in sweet and lofty strains; novelists have artistically portrayed every phase of society; orators have