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An outline history of English literature - PDF by William Henry Hudson

An outline history of English literature



The purpose and plan of this little book may easily be gathered from the introductory chapter. Only a few words of preface, therefore, are needed. As I conceive it, a history of English literature, however brief, should still be a history of English literature in fact as well as in name; and for history, something more is required than a list of authors and their books, and even than a chrono- logically-arranged collection of biographical sketches and critical appreciations.

 It is true that a nation's literature is made up of the works of individual writers, and that for the ordinary purposes of study these writers may be detached from their surroundings and treated separately. But we cannot get a history of such literature unless and until each one has been put into his place in the sequence of things and considered with reference to that great body of literary production of which his work
must now be regarded as a part. 

A history of English literature, then, must be interested primarily in English literature as a whole. Its chief aim should be to give a clear and systematic account, not of the achievements of successive great writers merely, as such, but of national changes and development. 

This does not imply neglect of the personal factor. On the contrary, it brings the personal factor into relief; for if each writer is to be considered with reference to literature as a whole, one main subject of enquiry must be the nature and value of his particular contribution to that whole. But it does mean that, together with the personal factor, the great general movement of literature from age to age has to be investigated, and that every writer has to be interpreted in his connection with this general movement. To exhibit the interplay of the personal and the impersonal in the making of history is, indeed, one of the fundamentals of the historian's task; and since history, properly understood, is as much concerned with the explanation of facts as with the facts themselves, it follows that a history of English literature must also include some record of the forces which, period by period, have combined in the transformation of literary standards and tastes. 

I have put these ideas into different, and perhaps rather simpler language in my introductory chapter. Here, therefore, I have only to say that this Outline History represents a modest attempt towards a real history of English literature in the sense which I attach to the term. One special feature of the book may be noted. 

It appears to be an accepted principle with many critics that literature is produced, as it were, in a vacuum, and by men who stand outside all conditions of time and place, and that therefore it may best be studied as a thing in itself. I, on the other hand, believe that the literature of any age is necessarily shaped and coloured by all the elements which entered into the civilisation of that age. So far as the limits of my space would allow, therefore, I have tried always to suggest the vital relationship between English literature and English life.


book details :
  • Author:: William Henry Hudson 
  • Publication date: 1913
  • Company::London G. Bell

  • Download An outline history of English literature - PDF ebook - 12 MB

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