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A History of Elizabethan Literature

George Saintsbury (Author)

It is an old-fashioned practice, but one which is perhaps none the worse for being old-fashioned, that an author should offer some kind of apology for undertaking a book, especially on a great and important subject. My only excuse for undertaking to write on the greatest period of the greatest literature of the world is that I have been diligently reading the productions, small and great, of this period for some five-and-twenty years with everincreasing admiration, and that I find the increase of my admiration due in no small degree to the comparison with other periods and other literatures, ancient and modern, which I have been enabled to make in the meantime. As for the particular purposes and methods by which I have been guided in writing this book, they are easily explained. I have endeavoured to give as complete and clearly arranged a view as I could of the actual literary performance of the period from 1560 to 1660, excluding or only lightly touching on those authors in its later part who may be said to have anticipated or prepared the post-Restoration changes, but including those who, even long after 1660, produced great work in the ante-Restoration styles. In doing this I have endeavoured to criticise each author from a uniform and independent standpoint, and I have never (unless in some very rare case specially indicated)delivered on any author mentioned a judgment based on second-hand information, whether I may agree or not with that of some previous writer. In regard, however, to what some moderns call the "Bio-Bibliographical" side of the matter, I have made much less attempt to be complete, and I do not pretend at all to first-hand information. To obtain this last completely (and if incomplete it is of little use) by personal visits to registers and tombstones, and by personal inspection and collation of early editions, would occupy, if it would not overtask, the entire life of a man who enjoyed in other respects perfect leisure and command of his time. And the result, though no doubt not valueless, would, in my judgment at least, be far less valuable than that which, however imperfectly, I have attempted to achieve. For although, for instance, the British Museum Catalogue is a marvel of combined and accumulated, and Mr. Arber Transcript a marvel of single-handed, labour, the consulting of each, though I am told that some reputations for exact and careful knowledge have been based upon it, is only a degree less second-hand than the consulting of an encyclopædia. In other words, I will warrant every critical judgment and description, general and particular, in the following pages to be, unless the contrary is stated, based on original reading and thought. My dates and my biographical facts I take for the most part from others; and though I shall be glad (after verification) to make any correction, I shall not feel deeply convinced of sin if it turns out that I have dated this poet's Tears of Melancholy in March 1593, when the true date is May 1595; or asserted that that poet's grandmother was Joan Smith, who is buried at Little Peddlington, instead of Jane Smith, who was married at Kennaquhair. These things, interesting perhaps and sometimes valuable in their own way, are but ancillary, if even that, to the history of literature in the proper and strict sense; and it is the history of literature in the proper and strict sense with which I have to deal.

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About the author

George Saintsbury

George Edward Bateman Saintsbury (1845-1933), a man of enormous reading, profound scholarship, fine critical insight and literary sensibility, was Professor of Rhetoric and English Literature in the University of Edinburgh from 1895 to 1915. The bulk and scope of his writings is simply stupefying. A repring of his work would easily make 100 large volumes. In addition to the various scholarly articles that he contributed to illustrious journals such as Fortnightly Review, Pall Mall Gazette, Manchester Guardian, Saturday Review and many other journals, his important works on French literature are: A Primer of French Literature (1880), A Short History of French Literature (1883), Specimens of French Literature from Villon to Hugo (1883), and A History of the French Novel to the Close of the Nineteenth Century (1917-19). Saintsbury’s major works on English Literature and on the history of criticism are: Dryden (1881), Essays on English Literature, 1780-1860 (two series, 1890 and 1895), A Short History of English Literature (1898), The History of English Criticism and Literary Taste in Europe (1900-4) in three volumes, A History of English Prosody (1906-10) in three volumes, Sir Walter Scott (1897), Mathew Arnold (1898), the Oxford edition of the Works of Thackeray (1907), The English Novel (1913), and The Peace of the Augustans (1915). In addition to the above, Saintsbury contributed 21 chapters to The Cambridge History of English Literature and wrote 36 articles for the Encyclopaedia Britannica. Saintsbury was also a great connoisseur of wine and his Notes on a Cellarbook (1920), a classic of its kind, led to the founding of the Saintsbury Club. As a critic and literary historian Saintsbury’s position is very high indeed.

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Bibliographic information

Title A History of Elizabethan Literature
Format Softcover
Date published: 31.12.2018
Edition 1st. ed.
Publisher Manakin Press
Language: English
isbn 9789386221803
length 480p.
Subjects History