« AnteriorContinuar »
AN OUTLINE OF THE ORIGIN AND GROWTH
THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE:
ILLUSTRATED BY EXTRACTS.
POS THE USE OF SCHOOLS AND OF PRIVATE STUDENTS.
WILLIAM SPALDING, A. M.,
PROFES80% OF LOGIC, RHETORIO, AND METAPHYSICS, IN THE UNIVERSITY OF SAINT
846 & 348 BROADWAY.
ENTERED, according to Act of Congress, in the year 1853, by
D. APPLETON & COMPANY,
in the Clerk's Office of the District Court for the Southern District of
This volume is offered, as an Elementary Text-Book, to those who are interested in the instruction of young persons.
The tenor of my own pursuits, and my hearty concurrence in the wish to see the systematic study of English Literature occupying a wider place in the course of a liberal education, seemed to justify me in attempting, at the request of the publishers, to frame an unambitious Manual, which should relate and explain some of the leading facts in the Intellectual History of our Nation. Those youthful students. for whose benefit the book is intended, will, I would fain hope, find it not ill calculated to serve, whether in the class-room or in the closet, as an incitement to the perusal, and a clue through the details, of works possessing higher pretensions, and imparting fuller information.
It is for others to decide whether, in ushering young readers into the field of Literary History, I have been able to make the study interesting or attractive to them. I am at least confident that the book does not contain any thing that is beyond their comprehension, either in its manner of describing facts, or in its criticisms of works, or in its incidental suggestion of critical and historical principles. But, on the other hand, having much faith in the vigour of youthful intelligence, and a strong desire to aid in the right guidance of youthful feeling, I have not shrunk from availing myself freely of the opportunities, furnished profusely by a theme so noble, for endeavouring to prompt active thinking and to awaken refined and elevating sentiments. I have frequently invited the student to reflect, how closely the world of letters is related, in all its regions, to that world of reality and action in the midst of which it comes into being: how Literature is, in its origin, an effusion and perpetuation of human thoughts, and emotions, and wishes ; how it is, in its processes, an art which obeys a consistent and philosophical theory; how it is, in its effects, one of the highest and most powerful of those influences, that have been appointed to rule and change the social and moral life of man.
The nature of the plan, according to which the materials are disposed, will appear from a glance at the Table of Contents. The History of English Literature being distributed into Two great Sections, the First Part treats the earlier of the two. It describes the Literary Progress of the Nation from its dawn in the Anglo-Saxon Times, to the beginning of the Sixteenth Century, which is taken as the Close of the Middle Ages. In the course of that long period, not only were the foundations of our native speech laid, but its structure may correctly be held to have been in all essential points completed. Accordingly, the Outline of the Origin and Growth of the English Language, which could not conveniently have been incorporated with the earlier literary chapters, seemed to find its fit place in the Second Part. The Third Part, resuming the History of our Literature at the opening of Modern Times, traces its revolutions down to the present day. The changes that have occurred in the language during this most recent period, appearing to be really nothing more than varieties of style, do not require a separate review, but receive incidental notice as they successively present themselves.
The Historical Survey of English Literature, announced in the title-page as the principal business of the volume, thus occupies the First and Third Parts. The former of these, dealing with the AngloSaxon Times and the Middle Ages, is short. It is so constructed, likewise, (unless the aim has been missed,) as to introduce the reader gradually and easily to studies of this sort. It contains comparatively little speculation of any kind: and those literary monuments of the period, which were thought to be most worthy of attention, are described with considerable fulness, both in the hope of exciting interest, and because the books fall into the hands of few. In the Summary of Modern Literature which fills the Third Part, more frequent and sustained efforts are made to arouse reflection, both by occasional remarks on the relations between intellectual culture and the other elements of society, and by hints as to the theoretical laws on which criticism should be founded. Modern works, also, while the characteristics several of the most celebrated are discussed at considerable length, are hardly ever analyzed so fully as were some of the older ones; and, as we approach our own times, it is presumed that particular description of the contents of popular books becomes less and less imperative.
In the course of those Literary Chapters, some information is