The Great Prose
Author: Henry Cabot Lodge
Category: Literary Collections
View: 8162Volume V (of X) - Great Britain and Ireland Ever since civilized man has had a literature he has apparently sought to make selections from it and thus put his favorite passages together in a compact and convenient form. Certain it is, at least, that to the Greeks, masters in all great arts, we owe this habit. They made such collections and named them, after their pleasant imaginative fashion, a gathering of flowers, or what we, borrowing their word, call an anthology. So to those austere souls who regard anthologies as a labor-saving contrivance for the benefit of persons who like a smattering of knowledge and are never really learned, we can at least plead in mitigation that we have high and ancient authority for the practise. In any event no amount of scholarly deprecation has been able to turn mankind or that portion of mankind which reads books from the agreeable habit of making volumes of selections and finding in them much pleasure, as well as improvement in taste and knowledge. With the spread of education and with the great increase of literature among all civilized nations, more especially since the invention of printing and its vast multiplication of books, the making of volumes of selections comprizing what is best in one's own or in many literatures is no longer a mere matter of taste or convenience as with the Greeks, but has become something little short of a necessity in this world of many workers, comparatively few scholars, and still fewer intelligent men of leisure. Anthologies have been multiplied like all other books, and in the main they have done much good and no harm. The man who thinks he is a scholar or highly educated because he is familiar with what is collected in a well-chosen anthology, of course, errs grievously. Such familiarity no more makes one a master of literature than a perusal of a dictionary makes the reader a master of style. But as the latter pursuit can hardly fail to enlarge a man's vocabulary, so the former adds to his knowledge, increases his stock of ideas, liberalizes his mind and opens to him new sources of enjoyment. The Greek habit was to bring together selections of verse, passages of especial merit, epigrams and short poems. In the main their example has been followed. From their days down to the "Elegant Extracts in Verse" of our grandmothers and grandfathers, and thence on to our own time with its admirable "Golden Treasury" and "Oxford Handbook of Verse," there has been no end to the making of poetical anthologies and apparently no diminution in the public appetite for them. Poetry indeed lends itself to selection. Much of the best poetry of the world is contained in short poems, complete in themselves, and capable of transference bodily to a volume of selections. There are very few poets of whose quality and genius a fair idea can not be given by a few judicious selections. A large body of noble and beautiful poetry, of verse which is "a joy forever," can also be given in a very small compass. And the mechanical attribute of size, it must be remembered, is very important in making a successful anthology, for an essential quality of a volume of selections is that it should be easily portable, that it should be a book which can be slipt into the pocket and readily carried about in any wanderings whether near or remote. An anthology which is stored in one or more huge and heavy volumes is practically valueless except to those who have neither books nor access to a public library, or who think that a stately tome printed on calendered paper and "profusely illustrated" is an ornament to a center-table in a parlor rarely used except on solemn or official occasions. I have mentioned these advantages of verse for the purposes of an anthology in order to show the difficulties which must be encountered in making a prose selection. Very little prose is in small parcels which can be transferred entire, and therefore with the very important attribute of completeness, to a volume of selections. From most of the great prose writers it is necessary to take extracts, and the chosen passage is broken off from what comes before and after. The fame of a great prose writer as a rule rests on a book, and really to know him the book must be read and not merely passages from it. Extracts give no very satisfactory idea of "Paradise Lost" or "The Divine Comedy," and the same is true of extracts from a history or a novel. It is possible by spreading prose selections through a series of small volumes to overcome the mechanical difficulty and thus make the selections in form what they ought above all things to be—companions and not books of reference or table decorations. But the spiritual or literary problem is not so easily overcome. What prose to take and where to take it are by no means easy questions to solve. Yet they are well worth solving, so far as patient effort can do it, for in this period of easy printing it is desirable to put in convenient form before those who read examples of the masters which will draw us back from the perishing chatter of the moment to the literature which is the highest work of civilization and which is at once noble and lasting. Upon that theory this collection has been formed. It is an attempt to give examples from all periods and languages of Western civilization of what is best and most memorable in their prose literature. That the result is not a complete exhibition of the time and the literatures covered by the selections no one is better aware than the editors. Inexorable conditions of space make a certain degree of incompleteness inevitable when he who is gathering flowers traverses so vast a garden, and is obliged to confine the results of his labors within such narrow bounds. The editors are also fully conscious that, like all other similar collections, this one too will give rise to the familiar criticism and questionings as to why such a passage was omitted and such another inserted; why this writer was chosen and that other passed by. In literature we all have our favorites, and even the most catholic of us has also his dislikes if not his pet aversions. I will frankly confess that there are authors represented in these volumes whose writings I should avoid, just as there are certain towns and cities of the world to which, having once visited them, I would never willingly return, for the simple reason that I would not voluntarily subject myself to seeing or reading what I dislike or, which is worse, what bores and fatigues me. But no editor of an anthology must seek to impose upon others his own tastes and opinions. He must at the outset remember and never afterward forget that so far as possible his work must be free from the personal equation. He must recognize that some authors who may be mute or dull to him have a place in literature, past or present, sufficiently assured to entitle them to a place among selections which are intended above all things else to be representative. To those who wonder why some favorite bit of their own was omitted while something else for which they do not care at all has found a place I can only say that the editors, having supprest their own personal preferences, have proceeded on certain general principles which seem to be essential in making any selection either of verse or prose which shall possess broader and more enduring qualities than that of being a mere exhibition of the editor's personal taste. To illustrate my meaning: Emerson's "Parnassus" is extremely interesting as an exposition of the tastes and preferences of a remarkable man of great and original genius. As an anthology it is a failure, for it is of awkward size, is ill arranged and contains selections made without system, and which in many cases baffle all attempts to explain their appearance. On the other hand, Mr. Palgrave, neither a very remarkable man nor a great and original genius, gave us in the first "Golden Treasury" a collection which has no interest whatever as reflecting the tastes of the editor, but which is quite perfect in its kind. Barring the disproportionate amount of Wordsworth which includes some of his worst things—and which, be it said in passing, was due to Mr. Palgrave's giving way at that point to his personal enthusiasm—the "Golden Treasury" in form, in scope, and in arrangement, as well as in almost unerring taste, is the best model of what an anthology should be which is to be found in any language.
Literary Life in Britain 1870-1918
Author: Philip Waller
Publisher: Oxford University Press
View: 6966Charles Dickens died in 1870, the same year in which universal elementary education was introduced. During the following generation a mass reading public emerged, and the term "best-seller" was coined. In new and cheap editions Dickens's stories sold hugely, but these were progressively outstripped in quantity by the likes of Hall Caine and Marie Corelli, Charles Garvice and Nat Gould. Who has now heard of these writers? Yet Hall Caine, for one, boasted of having made more money from his pen than any previous author. This book presents a panoramic view of literary life in Britain over half a century from 1870 to 1914, teasing out authors' relations with the reading public and tracing how reputations were made and unmade. It surveys readers' habits, the book trade, popular literary magazines and the role of reviewers, and examines the construction of a classical canon by critics concerned about the supposed corruption of popular taste. Certain writers were elevated as national heroes, yet Britain drew its writers from abroad as well as from home. Authors became stars and celebrities, and a literary tourism grew around their haunts. They advertised products from cigarettes to toothpaste; they were fashion-conscious and promoted themselves via profiles, interviews, and carefully posed photographs; they went on lecture tours to America; and their names were pushed by a new professional breed: the literary agent. Some angled for knighthoods, even peerages, and cut a figure in high society and London clubland. The debated public issues of the day and campaigned on all manner of things from questions of faith and women's rights to censorship and conscription. During the Great War they penned propaganda. Meanwhile the cinema was developing to challenge the supremacy of the written word over the imagination. Authors took to that too, as an opportunity for new adventure. Writers, Readers, and Reputations is richly entertaining and informative, amounting to a collective biography of a generation of writers and their world.
Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress
Author: W. R. Owens,International John Bunyan Society. Conference,Stuart Sim
Publisher: Peter Lang
Category: Literary Criticism
View: 586The ten essays that make up this volume are drawn from papers delivered at the fourth triennial conference of the International John Bunyan Society. A theme of the conference was the extraordinary reception history of "The Pilgrim's Progress": how it has been translated, adapted, illustrated and read within different cultures over the past three centuries. As contributors here demonstrate, Bunyan's book has influenced - in sometimes unexpected ways - writers as diverse as Dickens, George Eliot, Charles Kingsley, Mary Ward, William Hale White, Louis MacNeice and Samuel Beckett. Through the agency of missionary translators it circulated internationally, and in the process was transformed and read in a wide variety of ways by different groups of readers. Romantic critics including Southey, Scott and Macaulay established it as a 'classic' text, but illustrators, editors and publishers also figured importantly in the process of its literary canonisation. Bunyan even made a brief appearance in one of the most famous films of the Second World War, Powell and Pressburger's "A Matter of Life and Death." What the volume as a whole reveals is the extraordinary influence of "The Pilgrim's Progress" and its continuing capacity to inspire the imagination of all kinds of readers.
Its History and Significance for the Life of the English-Speaking World
Author: William J. Long
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
View: 5597This book, which presents the whole splendid history of English literature from Anglo-Saxon times to the close of the Victorian Era, has three specific aims. The first is to create or to encourage in every student the desire to read the best books, and to know literature itself rather than what has been written about literature. The second is to interpret literature both personally and historically, that is, to show how a great book generally reflects not only the author's life and thought but also the spirit of the age and the ideals of the nation's history. The third aim is to show, by a study of each successive period, how our literature has steadily developed from its first simple songs and stories to its present complexity in prose and poetry.
Author: Jane Austen
Publisher: OUP Oxford
View: 2119'This perfect indifference, and your pointed dislike, make it so delightfully absurd!' Pride and Prejudice has delighted generations of readers with its unforgettable cast of characters, carefully choreographed plot, and a hugely entertaining view of the world and its absurdities. With the arrival of eligible young men in their neighbourhood, the lives of Mr and Mrs Bennet and their five daughters are turned inside out and menide down. Pride encounters prejudice, upward-mobility confronts social disdain, and quick-wittedness challenges sagacity, as misconceptions and hasty judgements lead to heartache and scandal, but eventually to true understanding, self-knowledge, and love. In this supremely satisfying story, Jane Austen balances comedy with seriousness, and witty observation with profound insight. If Elizabeth Bennet returns again and again to her letter from Mr Darcy, readers of the novel are drawn even more irresistibly by its captivating wisdom. ABOUT THE SERIES: For over 100 years Oxford World's Classics has made available the widest range of literature from around the globe. Each affordable volume reflects Oxford's commitment to scholarship, providing the most accurate text plus a wealth of other valuable features, including expert introductions by leading authorities, helpful notes to clarify the text, up-to-date bibliographies for further study, and much more.
Capital Punishment and the Abolitionist Movement in Nineteenth Century Britain
Author: James Gregory
View: 4957By the time that Queen Victoria ascended the throne in 1837, the list of crimes liable to attract the death penalty had effectively been reduced to murder. Yet, despite this, the gallows remained a source of controversy in Victorian Britain and there was a growing unease in liberal quarters surrounding the question of capital punishment. In this book, James Gregory examines organised efforts to abolish capital punishment in Britain and the Empire in the Victorian era, focusing particularly on the activities of the Society for the Abolition of Capital Punishment. The amelioration of the notoriously ‘Bloody Code’ of the British state may have limited capital punishment effectively to a small number of murderers after 1840 but, despite this, capital punishment was a matter of perennial debate, from the local arena of school debating societies to the ‘imperial Parliament’, and a topic to trouble the minds of thoughtful Victorians across the British world. Drawing on a wide range of sources, from pamphlets by abolitionists or their opponents to gallows broadsides, official inquiries, provincial newspapers, novels and short stories, Gregory studies a movement acknowledged by contemporaries to be agitating one of the ‘questions of the day’ - challenging as it did contemporary theology, state infliction of violence, and prevalent ideas about punishment. He explores important aspects such as: capital punishment debates in the ‘Lex Britannica’ of British colonies and dominions, the role of women abolitionists and the class and gendered inflexions to the ‘gallows question’, the representation of the problem of capital punishment in Victorian fiction, and the relationship between abolitionists and the Home Office which exercised the royal prerogative of mercy. While the abolitionism of Nonconformist reformers such as the Quakers and Unitarians is familiar, Gregory introduces the reader to the abolitionist debates in Jewish, secularist and spiritualist circles, and explores themes such as the imagined role of the Queen as ‘fount of mercy’ and the disturbing figure of the hangman. Studying the provincial, national and international aspects to the movement, Victorians Against the Gallows offers an important contribution to our understanding of Victorian reform activities, and Victorian culture.
Understanding the Ideas That Have Shaped Our World View
Author: Richard Tarnas
Publisher: Random House
View: 928The Passion of the Western Mind is a complete guide to Western civilisation and the philosophical ideas that have shaped our world view. From Plato to Hegel, from Augustine to Nietzsche, from Copernicus to Freud, Richard Tarnas described profound philosophical concepts simply, but without simplifying them. Ten years in the making, The Passion of the Western Mind was hailed as an instant classic on publication. In it, Tarnas provides a compelling account of the evolution of the Western mind and its changing conception of reality. Advances on several fronts - in philosophy, psychology, religous studies and the history of science - have shed new light on this remarkable evolution and Tarnas draws together these advances to set forth a new perspective for understanding out culture's intellectual and spiritual history. The result is a complete liberal education in a single volume.