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Century Types of English Literature has been prepared in the hope that it will fill what the editors believe has been a long-felt want in survey courses in English literature. In such courses the use of an anthology is already very general and is becoming every year more so. The expense of separate texts and the difficulty of obtaining the books wanted—when they are wanted—are everywhere felt. As an alternative to separate texts, however, the anthologies in general use do not provide a precise equivalent. They are based rather on the principle of offering relatively brief extracts from a great many works instead of complete texts in a more limited number. And admirable as these extracts are, they do not, in the opinion of many instructors, give the student, except in lyrics and short pieces, a conception of works of literature as a whole. It is to meet this objection that the present anthology is offered.
The fundamental aim has been to give in every case complete works, or where this is obviously impossible (as in The Faerie Queene or Paradise Lost, for example) as many complete cantos or books as the student would ordinarily be asked to read in a general course. Where a section is made up of separate pieces (such as "The Ballad" or "The Essay") the plan has been to include an amount of material approximating that found in separate editions prepared for school and college use. In some cases where this amount seemed excessive for a survey course, the section has been slightly curtailed; but an effort has been made in every case to include an ample representation of the type or of the author's work. The section devoted to Boswell's Life of Johnson, as stated in the table of contents, is an abridgment such as is familiar in numerous separate editions prepared for class use.
It is hoped that the arrangement of material according to types will give to a number of assignments a unity which in many cases is otherwise felt by the student to be lacking. But since such a plan does not interfere in any way with the chronological arrangement of the book, it will not affect the usefulness of the anthology in courses where the types are not especially stressed. The introductions to the various sections have been limited generally to one page in clear type,—which the student may be induced to read. They aim to give him what he needs to know about the type, the work, the period to which it belongs, and the author,—that is, what he needs to know in order to read the section intelligently. Notes and glosses have been put at the foot of the page. Except where a certain fullness was desirable (as in the Chaucerian texts) they have been restricted as much as seemed wise.
A word may be said as to the choice of material. The plan for the book was
presented to the publishers seven years ago and was submitted at that time and on various occasions since to those giving survey courses in numerous colleges throughout the country. The editors wish to express their gratitude to all who have contributed to make the book a more useful text. But the selection in general represents the experience of the editors, extending over many years, in giving the survey course to large classes. They have gone on the principle that literature is to be enjoyed (even in college) before it is taught, and that it is the purpose of such a course to give the student not only good literature, but good literature of a kind that his age and knowledge of life will enable him to understand. Only in this way will the large number in whom a habit of reading is not yet formed be given a taste for books and will those who have it already continue to like to read. In one or two sections the discretion of the instructor will determine whether a given class is ready for the selection presented. A special feature is the effort to do justice to that fine body of literature produced by contemporary writers. No pains have been spared to make these sections thoroughly representative.
One or two omissions should be explained. No play of Shakespeare's is included because texts of his plays are so easily accessible everywhere, and because different instructors generally want different plays. Instead, a non-Shakespearean play has been included for comparison. Also no novel is included, for reasons of length, and it is the belief of the editors that a novel should be read as a whole. But for those who wish to include one or more novels in their course, a word may be said. If space were in no wise a consideration, the editors would have included as many novels as they have included plays, and in this quixotic scheme they would have chosen to represent some of the following types: the epic in prose: Tom Jones, by Henry Fielding; the historical romance: Kenilworth, by Sir Walter Scott; the humanitarian novel: David Copperfield, by Charles Dickens; the novel of social satire: Vanity Fair, by W. M. Thackeray; the psychological novel: The Mill on the Floss, by George Eliot; and the novel of local color: Far from the Madding Crowd, by Thomas Hardy. Where the instructor so desires, one or more of these might be included in planning the reading for the course.
It is a pleasure to acknowledge the indebtedness which the editors have incurred in the course of their work. In particular a special gratitude is felt by Mr. Baugh (who assumes all responsibility for the translation of Beowulf) to Professor Fr. Klaeber, of the University of Minnesota, whose definitive edition of the poem not only furnished the basis of the text, but who read the translation in proof with painstaking care and made many valuable comments and suggestions. Professor Klaeber is in no wise responsible, however, for any mistakes which the translator has fallen into or any particular interpretations of disputed passages which he has ventured. Thanks are due to Professors Percy V. D. Shelly and Matthew W. Black of the University of Pennsylvania for generously reading the translation in proof and suggesting numerous stylistic improvements. The editors wish to express their gratitude to Professor Cornelius Weygandt for much valuable advice in compiling the last three sections of the book. Without his fine appreciation of good literature
wherever found and his unsurpassed knowledge of contemporary literature in all its phases, these sections would have been infinitely poorer. And to all their other colleagues at Pennsylvania who have shown such a generous and helpful interest in the book they express their heartiest thanks.