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CHAMBERS'S CYCLOPÆDIA OF
ENGLISH LITERATURE che solo
HISTORY CRITICAL AND BIOGRAPHI-
CAL OF AUTHORS IN THE ENGLISH
J. B. LIPPINCOTT COMPANY
W. & R. CHAMEERS LIMITED
LONDON AND EDINBURGH
The following articles in this volume are copyright, 1901, by J. B. LIPPINCOTT COMPANY in the United States of America :
From the Beginnings till after the Norman Conquest. By Stopford A. Brooke.
By Andrew Lang.
HEN Ælfred was crowned For it is not by reason of the vast numbers
king of Wessex, it seemed as of those who speak it, or of the other myriads if the Danes were to blot out for whom it is a second vernacular, an innot only the English power dispensable lingua franca, that English claims but the English tongue, and rank amongst languages, but in virtue of the put Danish in the place thoughts that breathe and burn in English
of English throughout these words. English literature is in the fullest islands. The same Ælfred who made the first
of the term a great literature; the Cyclopædia of earlier English song and story English pen has been mightier than the saved the English land and folk and speech English sword or the English steam-engine. from Danish thraldom. The English language Is it the irony of history that in the nation held its own when, later, Danish kings did of shopkeepers one singer after another should rule the land; it showed its irrepressible vitality be found endowed with a double portion of during three centuries of depression under the spirit of poesy? And if it be said, Norman-French supremacy, and triumphantly as often it is said that we are the most reasserted itself in greater flexibility and vigour materialistic nation on the face of the earth, than before. The area of its currency has
we have a cloud of witnesses to the contrary : 1
grown with the political and commercial sway of our divines, our sages, our poets, our storythe people who speak it. In Alfred's time the tellers, our men of science, our historians, have Low Dutch dialects called English, and spoken uttered in our tongue words which the world by a few hundred thousand islanders, were un- will not willingly let die. It is no dream known outside the island. Queen Elizabeth indeed that the other sheaves have made ruled scarcely three million subjects, many of obeisance to our sheaf; Shakespeare is not whom were not of English speech; while to the only Englishman who has won the willing many more in the north and west, who heard homage of the world. it or essayed to read it, Shakespeare's literary In that vast English library which has been London dialect was barely intelligible. And steadily growing for fourteen hundred years, now English, with no essential differences, is there is happily much that concerns us not, the mother tongue of more than a hundred and much that is no part of our national inheritance. twenty millions of men and women, scattered There are more than enough of books that are over all the quarters of the planet. Some no books, of literature that does not deserve the fifty millions of Britons at home and abroad name, of poems that are not poetry, of prose rile about a fourth of the inhabitants of the which is a mere waste of weary words. Even globe. In the United States the daughter so, of English books new and old that it is nation now reckons her seventy-five millions, worth our while to know, or know about, there - mainly of British stock, and, with trifling ex- are many more than would suffice for a lifeceptions, all of English speech. To multitudes time of hard reading. British publications mul
of the darker-skinned subjects of the British tiply by thousands in a year, and American 1 crown, English is only less familiar than their volumes at an almost equal rate. The flood, 1, own vernaculars, and English literature a main constantly swelling, threatens to engulf even instrument of education English is becoming
English is becoming the strongest swimmer. Year by year the more and more the language of commerce need becomes greater for an approved mentor, among men of all kindreds. And the writings a comprehensive guide; and such a Vadeof English authors, now read and studied by
Dr Robert Chambers devised and the educated of all races, are an element of called, not unjustly, a CycloPÆDIA OF English culture in every civilised country.
LITERATURE, the first of its kind in Britain.