Preface to the First Edition
This Historyis written for two audiences: those who know a few landmark texts of
English literature but little of the surrounding landscape; and those who simply
want to read its long story from its origins to the present day.
The history of English writing begins very early in the Middle Ages and contin-
ues through the Renaissance, the Augustan and Romantic periods to the Victorian
age, the twentieth century, and up to the present. This account of it is written so as
to be read as a coherent whole. It can also be read in parts, and consulted for infor-
mation.Its narrative plan and layout are clear, and it aims to be both readable and
concise. Attention is paid to the greatest poets, dramatists, prose writers and novel-
ists, and to more general literary developments. Each part of the story gains from
being set in literary and social contexts. Space is given to illustrative quotation and
to critical discussions of selected major authors and works.
Minor writers and movements are described rather than discussed, but a great
deal of information about them is to be found in the full apparatus which surrounds
the narrative. This apparatus allows the Historyalso to be used as a work of refer-
ence.A look at the following pages will show the text supplemented by a set of
historical tables of events and of publications; by boxed biographies of authors and
their works; and by marginal definitions of critical and historical terms. There are
sixty-four illustrations, including maps. There are also suggestions for further read-
ing, and a full index of the authors and works discussed.
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