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A Century of English Essays An Anthology Ranging from Caxton to R. L. Stevenson & the Writers of Our Own Time   By: (1859-1946)

Book cover

First Page:

Transcriber's note:

A very small number of printer's errors have been corrected by reference to other editions.

Footnotes have been moved from the bottom of the original page to just below the referring paragraph, or in a few cases, to just after the referring sentence.

Author attribution lines have been regularized so that all appear one line below the essay to which they apply.

See also the detailed transcriber's note at the end of the work.

Everyman's Library

Edited by Ernest Rhys

ESSAYS

A Century of English Essays Chosen by Ernest Rhys and Lloyd Vaughan

This is No. 653 of Everyman's Library . The publishers will be pleased to send freely to all applicants a list of the published and projected volumes arranged under the following sections:

TRAVEL SCIENCE FICTION

THEOLOGY & PHILOSOPHY

HISTORY CLASSICAL

FOR YOUNG PEOPLE

ESSAYS ORATORY

POETRY & DRAMA

BIOGRAPHY

REFERENCE

ROMANCE

In four styles of binding: cloth, flat back, coloured top; leather, round corners, gilt top; library binding in cloth, & quarter pigskin.

LONDON: J. M. DENT & SONS, Ltd. NEW YORK: E. P. DUTTON & CO.

[Illustration: Most current ... For that they come home to men's business & bosoms. Lord Bacon]

[Illustration: A CENTURY of ENGLISH ESSAYS: an ANTHOLOGY RANGING FROM CAXTON TO R. L. STEVENSON & THE WRITERS OF OUR OWN TIME.

LONDON TORONTO & PARIS: J.M. DENT & SONS LTD. NEW YORK E.P. DUTTON AND CO.]

First Issue of this Edition 1913 Reprinted 1915, 1916

INTRODUCTION

This is a book of short essays which have been chosen with the full liberty the form allows, but with the special idea of illustrating life, manners and customs, and at intervals filling in the English country background. The longer essays, especially those devoted to criticism and to literature, are put aside for another volume, as their different mode seems to require. But the development of the art in all its congenial variety has been kept in mind from the beginning; and any page in which the egoist has revealed a mood, or the gossip struck on a vein of real experience, or the wise vagabond sketched a bit of road or countryside, has been thought good enough, so long as it helped to complete the round. And any writer has been admitted who could add some more vivid touch or idiom to that personal half meditative, half colloquial style which gives this kind of writing its charm.

We have generally been content to date the beginning of the Essay in English from Florio's translation of Montaigne. That work appeared towards the end of Queen Elizabeth's time, in 1603, and no doubt it had the effect of setting up the form as a recognized genre in prose. But as we go back behind Florio and Montaigne, and behind Francis Bacon who has been called our "first essayist," we come upon various experiments as we might call them essays towards the essay, attempts to work that vein, discursively pertinent and richly reminiscent, out of which the essay was developed. Accordingly for a beginning the line has been carried back to the earliest point where any English prose occurs that is marked with the gossip's seal. A leaf or two of Chaucer's prose, a garrulous piece of the craftsman's delight in his work from Caxton, and one or two other detachable fragments of the same kind, may help us to realize that there was a predisposition to the essay, long before there was any conscious and repeated use of the form itself. By continuing the record in this way we have the advantage of being able to watch its relation to the whole growth in the freer art of English prose. That is a connection indeed in which all of us are interested, because however little we write, whether for our friends only, or for the newspapers, we have to attempt sooner or later something which is virtually an essay in everyday English... Continue reading book >>




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