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A Handbook to the Works of Browning (6th ed.)   By: (1828-1903)

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A HANDBOOK TO THE WORKS OF ROBERT BROWNING

BY MRS. SUTHERLAND ORR

"No pause i' the leading and the light!" The Ring and the Book , vol. ix. p. 226.

LONDON G. BELL AND SONS, LTD. 1927

First Published May 1885. Second Edition, 1886. Third Edition, 1887. Fourth Edition, 1889. Fifth Edition, 1890. Sixth Edition, 1892. Reprinted 1895, 1899, 1902, 1907, 1910, 1913, 1919, 1923.

PRINTED IN GREAT BRITAIN BY PURNELL AND SONS PAULTON, SOMERSET, ENGLAND

PREFACE TO THE FIRST EDITION.

This book was written at the request of some of the members of the Browning Society, and was originally intended to be a primer. It bears the marks of this intention in its general scheme, and in the almost abrupt brevity which the desired limits of space seemed to impose on its earlier part. But I felt from the first that the spirit of Mr. Browning's work could neither be compressed within the limits, nor adapted to the uses, of a primer, as generally understood; and the book has naturally shaped itself into a kind of descriptive Index, based partly on the historical order and partly or the natural classification of the various poems. No other plan suggested itself, at the time, for bringing the whole series of these poems at once under the reader's eye: since a description which throughout followed the historical order would have involved both lengthiness and repetition; while, as I have tried to show, there exists no scheme of natural classification into which the whole series could have been forced. I realize, only now that it is too late, that the arrangement is clumsy and confusing: or at least has become so by the manner in which I have carried it out; and that even if it justify itself to the mind of my readers, it can never be helpful or attractive to their eye, which had the first right to be considered. That I should have failed in a first attempt, however earnest, to meet the difficulties of such a task, is so natural as to be almost beyond regret, where my credit only is concerned; but I shall be very sorry if this result of my inexperience detracts from any usefulness which the Handbook might otherwise possess as a guide to Mr. Browning's works. I note also, and with real vexation, some blunders of a more mechanical kind, which I might have been expected to avoid.

I have been indebted for valuable advice to Mr. Furnivall; and for fruitful suggestion to Mr. Nettleship, whose proposed scheme of classification I have in some degree followed.

A. ORR.

March 2nd, 1885.

PREFACE TO THE SECOND EDITION.

In preparing the Handbook for its second edition, my first endeavour has been to correct, as far as possible, the faults which I acknowledged in my Preface to the first. But even before the time for doing so had arrived, I had convinced myself that where construction or arrangement was concerned, these faults could not be corrected: that I, at least, could discover no more artistic method of compressing into a small space, and to any practical purpose, an even relatively just view of Mr. Browning's work. The altered page headings will, where they occur, soften away the harshness of the classification, while they remove a distinct anomaly: the discussion of such a poem as "Pauline" under its own title, such a one as "Aristophanes' Apology," under that of a group; but even this slight improvement rather detracts from than increases what little symmetry my scheme possessed. The other changes which, on my own account, I have been able to make, include the re writing of some passages in which the needful condensation had unnecessarily mutilated the author's sense; the completing of quotation references which through an unforeseen accident had been printed off in an unfinished state; and the addition of a few bibliographical facts. By Mr. Browning's desire, I have corrected two mistakes: the misreading, on my part, of an historical allusion in "The Statue and the Bust," and of a poetical sentiment expressed in "Pictor Ignotus" and, by the insertion of a word or sentence in the notice of each, expanded or emphasized the meaning of several of the minor poems... Continue reading book >>




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