It is the book of an old man mad about writing - in the sense that Hokusai called himself an old man mad about painting. So it is an attempt to induce a larger and always larger number of may fellows to taste the pleasure that comes from always more and more reading. But that imposes on me certain limitations - the first being that, contrary to the habits of the learned, I must write only about the books that I have found attractive: because if I lead my reader up to unreadable books I risk giving him a distaste for all literature. Too many of the classics that the learned still mechanically ram down the throats of their pupils or their readers have lost the extra-literary attractions that once they had and so have become but dry bones, the swallowing of which can only inculcate into the coerced ingurgitators a distaste for all books. At the same time, I have such a distaste for writing injuriously about my fellow of the pen, though they may have been dead a thousand years, that I have, as you would say, panned hardly any writer, except for one to take care of themselves. So there may well be here certain omissions that may astonish you until you reflect upon the matter.
Book One From the Earliest Days to Elizabethans Part 1 Definition of "Literature" Part 2 The Beginnings of the Roman Era Part 3 In the Dark Ages Part 4 Chaucer, Boccacio and Langland. Book Two From Elizabethans to Modern Times Part 1 The Beginnings of English Prose Part 2 The Later German Romanticists
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