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The plan of a general history of English literature in a series of introductory manuals, each dealing with a welldefined period and individually complete, as set forth in the preface to Mr. Dennis's Age of Pope, is advanced a stage further by the present volume.
The period described, from its chief literary figure, as The Age of Dryden, and which might with equal propriety have been entitled The Age of the Restoration, extends from 1660 to 1700. Some very important writers, such as Milton and Clarendon, the composition or publication of whose principal works falls within this epoch, have been passed over as belonging in style and spirit to the preceding age; and in a few instances this procedure has been reversed. In the main, however, the last forty years of the seventeenth century constitute the period of literary activity represented, and will be found to be demarcated with unusual precision from both the preceding and the ensuing era.
The writer of a literary history embracing works on a great variety of topics will soon discover that he is expected to impart more information than he possesses.
If in any
measure endowed with the grace of modesty, he will frequently feel compelled to acknowledge with Mr. Edward Gibbon Wakefield, when, after having overcome every other difficulty in the foundation of his colony, he came to provide it with a bishop: 'I fear I do not very well understand this part of the subject myself.' Trusty guides, however, fortunately are not wanting. The author's warmest acknowledgments are due for the assistance he has derived from personal communication with Professor Hales, and from the writings of Macaulay, Matthew Arnold, Mr. Gosse, Professor Saintsbury, Mr. Churton Collins, and Dr. Fowler. He is indebted for the Index to Mr. J. P. Anderson, of the Reading Room of the British Museum.
R. G. October, 1895.