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invariably retrograde. What a dreary period in English literature was the reign of Dr. Johnson. The chief legacies of that era to literature are the letters of Gray and Horace Walpole, and the life of the Dictator himself. But these are not creative literature at all.
Gray, as a poet, was comparatively sterile. Imagination, the jewel of the soul, had fallen from its elaborate setting. But the more that literature declined, the more sententious grew the critics. Nowadays, when literature is very active, and not very profound_impressionist, journalistic, supremely content if it can produce lively and superficial sensations—the bludgeoning of the early part of the century has gone out : no longer does the critic feel it a duty, as the oracle said to Oenomaus, to "draw the bow and slaughter the innumerable geese that graze upon the green." Indeed would not some have us believe that criticism of contemporaries is all a matter of private interest, apart from any just or earnest conviction ?
But there is still a class of readers, not very
large or important perhaps, haunted by a native instinct for literature, a relish for fine phrases, a hankering for style-to whom the manner of saying a thing is as important, or more important than the matter, readers, who are not satisfied with fiction, unless it be combined, as by Robert Louis Stevenson, with a wealth, a curiousness, a preciosity of phrase, to which in criticism only Walter Pater can lay claim, and which may secure for these two a station in literature to which the majority of our busy, voluble, graphic writers must aspire in vain.
A. C. B.
Eron, July, 1895.
Eight of these Essays have appeared in · Macmillan's Magazine,” viz.: * The Ever-Memorable John Hales," “ A Minute Philosopher," Andrew Marvell,” " Vincent Bourne," “Thomas Gray," " Elizabeth Barrett Browning," 'Henry Bradshaw," The Late Master of Trinity"; two in the “Contemporary Review,” viz.: “ Henry More, the Platonist" and the “ Poetry of Keble"; one in the “ National Review," "Christina Rossetti ''; and one in the “ New Review," the “Poetry of Edmund Gosse.” My acknowledgments and thanks are due to the proprietors and editors of these periodicals for the leave kindly accorded me to republish them. The Study, "William Blake," is now printed for the first time.
I desire also to record my gratitude to F. E. B. Duff, Esq., of King's College, Cambridge, who has revised the book throughout, and made many valuable suggestions.