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ENGLISH MEN OF LETTERS IN EVERY AGE OF ENGLISH LITERATURE.
W. CLARK RUSSEL L.
“The place of books in the public estimation is fixed, not by what is written about
FREDERICK WARNE AND CO.
BEDFORD STREET, COVENT GARDEN.
The design of this collection is to present to the reader specimens of some of the smart and piquant things that have been said by literary men and women of one another. The collection, as the title sets forth, is wholly restricted to English literature.
Among English writers will be found names more generally associated with painting, music, the senate, and the stage. These names, as in the case of Hogarth, Reynolds, Burke, Macklin, Foote, and others, have been admitted without reference to vocation.
Of Divines not many have been included. The most familiar names in English Church History are eminent rather by their acts and by the example of their lives than by their writings. A few American authors have been inserted. Room would have been found for more could more criticisms have been collected.
There are many recent and living authors to whose names I should have been glad to have subjoined more criticisms than will be found. There are also many recent and living authors whose names I have with great reluctance omitted from simple inability to procure requisite testimonies. Anonymous criticism I could have procured in abundance; but anonymous criticisms I have, with few exceptions, rejected. Of the periodicals I have
quoted, the earlier numbers have been selected in preference to the later, for reasons immediately obvious, when the lists of their original contributors are examined.
Let me express the desire that in no case will the standard of merit suggested by this book be estimated by the space allotted to the criticisms on each author. Choice has been regulated not by the will but by the materials.
When unfarniliar authors have been quoted I have had regard to the good things their bad or middling productions have provoked from clever men. It must be remembered that Shadwell suggested “Macflecknoe,” and that to Theobald we probably owe the "Dunciad." I may also add that the criticisms of middling writers have been quoted only when the writings of the authors under discussion have been neglected by those whose opinions would be worth adducing.
Whenever I have been embarrassed by a multitude of testimonies I have preferred the remarks of contemporaries. I have endeavoured, so far as I found possible, to make this work in its selections representative. Although many names in this volume will be found new to the general reader, he may believe that of their age they were really among the representative writers in whose productions will be found the literary character of their times.