English Literature for Boys and Girls - H. E. Marshall
A terrific and accessible introduction to English literature by one of Britain's greatest authors of juvenile history. All of the major authors and literature of England are covered, from the Celtic ballads to the nineteenth century greats such as Dickens and Thackeray. Short examples of most of the literature is included, along with fascinating biographies.
Dear Boys and Girls, —This is not the book you asked for it is not the book that any of you have asked for, and I hope that you will not be very much disappointed. But in case you should be I will tell you how this book came to be written, and that may make you feel less disappointed.
Long, long ago I said, "If ever I have two brass farthings to rub one against the other I know what I shall do—I shall write an English Literature for Boys and Girls." But the days and months and years went on, and I never saw even one brass farthing. I wonder if ever any one did. Did you?
Still I kept the hope and kept the wish ready. And at last one day a Magician came. I can't stop to tell you what he was like, but he wasn't a bit like any Magician I ever read about. He put two golden pennies into my hand and said in a very solemn voice, "Rub them one against the other and the first wish you wish shall be granted to you. Be careful. Remember, only one wish. So choose with thought." Then he vanished. But of course I could not choose with thought, for the wish I had kept ready all the time just slipped off my tongue, and as I rubbed my golden pennies together I said quickly, "I wish to write an English Literature for Boys and Girls."
So I had my wish and have done my part. It is for you to do the rest. You know in fairy tales when people get their wishes they often find that instead of being made happy they are made unhappy by the fulfillment. But if you like my book, then I can truly say that my wish has brought only happiness in its fulfillment. And if you like my book, which is now yours, and if you say so, and if your kind Fathers and Mothers and Uncles and Aunts buy it for you, who knows but one day the Magician will come again with two more golden pennies, and let me wish another wish. Then I shall wish to write the history of—the country you asked for. Meantime I am, as always, your slave and friend,
|H. E. MARSHALL|
This preface, let me begin by stating, is not meant for my proper audience of Boys and Girls, but for the "Olympians," those semi-fairy godmothers and godfathers whose purses ought to be bottomless as their kindness is limitless. Having thus freed my pen let me proceed with my preface, in that I may with impunity use five-syllabled words should I so desire.
My preface is an explanation, and an apology. For every one who writes a literature for young people begins with an apology for writing it, and with an explana tion of why they wrote it. We explain that in spite of the many excellent literatures published none exactly suits our purpose and, while apologizing for adding to the number, we proceed to write one to please ourselves. My position is the same as that of all those who have gone before me, and I have no more original explanation to offer for adding yet another Literature to the many already published.
None of the Literatures which it has been my fortune to come across suits my purpose, for they are all written for use in schools, while my desire has been to produce a book which a boy or girl will read, not as a task, but as a pleasure. It is my belief that this is the first attempt of the kind that has been made. and whether I have succeeded or failed my young readers must decide.
The object with which I write being to amuse and interest rather than to teach, a great deal has been left out which must of necessity have been included in a book meant for school use. No attempt has been made to include even all the great names. Such an attempt could result, in the space at my disposal, in little more than a catalogue of names and dates. A selection therefore has been made of the most representative writers in the various periods treated, and any one who loves our literature will at once realize how difficult such selection was. I have chosen for the most part those men and works which seemed best to illustrate the widening and deepening of our literature, but occasionally I have chosen to tell of some work chiefly because of its appeal to young people, while others for obvious reasons have been passed over in silence. In treating of a great man it is not always his greatest work that I have emphasized, but rather that which most easily comes within the grasp of young minds. I have of set purpose treated the early portions of our literature at much greater length than is usual, it being my belief that what was attractive to a youthful nation will be most attractive to the young of that nation. Lastly, I have, especially in the earlier portions, tried to keep literature in touch with history, and to show how the political development of our country influenced, and in its turn was influenced by, the literary development.
In writing such a book my indebtedness to those who have gone before me is extreme, but to make acknowledgments to all who have helped me to produce it would be wellnigh impossible, for it would be to catalogue the reading of a lifetime. The list would make a brave show; too brave a show for such a small result. The great among the dead I trust know my gratitude. Should the great among the living chance to cast an eye upon my poor book, I pray them to take it as an evidence equally of my indebtedness and my gratitude. My direct borrowings I have never failed, I hope, to acknowledge throughout the text by quotation marks and notes. While expressing my gratitude to others I must add one word of thanks to Mr. J. R. Skelton, whose excellent portrait-pictures have helped not a little to illuminate the text and lighten the task of explanation.
In concluding it seems to me I can do little better than add to my already frequent borrowings by quoting a few lines from John Colet, that stern-seeming but tender-hearted man who, four hundred years ago, wrought so much for young folks, and tried to smooth for them the thorny path of learning.
"I have made this lytle boke, not thynkynge that I coude say ony thynge beter than hath be sayd before, but I toke this besynes, hauynge grete pleasure to shewe the testymony of my good mynde onto the schole. In whiche lytel warke yf ony newe thynges be of me, it is alonely that I have put these partes in a more clere ordre. and have made them a lytel more easy to yonge wyttes than (me thynketh) they were before. Judgying that no thynghe may be to softe nor to famlyer for lytel chyldren. specyally lernynge a tongue onto them al straunge. In whiche lytel boke I have lefte many thynges out of purpose. consyderyng the tendernes and small capacyte of Iytel myndes. . . . I praye God all may be to his honour. and to the erudicyon and profyt of chyldren my countre men, Londoners especyally, whome dygestynge this lytel warke I had alwaye before myn eyen, consyderynge more what was for them than to shewe ony grete connyge, wyllyng to speke the thynges often before spoken in suche maner as gladli yonge begynners and tender wyttes myght take and conceyve. Wherefore I praye you, al lytel babys, al lytel chyldren, lerne gladly this lytel treatyse, and commende it dylygently onto your memoryes. Trusting of this begynnynge that ye shal procede and growe to parfyt literature, and come at the last to be gret clarkes. And lyf to up your lytel whyte handes for me, whiche prayeth for you to God. To Whom be al honour and imperyal maieste and glory. Amen."
|H. E. MARSHALL|