A History of Elizabethan Literature

By George Saintsbury | Go to book overview

CONCLUSION

A CONCLUSION, like a preface, perhaps to. some extent an oldfashioned thing; and it is sometimes held that a writer does better not tol sum up at all, but to leave the facts which he has accumulated to make their own way into the intelligence of his readers. I am not able to accept this view of the matter. In dealing with such a subject as that which has been handled in the foregoing pages, it is at least as necessary that the writer should have something of ensemble in his mind as that he should look carefully into facts and dates and names. And he can give no such satisfactory evidence of his having possessed this ensemble, as a short summary of what, in his idea, the whole period looks like when taken at a bird's-eye view. For he has (or ought to have) given the details already; and his summary, without in the least compelling readers to accept it, must give them at least some means of judging whether he has been wandering over a plain trackless to him or has been pursuing with confidence a well-planned and well-laid road.

At the time at which our period begins (and which, though psychological epochs rarely coincide exactly with chronological, is sufficiently coincident with the accession of Elizabeth), it canpot be said with any precision that there was an English literature it all. There were eminent English writers, though perhaps one only to whom the first rank could even by the utmost complaisance be opened or allowed. But there Was no literature, in the

-445-

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