A History of French Literature

A History of French Literature

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A History of French Literature

A History of French Literature

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Excerpt

The lack of a convenient and yet comprehensive history of French literature, beyond the range of skeleton outlines or compendiums of facts, has long been apparent from experience to the present writer. On the other hand, excellent works in French, such as those of Brunetière or of M. Lanson, are written from a standpoint unfamiliar to the English-speaking reader or student, and take too much for granted. M. Lanson's book is, perhaps, the best one-volume history of French literature in existence, but foreigners often find it difficult to handle.

An effort is here made to meet the needs of readers in a work going beyond simple outlines, yet not pretending to specialisation in every period--a thing which is impossible for one man now that we are, of necessity, either mediævalists or moderns. The book might, perhaps, more fittingly be called a "literary history of France," inasmuch as the relations have been emphasised of literature and social environment, and the Latin writings of the Middle Ages have been included. Accuracy has, of course, been sought as far as possible in view of the wide range of the subject. Yet the author does not aspire, as some do, to the merit of an absolutely independent judgment on every topic. On the contrary, he considers it the duty of the composer of a synthesis to rely, to a reasonable degree, on those who have spent months or years on individual writers whom he must perforce treat summarily. He sets himself down unhesitatingly as a "pickpurse of another's wit": the authorities from whom he has readily drawn will, it is hoped, be found accounted for in the bibliography.

The writer on a foreign literature labors under one great disadvantage: Chauvinism, rather than true patriotism, is apt to . . .

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