In a former book, The Shaping of English Literature, the author attempted to tell the story of the readers of books in England from the earliest times to the closing years of the eighteenth century. This book takes up the story and carries it on to the accession of Victoria. The period dealt with, therefore, is -- even allowing for some inevitable overlapping -- less than fifty years, as compared with the thirteen hundred years covered by The Shaping of English Literature. There were in those later days so many more Englishmen who read books and so many more books for them to read that the story is a much fuller one, and has to be told in a different fashion. All this is discussed in the introductory chapter, in which the author has tried to tell what were her aims and ideals in writing this book.
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