This work of introduction is designed to escort the reader through some six centuries of English literature. It begins in the fourteenth century at the point at which the language written in our country is recognizably our own, and ends in the 1950s. It is a compact survey, summing up the substance and quality of the individual achievements that make up our literature. The aim is to leave the reader informed about each writer’s main output, sensitive to the special character of his gifts, and aware of his place in the story of our literature as a whole. No artificial schematization is imposed, but a pattern emerges naturally from considering writers in the groupings into which they fall by virtue of their historical context and their special interests.
Chapter headings do not define strict watertight divisions. Each one denotes the central interest of a chapter without being exclusive. The bibliography at the end provides chapter-by-chapter reading lists which guide the reader to a sample of texts, mostly inexpensive, and to a few relevant works of critical, historical, or biographical interest. Very many of the listed books are paperbacks.
I gratefully acknowledge the valuable critical help I have received from Professor Harold F. Brooks, and from my son, Alcuin Blamires. Professor Brooks in particular has been most generous in drawing attention to matters in my manuscript that called for re-consideration; but of course I am myself responsible for anything in the book that is amiss.