The Eighteen-Sixties: Essays by Fellows of the Royal Society of Literature

By John Drinkwater | Go to book overview

SIR HENRY TAYLOR

By Lascelles Abercrombie

The history of literature inevitably presents itself as a series of periods, which are not merely chronological partitions, but rather characteristic stages in the process of literature. Literary history, indeed, cannot be content simply to describe the sequence of literary events; it is not the sequence of things, but the connexion of things, that makes history. The chronology of literature, however, is sometimes at odds with the periods which literary history displays. The year 1850, for instance, might justly be called the very heyday of the Victorian period; not merely by chronology, but because in that year were published those two perfect specimens of Victorianism, In Memoriam and David Copperfield. But in that same year there also entered into the process of English literature The Prelude and Death's Jest Book. Right in the midst of Victorianism chronology records the appearance of two books as alien as anything possibly could be from whatever may be meant by Victorianism. Nothing could better exhibit the artifice of literary periods. For, though it may be interesting to know when a book was written, the date that counts in history is the date of publication; it is then that a book begins, properly speaking, to be literature. The entry into English literature of the greatest poem of the preVictorian period was a Victorian event; and the real

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The Eighteen-Sixties: Essays by Fellows of the Royal Society of Literature
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Introduction vii
  • Sir Henry Taylor 1
  • Arthur Hugh Clough 20
  • The Early Novels of Wilkie Collins 51
  • Exit Planché -- Enter Gilbert 102
  • Punch in the 'sixties 149
  • Historians in the 'sixties - A New Era 175
  • Eneas Sweetland Dallas 201
  • George Whyte-Melville 224
  • Science in the 'sixties 245
  • Index 271
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