Elizabethan Critical Essays

By G. Gregory Smith | Go to book overview

PREFACE

THE purpose of these volumes is to collect the writings of the Elizabethan age which are concerned with Literary Criticism. The term is used in its most comprehensive sense, and permits the inclusion not merely of academic treatises on the nature of poetry or on more special problems of form, but of tracts and prefaces which express contemporary taste. Some of the texts, such as Harvey's and Nash's, are reproduced less for their matter than for their manner of approach. The work is therefore an attempt to recover, primarily in the words of the Elizabethans themselves, what then passed for critical opinion in literary circles. I hope the collection will commend itself as being fairly complete: the ingenious repetition of argument and illustration which runs throughout would show at least that we are in possession of the abiding topics.

Several of the texts have been reprinted, either individually or as parts of works, during the late century, and notably by Haslewood, Grosart, and Mr. Arber. In these, it may be said, the interest has been exclusively bibliographical and historical -- a restriction perhaps inevitable in the plan of separate reprints. The advance in the study of Criticism has proved, however, that there are other, and perhaps more important, interests in this material, and that these are best served by treating it as a whole. In no other way can we find the historical perspective of what appears to be a 'mingle-mangle' of ill-con-

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