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To this brief history have been added eleven illustrative stories, for the convenience of classes and the general reader. These are not the “ eleven best stories”; the list is not even as completely representative as I could wish of the best American and English short story writers. Closely held copyrights would make an ideal selection impossible of publication at present, except by piracy, even if such an anthology could be crowded into a single volume. However, this group of stories is thoroughly illustrative of the history, the structure, and the excellences of the short story; and in combination with the smallest public library, will supply the reading without which literary history is valueless.*

This book is intended also as a substitute for the author's The Short Story, published in 1902 as one of the Yale Studies in English. So much water has run under the bridges since then that it seemed better to write a new book, rather than to reissue a partial study.

New Haven, August 1, 1912.

* A comprehensive list of representative short narratives in the chief literatures may be found in Jessup and Canby's The Book of the Short Story, edition of 1912.





WHEN a maker of fiction starts out to write or to tell a story, he must find a beginning, a middle, and an end for his narrative. It is a completed action that his audience asks for. The most typical instance of such a completed action is to be found in the life of a man, or a group of men, or the important details of that life; and it is of such a life-history that the modern novel professes to treat.

Yet within this unity of man's birth, achievement, and death are many lesser unities, none the less complete because they may be regarded as parts of a whole. The hopeless love which binds together a few episodes of some otherwise not extraordinary life into a significant story; the unexpected situation quickly developing, quickly passing away; these are strands which can be drawn from the web of possible experience. The term “short story," as it is used in current writing and speech, does not mean a story which merely happens to be short; it is applied to the narrative which covers such a lesser unity. A lesser unity, of the kind I have described, makes the substance of a short story; the form is what such a subject demands: a brief narrative, all of whose constituent parts unite to make a single impression upon the mind of the reader.

In the earlier periods of English literature the distinction between the short story and other forms of narrative is better marked in subject than in form; and it is often impossible to draw a dividing line between the short tale and the long. The saints' legends and the short romances, for instance; it is often impossible to classify them. But as narrative grows more and more sophisticated, the separation is ever clearer and clearer, until to-day not only the subject, but also the manner of telling, of the short story set it apart with sufficient, usually with remarkable, definiteness from other kinds of fiction.

However, the marking of boundaries need not be taken too seriously by the lover of the short story. That is a task for a rhetorician, and a patient one. It is enough for us to recognize that in all periods there have been stories told of life's lesser unities, and that, since literature became self-conscious, these narratives have been felt to constitute a class or department of their own. In their many varieties they have often been named by the ages or the races which enjoyed them, and it is the existence of such well remembered genres which makes the study of the short story something very different from an attempt to distinguish between short tales and long ones. Sometimes the name indicates a characteristic form and spirit, as in the Italian novella, sometimes a definite subject, purpose, and form, as in the fable, where a moral for man is drawn from a short story of beasts. Sometimes the name is of a transient kind, as with the lai, which was merely a Celtic fairy-tale given form in French verse. Again, there may be a distinctive variety with no really distinctive name, as in the case of our own short story, A which differs in substance, and especially in form, from all earlier attempts to give a single impression of a lesser unity.

The history of the short story in English is a history of such of these varieties as have appeared from time

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