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PREFATORY NOTE TO THE ESSAYS

The greater part of the literary and critical essays here collected was originally written as lectures for an audience consisting not only of my own classes but also of such other members of the University as might choose to attend them. This will account for, if it do not excuse, a more rhetorical tone in them here and there than I should have allowed myself had I been writing for the eye and not for the ear. They were meant to be suggestive of certain broader principles of criticism based on the comparative study of literature in its large meaning, rather than methodically pedagogic, to stimulate rather than to supply the place of individual study. This was my deliberate intention, but I am sensible that it may have been in a manner forced upon me by my own limitations; for, though capable of whatever drudgery in acquisition, I am by temperament impatient of detail in communicating what I have acquired, and too often put into a parenthesis or a note conclusions arrived at by long study and reflection when perhaps it had been wiser to expand them, not to

mention that much of my illustration was extemporaneous and is now lost to me. I am apt also to fancy that what has long been familiar to my own mind must be equally so to the minds of others, and this uncomfortable suspicion makes one shy of insisting on what may be already only too little in need of it. But Sir Kenelm Digby, in the dedication of what Sir Thomas Browne calls his “excellent Treaty of Bodies,” has said better than I could what I wish to say. “For besides what faylings may be in the matter, I cannot doubt but that even in the expressions of it, there must often be great obscurity and shortnesse; which I, who have my thoughts filled with the things themselves, am not aware of. So that, what peradventure may seeme very full to me, because every imperfect touch bringeth into my mind the entire notion and whole chain of circumstances belonging to that thing I have so often beaten upon, may appeare very crude and maymed to a stranger, that cannot guesse what I would be at, otherwise than as my direct words do lead him.”

Let me add that in preparing these papers for the press I omitted much illustrative and subsidiary matter, and this I regret when it is too late. Five or six lectures, for instance, were condensed into the essay on Rousseau. The dates attached were those of publication, but the bulk of the material was written many years earlier, some of it so long ago as 1854. I have refrained from modify

ing what was written by one -- I know not whether to say so much older or so much younger than I but at any rate different in some important respects, and this partly from deference to him, partly from distrust of myself.

J. R. L. 25th April, 1890.

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