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THE VICTORIAN AGE

OF

ENGLISH LITERATURE

VOL. II

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PREFACE

porary writers.

It is always somewhat rash to attempt to determine the final place in literature of contem

There is nothing in which the generations make greater mistakes. Looking back upon the past age the reader smiles if he sometimes shudders to see Davenant or Congreve placed above Shakespeare, the age of Anne regarding as barbarous the age of Elizabeth, and in nearer days Southey placed on an equal rank with Byron or with Wordsworth. Posterity, we cannot doubt, will displace some of our greater and lesser lights in the same way ; but we must accept the disabilities of contemporary judgment along with its advantages, and with the certainty that what is written here is for the reader of to-day, and not for that eventual judge whose verdict will ultimately prevail, let us say what we will.

In a record of so large and widely spreading a literature as our own it is inevitable that some

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