Page images
[blocks in formation]

Cavalier satins and the more sober-coloured garments of their opponents; to see courtly poison withering Dryden's wreath of bay, and men like Johnson starving their way to fame: these are surely things of no slight interest and value to the earnest student of English Literature. And to such this book is offered.

W. F. C.

October 5, 1851.


[blocks in formation]
[blocks in formation]
[blocks in formation]


III. Anglo-Saxon Writers................

IV. Anglo-Norman Writers.............




V. John Gower..

VI. King James I. of Scotland..........

VII. Other Writers of the First Era...




IV. Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of


V. Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey ..

VI. Other Writers of the Second Era..




VIII. Our English Bible..................... 135

IX. William Shakspere................... 140

X. Sir Walter Raleigh.


XI. Francis Bacon, Viscount St. Al-



XII. Benjamin Jonson..................... 162

XIII. Other Writers of the Third Era... 166

IV. Edward Hyde, Earl of Claren-


.................... 190

V. John Milton..........


V1. Other Writers of the Fourth Era. 212

[blocks in formation]
[merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]

When in the depth of some Asiatic forest, shadowy with the green fans and sword-blades of the palm tribe, and the giant fronds of the purple-streaked banana, a sinewy savage stood, one day long ago, etching with a thorn on some thick-fleshed leaf, tom from the luxuriant shrubwood around him, rude images of the beasts he hunted or the arrows he shot, —the first step was taken towards the making of a book.

Countless have been the onward steps since then; but the old fact that the tree is the parent of the book still survives in many well-known words, which ever point us back to the green


perfumed woodland where sprang the earliest ancestor of those wondrous and innumerable compounds of author's brain, printer's






' 10


of paper,


ink, and linen rag, now answering to the term book. For example, take the Latin liber, and the English book and leaf. Who does not know that liber means originally the inner bark of a tree? Book is merely a disguised form of the word beech, into which it easily changes when we tone down k to ch soft; and what could our Saxon forefathers have found, in the thick forests of their native Germany, better fitted for their rude inscribings than the smooth and silvery bark of that lovely tree? The word leaf tells its own tale. The trim

squares sewed or glued together, which we call by that common name, find their earliest types in those green tablets we have spoken of, pulled fresh and sappy from the forest bough, and marked with the point of a little thorn; which, perhaps, by also pinning the pretty sheets together, may have done the double work of pen and binding-needle.

But fading leaves were too perishable to do more than suggest the notion of a book. Some more durable material was needed to keep alive the memory of those events-battles, huntings, changes of encampment, death of chiefs—which chequered the simple life of the early world. Groves were planted, altars raised, cairns heaped up,ấeach to tell some tale of joy or grief; but a day soon came when the descendants of the men who had raised these memorials wondered what the decaying trees, and the grey, mosscovered heaps of stones could mean—for the story had perished when the fathers of the tribe were gathered to their rest.

In some nations the earliest records were knotted cords. Strings of different colours, with knots of various sizes and variously arranged, contained the national history of the Peruvians. The Chinese and some negro tribes made use of similar cords.

But it was not in man, endowed by his Creator with the glorious faculties of reason and of speech, to remain contented with these imperfect means of keeping alive the memory of great events. The old book of green leaves was soon exchanged for a book of tough bark, and this for tablets of thin wood. Records, which men were very anxious to preserve, came to be engraven on slabs of rock or cut into plates of metal. The skins of various animals,

« PreviousContinue »