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Sir Walter

Facsimile of a Letter of Keats

Keats's Grave

East India House.

Facsimile of a Letter of Lamb

De Quincey.

The Study at Dove Cottage.

Title-page to the First Edition of the Confessions

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Facsimile of Letter of Scott to Bishop Percy about Ballads

Scott's Tomb, Dryburgh Abbey.

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Facsimile of Cover of the First Number of Vanity Fair

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Facsimile Title-page of a Volume Presented by Stevenson to his 66 Cummie "

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ENGLISH LITERATURE

CHAPTER I

FROM THE BEGINNING TO THE NORMAN CONQUEST (Before 1066)

Introduction.

All of us, when we take up the study of a subject, naturally wish to be able to tell others what we are studying. At the very outset of a study of literature, however, we discover that no satisfactory definition has yet been given, and that the prospect of ever giving such a definition is small. Shakspere's dramas, Chaucer's tales in verse, Lamb's informal essays, Macaulay's formal essays in literary criticism, Huxley's formal essays on scientific subjects, Thackeray's novels, Keats's lyrics - here are a few of the kinds of writing that we call literature; and we find difficulty in saying what they have in common. As one great English writer and thinker, Dr. Samuel Johnson, once said: it is easier to say what is not literature than to say what is.

All of us have, nevertheless, even if we cannot clearly express it, a fairly definite notion of what characteristics a piece of writing must have to be classed as literature, although there is the widest disagreement as to degrees of literary merit. The phrase "English literature" is universally understood to mean the literature produced in the British Isles.

Coming of Angles and Saxons to Britain. - English literature is usually said to have begun about the middle of the

fifth century, when some Teutonic tribes, Angles and Saxons, came to the island of Britain and conquered the native Celts. The writings of the seven centuries following are, in fact, often called Anglo-Saxon.

The Oldest English Poem. This Anglo-Saxon (or, as it is sometimes called, "Old English ") literature is preserved in several large manuscripts in the libraries of the British

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Where many valuable manuscripts are kept.

Museum, Oxford University, Exeter Cathedral, and in a few fragments elsewhere. The Exeter Book contains many poems, including what is probably the most ancient piece of writing in Anglo-Saxon. This ancient piece is called Widsith (pronounced Weedseeth), "Far-Traveler," possibly the author's name, but more probably a mere epithet applied to him.

This poem of 143 lines tells the wanderings of the bard, or "scōp," as he was called, through many lands. He is pictured as a true artist, whose chief delight is in the practice

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