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English Literature

William J. Long

Book Overview: 

This book, which presents the whole splendid history of English literature from Anglo-Saxon times to the close of the Victorian Era, has three specific aims. The first is to create or to encourage in every student the desire to read the best books, and to know literature itself rather than what has been written about literature. The second is to interpret literature both personally and historically, that is, to show how a great book generally reflects not only the author's life and thought but also the spirit of the age and the ideals of the nation's history. The third aim is to show, by a study of each successive period, how our literature has steadily developed from its first simple songs and stories to its present complexity in prose and poetry.

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .nce he attached to his own writing, even while he was encouraging Spenser. The Arcadia is a pastoral romance, interspersed with eclogues, in which shepherds and shepherdesses sing of the delights of rural life. Though the work was taken up idly as a summer's pastime, it became immensely popular and was imitated by a hundred poets. The Apologie for Poetrie (1595), generally called the Defense of Poesie, appeared in answer to a pamphlet by Stephen Gosson called The School of Abuse (1579), in which the poetry of the age and its unbridled pleasure were denounced with Puritan thoroughness and conviction. The Apologie is one of the first critical essays in English; and though its style now seems labored and unnatural,--the pernicious result of Euphues and his school,--it is still one of the best expressions of the place and meaning of poetry in any language. Astrophel and Stella is a collection of songs and sonnets addressed to Lady Penelope Devereux, to whom Sidney had once be. . . Read More

Community Reviews

A must-have for all the English literature majors out there. I suggest reading the book for your first semester to take a ride at the basics; as soon as possible.

I listened to this on audiobook. Took nearly 24 hrs(there goes another day of my life) so it's quite substantial as the title suggests. It's very dry and obviously has to be selective but there is a structure. It opens with the earliest forms of English poetry and prose like Beowulf circa 700-1000AD

Good for English Literature Students . Helpful for both basic knowledge and exam purpose.

This was an assigned text for an online English lit class. I can see why it's considered a classic; its scope is comprehensive and thorough for the period which it covers--with a few glaring holes. As other reviewers have noted, the Anglo-centric world-view and dismissive tone toward or complete omi

Three stars for the material of the book itself; and one more considering the sociocultural context of the year of its publication (1912).

Written in easy language, good for starters , I read this in 2010 perhaps...A good book indeed.

Okay.. This is one of the best books for starters (like me) to know a rough idea of English Literature. Great!


This work is so antiquated and uninhibited in its bigotry in all shades that it's hard to believe it is still often recommended as a beginner's guide to the history of English Literature (till the Victorian era that is). For instance, the author often ends up digressing to wax poetic about the great

I used this book for three purposes:
1. As a textbook for my Eng Lit Forms and Movements elective course at BITS Pilani
2. As a reference for my personal project 'Impact of the Tudor Era on the World'
3. As a source for lists and summaries of works by great English authors

And this legendary book served

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