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A History of French Literature by Edward Dowden

Petit de Julleville and his fellow labourers


sketch of mediaeval literature follows the arrangement of matter in the two large volumes of M. Petit de Julleville and his fellow-labourers, to whom and to the writings of M. Gaston Paris I am on almost every page indebted. Many matters in dispute have here to be briefly stated in one way; there is no space for discussion. Provencal literature does not appear in this volume. It is omitted from the History of M. Petit de Julleville and from that of M. Lanson. In truth, except as an influence, it forms no part of literature in the French language.

The reader who desires guidance in bibliography will find it at the close of each chapter of the History edited by M. Petit de Julleville, less fully in the notes to M. Lanson's History, and an excellent table of critical and biographical studies is appended to each volume of M. Lintilhac's _Histoire de la Litterature Francaise_. M. Lintilhac, however, omits many important English and German titles--among others, if I am not mistaken, those of Birsch-Hirschfeld's _Geschichte der Franzosichen Litteratur: die Zeit der Renaissance_, of Lotheissen's important _Geschichte der Franzosichen Litteratur im XVII. Jahrhundert_, and of Professor Flint's learned _Philosophy of History_ (1893).

M. Lanson's work has been of great service in guiding me in the arrangement of my subjects, and in giving me courage to omit many names of the second or third rank which might be expected

to appear in a history of French literature. In a volume like the present, selection is important, and I have erred more by inclusion than by exclusion. The limitation of space has made me desire to say no word that does not tend to bring out something essential or characteristic.

M. Lanson has ventured to trace French literature to the present moment. I have thought it wiser to close my survey with the decline of the romantic movement. With the rise of naturalism a new period opens. The literature of recent years is rather a subject for current criticism than for historical study.

I cannot say how often I have been indebted to the writings of M. Brunetiere, M. Faguet, M. Larroumet, M. Paul Stapfer, and other living critics: to each of the volumes of _Les Grands Ecrivains Francais_, and to many of the volumes of the _Classiques Populaires_. M. Lintilhac's edition of Merlet's _Etudes Litteraires_ has also often served me. But to name my aids to study would be to fill some pages.

While not unmindful of historical and social influences, I desire especially to fix my reader's attention on great individuals, their ideas, their feelings, and their art. The general history of ideas should, in the first instance, be discerned by the student of literature through his observation of individual minds.

That errors must occur where so many statements are made, I am aware from past experience; but I have taken no slight pains to attain accuracy. It must not be hastily assumed that dates here recorded are incorrect because they sometimes differ from those given in other books. For my errors I must myself bear the responsibility; but by the editorial care of Mr. Gosse, in reading the proof-sheets of this book, the number of such errors has been reduced.


DUBLIN, _June_ 1897.


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