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The Development of English Prose from Elizabeth to Victoria

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  22 February 2021

Henry E. Shepherd*
College of Charleston, S. C.


There has been produced up to the present time no complete manual or treatise, exhibiting the origin and development of our prose. The works of Minto and Saintsbury are characterized by marked excellences, but they fail in some points of essential interest and importance. Our standard literary historians ignore, for the most part, this phase of their subject, and there is more of stimulating, suggestive criticism to be gathered from the terse prefaces that accompany Mark Pattison's edition of Pope, than from the elaborate manuals of Morley and Arnold. In discussing the growth of English prose from Elizabeth to Victoria, it is not my purpose to ignore the periods that precede the Elizabethan age. The germ of our English prose antedates by many generations the advent of that era. It may be traced back as early as the epoch of “the blameless King,” Alfred, in whose ideal character were concretely displayed those qualities of mind and heart of which the romancers of the Arthurian cycle but dreamed.

Research Article
Copyright © Modern Language Association of America, 1887

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1 Traylor's Retrospect of The Religious Life of England, and Masson's Life and Times of John Milton, Vol, VI., will amply repay dillgent study in this connection.

2 Sensations of Tone as a Physiological Basis for the Theory of Music.