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In these days of many books it seems necessary to give a few words of apology or explanation for venturing to add another to the number, especially on a subject already so well worked as to be almost trite. The only apology I can offer is, that in writing these Lectures I had no most distant intention of making a book. They were genuine Lectures, given week by week to a class of students in the College for Men and Women in Queen Square.
My pupils and I having wandered for some time in the intricate mazes of modern English Grammar, and finding the study somewhat barren, I proposed that we should turn our attention to English History, as likely to bring more interest, variety, and fruitfulness to our work. When I began to prepare the lessons, I found indeed innumerable books, but no book, no one book, which was not either too learned, too copious, too trivial, or too condensed for my exact purpose. I had neither power nor ambition to bring new materials, but I had to choose and shape afresh those already so bountifully provided, in order to reach my aim, which was to awaken a real and vivid interest in so noble a study as that of the life and growth of England through 2000 years.
Whilst owning obligations to so many, I may, perhaps, be permitted to express my special indebtedness to Mr. Green, not only for the constant guidance of his most original and delightful
History of the English People,' but also for his valuable suggestions as to the authorities most helpful in the study of each period.
It seemed likely that others might have felt a need similar to my own, and that the Lectures might be useful to readers as well as hearers.
A point which, perhaps, needs explanation is the large number of quotations and extracts I have given. My reason for doing this was the great desire I felt to induce my pupils to read for themselves; to enjoy individually the same delight which I found in the old literature of our country; to live themselves back as far as possible into the very times of which we were speaking; to breathe the same air, think the same thoughts, feel the same feelings as our fathers had done.
To read or hear the facts, opinions, and inferences gleaned by another person from those old books is like reading travels in unknown lands, and seeing them with the traveller's eyes; but to study the old books themselves is like travelling in those lands and seeing them with our own. The
first advice my book is meant to enforce is—Read, read for yourselves.
If I may seem occasionally to abate somewhat of the respect due from a writer to his unknown readers, my excuse must be, that in preparing these Lectures for the press I have never been able to forget the kindly faces of the dear friends and pupils who surrounded me when they were first given, and who made my work so truly a labour of love.