About the BookA History of English Criticism, which was originally the English Chapter of Saintsbury’s monumental three volume A History of Criticism and Literary Taste in Europe (1900-04), was published separately in 1911 as a revised, adapted and updated edition, complete in itself. The book is the first of its kind and is thus of great historical importance.
The history of English criticism, as Saintsbury sees it, passes through three distinct stages: (i) the initial stage of Elizabethan criticism “tentative, hesitating and scattered” trying to assimilate the numerous critical ideas scattered throughout the classical European literatures (ii) the Neo-Classic period starting with Dryden and continuing beyond the beginning of the nineteenth century and then (iii) the stage of “modified or modernist” criticism. It is, however, a continuous process with rise and fall of various schools, theories, movements and attitudes etc.
The first chapter examines the classical legacy which provides the relevant critical framework against which the development of English criticism must be seen. In the subsequent chapters Professor Saintsbury discusses at length the contributions of Elizabethan critics, Dryden and his contemporaries, the eighteenth century critics, the English precursors of Romanticism, the Romantic critics and the critics during the period from 1860 to 1900. The Conclusion neatly sums up the general plan of the book and the findings of Professor Saintsbury, the first academic historian of universal criticism.
Though profoundly luminous and sharply insightful the book makes a delightful reading mainly because of the vigour of the overbearing character of Saintsbury who always transmits his opinions with gusto and invites his readers to share his views, his happiness and hearty preferences, his strong likes and dislikes.
The book is a must for any student of literary criticism.About the Author/sGeorge Edward Bateman Saintsbury (1845-1933), a man of enormous reading, profound scholarship, fine critical insight and literary sensibility, was Professor of Rhetoric and English Literature in the University of Edinburgh from 1895 to 1915. The bulk and scope of his writings is simply stupefying. A reprint of his works would easily make 100 large volumes.
In addition to the various scholarly articles that he contributed to illustrious journals such as Fortnightly Review, Pall Mall Gazette, Manchester Guardian, Saturday Review and many other journals, his important works on French literature are : A Primer of French Literature (1880), A Short History of French Literature (1883), Specimens of French Literature from Villon to Hugo (1883), A History of the French Novel to the Close of the Nineteenth Century (1917-19).
Saintsbury’s major works on English literature and on the history of criticism are Dryden (1881), Essays on English Literature 1780-1860 (two series 1890 and 1895), A Short History of English Literature (1898), The History of Criticism and Literary Taste in Europe (1900-04) in three volumes, A History of English Prosody (1906-10) in three volumes, Sir Walter Scott (1897), Matthew Arnold (1898), the Oxford edition of the Works of Thackeray (1907), The English Novel (1913), and The Peace of the Augustans (1915).
In addition to the above, Saintsbury contributed 21 chapters to The Cambridge History of English Literature and wrote 36 articles for the Encyclopaedia Britannica.
Saintsbury was also a great connoisseur of wine and his Notes on a Cellarbook (1920), a classic of its kind, led to the founding of the Saintsbury Club.
As a critic and a literary historian Saintsbury’s position is very highindeed.