Thursday, April 2, 2009

English Literature, The Eighteenth Century

Recently Acquired:
English Literature
The Eighteenth Century

Edited by Joseph P. Blickensderfer
Charles Scribner’s Sons (1929, 1957)

Paper. 511 pages. $1.50.

Sometimes I forget to check the vintage paperback section when I visit the Friends bookstore at the local library. This time, though, I didn’t, because the narrow passageway to the literature and poetry section was blocked off by a seated volunteer who seemed too deeply engrossed in her work to disturb.

The entire vintage paperback section fits on a small portable shelf in the far corner of the store. All of the books, it seems, are priced at a dollar-fifty. Subject matter varies. This particular volume is solid and weighs more than one would expect. A nice map with tiny print occupies the first two pages. I can just make out some of the names of castles and isles, channels, bays, and moors with my $7.99 pair of “cheaters.” I could probably read more of them if I switched to my regular bifocals, but those are less comfortable when I’m working at the computer.

The book includes an introduction by the editor. “The stream of English literature flows on without convenient breaks at centuries to make easy and obvious the work of historians,” Mr. Blickensderfer begins. And in the second paragraph, he says, “The philosophy of the period is dominated by the rationalism of Locke. He taught that man thinks by comparing his experiences, and abstracting characteristic qualities to serve as ideas of them. These ideas he combines into propositions, and from them derives more general ideas, thus ascending the pyramid of reasoning as far as his finite mind will carry him.” I could quote more of the introduction, but the fact is, I left school early on when I did for a reason. I said to myself then, “Get away from these blasted introductions, man, before you start sounding like them.”

The book contains work by the following authors:

Joseph Addison, Mark Akenside, James Boswell, Thomas Chatteron, William Collins, Daniel Defoe, John Dyer, John Gay, Oliver Goldsmith, Thomas Gray, Richard Hurd, Samuel Johnson, James Macpherson, Bernard Mandeville, Thomas Parnell, John Pomfret, Alexander Pope, William Shenstone, Philip Stanhope, Richard Steele, Jonathan Swift, James Thomson, Joseph Warton, Thomas Warton, Edward Young.

It also contains a section of Notes, an Index of Authors, an Index of Titles, and an Index of First Lines of Poems. Okay — time to change glasses.

This entry, sans image, added to And I Quote.

As the Conversation continues, I detect a hint of sarcasm.

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