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Outlines of English and American Literature
Contemporary History
by Long, William J.


We are still too near that period to make a history of it, for the simple reason that a true history implies distance and perspective. No historian could read, much less measure and compare, a tenth part of the books that have won recognition since 1876. In such works as he might select as typical he must be governed by his own taste or judgment; and the writer was never born who could by such personal standards forecast the judgment of time and of humanity. In a word, contemporary or "up-to-date" histories are vain attempts at the impossible; save in the unimportant matter of chronicling names or dates they are all alike untrustworthy. The student should bear in mind, therefore, that the following summary of our recent literature is based largely upon personal opinion; that it selects a few authors by way of illustration, omitting many others who may be of equal or greater importance. We are confronted by a host of books that serve the prime purpose of literature by giving pleasure; but what proportion of them are enduring books, or what few of them will be known to readers of the next century as the Sketch Book and Snow-Bound are known to us,--these are questions that only Father Time can answer.

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