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PARTLY from the abundance of material open to the editor of The Sir Roger de Coverley Papers, partly from the requirements of younger students, it has been deemed wise in this edition to concentrate attention on those aspects of the papers that are of most fundamental interest, merely suggesting secondary lines of study to be followed out or not at will. Thus in the chronological table, only dates bearing on the social or intellectual history of the time are given, and in the bibliography there are mentioned only books of great or special interest; in the introductory essays every effort is bent towards giving the student a central point of view, and thus enabling him to get at the heart of his subject by understanding the social and moral conditions that made The Spectator possible.
A chief aim of this book is, through its suggestions for study, to relate the reading of a great masterpiece to the student's everyday experience and to his practice as a writer of English. For the most valuable of lessons in writing, for the admirable doing of what we all constantly try to do, there could be nothing better than the Sir Roger de Coverley Papers. Their wide range of interest and vivid portrayal of everyday life make them at once stimulus and example to the appreciative student; and a wise use of them in the classroom should leave him not only with a deepened love of literature but with a fair working knowledge of the principles of prose composition. The time limit is the chief obstacle to such a result.
In the introduction and notes abundant opportunity is given for the student's outside research; while the facts essential to an understanding of the essays have been fully told, the constant use of a good dictionary and encyclopædia has been assumed, and many suggestions for further independent investigation have been given. For this latter purpose a small school library is almost a necessity.
It should contain, besides the standard works of reference and a good history of the period, as many as possible of the books mentioned in the bibliography.
A brief survey of the suggestions for study will show that the psychological method is followed throughout; that the student's experience is taken as the starting-point for his later progress, and that in its light is interpreted what is unreal or unknown to him in literature. The study of the whole book should be based on the same principle. A sympathetic reading of the text will provoke the questions to which the introductory essays are an answer, as well as those others that will lead the student to an investigation of the notes or of books of reference.
The text is based on Morley's edition of The Spectator. It has been modernized, when necessary, in spelling and punctuation, and changed in a very few unimportant particulars.