A CRITICAL HISTORY OF ENGLISH LITERATURE by David Daiches

A CRITICAL HISTORY OF ENGLISH LITERATURE

By
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

It would be presumptuous as well as impossible to evaluate Professor Daiches' two volume history of English literature. Professor Daiches was the University Lecturer in English at Cambridge University and this work represents some thirty years of study and reading, interpretation and illumination. What can best be done here is to indicate its scope and intentions-beginning here with Beawulf and ending some 1100 pages later with an epilogue on twentieth century writing, primarily the poetry of Eliot and Yeats and the novels of Woolf and Joyce with its new concepts of time and consciousness. Professor Daiches feels that any historian of literature too close to his time is liable to be ""scrappier and more arbitrary"". He has designed this ""as a work of description, explanation and critical interpretation"" in which a ""maximum ease of reading"" will be ""compatible with sound scholarship and intellectual responsibility"". In the progression of centuries and their trends, and writers with their particular sources and influences (as well as considerable illustrations from the works of those discussed) he has achieved a spacious perspective of literature through the eyes of one man. Certainly as against Priestley's intuitive, more personalized and more prejudiced Literature and Western Man which appeared earlier this year, Professor Daiches' work is of greater depth and more measured judgment. One can only question that while the publishers are presenting it as a trade (not a text) book, and while Daiches has meant it to be read and ""not looked up"", there are probably few readers equal to the assignment. So that one must conclude that the book will have its strongest and longest lasting usage in libraries of all kinds although it does offer profit and pleasure to the general reader.

Pub Date: Sept. 12th, 1960
Publisher: Ronald