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HISTORY

OF

ENGLISH LITERATURE.

PRELIMINARY CHAPTER.

SECTION I.

ANGLO-SAXON PERIOD.

ANGLO-Saxon LITERATURE forms of itself a special department of study. It is one of those exceptional products of the human mind, working with scanty materials, imperfect tools, and under adverse circumstances, which, like stars scattered over a dark portion of the sky, stud the dreary period that intervenes between the break-up of the ancient civilization and literature, and the rise of those of modern times. It is a thing apart, like the Irish or the Icelandic literature, and requires to be studied in connection with the fossil remains of other extinct cognate languages, such as the Old Saxon, the Mæsogothic, and the Frisian. It is a chapter in Palæontology. Yet, since the present English tongue is in its essential elements derived from the Anglo-Saxon, and since the existence of an Anglo-Saxon literature probably stimulated our earliest English writers to persist in the use of the vernacular, when interest, fashion, and the torrent of literary example would have led them to adopt the Norman French, it

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