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RICHARD BURTON, PH.D., Editor-in-Chief
THOMAS HENRY HUXLEY
PROFESSOR OF DRAMATIC LITERATURE
THE GREGG PUBLISHING COMPANY
The literature that lives has nothing to do with Time. It may be a farce by Aristophanes, a speech of Cicero's, a canto of Dante's song, or a story by O. Henry; it is always a question of vitality. On the contrary, a piece of writing that lacks this precious, preservative quality dies the day it is born. The idea that because a poem, a tale, a play, or an essay was written a hundred or a thousand years ago, it must necessarily be dead, is quite false. Always the question is: Has it charm, beauty, power, human meaning? If it has it will survive; if it is without these saving graces, it not only will not last, but never was alive.
We speak of the "dead languages," and the familiar phrase is right in the sense that the tongues themselves in the form they once took are no longer vital on the lips of men. But the thought and feeling embodied in the words of great writers during the so-called classic days of Greece and Rome are truly and splendidly alive to-day, for the simple reason that they were alive then; and are so true to the universal experience of mankind, and so beautiful in their expression, that Time cannot touch them nor age wither their "infinite variety."
The books of the present series are vital for this reason and in this sense. They belong, to be sure, to the modern period and do not go further back than the eighteenth