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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
Edward Dowden (1843–1913)
Critical and Biographical Introduction
 
“WE are all hunters, skillful or skilless, in literature—hunters for our spiritual good or for our pleasure,” says Edward Dowden; and to his earnest research and careful exposition many readers owe a more thorough appreciation of literature. He was educated at Queen’s College, Cork (his birthplace), and then at Trinity College, Dublin, where he received the Vice-Chancellor’s prize in both English verse and English prose, and also the first English Moderatorship in logic and ethics. For two years he studied divinity. Then he obtained by examination a professorship of oratory at the University of Dublin, where he was afterwards elected professor of English literature. The scholarship of his literary work has won him many honors. In 1888 he was chosen president of the English Goethe Society, to succeed Professor Müller. The following year he was appointed first Taylorian lecturer in the Taylor Institute, Oxford. The Royal Irish Academy has bestowed the Cunningham gold medal upon him, and he has also received the honorary degree LL. D. of the University of Edinburgh, and from Princeton University.  1
  Very early in life Professor Dowden began to express his feeling for literature, and the instinct which leads him to account for a work by study of its author’s personality. For more than twenty years English readers have known him as a frequent contributor of critical essays to the leading reviews. These have been collected into the delightful volumes ‘Studies in Literature’ and ‘Transcripts and Studies.’ His has been called “an honest method, wholesome as sweet.” He would offer more than a mere résumé of what his author expresses. He would be one of the interpreters and transmitters of new forms of thought to the masses of readers who lack time or ability to discover values for themselves. Very widely read himself, he is fitted for just comparisons and comprehensive views. As has been pointed out, he is fond of working from a general consideration of a period with its formative influences, to the particular care of the author with whom he is dealing. Saintsbury tells us that Mr. Dowden’s procedure is to ask his author a series of questions which seem to him of vital importance, and find out how he would answer them.  2
  Dowden’s style is careful, clear, and thorough, showing his scholarship and incisive thought. His form of expression is strongly picturesque. It is nowhere more so than in ‘Shakespeare: a Study of His Mind and Art.’ This book (1875) gained him a wide reputation, and was followed by various publications in the field of Shakespearian criticism. He also wrote much on French literature, and was president of the English Goethe Society.  3
  He also published a brilliant ‘Life of Shelley’ (bitterly criticized by Mark Twain in the North American Review, ‘A Defense of Harriet Shelley’), and a ‘Life of Southey’ in the English Men of Letters Series; and edited most capably many collections and reprints. Among his later publications were ‘The French Revolution and English Literature’ (1897), ‘Robert Browning’ (1904), and ‘Michael de Montaigne’ (1905). Professor Dowden died April 4th, 1913.  4
 
 
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