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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
Richard Grant White (1822–1885)
Critical and Biographical Introduction
 
RICHARD GRANT WHITE was an essayist who combined scholarship with a strong individuality and popular qualities of style,—the latter due in part to a varied activity as journalist and magazine writer. A keen-eyed observer of affairs, something of a satirist, and cultured especially in music, philology, and literature, his most lasting work is that which he did for Shakespeare study, as expositor and editor. He was a healthful influence in the United States in fostering Shakespeare study, and his authority was considerable. In his criticism, commonsense is a marked characteristic: he is most vigorous and enjoyable when letting in the daylight upon pedantry, or ridiculing the thin-spun theories of extremists. His gift of expression was decided; and his command of the critical apparatus ample.  1
  Richard Grant White was born in New York City; and was graduated at the University of New York in 1839. He studied both medicine and law, chose the latter profession, and was admitted to the bar in 1845. But he soon turned to journalism and literature. From 1851 to 1858 he was associate editor of the New York Courier and Enquirer, and during the years 1860–61 had an editorial connection with the New York World. He wrote for the papers on many topics; and much of his work partook of the fleeting character of journalism. For several years (1863–67) his ‘Yankee Letters’ in the London Spectator were enjoyed as a lively chronicle of contemporary events. The book entitled ‘England Without and Within’ (1881) was regarded in that country as an estimate of unusual judgment and insight. His literary excursions also included a novel, ‘The Fate of Mansfield Humphreys’ (1884), an amusing but overdrawn study of Yankee character in a European environment. Mr. White’s philological studies are best exemplified by the volume ‘Words and Their Uses,’—one of the most readable discussions of the subject given forth by an American: it is at times dangerously dogmatic and hasty in generalization, but as a whole both sound and stimulating. ‘Studies in Shakespeare,’ made up of papers collected by his wife after his death (1885), gives in an attractive way his views on the English master-poet. For twenty-five years Mr. White worked at Shakespearean criticism; and his final Riverside Edition of Shakespeare, which appeared in 1884, proved one of the most popular prepared by an American.  2
  Mr. White was for many years the chief clerk of the United States Revenue Marine Bureau for the District of New York,—a post he resigned in 1878. His life was a busy one, calling on his time and strength in many ways. Looking at his work as a whole, and disregarding what was necessarily temporary in it, a residue of valuable and enjoyable literary work remains to give him his place among American essayists and scholars. He died on April 8th, 1885, at his birthplace, New York City.  3
 
 
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