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IF prefaces did not exist, it would surely be necessary to invent them. An author has always some confidence to make to a gentle reader, some shield that he would fain oppose to a captious critic. Of course his work will have to stand for itself; but the workman likes to tell what he has tried to do, and why and how he has tried to do it. So, first, my book is not meant for special students, who will naturally resort to those varied French sources from which I have directed little streams to fertilize and enrich what has remained in my notebooks and memory from the reading of many years. Nor are these essays intended primarily as an introduction to the study of French literature, but rather as a companion, and possibly a guide, to the better appreciation and enjoyment of those authors who mark progress or change in the evolution of literary ideals since the great Revolution. Until any book that is worth reading is seen in its true perspective, one will not draw from it its full measure of pleasure or profit. To give some clew to the books that are significant, whether as products or as causes of changed critical standards and æsthetic principles, is what is attempted in these chapters.

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