A History of English Prosody

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The proposed enquiry, which the writer has meditated for a good many years, and which, a little helped but more hindered by his earlier professional duties as a critic and journalist, has become an actual part of his later work as a professor of literature, is devoted to a subject entirely neglected for some centuries of our literary history. Treated partially and sporadically during the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth, and never at tempted as a whole until Mitford's essay towards the end of this last, it has during the nineteenth been pursued with increasing attention but too often in the fashion of shreds and patches, and almost always with a View to enforcing and illustrating preconceived ideas on certain points. The most famous instance of this is of course Dr. Guest's History of English R/zyt/zms. No book known to me in English, except the two just specified, attempts a complete historical examination up to its own time; and while Mitford's, good as it is, is perhaps injured by prejudice and certainly by necessary imper fection of knowledge, the conclusions drawn at every page by Guest from his admirable collection and digestion of material, almost deserve Southey's contemporary dis missal of them as worthless.

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