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Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, M.A.
Fellow of Jesus College
in the University of Cambridge
New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons
Cambridge, England: University Press
PREFACE TO THE AMERICAN EDITION
IN prefacing a previous volume of Studies in Literature
I allowed that the word “Studies” might well seem an exorbitant one for the familiar discourses bound within its cover, and gave half a promise to justify the title more thoroughly next time. That half-promise I am not keeping: and I want my American readers to forgive me, as I think they will when they know the reason why.
The experience of any teacher at Oxford or Cambridge in 1914 was as sorrowful as it was proud. He had packed in June and left a town teeming with balls, concerts, garden parties, river parties, all the happy riot that celebrates the close of an academic year: God's plenty-God's best plenty, of youth! He returned in October, to an empty university, to courts in which his was the only footfall, his the only litten windowto the short days, the long nights, the College
more dreary cold Than a forsaken bird's-nest filled with snow.
Then, by and, by it was borne in upon us that the generation which had flown with such a rush of wing, in two weeks of August, would never come back, or a few stragglers only. I remember sitting in King's College Chapel on the third All Souls' Day of the War, while the Vice-Chancellor recited the names of the sons of Cambridge who had fallen during the year, and the bare recital took more than forty minutes. Is it any wonder that, sitting by the Combination Room fire, after four years, we told one another that when the War ended there would be few young men for us to teach; and that, after teaching these, we could only spend the remainder of our days in studies which, at some later time, a recovered world might haply find serviceable? Well, anyhow, so it was: and under that conviction, in 1918, I gave my half-promise.
But then the miracle happened. The young men came pouring back from War, and overflowed us in such numbers that we could scarcely lodge them save by resort to medieval devices. They were not-woe is me !the young men we had “loved and lost awhile." But they were eager, and multitudinous; and neither the capacity of our lecture-rooms nor the frame of a college staircase had been prepared for any such invasion. If the hungry generations were not to tread us down-unless the hungry sheep were to look up and be not fed—we had to snatch the disused crook from the corner and employ it for all it was worth. And that is why these lectures—all spoken before a Cambridge audience (with the exception of the first, which inaugurated a "Byron Lectureship” at Nottingham University College) have missed to make good my halfpromise.
Cambridge, April, 1922