This is a classic handbook on the history and definitions of, and for, the literature of England and America. It covers literary movements, and types of poetry and prose, as well as terms used in the criticism, study, and explication of all types of literature in English. Ranging from A to Z, abstract poetry to zeugma, this handbook has more information about literature in English than most people ever imagined they needed or wanted to know, until they picked up this book. Then it becomes endlessly fascinating.
The book begins with a preface to the revised edition (1960). The original edition (1936) was thoroughly revised and rewritten in nearly every aspect, although the basic structure was kept intact. Some terms were omitted; many new ones were added; many others were revised in accord with more recent literary and historical scholarship. This preface is followed by a user's guide to the handbook, and then an alphabetical listing and definition of each term, with cross-listings where such cross-references are necessary or desirable. After this, there is a bibliographical essay covering some of the most important standard works on English and American literature. Finally, there is an outline of literary history, offering a timeline for reference (with many important works and authors mentioned). From the early 1600s on, it has two columns parallel on the page, one for English literature, and the other one for American literature. (This edition goes through 1959).