During the time that I have held the Taylorian Teachership of Spanish at Oxford, I have frequently received letters asking what there is to read in Spanish besides Cervantes and Calderon and what editions should be used. The present volume is intended to answer these questions, and to show the position occupied by the great writers in the general scheme of the literature of their country. The various divisions of the great subject have been exhaustively treated up to their several dates by Nicolas Antonio, Ticknor, Amador de los Rios, Schack and Wolf, to whose books I beg to acknowledge my many obligations, hoping at the same time that the present general sketch may be useful to the general reader, and to the beginner, and may serve as an introduction to more extensive works.
I am aware that a few short extracts, however well chosen can give no adequate idea of the manner of a great writer or of the merits of a great book, and that translations, even by the most skilful hands, are wont to reproduce the defects rather than the beauties of their original. The extracts here printed are intended to relieve the monotony of a long list of short notices of authors, and to illustrate the development of the language and progress of literary method; they are, as far as possible, characteristically Spanish in subject and, it is hoped, of sufficient interest to induce readers to refer to the books from which they are taken