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This book aims at providing, for the study of the French literature of the seventeenth century, a greater variety of texts than are now easily accessible. That century is indisputably the fundamental age of French literature, the one which every student must possess first of all; and as a French student who is to study one period only of English literature will naturally turn to the period in which Shakespeare is the conspicuous figure, so, under similar circumstances an English-speaking student will choose the period which produced Corneille, Racine, Molière, La Fontaine, Bossuet, and Pascal.
For practical reasons one volume was preferable to two volumes. The editors faced two possibilities: either to include all the notable authors of the period and reduce the length of the selections; or to include fewer authors, and allow more under each name. We did not hesitate to choose the second alternative, since few things are as conducive to superficiality and confusion as the scrappy texts of the common type of anthology.
We have omitted Corneille, Racine, and Molière who, of course, by themselves would easily fill one volume like this
in the first place, because there are on the market in abundance, and at very reasonable cost, good editions of their masterpieces; in the second place because their works less than any others permit of being