TO FIRST EDITION
IT is not an exaggeration to say that the
persons and incidents portrayed in the great literature of a people influence national
character no less potently than the actual heroes and events enshrined in its history. It
may be claimed that the former play aneven more important part in the formation of ideals,
which give to character its impulse of growth.
Don Quixote,Gulliver, Pickwick,Sam Weller, Sir
Roger de Coverley, Falstaff, Shylock, King Arthur, Sir Lancelot, Alice and her wanderings
in Wonderland, all theseand many such other creations of genius are not less real in the
minds of the British people than the men and women who livedand died and lie buried in
Since literature is so vitally related to fife
and character, it follows that so long as the human family remains divided into nations,
the personae and events of one national literature have not an equal appeal to all,
because they do not awaken the same associations. A word or phrase about Falstaff or Uncle
Toby carries to English men a world of significance, which it does not to others.
Similarly, a word or phrase aboutHanuman,
Bhima, Arjuna, Bharata or Sita conveys to us in India, learned and illiterate alike, a
significance all its own, of which an English rendering cannot convey even a fraction to
outsiders, however interested in Indian mythology and folklore.