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This new edition of Young's Conjectures on Original Composition, prefaced with an essay on them, will prove to be at least in good season. It is the first handy separate reproduction of them. The reprint in the Shakespeare Jahrbuch, however excellent, is too much out of sight and out of reach of the average student and the general reader, and the editions of Young's works which contain the treatise have become very
The treatise is, furthermore, a significant literary document. It is an important, inspiring, and instructive piece of eighteenth century literary criticism, a representative product of its times as well as one of the two best works of its author, and it is, finally, an object of strange neglect on the part of students of English and of critics as much as it is an object of attention and speculation on the part of the German literary historians. A new edition of this remarkable and neglected essay will therefore not only be in place, but may also contribute to a more intense study of comparative literature and ästhetics.
The present edition of the Conjectures on Original Composition is an accurate reprint of the first edition of 1759, and the changes made by their author in the second edition, printed in the same year, are carefully added in footnotes. Punctuation and spelling, however, have been modernized, following the example of John Doran in his edition of Young's works, because many a sentence punctuated according to the old way says something different from the meaning it assumes when interpreted according to the present method of punctuation. For an almost facsimile reproduction of the treatise the Shakespeare Jahrbuch, Vol. XXXIX, pp. 16-42, may be consulted.
The introductory essay on the Coniectures on Original Composition attempts first to ascertain their origin, original meaning, and rôle in English literature. It deals with the history of their contents, with the terminology and principal ideas, and with their fundamental points of view. Finally it discusses their significance to the English reader and writer, past and present.
The essay next outlines the relation of the Conjectures on Original Composition to German literature. It deals particularly with their relation to the so-called Storm and Stress Period, attempting first to show where and to what extent and effect the ideas contained in Young's treatise occur in the works of the Storm and Stress writers, and then to ascertain whether these writers got their ideas from Young's treatise or from other sources. It offers, in other words, a reconsideration of the important question whether Young's essay and English thought in general really exerted the dominating influence upon the rise of the Storm and Stress Period with which they are often accredited.