In 1916, Oxford University Press published English Critical Essays: Nineteenth Century, selected and edited by Edmund Jones. It was volume 206 in “The World’s Classics.” This kind of series was once common, especially in the 19th and early 20th centuries in both Britain and North America. The rise of the middle class and the explosion in literacy fueled the printing of sets like “The World’s Greatest Literature,” “The World’s Greatest Speeches,” and similar works.
These kinds of books were also used in high school and college classes. I’ve seen many of similar size and content that bear educational inscriptions. These works include essays, poetry, short stories, and sometime single works like a Shakespeare play.
Jones (1869-1941) was known as something of a pioneering schoolmaster. He was born in Wales, and attended schools there, but went to Oxford for his M.A. degree, which he received in 1894. He was headmaster of the Barmouth Intermediate School from 1894 to 1931, when he retired. He edited a number of books for English grammar schools on art, poetry, this volume of nineteenth century essays, and another volume in the Oxford series on essays of the 1th, 17th, and 18th centuries. After his retirement, Jones was a Sunday School teacher – clearly, education was important to him, something to which he dedicated his entire life.
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