The French writer H.A. Thane was born this day in 1828. Author of "An Introduction to English Literature," he was perhaps the first author to come up with a cogent analysis on why English literature is different from its forbearers.
He wanders a bit in this selection, but the gist is that literature "is not a mere play of the imagination, the isolated caprice of an excited brain, but a transcript of contemporary manners and customs and the sign of a particular state of intellect."
Through our reading of the works of the past, Thane writes that we can understand something about the era a poem or novel was written in, as well as understand the person behind the words. It seems sort of obvious, but someone had to be first to come up with this idea.