This is the very rare original set of pamphlets that this work first appeared in. It has been rebound, as a note on the first page informs us, "Rebound, Montreal 1949." It includes everything that the later edition, also published in 1929, includes except for a portrait of Charles Darwin which is the frontispiece of volume 2 of the later 1929 edition. Pages xxxv + 635.
Quoted from the author's "Preface."
"THE present volume is a new work — a rewriting, with manifold expansion, of the short section on the Nineteenth Century at the close of `A Short History of Freethought' (3rd ed., 2 vols., 1915). As was explained in the second edition, the relatively scanty treatment of the century in which freethought had made its most extensive progress was partly due to the knowledge that the author's friend, the late Alfred W. Benn, had been long engaged on a comprehensive `History of English Rationalism in the Nineteenth Century.' In the case of the third edition, in which the nineteenth century section was expanded but still scanted, the
issue of Mr. Benn's valuable work (2 vols ., 1906 [see above for Benn's work]) was pointed to
as largely making good the deficiency."
"There had also operated, however, the further consideration, which may now be avowed, that the title of `Short History' had begun to seem dubiously applicable to a treatise which in its
third edition more than trebled the size of the first. That this (remediable) obstacle did not excuse a visibly imperfect historical performance, justly complained of as such by friendly critics, was fairly clear to the author at the time; and the possession of some degree of long-lacked leisure has latterly enabled him to make a measure of amends by this book. It will, it is hoped, ultimately form the concluding part of a revised `History of Freethought' that will renounce the vain pretension of the term `Short' — though, as the considerate student will probably admit, its procedure will inevitably remain concise, relatively to the vastness of
"The reasons for this attempt at completion of an inadequately finished task can be shortly put. The original `Short History' sought to trace the rise and progress of freethought throughout the world; and though Mr. Benn was exceptionally well qualified to do that for the nineteenth century, he chose to restrict his survey, substantially, to English thought and literature. This volume seeks to cover, on a necessarily smaller scale, the foreign ground, in connection with a fresh survey of the English field covered in Mr. Benn's treatise."
"It is in no sense a rival work. To read that remarkably able and interesting book was not to be tempted to compete with it; and the student would be ill-advised who should take this as a
substitute. Broadly speaking, the other is a searching study of the process of philosophic and religious thought involved or embodied in the rise of rationalism and the decline of theology in the period dealt with. The present volume is a more excursive yet more
cursory record of the lines of movement involved in the general processus, noting some which the more massive history does not seek to present, and applying to the whole a different arrangement."