English literature may very well be the greatest body of imaginative writing the world has yet seen. The human experience has been understood, interpreted, and conveyed by writers of genius in a tradition stretching through six or more centuries, from Chaucer to Philip Larkin, from Defoe to William Golding. Here, accompanied by a wealth of examples, is the story of a literature that has touched the hearts and stirred the minds of countless readers through the ages.
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It takes some hubris to suppose that you can even sweep through 600 years of British poetry and prose in a 5.3-hour program. The attempt has yielded a listenable and informative production. The narrative is occasionally off the mark and there are lapses. But it is Derek Jacobi's amiable, precise, and lyrical narration, always fresh and committed, that gives the exercise distinction and renders it pleasurable.
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