The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume XIV. The Victorian Age, Part Two.

III. Critical and Miscellaneous Prose

§ 25. Andrew Lang

The nursery work of Rands links on, at one point, to the work of Andrew Lang, whose many-coloured fairy books were, of course, not of his own composition, but gathered out of many lands and many ages in the course of his studies in mythology and folk-lore. Lang seemed to have all the necessary gifts of the essayist; yet, already, his essays have lost somewhat of their flavour. Only now and then, as in the lightly humorous philosophy of prefaces in the preface to The Orange Fairy Book, does Lang strike the true note firmly; and he has not enough of this quality to keep his essays in permanent remembrance. He dissipated his powers and attempted too much. Folk-lore, the occult, history, the Homeric question, literary criticism—in all he was active. Under such conditions, it was scarcely possible to be quite first-rate in any department. Specialists in each could point out his mistakes; but it remains much to his credit that he never failed to make himself interesting. The fact that, whether right or wrong, he is interesting in every page of his short sketch of English literature is not the least striking illustration of this power.