LITERATURE

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LITERATURE, according to the English dictionaries, means learning. In general use, however, this word, in English, commonly signifies what in other countries would be called elegant literature, excluding works of abstract science and mere erudition. The meaning of the word, in English, however, is vague. In German and French, the word means, distinctly, the whole which has been written. Hence the phrase " literature of the middle age," or "medical literature," means the aggregate of works written during the middle ages, or on medicine, &c. Literary is applied to all those branches of reading which come within the scope of a general reader ; the phrase " literary gentleman" corresponds pretty nearly to the French homme de lettres. Literary gazette is a journal which treats of works interesting to a general reader. In literary history, the word has a more extensive meaning. (See IAterary History.)