The British Library launched a new website Friday where people from around the world can now admire some of its “greatest literary treasures.”
The site is expected to become the biggest digital English literature collection, the Library says. Manuscripts of “Jane Eyre,” the preface to Dickens’s “Oliver Twist,” and an early draft of Oscar Wilde’s “The Importance of Being Earnest” as well as William Blake’s notebook, including drafts of his iconic poems “London” and ‘The Tyger,” are among the collection’s highlights.
The selection focuses on the Romantic and Victorian periods, and also includes the manuscripts of Wordsworth, Shelley, Keats, Austen, Dickens and Wilde as well as the largest collection of childhood writings of the Brontë sisters.
The British Library had commissioned a survey of over 500 secondary school teachers asking how they think English literature is perceived by young people. Three quarters of teachers say that their students find it hard to perceive the classic authors as “real people” and find it hard to connect with them. The collection therefore aims at getting students more involved with their writings by adding documents from the times the authors lived in, such as a 1809 dictionary of criminal slang with words that appear in “Oliver Twist” and a letter from someone criticizing Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice” as “downright nonsense.”