The first thing then to be noted about the reading of English (with which alone I am concerned) is that for Englishmen it has been made by Act of Parliament- compulsory.' (Excerpt from Chapter 1)
I suspect that the recent discoveries about how the brain develops (Matt Ridley's Nature via Nurture is a good text) will lead to an increasing emphasis in the next fifty years upon knowledge rather than information. At the beginning of the 21st Century our focus is exclusively upon information and communication. Our education system is geared not to gives us facts, but to teach us how to discover facts when we need them. Many social consequences parallel this: not least the rise of feminism, it being very probably true that women are better at communication than men.
Quiller-Couch's thesis is the reverse of our universal present-day mindset. He argues (and I paraphrase grossly) that information is not only irrelevant, but that too much information can be at best distracting, and at worst, dangerous. The esssential features of human character - the battle between good and evil, of self and others - has remained unchanged throughout recorded history. Each person since the human race began has to resolve, or fail to resolve, this battle for themselves. The most gifted have been able to write about it, or compose music, or paint pictures of it. The very greatest of these works of art have a universal application: that is, the human context applies to anyone living in any age - Hamlet is not just about a medieval Dane. What differs from age to age is the language in which the context is expressed.
Until fairly recently a girl's school in the east of England had the school motto "Video, Audio, Disco". No prizes for guessing why it was changed. But in Latin it is a reasonable aspiration for a school: I see, I hear, I learn. So language changes and has different resonances at different times. To understand Shakespeare or Milton we have to study what the words meant at the time they were written. This means understanding the human dilemmas and issues that the dramatist/poet/author was trying to address. Our way into these works of literature is therefore through understanding the universal problems of human morality. QuillerCouch suggests the remarkable claim that anyone who has read and really understood Book 9 of Milton's Paradise Lost doesn't need to learn anything else, except what may be necessary to earn a living. And he goes further: having mastered Book 9 (or whatever) then, apart from the few other works of art of similar stature, any further and lesser knowledge is distracting.
This idea seems preposterous to a generation brought up to believe in information and a Freedom of Information Act. But I suspect that the pendulum may start to swing back in the next twenty years, and if this review is still posted here in fifty years, Quiller-Couch's ideas - updated with examples of universal great art from 1916 to 2050, and from a wider set of cultures than The West - may be nearer to cutting edge than obsolesence.