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method. I have endeavoured to consult the capacity of the scholar, and to provide for his gradually increasing strength, by giving the precedence, in the book, to pieces that are plain and easy, and reserving, for the latter part of it, such as will call for a more mature judgment and a more disciplined taste in reading.
It will be seen, moreover, from the table of contents, that the selection contains pieces of every kind, usually found in works of this nature; and that the book is not without order, so far as order has been deemed useful.
Since the days of Addison and Pope, and even of Johnson, time, which shows the mutability of all human affairs, has wrought a considerable change in the manners of the English, in the objects of scientifick attention, and in the character of literary labours among them. The style of their best writers, both of prose and verse, has undergone a corresponding change. The miscellaneous literature of the present day, however, is probably as well adapted to the present modes of thinking and acting, and to the present wants of society, as was the literature of the periodical essayists, and their contemporary poets, to the age of Anne: and, judging on the ground of comparative utility, we ought, perhaps, in severe justice, to be as reluctant to prefer the poetry, especially, of Gay, and Parnel, and even of Pope, to that of Beattie, and Byron, and Campbell, as the contemporaries of Milton and Dryden would, and should have been, to give Drayton and Spenser, and Chaucer the preference in comparison with the lights of their own age. An old coin may be as pure metal, and intrinsically as valuable, as a new one; and to the curious much more valuable; but, for the ordinary purposes of life, it is useful no longer than it is current. So it is with literature-with the golden thoughts that have re ceived the impress of genius. In the following work, therefore, I have drawn liberally from the literary treasures of our own age, not to the exclusion, however, of many pieces of old English poetry, especially of several from Shakspeare, which are common stock in works of this kind, and over which time has no power.
I have also laid under contribution the literature of our own country: and this I have done with the view of rendering the book an acceptable offering to the American people, not so much by appealing to their national pride, as by making it more worthy of their approbation, on account of its intrinsick merits. It is not my province to decide upon the value of those pieces which are drawn from European sources, compared with those of American origin, in respect to the proofs they furnish of a cultivated literary taste, of poetical genius, of a mature and manly eloquence, and of pure and lofty moral sentiment. On this subject I choose rather to let the world decide for itself; and, that this may be the more easily done, 1 have distinguished the latter from the former, in the table of contents, by giving in small capitals, the names of their authors, or of the books from which they were taken. These form nearly one quarter of the volume. It might have deserved, and might meet, a more flattering reception from the publick, had a still greater proportion of it consisted of the labours of our own authors. Of these there are two classes, to whom it may be thought I owe an apology-those with whom I have taken liberties, and those from whom I have taken nothing.
In regard to the latter class, it is but justice to them, and to myself, to say that it has required an effort on my part to resist, rather than to feel and acknowledge, the claims of many writers among us, to a share in the honour of having their names brought before the eye, and their strains of eloquence or poetry poured upon the ear, and made familiar to the mind, of the rising generation. But such authors-among whom are my personal friends, men whom I love and venerate-will do me the justice to consider, that much that is excellent in itself is not well adapted to the use of schools, and that had I taken all that is good in American literature, or even a tithe from each one of the authors of the present day who have done honour to their country, both at home and abroad, I should have swelled the book to such a size as to effec
tually exclude it from school-houses; and thus should have defeated, at the threshold, the leading object of the compilation.
To the former class,-for the liberties which I have taken with what I now give forth under their name, in occasionally substituting one word for another, in withdrawing some passages from their original connexion, and bringing others into immediate contact which were originally separate, and in connecting them by a phrase or a line of my own-my answer is, first, that I have in no instance wantonly sacrificed or maimed the beautiful offspring of their imagination; and, secondly, my reason, for the violence that in any case has been offered them, was my wish to crowd as many of them as I could into the narrow space within which I am restricted, and so to group them that they might do all possible good in their present service, and thus reflect all possible honour upon their parents.-When I have been compelled to amputate, I have conscientiously endeavoured to retrench only" those members of the body which seemed to be more feeble," that upon the others might be bestowed the more abundant honour." If I have broken off the legs and arms of the Farnese Hercules, it was that I might the better display "the breadth of his shoulders, and the spaciousness of his chest."
Without attempting to furnish schools with what might be denominated a pronouncing reader, I have, in many instances, indicated the proper pronunciation, either by such accents, attached to the words in the text, as are generally understood, or, where these accents were insufficient, by a note at the foot of the page. This has been done only in words of which a vicious pronunciation has obtained in some parts of the country, and even these I have not uniformly or constantly marked; supposing it sufficient to have called the attention of teachers, once or twice, to any particular word. When the pronunciation of an English word is given, it is that of Walker. In or thography, the same standard has been followed, with perhaps one or two deviations upon the authority of Johnson.
In regard to errata, whether in respect to the real words of the author, the spelling, or the punctuation, it is hoped that there will be no great cause of complaint. In many instances, in the lessons from Shakspeare especially, I have restored the genuine reading of the author, which has been corrupted in many other compilations. The punctuation too, which, when incorrect, so constantly misleads the learner, and embarrasses the learned, has been an object of assiduous care. Should any one be curious to compare particular pieces in this compilation, especially those from Shakspeare, with the same in other school-books, he will probably feel that it is but just, before condemning this for differing from them, either in the reading or the punctuation, to refer to some good edition of the author, for satisfaction as to his words, and then, by a careful comparison of the different modes of pointing, to judge which of them best discovers his meaning.
Such as I have been able to make the book, in respect to its arrangement, accuracy, and general character, it goes forth into the world without any letters of recommendation. The truth is, I have asked none for it. If it is a good book, the publick understands its own interest too well to let it die. If it is not a good one, no recommendations can keep it alive. I have made it, in the hope that it might be an acceptable offering to schools, especially those of this city, in which there are many children who are the objects of my pas toral care. In regard to them, and the young in general, the book will fulfil my hopes, if, while it helps them on towards the end of their scholastick labours-the general improvement of their minds, it shall enable them better to understand and discharge their duties in life, and lead them to contemplate, with pleasure and religious reverence, the character of the Great Author of their being, as discovered in his works, his providence, and his word; and thus help them to attain the end of their Christian faith,--the salvation of their souls.
Boston, June, 1823.
LESSONS IN PROSE.
HISTORICAL OR FICTITIOUS.
93. The Baptism,
94. Romantick story,
95. Anecdotes of Mozart,
140. Singular adventure,
50. The White Bear,
66. Fortitude of the Indian character,
Scrap Book. 141
MORAL AND RELIGIOUS.
161. Religion and Superstition contrasted,
209. On the moral uses of the phenomena of the material
Mrs. Barbauld. 110
Lond. Lit. Gazette. 116
IDLE MAN. 43
119. The Head-stone,
DIALOGUES, ADDRESSES, AND SOLILOQuies.
33. Mercury, an English Duellist, and
an American Savage,
45. Lord Bacon and Shakspeare,
99. The Sultan and Mr. Haswell,
199. Address of Brutus to the Roman populace, Shakspeare. 453
PIECES FOR RECITATION, OR SPEAKING.
78. The Slave Trade,
146. Part of the letter of the British Spy,
149. Conclusion of a discourse delivered at Plymouth,
60. New mode of Fishing,
109. Diedrich Knickerbocker's New-England
123. Dr. Slop and Obadiah, meeting,
171. Character of John Playfair,
W. IRVING. 244