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That a healthful religious influence should pervade all elementary books, is a principle which will not be contested in a Christian country. Human beings, in their most susceptible age, become habitually conversant with the daily lessons of the schools. These lessons are perused and reperused till the sentiments are not only lodged in the memory, but imprinted on the heart, and almost incorporated with the elements of the soul itself. Many individuals, now in middle age, will carry to the end of life the impressions which they received from the pages of the “ American Preceptor,” and the “ Art of Reading.” In all heathen countries, the religious belief is found, in various forms, in every department of literature, and of common life. There is no reason why the principles of the Bible, in a Christian land, should not have an equal prominence in the systems of education and courses of discipline. In this work, while every thing of a sectarian and exclusive tendency has been carefully avoided, the compiler has kept in view, in making his selections, the moral nature and the destiny of the minds which may become interested in its pages. It is hoped that nothing will be found which will offend against the spirit of our Saviour's precepts.
To a considerable extent, it has been our intention to render the Eclectic Reader subservient to the great
cause of the moral renovation of the world. The time is fast coming, when the usefulness of every publication will be tested by its adaptedness to this object. This is the great design of our Creator in his providentiar government of the world, and it ought to be the main purpose of his intelligent creatures in all their labors. It has not been so much the intention of the compiler to advocate any specific modes .of benevolent effort, as to cherish in the .booms of higieatleys an enlarged
and philanthropic spirit. The good of ople’s own country • is best secured by consulting for the interests of the
whole human race. The effort has been made to select such articles as men of a truly catholic spirit, in all countries, may regard with approbation, rather than those of a patriotic or national character.
More than THREE FOURTHS of the articles in the Eclectic Reader are not found in any other selection, not excepting Mr. Cheever's excellent compilations. Fifteen or twenty of the most popular reading books have been examined, so that this selection might have the character of novelty and variety. If the articles are of equal merit with those contained in previous collections, an important object is attained, as a new body of valuable English literature is presented to the youthful mind.
The compiler has endeavored to keep in recollection the principle, that the young reader should be familiarized with those kinds of writing with which he will most commonly meet in mature life. It were easy to multiply extracts from Dr. Johnson, Dr. Blair, Mr. Alison, and other writers of a stately and formal character. But little preparation could be made in this way for the exigencies of a miscellaneous and widely various reading. The style of writing at the present time is more forcible,
direct and unembarrassed than was the case in the days of Queen Anne, or George III. The same objection may be made to the selection of dialogues, except so far as the reading of them serves to give variety and compass to the intonations of the voice. They are not the species of composition with which it is necessary to become very familiar. Unhappily, also, many dialogues are objectionable on the score of morality and good taste.
In conclusion, the compiler hopes that the Eclectic Reader will be an acceptable addition to the number of reading books already before the public. Selections might have been made from Milton, Cowper, Shakespeare, Thomson, and other well-known writers, both foreign and American; but it was not necessary. As some compensation, the man of taste will be pleased with the mature and finished compositions of Professors Playfair and Frisbie, the delightful allegories of Jane Taylor, the “wisdom married to immortal verse" of Coleridge and Wordsworth, the manly sense and comprehensive views of Evarts, and the Ciceronian elegance and dignity of Robert Hall.
Boston, December, 1832.
LESSONS IN PROSE.