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intended chiefly for the use of those whose characters and opinions are still but partially formed, it has been deemed important to select not only master-pieces of style, but also master-pieces of thought. It is believed to be a defect in some of the more recent publications, intended as reading-books for schools, that sufficient care has not been used in regard to the sentiments contained in them. Such books very often, indeed, contain pleasing descriptions, and interesting stories, written in an agreeable style, and capable of affording amusement for children of a certain age. But they are not of that masculine character that stimulates the mind to action, or that gives it materials to act upon; and they not unfrequently cultivate a taste for reading of the most unprofitable description.
The unbounded popularity which belonged to the old “ English Reader” of Lindley Murray, and which still clings to it, notwithstanding its somewhat antiquated character, was undoubtedly due to the value of the materials inserted in his collection. The same materials still exist; and, since his day, large additions have been made to the stock of thoughts that, in the language of Milton,“ posterity will not willingly let die.” No literature, probably, is more opulent than ours. No literature contains nobler or more numerous instances of
" thoughts that breathe and words that burn;"—of sentiments uttered centuries ago, that are to this day “ familiar as household words” wherever, in any quarter of the globe, an educated Englishman or American is to be found. It should be a constituent part of Common School education, to furnish the youthful mind with some at least of those rich stores of wisdom that lie scattered through the writings of our distinguished authors. There is something contagious in the fire of genius :the mind receives an impulse by the mere contact with one of superior intellect. The minds of the young especially receive growth and strength by being made early acquainted with whatever is best of its kind in every field of English literature.
In making his selections for the present work, the compiler has purposely drawn less freely from authors of the present day; not from holding them in less esteem, but because they are already in a thousand forms accessible to every body that can read. By adopting this course, room was left, without unduly encumbering the work, for more copious extracts from those great storehouses of thought which are in a measure accessible only to the few.
The work is divided into two parts; “ The Class Book of Poetry,” and “The Class Book of Prose.”
The latter is intended for classes that are less advanced, and the former for those that are more advanced; and they are both intended to be preceded by some introductory book, such as those now used in Primary Schools, for teaching the elements of reading.
The practical teacher will find in these books an almost inexhaustible fund of grammatical illustration, as well as models of every style of English composition, both prose and verse. They may be used, therefore, not only in teaching reading in the higher department of rhetorical expression, but in teaching composition and grammar; and may be especially useful in making pupils acquainted with the varied resources of the language, a knowledge to be acquired in no other way than by familiarity with the writings of distinguished authors. It is believed, too, that the chronological arrangement of the extracts will enable the teacher, without material difficulty, to communicate important information in regard to the history of English literature. Short biographical and critical notices are, with this view, prefixed to all the earlier authors, for the benefit of those young persons who may not have the advantage of a living instructor.
LOCKE.--Critical Notice, p. 149; Causes of Weakness in