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that a round black dot means that you are to count four; a black dot with another curly-tailed one under it, that you are to count two; and a curly-tailed one by itself, that you are to count one.
“About the words occurring between these marks you are taught nothing except to read louder than usual any that are printed in that eminently feminine text, the italic.
“The consequence is, that the pupil is ever nervously watching for the all-important full stop standing for four, the colon representing three, the semicolon equivalent to two, and the comma going for one; or exhausting his breath in roaring italics, instead of thinking of the sense and sentiment of the words he is politely supposed to be reading.”
From the time of which I spoke at the commencement of these remarks until now Penny Readings have rapidly grown into general popularity, and have done an incalculable amount of good. They have familiarised with the treasures of our literature many who formerly had as little inclination possibly as opportunity to read for themselves. Of the comfort and consolations to be derived from such an acquaintance a brief extract from
father's letter to the Secretary of the Manchester Athenæum will bear testimony far better than anything I could write.
“I have elsewhere recorded my own deep obligations to Literature, that a natural turn for reading and intellectual pursuits probably preserved me from the moral shipwreck, so apt to befal those who are deprived in early life of the paternal pilotage. At the very least, my books kept me aloof from the ring, the dog-pit, the tavern, and the saloons, with their degrading orgies. For the closet associate of Pope and Addison, the mind accustomed to the noble, though silent, discourse of Shakespeare and Milton, will hardly seek, or put up with low company and slang. The reading animal will not be content with the brutish wallowings that satisfy the unlearned pigs of the world. Later experience enables me to depose to the comfort and blessing that literature can prove in seasons of sickness and sorrow : how powerfully intellectual pursuits can help in keeping the head from crazing, and the heart from breaking; nay, not to be too grave, how generous mental food can even atone for a meagre diet; rich fare on the paper,
for short commons on the cloth."
Having thus stated my opinion as to the advantages of the movement, and the interest with which I have watched it from the beginning, I have only to add a few words explanatory of the origin and intention of the present series.
Some time since—before any collection of Penny Readings had been announced, or perhaps thought of—I proposed to Messrs. Moxon the publication of a selection of
Penny Readings from the works of Thomas Hood." The proposal was approved by Messrs. Moxon, who, however, suggested an amplification and improvement of the design. I was requested to arrange a series of Penny Readings from the various copyrights possessed or published by the firm.
I need hardly say that I was only too happy to undertake the task. The rich store of literature placed at my disposal, offered a tempting variety, comprising, as it did, some of the finest works of
of the greatest modern writers. I felt it was not only a pleasure, but an honour, to have offered me such an opportunity of placing, in a convenient form, at the disposal of the promoters of Penny Readings some of the rarest literary treasures of the age.
As the suggestion of Messrs. Moxon, this scheme was further extended. To render the collection yet more complete, it was determined to obtain leave to add to it from the works of eminent writers, not published by the firm.
by the firm. I take this opportunity of tendering my thanks for the readiness and generosity with which that permission has been granted.
A considerable time, I regret to say, has elapsed between the first conception of this series and its publication, but I am satisfied that it was better to delay a little, than to allow the pressure of other business to interfere with the performance of so im
portant a task.