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TO THE SEVENTH AND LAST EDITION.
THERE cannot be a doubt but that a Book, like this, purpofely
adapted to the ufe of young perfons of both fexes, copious beyond former examples, fingularly various in its contents, felected from writers whofe characters are established without controverfy, abounding with entertainment and useful information, inculcating the pureft principles of morality and religion, and difplaying excellent models of style and language, muft effectually contribute to the improvement of the RISING GENERATION in knowledge, taste, and virtue. The Public have, indeed, already felt and acknowledged by the least fallible proof, their general reception of it, its great utility. It has been adopted in all the moft refpectable places of education, and has fown the feeds of excellence, which may one day arrive at maturity, and add to the happiness both of the community and of human nature.
What ENGLISH book fimilar to this volume, calculated entirely for the use of young students at schools, and under private tuition, was to be found in the days of our fathers? None certainly. The confequence was, that the ENGLISH PART of education (to many the most important part) was defective even in places most celebrated for claffic difcipline; and boys were often enabled to read Latin perfectly, and write it tolerably, who, from the disuse, or the want of models for practice, were wretchedly qualified to do either in their native language. From this unhappy circumstance, claffical education was brought into fome degree of difgrace; and prepofterous it certainly was, to study during many of the best years of life, foreign and dead languages, with the most scrupulous accuracy, and at the fame time entirely to neglect that mother tongue, which is in daily and hourly requifition; to be well read in TULLY, and a total stranger to ADDISON; to have HOMER and HORACE by heart, and to know little more than the names of MILTON and POPE.
Claffical learning, thus defective in a point fo obvious to detection, incurred the imputation of pedantry. It was obferved to affume great pride, the important air of fuperiority, without displaying, to the common obferver, any just pretenfions to it. It even appeared with marks of inferiority, when brought into occafional collifion with well-informed understandings cultivated by English literature alone, but greatly proficient in the fchool of experience. Perfens who had never drunk at the claffic fountains, but had been confined in their education to English, triumphed over the fcholar; and learning often hid her head in confufion, when pointed at as pedantry by the finger of a DUNCE.
It became highly expedient therefore to introduce more of English reading into our claffical fchools; that those who went out into the world with their coffers richly stored with the golden medals of antiquity, might at the fame time be furnished with a fufficiency of current coin from the modern mint, for the commerce of common life: but there was no fchool book, copious and various enough, calculated entirely for this purpofe. The Grecian and Roman Hiftory, the Spectators, and Plutarch's Lives, were indeed fometimes introduced, and certainly with great advantage. But frill, an uniformity of English books in fchools, was a defideratum. It was defirable that all the students of the fame clafs, provided with copies of the fame book, containing the proper variety, might be enabled to read it together, and thus benefit each other by the emulous ftudy of the fame fubject or compofition, at the fame time, and under the eye of their common mafter.
For this important purpose, the large collections entitled "ELEGANT EXTRACTS,” both in Profe and Verse, were projected and completed by the prefent Editor. Their reception is the fulleft teftimony in favour both of the defign and its execution.
The labour of a Compiler of a book like this is indeed bumble; but bis beneficial influence is extenfive; and he feels a pride and pleasure in the reflection that in this inftance he has been ferving his country most effectually, without facrificing either to avarice or to vanity. The renown attending public fervices, is indeed feldom proportioned to their utility. Glitter is not always the most brilliant on the furface of the most valuable fubftance. The loadstone is plain and unattractive in its appearance, while the pofte on the finger of the beau fparkles with envied luftre. The Spade, the plough, the shuttle, have no ornament bestowed on them, while the fword is decorated with ribbands, gold,
and ivory. Yet REASON, undazzled in her decisions, dares to pronounce, while she holds the scales, that the Useful, though little praised, preponderates; and that the Mewy and unsubstantial kicks the beam of the balance, while it attraets the eye of inconsiderate cdmiration.
Tbings intrinsically good and valuable have indeed the advantage of fecuring permanent esteem, though they may lose the eclat of temporary applause. They carry with them to the closet their own letters of recommendation. And as this volume confidently claims the character of good and valuable, it wants not the passport of praise. Every page speaks in its own favour, in the modest language of merit, which has no occasion to boast, though it cannot renounce its right to just esteem, The most valuable woods used in the fine cabinet work of the artisan, require neither paint nor varnish, but appear beautiful in their own veins and colours variegated by nature,
As it is likely that the student who reads this volume of Prose with pleasure, may also possess a taste for Poetry, it is right to mention in ibis place, that there is published by the same Proprietors, a volume of Poetry, fimilar in size and form ; and as he may also wish to improve bimself in the very useful art of Letter-Writing, that there is also provided a most copious volume of Letters from the best authors, under ibe title of ELEGANT Epistles.
This whole Set of Extracts, more copious, more convenient in its form, and valuable in its materials, than any which have preceded it, certainly conduces, in a very high degree, to that great national object, the PUBLIC INSTRUCTION, to promote which has been the primary obječt of the compiler,
MARCH I, 1797
PREFACE TO THE FIRST EDITION.
HIS book derives its origin from a wish expressed by persons who have the
conduct of schools, that such a compilation might be published, as by means of a full page, and a small, yet very legible type, might contain, in one volume, a little English library for young people who are in the course of their education. A common-sized volume, it was found, was soon perused, and laid aside for want of novelty; but to supply a large school with a great variety, and constant fucceflion of English books, is too expensive and inconvenient to be generally practicable; such a quantity of matter is therefore collected in this volume as muft of necessity fill up a good deal of time, and furnish a great number of new ideas before it can be read to satiety, or entirely exhausted. It may therefore very properly constitute, what it was intended to be, a Library for Learners, from the age of nine or ten to the age at which they leave their school : at the same time it is evident, upon inspection, that it abounds with such extracts as may be read by them at any age with pleasure and improvement. Though it is chiefly and primarily adapted to scholars at school; yet it is certain, that all readers may find it an agreeable companion, and particularly proper to fill up short intervals of accidental leisure.
As to the Authors from whom the extracts are made, they are those whose characters want no recommendation. The Spectators, Guardians, and Tatlers, have been often gleaned for the purpose of selections; but to have omitted them, in a work like this, for that reason, would have been like rejecting the purest coin of the fullest weight, because it is not quite fresh from the mint, but has been long in circulation. It ought to be remembered, that though the writings of Addison and his coadjutors may no longer have the grace of novelty in the eyes of veteran readers, yet they will always be new to a rising generation.
The greater part of this book, however, consists of extracts from more modern books, and from some which kave not yet been used for the purpose of selections. It is to be presumed that living authors will not be displeased that useful and elegant passages have been borrowed of them for this book; since if they fincerely meant, as they profess, to reform and improve the age, they must be convinced, that to place their most falutary admonitions and sentences in the hands of young persons, is to contribute moft effetually to the accomplishment of their benevolent design. The books themselves at large do not in general fall into the hands of school-boys; they are often too voluminous, too large, and too expensive for general adoption; they are soon torn and disfigured by the rough treatment which chey usually meet with in a great school; and, indeed, whatever be the cause of it, they seldom are, or can be conveniently introduced; and therefore EXTRACTS are highly expedient, or rather absolutely necessary,