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T the special request of the enterprising Publishers, who were laudably anxious that a volume designed for a Prize Book in schools of a superior class, as well as a Gift Book for the drawing-room table, should commend itself no less by purity of morals, than by typographical excellence, and by beauty and richness of illustration, I have looked hastily through the several of this work as they issued from the press. The responsibility of selecting the specimens, and the preparation of brief critical notices of the respective writers, have devolved upon a gentleman, whose execution of the task has proved him to be in every way qualified to do it justice. My part is performed, when I have expressed my opinion that the volume is one which may be safely and profitably presented, not only by the instructor to his pupil, but by the father to his daughter, and by the mother to her son.
Had I been consulted in an earlier stage of the work, I might, perhaps, have recommended a chronological arrangement of the several authors, in order that the specimens selected might illustrate the progress of the English language, as well as the gradual development of the mind and heart of Poetry. And I should have done so on
this ground. It is happily characteristic of the age in which we live, that a competent knowledge of the English language and literature is now recognised as essential to a complete liberal education; and that, in the competitive examination of candidates for appointments at the disposal of Government, it is no longer held subordinate to the languages of Greece and Rome. If, however, such an arrangement had increased the usefulness, it might have detracted from the interest of the work; and the object I have in view will be in great measure answered by the Chronological Index, which I have for that reason ventured to recommend, and which the Publishers have kindly consented to adopt.
Prefatory remarks are in general so little regarded, and, in respect of a publication like the present, so little required, that I will not detain my readers from the intellectual feast which has been provided for them by any observations on the influence of Poetry in refining, elevating, and expanding the mind of youth. I will only add the expression of my confidence, that nothing in this volume contained will detract from the legitimate and accredited character of Poetry, as the teacher of Virtue, and as the handmaid of Religion.
Eastbourne, October 2, 1860.