Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

the reader a tolerably accurate idea of the characteristic peculiarities of each author's style.

It may seem superfluous to add, that the passages are given as they stand in the original authors, without any attempt to improve them by additions, alterations, or omissions: this forbearance, however, is far too seldom practised in school-books; and works are to be found in general circulation whose compilers have not hesitated to insert emendations of their own in the finest passages of Shakspére. In two cases only has the Editor ventured to interfere : where quotations from Latin or Greek occurred, he has inserted the translation instead of the original; and he has carefully omitted every expression that might offend the most fastidious sense of moral propriety.

The Biographical Notices have been prepared from the best authorities, and will, it is hoped, be found generally accurate. In his critical estimates of the author's ability and the merits of his style, the Editor has chosen to rely upon his own reading and judgment, and has given his own words, rather than quotations from such writers as Hallam and Macaulay. The absence of the brilliant patchwork produced by the occasional insertion of a terse extract from Hallam, or a glittering period from Macaulay, will, it is hoped, be to some extent compensated by the greater uniformity which must prevail when all the opinions advanced are those of one individual critic. The remarks are always expressed in plain terms, avoiding, as far as possible, the conventional phraseology of literary criticism ; and the Historical Sketches, though necessarily brief, will form a useful, and, it is believed, a sufficiently accurate introduction to the history of our literature. For more copious information, the student is referred to " Craik's English Literature,” as much the most reliable guide which we possess on the

PREFACE

subject. The notes have been made as few and as brief as possible; and nothing has been explained which a pupil may be expected to discover by his own industry.

The Editor is of course in no way responsible for the opinions expressed in the various passages selected. He has indeed excluded everything that might give offence to any party; but on points on which different views are entertained, he has freely admitted every shade of opinion. This has been done not simply out of a desire to be impartial, but with the view of rendering the present work subservient to a higher use than that of a mere reading-book. For it is conceived that the careful examination of extracts which contain opinions that have been disputed, the attempt to estimate the validity of the arguments adduced in them, to detect their weakness or discover their force, will prove an admirable means of forming the judgment and cultivating the reasoning powers of the young. For a similar reason, to render the work subservient to the cultivation of taste and the practice of criticism, the extracts have been generally selected of sufficient length to furnish a specimen not only of each author's peculiar style and language, but also of his general manner of treating his subject. The pupils are thus in a position to compare the style of expression and the mode of treatment adopted by different authors at different periods; and by the aid of a judicious teacher they may thus acquire a correct taste, and habits of critical discrimination which cannot fail to prove valuable in after life. It is unnecessary to point out to the teacher the important use which may be made, especially of the earlier part of the work, in teaching etymology and tracing the gradual development of our language.

On the whole, the Editor hopes that the “Class-Book of English Prose” may tend to promote a relish for the beauties of our highest literary productions; and he is convinced that those who are best acquainted with the subject, as they are best qualified to appreciate the difficulties which attend the compilation of such a work as the present, will be most likely to look with indulgence upon its deficiencies.

ABERDEEN, September 29, 1859.

The Publishers have to express their obligations to Archbishop Whately, Charles Dickens, Esq., Sir Edward Bulwer Lytton, Bart., and other living writers, as well as to the following Publishers :-Messrs Longman & Co., John Murray, Esq., Messrs William Blackwood and Sons, Messrs J. W. Parker and Son, Messrs Chapman and Hall, Messrs Smith, Elder, and Co., Messrs Edward Moxon & Co., and Messrs Constable and Co., for the permission kindly granted to insert the various extracts that appear in this work from several of their copyrights.

EDINBURGH, October 1, 1859.

[blocks in formation]
[blocks in formation]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
« ZurückWeiter »