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This book, for reasons which need not here be specified, has been completed very slowly. Half of it was printed and in private use some two years ago. I only mention this fact here for the sake of explaining any differences of treatment that may seem to separate the earlier from the later pages. Probably, if I were to re-write the Introduction now (it was written and printed in the Christmas of 1869), I should alter some things in it. No teacher or student, with an interest in his work, but must be perpetually reconsidering and modifying his views. We are often informed that Rome was not built in a day; but neither was the humblest and pettiest village that is : and so the theories of the most inconsiderable scholar as well as of the worthiest master, if there is any thinking and attention at all, are perpetually growing,—not, it is to be hoped, wild, but mature, or at least maturer.
With regard to the texts in this volume, it has not been thought right to tamper with the orthography of their authors. Whatever may be thought of such liberties in works designed for that volatile being “the general reader,” there is surely no justification for them in manuals prepared for the student of literature and language. In every case except one, the latest edition published during the author's life has been followed. That one is Milton, whose pieces have been taken from the edition of 1645, as superior to that of 1673. In all cases the latest readings have been given. In one or two poems-in “Mac Flecknoe," “The Rape of the Lock," “ London," " The Twa Dogs," — slight omissions have been necessary, and in the latter two poems slight changes have been made, that the “reverence due to boys," to adopt Juvenal's phrase, might be well observed. Some of the later texts were revised by my friend Mr. Twentyman, late Fellow of Christ's College, Cambridge, now Vice-Master of King's College School, in whom indeed I hoped to have had a genial coadjutor in all the work to be done, had his other duties given him leisure.
And now, little book, whose compilation has taken me more time than would be thought, I send you forth into the world. Would you were something better ; but it is late wishing when the very minute for parting has come. You must make the best of yourself ; you must not mind scorings and defacements; no doubt you have much to learn. And still less must you mind much fingering and laceration; it may be that your ears may be made those of a dog ; perhaps you may be cried over and called evil names and held an abomination. By these things be not troubled, O booklet; for they would mean, in spite of appearances, that you were really worthy. So this is the fortune I wish you; and if it is vouchsafed, then it cannot but be that you will be smiled as well as wept over, spoken of with some affection, deemed a sort of blessing.