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TO THE SEVENTH AND LAST EDITION.
there cannot be a doubt but that a Book, like this, purposely adapted to the use of young persons of both sexes, copious beyond former examples, singularly various in its contents, selected from writers whose characters are established without controversy, abounding with entertainment and useful information, inculcating the purest principles of morality and religion, and displaying excellent models of style and language, must 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 most respectable places of education, and has sown 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 similar 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 consequence was, that the English Part of education (to many the most important part) was defective even in places most celebrated for classic discipline; 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, classical education was brought into some degree of disgrace; and preposterous 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 requisition; to be well read in Tully, and a total stranger to Addison J to have Homer and Horace by heart, and to know little more than the names of Milton and Pope.
Classical learning, thus defeilive in a print so obvious to deteclion, incurred the imputation of pedantry. It was observed to assume great pride-, the important air of superiority, -without displaying, to the common observer, any just pretensions to it. It even appeared with marks of inferiority, when brought into occasional collision with well-informed understandings cultivated by English literature alone, but greatly pro<• ficient in the school of experience. Perscns who had never drunk at the classic fountains, but had been confined in their education to Englistj, triumphed over the scholar; and learning often hid her head in confusion, when pointed at as pedantry by the finger of a Dunce.
It became highly expedient therefor: to introduce mere of English reading into our classical schools ■, that thse 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 sufficiency of current coin from the modern mint, for the commerce of common life: but there was 710 school book, copious and various' enough, calculated entirely for this purpose. The Grecian a>id Roman Histoiy, the Spetlatcrs, and Plutarch's Lives, were indeed sometimes introduced, and certainly with great advantage. But still, an uniformity os English books hi schools, was a desideratum. It was desirable that all the students of the fame class, provided with copies of the fame book, containing the proper variety, night be enabled to read it together, and thus benefit each other by the emulous study of the fame subjetl or comprsition, at the same time, and under the eye of their common master.
For this important purpose, the large coUetlions entitled « ELEGANT EXTRACTS," loth in Prose and Verse, were projected and completed by the present Editor. Ibeir reception is the fullest testimony in favour both of the design and its execution.
The labour of a Compiler of a book like this is indeed humble; but his beneficial influence is extensive; and he feels a pride and pleasure in the reficBicn that in this instance he has been serving his country most effectually, without sacrificing either to avarice or to vanity. The renown attending public services, is indeed seldom proportioned to their utility. Glitter is not always the most brilliant on the surface of the most valuable substance. The loadstone is plain and unaUr active in its appearance, while the paste on the finger of the beausparkles with envied lustre. The spade, the plough, the shuttle, have no ornament hsioived on them, while the sword is decorated with ribbands, gold,
and and ivory. T Reason, undazzled in her decisions, dares to pronounce, while she holds the scales, that the Useful, though little praised, preponderates; and that the jhewy and unsubstantial kicks the beam of the balance, while it attracts the eye of inconsiderate admiration,
Things intrinsically good and valuable have indeed the advantage of securing 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 r 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 this place, that there is published by the same Proprietors, a volume of Poetry, similar in size and form; and as he may also wish to improve himself in the very useful art of Letter-Writing, that there is also provided a most copious volume of letters from the best authors, under the 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 object of the compiler,
March I, 1797.
PREFACE TO THE FIRST EDITION.
this book derives its origin from a wisti 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 succession of Englilh books, is too expensive and inconvenient to be generally practicable; such a quantity of matter is therefore collected in this volume as must 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 have 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 paslages have been borrowed of them for this book; since if they sincerely meant, as they profess, to reform and improve the age, they must be convinced, that to place their most salutary admonitions and sentences In the hands of young persons, is to contribute most effectually 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 they 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.