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authorship, all such things, fascinating and important as they undeniably are, must be regarded as means to an end, for, as Tennyson said of Knowledge, they are “the second not the first."
This business of teaching people to read is really a matter of incalculable, of national, importance to us in America. I doubt whether there was ever a country on the face of the earth which contained such multitudes of people who knew how to read, and so few true readers; a country which contained so few who were illiterate, and so many who were uneducated. With all this we have quite unparalleled opportunities for the reader. We teach him the mechanical process of reading, and we establish innumerable agencies to provide him with reading matter at a small cost, or at no cost at all. We have a great host of writers, who produce books without number, yet we make but a trifling contribution to the permanent literature of the world. I suspect that the true reader is almost as rare as the great writer, and I suspect that to teach a child to read without teaching him to prefer a good book to a bad one, is very like giving a boy a loaded gun without showing him how to use it. Such a situation, and I do not think it is over-stated, imposes a heavy but an honorable responsibility upon the teacher of English. It is his task, subordinating all merely curious researches and vain disputations, to teach as many as he can among this multitude of un-read readers, to know and to delight in the best literature. “We need to be reminded every day," says Frederic Harrison, “how many are the books of inimitable glory, which, with all our eagerness after reading, we have never taken in our hands.” Many works of this enduring and "inimitable glory" have been brought together here, gathered from the noblest utterances of more than a thousand years. If a book of this kind helps the teacher to bring these glories nearer to the minds and lives of his students, if it helps any reader in school or out, to come into closer and more human relations with great literature, it has its place and part (small as it may be) in an immeasurably important work. My indebtedness to others is too great to be specifically acknowledged.
I cannot, however, omit a word of especial gratitude to my friend Dr. Percy V. D. Shelly, of the University of Pennsylvania, who, besides contributing several translations from Old English and Latin, has worked with me faithfully in the preparation of this book.
H. S. P. ISLESFORD, MAINE,
July 15, 1915.
How Layamon Wrote his Book (From
The Celestial Country (From the same) 35 Gesta Regum Anglorum, c. 1120)..... 45
The Lament for the Makers..
SIR JOAN BOURCRIER, LORD BERNERS
The Speech of John Ball