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Representative Selections from the Best Authors,
ALSO LISTS OF
CONTEMPORANEOUS WRITERS AND THEIR PRINCIPAL WORKS.
By EP HUNT, LL.D.,
NEW YORK :
138 & 140 GRAND STREET.
Entered, according to Act of Congress, in the year 1870,
By EPHRAIM HUNT, In the Office of the Librarian of Congress, at Washington,
BOSTON: ELECTROTYPED AND PRINTED BY RAND, AVERY, & FRYE.
We believe no man should make a new text-book without sufficient excuse. The object of this book is to illustrate the power and growth of the English language by representative selections from some of the most successful authors, and to introduce the student to those whose contributions to its literature are worthy his attention. It is believed, that by carefully studying and thoroughly committing to memory these selections, and other gems of thought and expression by the same authors, or others named, and of easy access, the pupil will not only make acquisitions of lifelong value, but by the daily repetition and frequent imitation of them in his own compositions, in the class-room, and out of it, he will also form habits of expressing his own thoughts with greater force and elegance. In no branch of modern education is economy of time more important than in the study of English literature. The heterogeneous character of the language; its wonderful flexibility; its rapid assimilation of foreign elements; its almost perfect reproduction of what is excellent in other languages, ancient and modern; the activity of the English-speaking mind in finding out all kinds of knowledge, or in appropriating it when found out by others,- all conspire to make our literature a vast storehouse of the treasures of the past, and of the infinitely-diversified products of the present. To enable the student to enter this storehouse with pleasure, to distinguish the valuable from the worthless and indifferent, to economize his intellectual forces in the acquisition of knowledge, to refine his taste, to increase his love for all that is good, beautiful, and true, are the proper aims for school-discipline in the study of English literature. To attain them, it must not be forgotten that all study is exhaustive of mental energy; that the brain works best by habit, like any other organ; and, to develop a healthy activity of the faculties of the mind, they must not be burdened with superfluous weights. Learning the names and biographies of many authors whose complex relations with society he can not yet appreciate; committing flippant, prejudiced, or partial criticisms of them and their works, of which he knows little or
nothing, — tend to give the student a certain dazzling affectation of literary culture at the expense of an amount of brain-work, that, properly utilized, would put him in possession of well-defined ideas of excellence of style, and enable him to form an intelligent and just estimate of an author's merit for himself,
- a substantial attainment as valuable as it is rare. In the other great departments of learning, the student is not required at first to learn the history of them, or of their patrons and successful promoters : on the contrary, his intellectual forces are at once employed in learning the general results already obtained in them, and the best methods of modern analysis and investigation. In chemistry, we do not begin with alchemy and the alchemists; in astronomy, we do not begin with astrology and the absurd pretensions and aims of astrologers; neither do we stop at every short poem in mathematics, or grand epic in celestial mechanics, to learn the biography of the author, his relations to society and to science. In a similar manner, and mindful of the great influence of American thought and institutions upon the language, we believe it advisable to introduce the pupil to our most distinguished modern authors first, and, while putting him in possession of the power and spirit of the literature of to-day, lead him back to the classical period, exciting his curiosity by the way to pursue its earlier history at his leisure. A few authors carefully studied would undoubtedly produce the most valuable results; but, since tastes differ as to which ones should be so studied, it is thought a greater number, of unquestioned merit, ought to find a place in a text-book designed for drill in acquiring the best style of which the student is capable. The success of the plan, the selections and arrangement, is left to the judgment of my fellow-teachers, whose suggestions as to modifications in either will be gratefully acknowledged in
any future edition. The want of a proper text-book to carry out the plan above indicated of teaching English literature is the only excuse for making this. Notes and criticisms are in the main omitted, since these selections are to be studied critically, the pupil using the dictionary and encyclopædias with an industry equal to that given to the study of Greek and Latin. Our thanks are due to Messrs. Fields, Osgood, & Co., for special permission to select from their copyright editions of the works of Longfellow, Whittier, Lowell, Holmes, Emerson, Hawthorne, and Bryant's translation of Homer's Iliad ; also to Messrs. Harper & Bros., D. Appleton & Co., George P. Putnam & Son, for extracts from Motley, Bryant, and Irving, whose works they publish.