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• Half-HOURS WITH THE BEST Authors' appeared in the course of periodical publication, without a Preface. The Editor feels it necessary, in completing the Series, to record the purpose with which he undertook it, and to add a few remarks on the mode in which he has endeavored to work out his intentions.
In the announcement of • Half-Hours' the Editor said, “• Elegant Extracts' have opened to many an eminent man the gates of our literature. Judiciously chosen, they may effect more good than they have effected. We turn to the six bulky volumes so entitled, which were the delight of our boyhood, and we find a collection, not of the imperishable treasures of our great writers, but for the most part of the tenth-rate authors of the 18th cen. tury. Not a fragment of a poem of the 16th and 17th centuries, with the exception of a few scraps from Shakspere, Milton, and Dryden, is to be found in the thousand pages of •Extracts in Poetry from the most approved Authors.' It is the same with the prose writers. Two unpretending volumes, 'Select Beauties of Ancient English Poetry,' by Henry Headley, A.B., were published about the same time as the ' Elegant Extracts in Poetry,' with this motto, most appropriate to the age- The Monument of Banished Minds.' The approved authors' were Parnell, and Mason, and Anne Yearsley, and Mallett, and Merrick, and Pitt : “the banished minds' were Spenser, and W. Brown, and Carew, and Daniel, and Drummond, and Drayton, and Fletcher, and Quarles, and Wither. The great writers of our own day have sent us back to the great writers of our golden age. For this reason alone a new collection is required, which should represent our present literary tastes, both in what is Ancient and what is Modern. But there is another reason which has induced the Editor to prepare 'Half-Hours wiru the Best Authors. Every collection of Extracts that he has seen contains a vast mass of scraps, which gives but a very imperfect notion of the intellectual feast which is to be found in the best authors. His plan is therefore to confine his selection, whether in Poetry or Prose, to pieces of sufficient length to occupy half an hour's ordinary reading,—or to pieces which can be so connected by the Editor as to supply the same amount of instruction and amusement. Each extract will occupy about six pages of a volume of between five and six hundred pages ; so that the four volumes will contain half an hour's reading for every day in the year. Every seventh day, or chapter, will be selected from some religious writer of universal acceptation and authority."
The work, thus completed within the assigned limits, contains nearly 2300 pages. Thus, the 365 chapters average more than six pages each. The larger extracts, forming distinct HalfHours,' are selected from about 260 different writers. In the smaller pieces, which are grouped under some general head, will be found selections from about 40 writers who have not contributed to the larger extracts. The work, therefore, contains specimens of three hundred various writers.
Of these three hundred writers, about forty are living. With two or three exceptions, the Editor has not taken more than one extract from those who still wear their laurel wreath without the cypress. But, while he acknowledges with gratitude the interest which this portion of the selection has imparted to these volumes, he feels that an apology is due to all those from whom he has borrowed without a distinct permission. During a somewhat long course of exertion to diffuse knowledge as widely as possible, he has always felt that the system, which has been too prevalent, of seizing, without stint, upon literary property, to give value to some ephemeral miscellany, was a fraud and an insult. Beyond the fair limits of extract for honest criticism, or illustration, the productions of mind ought to be as sacredly fenced round by the laws and customs of society as any material possession. The Editor ventures to hope that he has not passed these fair limits.
The Editor has a word or two to add upon the “short biographical and critical notices” which precedes the larger extracts. Their brevity must necessarily render them incomplete and unsatisfactory; but they have not been written without serious thought and an earnest desire to be just. There are many who will differ from the Editor in his estimate of some writers, particularly of the more recent. But of one fault he is not likely to be accused—that of a cold and depreciating estimate of those whom he has selected as The Best Authors.' If his admiration should appear too hearty, he may best excuse himself by saying that the "nil admirari” never appeared to him the great principle of mental satisfaction ; and that, even with Horace against him, he is content to bear with the imputation, in such matters, of being
* In this Index ea :h Extract will be found under the name of the respec-
Addison, Joseph. Notice of, i. 75; Sir APOPHTHEGMS, Remarks on, i. 63;
Roger de Coverley, I., i. 75; II., i. I., i. 63; II., i. 221; III., i. 466;
Martinus Scriblerus, ii. 338.
Arne, Britain's best Bulwarks are her
Wooden Walls, iii. 360.
ical Education, i. 173.
Barometer, i. 128.
Civil War, i. 67; The Inventor of
the Stocking Frame, i. 68; Days
before Books, i. 221; Keep to your
Dr. William Harvey, i. 229; Dr.
Ketile, i. 468; Sir Thomas More. i.
suit between the Parishes of St. AC DUBON, John James, Notice of, iii.
AUSTEN, Jane, Notice of, iv. 583; The
AUTUMN, M. 42.
218; i. 433 ; i. 505; i. 597 ; ii. 213; Ayton, Richard, iii. 454.
99; The History of Perkin War-
beck, i. 99; Or Great Place, i. 561 ;
edge, iv. 507.
Bacon, Illustrious Prisoners, i. 65; | Boswell, James. Desire of Knowledge,
Saint Bartholomew, i. 69; Merci- i. 63; The First Hug of the Bear,
BRETT, Dr. Thomas, Story of Richard
Brooke, Henry, Notice of, iii. 36; The
BROUGHAM, Lord, Sir William Grant,
John Locke and William Penn, ü. BROWNE, Sir Thomas, Notice of, iï.
51; Urn-Burial, iii. 51.
Bryant, W. C., i. 43; ii. 22; ii. 174.
Man, i. 155.
Industry of a Gentleman, i. 231. The Royal Household in 1780, ii.
ii. 180; Origin of Duelling, ii. 181. BURLEIGH, Lord, Notice of, iv. 332;
amples of Spiritual Perfection, ii. BURNET, Gilbert, Notice of, iv. 574;
Character of Charles II., iv. 574.
The Coming of our Saviour, ii. 486.
Cotter's Saturday Night, ii. 269.
iii. 234; The Page's Scenes in • Phil- iv. 1; iv. 6.
BURTON, Robert, Notice of, iii. 516;
123; The Hall of Eblis, iv. 123. BUTLER, Bishop, Notice ot, i. 44; Ser-
Tongue, i. 44; Sermon upon the
a State of Probation, as implying
The Astrologer, iii. 179; A Modern
The Imitation of Christ, i. 534; Res- BYRON, Lord, Notice of, iv. 319; Art
and Nature, iv.319; Newstead Ab-
bey, iv. 510; Fazio, iv. 471.
Byron, i. 599; ii. 324.
ii. 36; The Plague of Florence, iv. CAMPBELL, Dr. George, Notice of, i.
379; The Koran, i. 379.
538; Reflections upon Exile, iii. 116; Thomas Chatterton, iv. 116.
Campbell, Thomas, i. 251; Ye Marin-