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Hugmen 2214-449 65578

PREFACE.

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The only apology which this work perhaps requires is with regard to the title, for otherwise it belongs to a class of publications, of which the value is so obvious as to admit of no question.

As a compilation, it will be readily seen, that it has been generally formed upon the principle of affording specimens of the literature of different epochs, not indeed methodically arranged, but so chosen as to exhibit a more extensive view of the literary mind of the country, historically considered, than has been attempted in any previous selection of extracts.

The works of popular authors of the present time have not been particularly resorted to, because Mr M‘Diarmid, by his tasteful and judicious selection in “ The Scrap Book," has rendered this inexpedient. It was also thought, and the reader will not be backward in acknowledging the propriety of the opinion, that there are many gems, both in prose and verse, hidden in works, which, however much esteemed in their day, have long since ceased to be generally accessible. To gather a few of these, and to bring them again to light, was one of the objects which the compiler proposed to himself in this undertaking; but it would have been inconsistent with the light and cursory nature of his design, to have brought them forward, either in any sort of chronological order, or with any particular formality of disquisition. In fact, the colloquies with which he has prefaced the extracts were suggested by an after-thought, in order to give an air of freshness to the results of a task that necessarily excluded originality.

To accomplish this, he has therefore not scrupled to assume opinions, which he would hesitate, in many instances, to acknowledge as his own, and also to maintain paradoxes, calculated rather to excite reflection than to induce persuasion; at the same time, nothing will be found either in the one or the other, to which any objection can be reasonably made. The book has indeed been prepared for the parlour table, and is likely to afford amusement, in the intervals of business, to a class of readers who would never

think of looking at many of the originals from which the selections have been made. Every thing, accordingly, doubtful in principle, or questionable in tendency, has been carefully excluded ; and, although it is in appearance a production of very humble pretensions, it will perhaps be found more valuable than some other publications, to which the public has been so indulgent as to receive with favour.

FEBRUARY 20, 1824.

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