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606635

Copyright, 1895,
BY HOUGHTON, MIFFLIN & co.

All rights reserved.

The Riverside Press, Cambridge, Mass., U.S. A.
Electrotyped and Printed by H. 0. Houghton & Co.

PREFACE.

THE favorable reception given to Masterpieces of American Authors has led the publishers to put forth this companion volume, constructed on similar lines. It will be evident, however, on a moment's consideration that the conditions in this case are less simple. It is very easy to reflect a general agreement in choosing the authors to be represented in a selection from American classic literature, and in the main to determine what choice should be made from their writings. But in any survey of the classic literature of England, Scotland, and Ireland, reaching back as it does into remote time, there is opportunity for much divergence of opinion as to the best selection to be made.

The editor, seeking advice from many experienced teachers of English, has been governed by a few plain considerations. The space at his command had to be used frugally. The object to be kept in view was rather the agreeable introduction to great literature : than drill in grammar or elocution. Hence it seemed desirable to proceed from the easy to the more difficult, and by a natural course this meant the ascent from the contemporary to the more remote. But it

was necessary to stop short of the archaic forms. The plan forbade fragments, and it was not practicable to introduce an entire play of Shakespeare, or to give anything from Spenser or Chaucer.

The equipment of the book has been in the way of brief biographical introductions, to enable the reader to apprehend something of the historical relations of each author, and of such footnotes as would explain difficulties in words or passages and occasionally stimulate to further inquiry ; but as a rule, whenever a question could be answered by reference to a good dictionary, it has been ignored in the footnotes.

As far as possible, in accordance with the title of the book, the selections have given opportunity for illustrating the scope of the author's genius, but in one or two instances, notably in the case of Wordsworth and Burns, emphasis has been laid upon one form, the lyrical, as best suited to the demands of the reader. In brief, the book does not profess to be a comprehensive survey of British literature, but such a compilation from the writings of story-tellers, poets, . and essayists, as may give an appreciative reader a generous draught from the well of good English. By the time a young reader has reached this book, he ought to be ready for large enjoyment of literature, and the editor trusts that Masterpieces of British Literature will prove a delight to many, a task to none.

Boston, August 1, 1895.

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