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MANY PROSE SELECTIONS, A BIOGRAPHICAL INDEX
OF AUTHORS, ETC.
By FREDERICK SAUNDERS,
AND THE SOCIAL," "EVENINGS WITH THE SACRED POETS," ETC., ETC.,
M. K. Davis, AUTHOR OF “Fairy GOLD;" “ LIFE OF Rt. Hon. W. E. GLADSTONE,” “THE LOLLARD:
A STORY OF THE WicliFITES," ETC., ETC.
PICTURES BY EMINENT ARTISTS AND ENGRAVERS.
11!!!, LEVOX AND TILDEN FONDATIONS 1943
BY H. B. SCAMMELL & Co.
BY THOMPSON & THOMAS.
'HE subject of Poetry has perbaps been discussed by a greater number of
thinkers than any other connected with letters; but no one has as yet succeeded in defining the term to the satisfaction of his brother critics. To
attempt that wherein so many of skill and experience in the expression of ideas have so signally failed, would be the part of one who has not even studied the subject sufficiently to know where the difficulty lies. It will then, perhaps, be better to be contented with an effort to explain the principles underlying the arrangement of the selections in the following pages; trusting that the reader may discern that not only the verses, but the proso extracts likewise herein given, bave been chosen because they possess this same indefinable property which we call Poetry.
The most obvious theme for a writer to choose is either a description of what he perceives, or what he feels. Taking first the Emotions as the moving spring, as the power which urges him to expression, the natural question arises : What kind of feelings? Is he to speak of joy or of sorrow? Is he to touch upon the ties that bind him to others? Is he to put into words the highest aspirations of which man is capable? All these form fitting subjects for the writer, whether he put bimself, or some imaginary self, into his pages; and Joy and Sorrow, The Affections, and Religion have for ages been the themes upon which our best and brightest minds have loved to think.
But emotion is passive; there is the result of it which follows naturally as the fruit succeeds the blossom. From mere feeling, deepened and strengthened, comes Passion, and passion produces Action. The man of letters, then, who has sounded the depths of feeling, turns naturally to its outgrowth, and depicts the stronger powers that control the human soul; painting, with the utmost contrast of ligbt and shade, the image of doing.
Turning now to the other subject which has been mentioned as likely to be chosen at first, we can readily perceive the divisions into which the productions of the pen will fall. He may write of Beauty, as it is manifested in nature and art; of Characters, Persons, and of Places. The last group, it must be understood, comprehends not only the “ few, the immortal pames,” but the various types of character with which we daily meet, and which are the study of the philosopher. Here too may be considered those creations of the mind which have
impressed the world of readers with their personality; for when savants gravely discuss the question of Hamlet's sanity, surely we must acknowledge that there may be real men and women who have never trod the earth.
But there is more than the expression of emotion and perceptions to deal with; there is the realm in which Thought holds the higher place. In this division, there is, first and foremost, Reflection, or the application of the results of feeling and experience of externals to the inner life, thus affecting the outer life as well. The mind manifests itself in another, and totally different way, next; no longer grave and wise, it gives itself up to the wildest dreams; and in these, when cunningly imbued with that “drop of human blood” which is necessary to give interest, we have the pleasing flights of Fancy. Finally, the mental powers, having thus far relaxed their grave efforts, resolve to throw care to the winds, and give themselves up to Wit and the more kindly Humor.
Such is the theory upon which the arrangement of the selections which follow is based. In practice, however, the classification is often extremely difficult. The broad lines which have here been marked out as dividing the varieties of mental effort are often obliterated in a single page; and the writer will, in the course of a few paragraphs or stanzas, pass from description of beautiful scenes, to the persons who beheld them, and to the emotions aroused in the breasts of these men and women to whom he thus gives existence.
Without, then, proposing the arrangement herein adopted as perfect, or even the best that could possibly be made, it is submitted to the reader as the best of which the editor is capable; trusting that the kindliness excited by the sight of so many representatives of favorite authors may lead him to more enjoyment than fault-finding.
M. K. Davis.