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TO

HENRY F. CHORLEY, ESQ.

MY DEAR FRIEND,

But for you this book would never have existed. It has been to me throughout a source of great gratification. As I wrote line after line of our fine old Poets, many a cherished scene and many a happy hour seemed to live again in my memory and my heart. But no higher pleasure can it afford me, than the opportunity of expressing to you my sincere respect and admiration for talent, especially dramatic talent not even yet sufficiently known, and for innumerable personal qualities worth all the talent in the world.

MARY RUSSELL MITFORD.

SWALLOWFIELD, NEAR READING,

DECEMBER, 1851.

PRE FACE.

The title of this Book gives a very imperfect idea of the contents. Perhaps it would be difficult to find a short phrase that would accurately describe a work so desultory and so wayward—a work where there is far too much of personal gossip and of local scene-painting for the grave pretension of critical essays, and far too much of criticsm and extract for anything approaching in the slightest degree to autobiography.

The courteous reader must take it for what it is—an attempt to make others relish a few favourite writers as heartily as I have relished them myself. My opinions, such as they are, have at least the merit of being honest, earnest, and individual, unbiassed by the spirit of coterie or the influence of fashion. Many of my extracts will be found to comprise the best bits of neglected authors; and some, I think, as the noble murder speech of Daniel Webster, the poems of Thomas Davis, of Mrs. James Gray, of Mr. Darley, of Mr. Noel, and of Dr. Holmes, will be now to the English public. Some, again, as the delightful pleasantries of Praed, and Frere, and (atherine

Fanshawe, are difficult, if not impossible, to procure; and others possess in perfection the sort of novelty which belongs to the forgotten. Amongst these I may class “ Holcroft's Memoirs,” “ Richardson's Correspondence," the curious “ Trial of Captain Goodere," and the “. Pleader's Guide.” I even fear that the choicest morsels of my book, the delicious specimens of Cowley's prose, may come under the same category. Ah! I wish I were as sure of my original matter as I am of my selections.

It is right to say that a few of these papers (like the first volume of my earliest prose work, “ Our Village” have appeared in an obscure Journal.

SWALLOWFIELD, NEAR READING,

DECEMBER, 1851.

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