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THE TEXT-Book of PROSE here offered to the public is intended as a sort of companion-volume to the Text-Book of Poetry published a few months ago. Both volumes have originated in the same experiences, and the contents of both are ordered on the same principle, namely, that of teaching English literature by authors, and not by mere literary chips and splinters. Both the method of the work and the reasons for that method are set forth with some fulness in the Preface to the former volume. I have seen no cause to recede at all from the statement there made of them; and as a repetition of them here would be something ungraceful, I must be content with referring the reader to that Preface, merely remarking withal, that the matter was no recent or sudden thing with me, but the slow result of the experience and reflection of many years. And I am moved to renew my protest, if that be the right name for it, against putting young students through a course of mere nibbles and Snatches from a multitude of authors, where they cannot stay long enough with any one to develop any real taste for him, or derive any solid benefit from him. I shall hope to be excused for observing, further, that the miscellaneous selections now so commonly in use inwolve one error of so gross a character, that it ought not to be left unnoticed. Those selections make a merit, apparently, of ranging over as wide a field of authorship as may be, and value themselves in proportion to the number of authors included. So their method is to treat the giants and the pigmies, the big guns and the popguns of literature on a footing of equality: nay, you shall often find the 111

smaller made even more prominent than the greater; perhaps because the former are more apt to be popular than the latter. For instance, two pages will be given to Macaulay, or to a writer of still lower grade, where one is given to Jeremy Taylor or Addison or Burke. So, again, some fifth-rate or sixth-rate author, whose name is hardly known out of Boston, comes in for a larger space than is accorded to Daniel Webster. Or, once more, Edgar A. Poe's vapid inanities done into verse, where all is mere jugglery of words, or an exercise in verbal legerdemain, are made quite as much of as the choice Workmanship of our best American poets, Bryant, Longfellow, and Whittier. This is an application of the levelling principle so unjust and so inexpedient, that we may well marvel how it should be tolerated in any walks of liberal learning and culture. No thoughtful person, I take it, will have any difficulty in gathering that this volume is made up, like its predecessor, with a special view to the oldest and ripest pupils in our high-schools and Seminaries and academies. These pupils, it may well be supposed, are old enough and ripe enough to unfold at least the beginnings of literary and intellectual taste, so as to be at home and find delight in tasteful and elegant authorship, where the graces may do something towards making the ways of learning ways of pleasantness to them. Of the three authors here drawn upon, two are, by general suffrage, the very greatest in the prose literature of the English-speaking world, while the third is, I believe, generally and justly held to be, by all odds, the first in the prose literature of our own country. In the case of Burke and Webster, the works from which I had to select are somewhat voluminous, and it is quite likely that my selections are not in all cases the most judicious that might have been made. On this point I can but plead that, after an acquaintance of many years with those authors, I have used my best care and diligence in looking out such portions as seemed to me to combine, in the greatest degree, the two qualities of literary excellence and of fitness to the purposes of this volume. Nor, perhaps, will it be amiss to add, in reference to Burke and Webster, that I often found it not easy to choose between several pieces, and that I was compelled by lack of room to omit a considerable number of pieces which I would have liked to retain: an embarrassment naturally springing from a redundancy of wealth. As to the principle on which the selections proceed, my aim has been, throughout, to unite the culture of high and pure literary tastes with the attainment of useful and liberal knowledge. I think it will not be questioned that there is something of special reason why our young people of both sexes should be early and carefully instructed in the principles of our federal Constitution, and in the structure and working of our august national State. We pride ourselves on the alleged competency of the American people for self-government. Yet it is but too evident that, in political matters, a large majority of them have not advanced beyond the “little learning” which is proverbially “a dangerous thing.” The degree of intelligence which naturally issues in conceit and presumption is the utmost that can be affirmed of them. Thus it comes about that, for the seats of public trust, shallow, flashy demagogues are very commonly preferred to solid, judicious, honest men. At this day, our average voter certainly has not more judgment of his own than he had fifty years ago, and he has far less respect for the judgment of wiser men. The popular mind is indeed busy enough with the vulgar politics of the hour; but in the true grounds and forces of social and political well-being it is discouragingly ignorant, while it is more and more casting off those habits of modesty and reverence which might do the work of knowledge. This may explain why so much of the present volume is occupied with discourses relating to government, and to the duties and interests of men as stockholders in the commonwealth. In the common principles of all social and civil order, Burke is unquestionably our best and wisest teacher. In handling the particular questions of his time, he always involves those principles, and brings them to their practical bearings, where they most “come home to the business and bosoms of men.” And his pages are everywhere bright with the highest and purest political morality, while at the same time he is a consummate master in the intellectual charms and graces of authorship. Webster, also, is abundantly at home in those common principles: his giant grasp wields them with the ease and grace of habitual mastery: therewithal he is by far the ablest and clearest expounder we have of what may be termed the specialties of our American political system. So that you can hardly touch any point of our stupendous National Fabric, but that he will approve himself at once your wisest and your pleasantest teacher. In fact, I hardly know which to commend most, his political wisdom, his ponderous logic, the perfect manliness of his style, or the high-souled enthusiasm which generally animates and tones his discourse; the latter qualities being no less useful to inspire the student with a noble patriotic ardour than the former to arm him with sound and fruitful instruction. And so, between Burke and Webster, if the selections are made with but tolerable judgment, our youth may here learn a good deal of what it highly concerns them to know as citizens of a free republican State. I am not unmindful that, in thus placing Webster alongside of Burke, I may be inviting upon him a trial something too severe. I do not by any means regard him as the peer of Burke; but it is my deliberate judgment that he comes nearer to Burke, and can better stand a fair comparison with him, than any other English-speaking statesman of modern times. In pure force of intellect, Burke was no doubt something ahead of him, and was far beyond him in strength and richness of imagination; for he was, as Johnson described him, emphatically “a constellation ”: on the other hand, Burke's tempestuous Sensibility sometimes whirled him into exorbitancies, where Webster's cooler temperament and more balanced make-up would probably have held him firm in his propriety. And Webster, though far above imitating any man, abounds in marks of a very

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close and diligent study of Burke. It seems specially
noteworthy, that he was thoroughly at one with Burke in
an intense aversion to political metaphysics, and to those
speculative abstractions which, if attempted to be carried
into the practical work of government, can never do any
thing but mischief.
In regard to the selections from Bacon, I there had
nothing to distract my choice, or cause me any embarrass.
ment. The settled verdict of mankind points at once to
his Essays as a book which no liberally-educated person
can rightly afford to be unacquainted with. Other of his
works may better illustrate the vast height and compass of
his genius; but they are, for the most part, little suited, or
rather quite unsuited to the ends of this volume. But his
Essays everywhere touch the common interests and con-
cerns of human life; they are freighted to the utmost with
solid practical sense; and as specimens of moral and civil
discourse it is hardly possible to overstate the wisdom and
beauty of them. Of the fifty-eight Essays, I here give
thirty; and I was nowise at a loss which to select. Nor,
had my space been ever so large, should I have greatly
cared to include any more of them.
I have a good right to know that Bacon and Burke are
among our very best authors for the use to which this
volume looks. The Essays, the Letter to the Sheriffs of
Bristol, and the Speech to the Electors of Bristol, I have
been using several years, with good effect, in some of my
own classes. There are many other portions of Burke
equally good, and some still better, for such use; which,
however, were not to be had in a practicable shape. And I
have long been wishing to make a like use of Webster, but
have never been able to do so, because none of his works
were at hand in a suitable form. I feel right well assured
that he will amply reward the same study, and that, if not
so good in himself as the other two, he has some obvious
points of preference in the education of American youth.
Nor can I think it fitting or just to be using only such
fragments of him as are commonly served up for merg

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