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JOHN S. HART, LL.D.
First Lessons in Composition.
Entered, according to Act of Congress, in the year 1872, by
ELDREDGE & BROTHER, in the Office of the Librarian of Congress at Washington.
THIS work is intended to serve the double purpose of a Text-book
and a book of reference. As a Text-book, the whole of it should be read by the student, but that part only which is in the larger type should be made the subject of recitation. By adhering to this rule, the student, even with the very limited time given to the pursuit in our institutions of learning, will be able without difficulty to compass the whole subject of English Literature, in all its departments, and, at the same time, will learn where to look for those minor details which, in the course of his studies, form a frequent subject of inquiry, but with which it is not necessary or expedient, in ordinary cases, to burden the memory.
As a book of reference, the amount of valuable information which the work contains will be found large beyond precedent in any manual of instruction that exists in the language. The facts here collected and condensed, if spread out in the usual form, would fill two or three octavo volumes. The items which make up this large aggregate have the advantage of being arranged in systematic order and in their appropriate historical connection. At the same time, by means of a copious verbal Index, each item may be referred to as readily as if the whole were in the form of a dictionary.
It will be obvious, from the barest inspection of the volume, that the subject has not been considered in that restricted view which has been too much the wont in works of this kind. The Literature of a people contains something more, surely, than poetry, plays, and romances. Whatever makes a part of popular reading, and influences thereby, to any considerable extent, the opinions and the actions of men, is a part of the national literature. It does not include strictly professional works, or works on pure science, the use of which is necessarily restricted to a select few; but it does include, most assuredly, works on religion and morality, which concern all men alike. It includes school-books and other books for the young, the fugitive tract, the daily and weekly newspaper, secular and religious, and periodical literature in all its forms, as well as the ponderous tomes that fill the shelves of the public library.
It is not pretended, of course, that all these topics are here treated exhaustively. The field of English Literature is practically without limit. A work in twenty volumes would not exhaust it. Yet the reader of the present treatise will, it is believed, get a fair and symmetrical view of the whole subject, in all its departments, and through its whole range, from the simple rhyming chronicle of the semi-Saxon age down to the “In Memoriam of Tennyson” and the thundering periods of the London Times.
A single word in reference to the method of grouping here pursued.
In any grouping that can be made, some incongruities will necessarily occur. An arrangement by centuries is, of all arrangements, the one most arbitrary and objectionable. A far better and more common plan is to associate authors with some conspicuous reign or other great public event. The obvious reason for this is that the authors thus grouped together were subject in some measure to the same educational and political influences. They lived in the same moral atmosphere, and hence partake to some extent of the same general character. It has been deemed advisable, therefore, in connection with most of the chapters, to indicate briefly the reigns and the great political events and personages with which each group of authors stands most nearly related. It has been judged best, also, so far as practicable, to group the main body of authors around some one great author who stands most conspicuously connected with that period of history. Minor juxtapositions follow, poets being grouped with poets,
historians with historians, theologians with theologians, and so on. By following this course, two advantages are secured. The memory is aided. The authors themselves, when thus presented in their natural connections, are better understood.
In collecting materials for this work, besides a diligent use of the many printed volumes on the subject, the mere enumeration of which would fill several pages, I have had special assistance from various quarters, which it is proper that I should specifically acknowledge.
Asa I. Fish, Esq., of Philadelphia, has given me the unrestricted use of his rare and costly collection of books on early English literature.
On the subject of the English Version of the Bible, I have had valuable suggestions from Rev. C. P. Krauth, D. D., Professor in the University of Pennsylvania, besides the free use of his exceedingly valuable and rare collection of books on that subject.
I am under similar obligations to Bishops Whittingham of Maryland, Odenheimer of New Jersey, and Stevens of Pennsylvania, all eminent as liturgists, for valuable suggestions and the free use of their collections, in preparing the portion of the work relating to the Book of Common Prayer.
The Rev. Frederic M. Bird, of Spottswood, New Jersey, who has spent many years in a special study of English Hymnody, and who has probably the most complete collection of books on that subject in the United States, has placed his treasures most freely and generously at my disposal.
Professor Gregory B. Keen, of the Seminary of St. Charles Borromeo, Philadelphia, has given me valuable aid in collecting materials respecting Catholic writers, in regard to whom, from his position, he has had special facilities for obtaining information.
The Rev. John S. Stone, D. D., Senior Professor in the Episcopal Theological Seminary at Cambridge, Mass., has had the kindness to read the proof-sheets of the work for the purpose of textual criticism.
I have also received at every step valuable suggestions from Professor Samuel Henry Dickson, of the Jefferson Medical School, Philadelphia.
The materials for the sketches of writers still living, containing facts not before given to the public, have in many instances been obtained direct from persons in England, whose names, however, I am not at liberty to communicate.