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PREFACE OF THE EDITOR.
THE following Sclection, intended for the use of young females, belongs to the class of those useful and unpretending publications, which industry, joined to some degree of taste, may always supply, and for which the routine of education, particularly in schools, will always create a demand. It is impossible to supply the pupils of a school with any great variety of original authors, and yet it is very desirable, that they should be early introduced to a number of the best authors, at least in their own language. When the sources are opened to them, they may take fuller draughts at their leisure. A taste for fine writing cannot be cultivated too early; and the surest mode of cultivating it is by reading much at that period of life, when what is read is indelibly impressed upon the memory, and by reading nothing, which does not deserve to be so impressed. How strongly are moral sentiments or descriptions of nature fixed upon the mind by passages which we have admired in early youth, and which, whenever we meet with them at any distant time, raise, almost mechanically, the emotions we then ex
perienced! The maxims first recommended by beauty of diction become, perhaps, the guides of our after life; and the feelings, introduced through the medium of the imagination, influence the heart in the intercourses of society.
It is, perhaps, an errour in modern education, liberally conducted as at present it is towards females, that they spend too much time in learning of languages, and
too little in reading of authors; so that, when they have gone through their course of education, they have a general acquaintance with, perhaps, three or four languages, and know little of the best productions in their own. If they have time to pursue their studies, they may supply the deficiency; but if the happiest destination of a woman be fulfilled, they become early engaged in domestic cares and duties, their acquirements stop short at the threshold of knowledge, and the real furniture of their minds is less rich, than that of a girl, who, educated at home and with little expense, but supplied with a judicious variety of English classics, has learnt less, but read more. It may be questioned, whether the practice, now so much in fashion, of teaching the learned languages to young women indiscriminately, can answer the time and pains, which must be employed about it. If a girl has a decided turn for literature, and a genius, which may perhaps impel her, at some period of her life, to give her own thoughts to the public, they will certainly enlarge the sphere of her ideas; but they can be of little use to those, who, in their own language, joined to that of the French, have
more than enough to employ all the time they ever will or ought to devote to reading. That a girl should be put to read Virgil or Horace, who is unacquainted with Pope or Boileau, is surely a solecism in education. The greatest part of this Selection is calculated for recitul as well as for reading; an exercise, the editor takes the liberty to say, which is too much neglected. Graceful reading is a most pleasing, and it is a scarce accomplishment; and it is seldom attained without some practice in reciting; which necessarily demands a full, distinct utterance, and those tones and cadences, which bring out the sense of the author and the harmony of his periods. Finished versé, particularly, loses half it's charms, when it is only submitted to the eye; and if Poetry has been divorced from Music, it ought at least to have the music of a well modulated voice, regulated by a well informed taste. Many English ladies profess to want courage to recite, or even to read aloud a copy of verses in a social party; nor can it be denied, that bashfulness, and shrinking from display, is one strong characteristic of our nation: yet it is somewhat difficult to conceive, that a young lady shall have courage enough to stand up by the side of a professional singer, and entertain a large and mixed audience, for an hour together, and yet be too modest to read or recite, by her father's fireside, amidst a circle of his friends, a passage of twenty lines from Milton or Cowper.
The editor has only to add, that this Collection, being intended chiefly for females, she has considered that circumstance, not only in having a more scrupulous regard to delicacy in the pieces inserted, but in directing her choice to subjects more particularly appropriate to the duties, the employments, and the dispositions of the softer sex. The pieces in Dr. Enfield's Speaker have been rather avoided, as that excellent collection is well known.
Independently of the pleasure, which a young mind of feeling and taste must derive from a familiarity with the most striking passages of our best authors, the advantage of it in future life is not small. They are equally relished in age as in youth. Whoever has been conversant with them in early youth, has laid up in her mind treasures, which, in sickness and in sorrow, in the sleepless night and the solitary day, will sooth the mind with ideas dear to it's recollection ; will come upon it like the remembrance of an early friend, revive the vivid feelings of youth, feed the mind with hope, compose it to resignation, and perhaps dismiss the parting breath with those hallelujahs on the tongue, which awoke the first feelings of love and admiration in the childish bosom.