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PREFACE

to the

FIRST EDITIO V.

As the principal part of the ensuing volume consists of critical disquisition, I have endeavoured to alleviate the dryness usually attendant upon such discussion, in the opinion of a numerous class of readers, not only by the beauty and merit of the quotations selected for the

purpose of elucidation, but by the introduction likewise of original tales and pieces of poetry. These I have interspersed at nearly equal distances with the view of breaking in upon that uniformity of diction and style which must necessarily be the result of long continued attention to literary subjects, and I should hope they may contribute something towards acquiring popularity for the work, something towards mitigating the didactic and severer tone of the pages devoted to criticism.

In the present hour of difficulty and danger, when politics and finance appear so entirely to occupy the public mind, it is little to be expected that subjects of fancy and mere elegant literature should greatly excite attention, or meet with adequate support. Long however as our eyes have been now turned on scenes of turbulence and anarchy, long as we have listened with horror to the storm which has swept over Europe with such ungovernable fury, it must, I should imagine, prove highly grateful, highly soothing to the wearied mind, to occasionally repose on such topics as literature and imagination are willing to afford.

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Happiness in this life certainly in a great measure depends on our facility in acquiring a taste for innocent and easily procurable plea

He who possesses therefore a relish for literature and science, will seldom complain of the tediousness and protraction of time, but may in general affirm with a celebrated writer, that, excluding pain and sickness, “ with books no day has been so dark as not to have its pleasure.” +

To the composition of the following papers, whatever may be their fate as to literary merit, the author, conscious that they contain no sentiment inimical to virtue or to religion, can, with sincerity, say, he is indebted for much consolatory employment; that he has found in their formation a refuge from anxiety

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and disappointment, and has been taught, by experience, to think, that, surrounded as we all are with ever varying accidents and calamities, hours thus spent should be esteemed as

Sunny islands in a stormy main,
As spots of azure in a cloudy sky.*

Scott.

* Six of the following papers were published about eight years ago in a periodical paper. These however have now undergone very considerable additions and alterations.

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