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“The evils of book-making," says Lord Bacon, “are only to be cured by making more books; that is, such as shall cause the bad ones to be forgotten.” An objection to many of the reading exercises selected for schools is, that they either fall below the requirements of a sound literary taste, or are not of a character to be understood by those for whom they are intended. It is a narrow experience, I am aware, that would have a pupil read nothing that is not level to his comprehension, that would leave nothing for his mind to grow up to; but it is none the less true that he will best deliver what he best understands and feels.
To satisfy at once the mature taste of the teacher, and to interest the pupil, is the desirable object in the compilation of a “ Reader;" and let it not be supposed that this is any easy or irresponsible task, to be taken up lightly, and despatched hastily and superficially. I know of few literary undertakings that ought to be assumed with more ample preparation, or pursued with a more scrupulous regard to the purposes in view. The pieces that are read or declaimed at school probably exercise a more enduring influence upon the character, so far as it can be affected by the thoughts and forms of expression that literature embodies, than all that is read in after life. How important, then, that an active and accurate discrimination should be exer
cised as well in regard to the literary as the moral character of pieces !
In adopting, compiling, or translating the contents of this col. lection, I have regarded as essential, first, a salutary or unexceptionable moral tone ; secondly, literary accuracy and style; and thirdly, peculiar fitness as a reading exercise for schools. The more simple exercises are placed at the beginning. I have observed the line of demarcation that should distinguish a “ Reader” from a “ Speaker.” Exercises of a purely declamatory character should be sparingly introduced into the former, as they are not favorable to the formation of that style of delivery in reading which is most appropriate; while the habit of giving a level tone to pieces requiring the animation and action of declamatory delivery may spoil the speaker without accomplishing the reader. Still, as the mode in which an oratorical passage should be read may differ from that in which it should be declaimed, an adequate number of exercises to illustrate this difference have been introduced.
Although I have been more solicitous to present what was suitable than what was novel, it will be seen that more than twothirds of this collection is composed of pieces to be found in no other “ Reader."
“ In many instances,” says Mr. Mayhew, in his excellent work on Popular Education, in reference to exercises in reading, “ conimendable effort is made to secure correct pronunciation, and a proper observance of the inflections and pauses. But there is a great lack in understanding what is read." “I am fully satisfied that it is incomparably better for classes to read once around once a day, and understand what they read, than to read four times around four times a day, without understanding their lessons."
Impressed with the soundness of these views, my aim has been to smooth the teacher's way and illumine that of the pupil, bg continual monitions in the form of marks of reference to rules in the introductory part, or to explanations in the Index, by the aid of which a pupil is not only kept apprised of his besetting faults in pronunciation, but is pointed to the solution of every difficult word or passage. These referential marks and their use are explained in a few words on page 55.
Part First treats of the elementary sounds, and the relations to them of the vowels, consonants, and diphthongs; of articulation, pronunciation, inflection, punctuation, delivery, &c. This part is regularly arranged in paragraphs, which are continuously numbered, so that a corresponding number attached to a word, in the reading exercises of Part Second, directs the pupil to the rule or caution needed for his guidance. These references are to the articulation and pronunciation of particular words, or to the manner in which certain forms of speech ought to be read. Numberless repetitions would be needed to give, attached to every exercise, the useful hints and directions which, under this simple plan, are supplied without encumbering or disfiguring the page.
Another and equally important feature is the introduction of references to explanations in the index beginning on page 445. Wherever a word occurs in regard to which any special information is useful, either as to the derivation and meaning, or to the pronunciation, the letters EI (standing for Explanatory Index) are attached, and the word will be found under that head, alphabetically arranged and explained. Thus the pupil has no excuse for omitting to acquaint himself with the information designated.
All the names of authors, and nearly all the proper names that occur, even where they do not have the mark of reference, are also included in this index. In preparing it, I have drawn largely from the excellent work of Mr. Trench, on the Study of Words. He shows that there is an interesting history attached to many of our commonest words; and should the reader find a reference to the index attached to such familiar words as mankind, odd, husband, wife, amuse, education, field, forest, neighbor, palace, parasite, parlor, and scores of other words, more or less common, he will learn, from a glance at them in the index, that there is a history in their derivation which ought to be known. The importance of this knowledge is well set forth by Me Trench in the extracts from his work beginning on page 119.
By acquainting himself with the origin of many words explained in the index, the reader will store his memory with a number of prefixes and postfixes, a knowledge of which will open to him the meaning of large classes of words to which they are the keys. The habit also, which he may thus acquire, of tracing verbal genealogies back to their primary stock, may be to him of incalculable service, in inspiring a taste that must open new sources of intellectual satisfaction and improvement; in leading to greater precision in the use of language; in simplifying and making luminous many a word that before seemed arbitrary, indefinite, and opaque; and, finally, in quickening his powers of penetration into the significance, or absence of significance, of all that he reads.
In conclusion, I may remark, that both in the introductory part and in the index I have freely availed myself of the labors of the best and most recent authorities. In most instances, credit has been given; should it have been occasionally withheld, this general acknowledgment will suffice.
** The names of authors and subjects, alphabetically arranged, will be found
For an explanation of the marks of reference in Part II., see p. 55.