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GREATER LITERATURE OF THE WORLD.
This is not the introduction to a book, or even to a series of books: one might call it rather an introduction to Literature itself — or to a goodly portion of that vast literary tide drift of the centuries, which certain honest purveyors and explorers have here brought to shore, and spread out in cleanly type, for whosoever will — to read, to ponder, and enjoy.
From earliest recorded times there has lived a disposition to engarland together songs that have touched the heart chants that have wakened valor - fables that have exploited truth - maxims that have worded justice. There was reason enough for this before yet printing or types were known, and when some Homer — whose notes we shall find by and by, a-thrill along these pages — lifted up his voice to gathering crowds, that he might bring together his chants, and the chants of many another, to round out the composite tales about Troy, Helen, and Agamemnon.
Again, when manuscripts were fairly plentiful, and printed leaves — more timorously than now – began to show themselves, there was abundant reason why those who could not command numerous books, or the songs of numerous singers, should desire — between two covers — a taste of many. Hence came "garlands,” Analecta Veterum, and such Recueil of old talk and story, with Dictes and Sayings, as tempted our first English printer Caxton.
But if the paucity of books, and the old dearness of them, provoked the assemblage of their best parts into manageable
and purchasable form, what, pray, shall be said for the massing of good reading qualities under one set of covers, in these days when books pave our highways, and are so lowered to the penny's worth — as to make old bookmakers blush ?
Only this — that readers cannot wrestle with the everincreasing multitude of authors, from cover to cover, and so must plead for some such segregation of their best parts or chapters as will permit one to test their winningest features, without being muddled or overrun by their throng. And, whereas in times gone by, the costliness of books demanded wise selections, and excerpta from them — So, now, their damaging cheapness and multitude make readers cry out for some winnowing process that shall spare us confusion of tongues, and bait us with tempting flavors.
OF COLLECTS IN GENERAL AND THIS IN PARTICULAR.
Whether the present purveyors of the tokens and specimens of that great literary “spread” — which began with earliest history, and which, we fear, will outlast us all — have always judged wisely, who shall say? No two lovers of flowers and of woodcraft will bring home the same spoils from whatever great reaches of field and forest. 'Tis well there should be differences ; what is needful only, is that choice should be fairly representative of growth and bloom that there should be no wanton neglects — no petulant reticence - no slavish subjection to special fads of color or of form. And though it may well happen that some dainty critical observers may find somewhat in these collectanea which shall give them qualms, yet nothing, I think, will be found which has not at some past date had its eager readers, and so given a tinge of its coloring (whether melodramatic, or flighty, or illogical) to the large literary complexion of its time.
Why may I not liken these books — light to the hand and sparkling in print - to one of those great megaphones, with