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VOLUME OF SELECTIONS
IS RESPECTFULLY INSCRIBED TO
Because from the admirable and diversified compositions of the one, so much of novelty and excellence has been appropriated in its compilation; while, although the works of the other are so popular and so much esteemed in his native country, as to have rendered selection from them supererogatory, he kindly permits himself to be called the friend of
“ I am thirsty of your praise, for when We gain applauses from the great in name, We seem to be partakers of their fame."
Hood to Coleridge.
If such volumes as the present stood in need of any apology farther than the Economical one that there is a want of them universally felt as the productions of genius in the different departments of literature, successively accumulate--and a consequent demand for them created, they would need none other than is to be found in the following passages from Mr. M‘Diarmid's eloquent introduction to the justly popular miscellany which he has edited :-“ As no man's time or means,” says he, is equal to the Herculean task of reading or receiving all our periodicals, (and new publications in the Belles Lettres,] every one of these must be considered as revolving in its own particular sphere; and as a critical journal may be described as the satellite of books, watching their movements and reflecting their light, so the humble Editor of a Literary Miscellany may be said to perform the same good office for a Magazine and Review, in garnering up those scattered fragments which the world, according to Milton, does not willingly suffer to die. In this way thousands become acquainted with authors to
whose merits they were previously entire strangers, and, by being presented with a favourable sample, are often led to examine the whole stock.”—That such will be the happy result of many articles inserted in “ The Ant," its Editor cannot allow himself doubt, when he recollects that by far the larger portion of its contents is selected either from volumes not likely to have reached the bulk of his readers, or from periodical works with which it is too much the custom to rest satisfied in having once perused.
Now and then, indeed, he has diversified his pages with brief extracts from old and favourite writers; but these will be found remarkable either for some peculiar sentiment, or for having been previously overlooked by compilers. Their position in the volume, however, has often depended on the adherence to a resolution with which he set out—to make every number complete in itself-scorning to retain unwilling subscribers by the hackneyed expedient of leaving a tale unfinished till the succeeding publication. This circumstance, together with the necessity of great variety, even within the limits of each fortnight's peculiar portion, has compelled him occasionally to take certain liberties with the writings of authors he admired, besides appropriating them to his own purpose. He has, however, never dared to add a syllable, except where it was rendered necessary for connection by the reverse process—that of abridgment; and yet he has been sometimes struck see how much better good tale may be made to read-for example, that of Zerlina, from " De Vere"-by a process of compression
to which the writer of it would feel great reluctance to submit, as the Editor himself has experienced in one of the very few papers of his, which-against his perhaps unreasonable objection to compilers selecting from their own works-he has been prevailed upon to give a place to, in company so much above their own rank.
Like its eminent precursor, “ THE CABINET," “ THE Ant” has exhibited, in the table of contents, the names of those authors whose writings have contributed to fill up its pages;
and where these could not be ascertained, the sources whence the extracts were derived have been studiously disclosed, although not till the conclusion of the volume. Occasioned by this postponement of justice, it was sometimes diverting to hear those who could not have traced a plagiarism, if any had been intended, declaring verses of Hood to be unpoetical-jeux d'esprit of Smith to be dull—and extracts from the “ LITERARY SOUVENIR” to be void of taste. To the recent volumes of that exquisite work, in which all is so excellent that the only difficulty is to know where to stop in extracting, the Editor has been indebted even as much for the example of fine tact and elegant taste as for selections from a work which has annually 30,000 readers. From the Edinburgh “ Janus” he has culled two of his finest flowers. But, having already exceeded the usual “ limits of an advertisement,” he will not farther particularise, but conclude in the language of his title-page and its motto, by repeating, that if, in forming a collection of
pieces chiefly narrative,” or, in other words, short stories which have all the interest, without any of the