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LONDON:

J. SWIFT, 55, KING STREET, W.

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PREFACE.

At the time when the Penny Reading movement began I happened to be residing in the West of England, and had ample opportunity of judging of the advantages it offered. I had noticed that Literary and Mechanics’ Institutes had very generally departed widely from their original province and design. The lectures had degenerated into entertainments of a mild form—sham scientific displays with showy commonplace experiments, exercitations for the honour and glory of little local dignitaries, or the

tumblings ”—to use an expressive figure— of professional jesters. Nothing was to be gained from these so-called lectures, save the useless knowledge that potassium burns

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