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To those who thoroughly comprehend the importance and high tendency of LITERATURE, when not perverted from the original intention of its nature, an elaborate exposition of the advantages likely to accrue to the public from a revival of the best Works of our best Authors, will be altogether unnecessary. They already know that, in every art and science, those who would not rest content with a cramped mechanical knowledge, meted out to them by the peculiar measures in vogue among their Contemporaries, must turn constantly back, to consider what were the ideas and practices of Former Ages, in order to enlarge and improve their own. And this is more particularly requisite in LITERATURE—where none but those who have made themselves acquainted with the MASTERPIECES of past times, can ever hope to add to their number.

But this obvious truth, which it is so easy to acknowledge, is seldom converted into a principle of action. The productions of our Own Age,-yielding, indeed, in many cases, to those of no preceding period,—are too frequently allowed to engross us wholly; and thus is created a taste childishly fastidious, which, without examination, rejects as unpalatable the more solid, plentiful, and invigorating intellectual food of our Forefathers. Many laudable attempts have certainly already been made, and are still making, to correct the injurious tendency of this habit: the works of some of our greatest Writers have been reprinted, sometimes nakedly, at others accompanied by Prefaces or Introductions, intended to pave the way to a renewed intercourse between our Literary Ancestors and the Public.

Perhaps, however, no single work, detached from the body of our Older Literature, and separately published, could ever hope to secure the degree of attention to which it might, by its intrinsic importance, be entitled. Like a foreigner, moving solitarily through a vast and busy crowd, it would probably be quickly eclipsed and lost to the eye amid the multitudinous throng. To produce any very striking effect, therefore, the books of past ages must be revived, so to say, in masses, and be made to support each other, like the several parts of a phalanx, in reconquering that popularity which is their just inheritance : for appearing thus, they can by no possibility be overlooked. And such is the merit of those Authors whose principal Works will compose the present Series—such the force of their reasoningthe vast reach and compass of their thoughts—the riches of their illustration--and the splendour, in many cases, of their style, that those who once discover their various excellences are


On this account, independently of all other considerations, we have thought it desirable to publish seriatim a collection of the PROSE MASTERPIECES of our LITERATURE, uniform in appearance, size, embellishments, and price-to be issued at regular intervals. And because, in most instances, we find among an Author's Works some particular Treatise or Treatises, which, treating of topics agreeable to his taste, or containing, as in the case of Milton, some burst of self-love, or the defence or exposition of doctrines exactly suiting the temper of his mind, are therefore more completely impregnated with the seeds of his genius, and the quintessence of his most exquisite learning, we have considered it more expedient to make a selection of such pieces, than to reprint all he may have written ; for even those who possess the happiest and most fertile intellects, are not equally happy and fertile at all times.

But it has often been said that a man's own personal appearance and manners are his best letters of recommendation :-and

so it fares with books. To be received into good society they
must present themselves well-dressed ; an advantage which few
of our great writers, except the Poets, have hitherto enjoyed.
For what modern eye has yet been rejoiced by beholding the
UTOPIA, or the TENURE OF Kings, or that old LEVIATHAN,
once so dear to our Patricians, enclosed within embossed covers,
and internally adorned with all the luxurious blandishments of
engraving and typography ? These elegant incitements to study
are reserved for a different order of books, which without them,
perhaps, might find the road to popularity more steep and
thorny. But, if even inferior productions, recommended by the
tastefulness and beauty of their exterior, force themselves a way
into the Temple of Fame, where they sparkle and glitter for
awhile, it surely cannot be too much to expect that some of the
most perfect compositions to which the wit of man has given
birth, will, when brought forward with equal external advan-
tages, command at least an equal share of public patronage.

The labours of the Editor may be very briefly explained.
To the Works of those Writers, the events of whose lives are
hitherto little known, he will prefix an ORIGINAL BIOGRA-
PHICAL MEMOIR, containing, in addition to the history of the
Author's life, a general view of his Writings, remarks on the
peculiarities of his Style, an outline of the Opinions, religious
and political, prevalent during the Age in which he lived, and
an Account of the Fate of his Works after his death. Wherever
the text appears to require elucidation, he will subjoin a Note,
explaining, or,


necessary, expanding the Author's meaning,
or illustrating it by Anecdotes or Historical Facts. The plan
which has been so successfully pursued in reprinting the plays
of Shakspeare, and the Paradise Lost, of reforming the anti-
quated orthography, and correcting, as far as possible, the care-
less punctuation of our older Authors, he will in all practicable
cases adopt. And to those Treatises which now want them, will
be added TABLES OF CONTENTS, and by numbering the
smaller sections, or paragraphs,-as has already been done in
several important publications besides the Greek and Roman

Classics,-facilitate, as much as possible, the business of re-

Thus illustrated and introduced, it is hoped that the sterling
merit of the works themselves will do the rest : particularly as
care will be taken to avoid even the appearance of monotony in
the subjects, by following up Politics and Philosophy with
Criticism-works on Morals and Education Biography-Pic-
tures of Manners—and even with Romance, when, as in the
UTOPIA of Sir Thomas More, it has been made subservient to
some great moral end.

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