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PREFACE.

Unusual as it is to republish newspaper articles, no

apology is deemed necessary in presenting this volume

to the public. At the time of Mr. Hugh Miller's death,

it was felt that a large proportion of his contributions

to the “ Witness” deserved a permanent place in the

literature of his country. They were recognized as

distinguished, both by their literary merit and their

sterling value, from the fugitive and ephemeral productions of every-day journalism.

Assuming the conduct of a newspaper in the maturity of his powers, and in the plenitude of his literary

and scientific information, Mr. Miller's habit of compo

sition was entirely different from that of ordinary ready writers of the press. As was correctly remarked at the time of his death," he did not work easy, but with laborious special preparation.” He meditated his

articles as an author meditates his books or a poet his

verses, -conceiving them as wholes, working fully out their trains of thought, enriching them with far-brought treasures of fact, and adorning them with finished and

apposite illustration. In the quality of completeness,

those articles stand, so far as I know, alone in the

records of journalism. For rough and hurrying vigor

they might be matched, or more, from the columns of

the “Times;” in lightness of wit and smart lucidity of statement they might be surpassed by the happiest

performances of French journalists,-a Prevost Par

adol or a St. Marc Girardin; and for occasional bril

liancies of imagination, and sudden gleams of piercing

thought, neither they nor any other newspaper articles

have, I think, been comparable with those of S. T.

Coleridge. But as complete journalistic essays, sym

metrical in plan, finished in execution, and of sustained

and splendid ability, the articles of Hugh Miller are

unrivalled. For the most part, the topic suggesting

thèm was but the occasion for a display of the writer's

thought and imagination, the fly round which the

precious and imperishable amber of Mr. Miller's genius

was accumulated.

I am not prepared to say that these are the most

striking or powerful articles published in the “Witness”

by Mr. Miller. He conducted that paper for sixteen

years; and, on a moderate computation, he wrote for

it a thousand articles. Having surveyed this vast field,

I retain the impression of a magnificent expenditure of intellectual energy, an expenditure of which the world

will never estimate the sum. By far the larger portion

of what Mr. Miller wrote for the “ Witness ” is gone

forever. Admirable disquisitions on social and ethical

questions, felicities of humor and sportive though tren

chant satire, delicate illustration and racy anecdote

from an inexhaustible literary erudition, and crystal

jets of the purest poetry, - such things will repay the

careful student of the “ Witness " file, but can never be

known to the general public.

Having done my utmost in the way of compression,

there still remained about three volumes of articles, between the claims of which to republication I could

not decide. This most difficult and delicate task was

performed by Mrs. Hugh Miller, in a way which com

manded my entire approval, and which will, I have

no doubt, give satisfaction to the public.

Should the present volume meet the reception which, in my humble opinion, it deserves, its issue can be followed up by that of others of closely corresponding

character and value.

PETER BAYNE.

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