« PreviousContinue »
PREFACE TO THE THIRD EDITION.
Tue hearty praise bestowed by the public upon the first edition of this book, the rapid sale which it met with, together with the numerous kind and commendatory letters that I received from authors and others, were, of course, very grateful to my feelings; and it was to me no less a duty than a pleasure to show myself not unmindful of such kindness, by doing all I could-and, I would hope, not without success—to make the second edition every way more deserving. No one could see or feel the deficiencies of my book so much as myself; but I had this consolation, that the most competent to decide upon its merits would be those best able to appreciate the difficulties in preparing it, and therefore most ready to make every allowance for its defects. And so it proved.
My book was, however, the subject of some ungracious strictures on two grounds,—sins of omission and sins of commission. In proof of the first, one critic set forth a list of thirty-one names not to be found in the work. To this accusation I could only plead guilty, and that, too, to an extent much greater than the charge; for in the preface to the first edition (written, of course, after the rest of the book was printed) I candidly acknowledged that I found I had omitted many names that deserved a place in the volume quite as much, at least, as some who were in it, and I declared my purpose to do my best to remedy the defect in the second edition. This I did, to as great an extent as was consistent with my plan, by introducing sixty additional authors, with extracts from their works. But even now I am aware that there are some writers, of much merit in their way, who will not be found in these pages, and that I may still be censured for omissions. So let it be. I well knew, when I began my work, that I had undertaken a task very difficult of accomplishment, and that, whatever might be my success, I should be exposed to the displeasure of those who would feel themselves aggrieved, either because sufficient prominence had not been given to their favorite pieces and authors, or because they themselves were not noticed.
But, besides the difficulties and embarrassments in deciding upon the authors to be admitted and the selections to be made, I felt,—depressingly felt,-from first to last, how little the general character and style of many authors could be appreciated by the few extracts I could take from their writings; and more than once I thought that I might not inaptly be compared to the simpleton in Hierocles, who, when he had a house for sale, carried about a brick in his pocket as a specimen. But the idea also occurred to me that the Grecian was not so far wrong, after all; for if the brick gave no idea of the size or architecture of the building, it showed, at least, of what material it was composed. So I comforted myself with the reflection that very many who, in this age of business activity, would have no time to read the entire works of an author, and therefore could not have a full appreciation of his genius, would still get from my book some notion of his character, his turn of thought, his style, and his power,—and that this would be far better than to know nothing of him at all. But
my sins of commission were still more grievous,—the antislavery extracts introduced into
book. For these I have not one word of apology to offer. Every sentiment of my mind and every pulsation of my heart is, and always has been, on the side of liberty and the right of every human being to its fullest enjoy. ment, believing, with Cowper, that
“'Tis Liberty alone that gives the flower
Of fleeting life its lustre and perfume ;
And we are weeds without it." I candidly acknowledge that I am so simple-minded as really to believe (not “make-believe”) in the declaration of the Scriptures that “God hath made of one blood all nations of men;" and in the Declaration of Independence, that “every man has an in
1 A writer in the “North American Review,” some years ago, pleasantly remarked, “We have among us little companies of people, each of whicb keeps its poet,' and, not content with that, proclaims from its small cor. ner, with a most conceited air, that its poet is the man of the age."
alienable right to Liberty and the pursuit of happiness." I therefore believe it to be a great crime to deprive any innocent human being of an "inalienable right;" and a sin against God of no ordinary magnitude to turn the "temple of the Holy Ghost" into an article of merchandise, or, in the nervous language of Whittier,
"To herd with lower natures the awful form of God."
I also acknowledge that, in these days, when a cowardly, shortsighted, unprincipled expediency too often usurps the place of truth and duty, I wished all, especially the youth of my country, to see that the founders of our Republic-Washington, Franklin, Jefferson, and others—were always and earnestly on the side of Freedom as opposed to Slavery; and that most of our wisest and best men and ablest writers-poets, essayists, historians, divines—down to the present day, have taken the same high Christian ground. I acknowledge, too, that I love, as I humbly hope, truth and honesty, and hate all shams, whether in politics, morals, or religion; and that, in the preparation of my book, I felt it to be my duty to represent my authors fairly; to set forth what has chiefly characterized their writings; to let them speak out the deep feelings of their heart. To do this in many cases, I could not, simply as an honest man, but bring into view their anti-slavery opinions and principles as shown in their writings and actions. I say this not apologetically; for I trust that I shall never be given over to do a deed or say a word to conciliate the favor of the slaveholder, or of his more guilty Northern apologist. I know very well that there are some books that pretend to give a full and fair view of American authors, but from which are very scrupulously excluded every anti-slavery sentiment from the writings of those most known as anti-slavery men. But could I be so dishonest as well as mean as to act thus,—to keep out of view the most warmlycherished sentiments of my authors as well as my own, in the hope of greater pecuniary gain, or to secure favor and commendation from the friends and champions, lay or clerical, of our "pecu. liar institution,”—no one could despise me half so much as I should despise myself.
11 Cor. vi. 19.
I was also blamed by some for not introducing more Southern authors into my book. But, in the preparation of the work, I never thought or cared what was the latitude of the writer's birth, but only what were his merits. In my second edition, having sixty new names, I introduced a few more Southern writers, numerically, but not more in proportion ; for if seven-eighths of our most eminent poets, historians, essayists, and theologians would be born in the free States, I see not how I could help it; and, having had nothing to do with the arrangement, I do not see exactly how I am to be blamed for it."
In this third edition no additional matter, of course, has been introduced, as the work is stereotyped; but a few typographical errors have been corrected, and the Index has been carefully and thoroughly revised and reset.
In conclusion, I would make my most grateful acknowledgments to those—and they are inany—who made various friendly suggestions for the improvement of my humble volume. They will see that in most cases their views were partially if not wholly adopted; and if I did not avail myself of their hints in all cases, it was simply because I could not do so consistently with my own taste and judgment. But I do not the less appreciate their true kindness, and the interest they manifested in my book; and I am sure that, knowing the many difficulties that beset one, on every side, engaged in such a work,--the diversities of taste, the dif: ferences of judgment, the mass of material to be selected from, the various considerations to be taken into account in admitting or rejecting both writers and selections, they will look upon the result of my labor now completed, with kindliness, if not with commendation.
CHARLES D. CLEVELAND. PHILADELPHIA, August 18, 1859.
1 of the one hundred and sixty-eight authors in my book, forty-eigh were born in Massachusetts; twenty-five in New York; twenty-three in Connecticut; seventeen in Pennsylvania; eleven in Maine; six in New Hampshire; six in Virginia ; five in Maryland; four in New Jersey; four in South Carolina ; three in Vermont; three in Rhode Island; three in Scotland; two in Ohio; one in Delaware; one in Louisiana; one in Michigan; one in Africa; one in Bermuda; one in Ireland; one in South America; and one in the West Indies.
Page FRANCIS HOPKINSON:
The Way to Wealth..........
A Parable against Persecution............ 42
A Decalogue of Canops for Practical
Character of Actors.......
The Brotherhood of Man.........
Meditates the Choice of Hercules......... 57 The Fop's Decline......