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General reface to The Collier
It is now more than seven years since the house of P. F. Collier & Son began to publish the collection of works known as The Harvard Classics. In the fifty volumes which constituted that series, Dr. Charles William Eliot, then president of Harvard University, sought to provide the English-speaking reader who commanded no language but his own with materials for reading which, patiently and diligently assimilated, would make him “an educated man,” as far as this could be accomplished by books alone. The warmth of the reception given to this work, and the evidence from individual readers which has reached its editor and publishers, have abundantly justified the hopes with which it was undertaken. Some millions of volumes of literature, philosophy, and science which have stood the test of time have been circulated over the length and breadth of America, with results upon the general level of culture and intelligence which are incalculable. The Harvard Classics are, and bid fair to remain, a staple in the intellectual fare of tens of thousands of American families.
cuss with eagerness the part which the form of government and the kind of liberty enjoyed by each have played in equipping it for the strife and in determining the issue. Already in all countries there has begun a kind of national introspection, and the United States with the rest are scrutinizing the foundations on which they are built, and wondering how they would have stood the shock had fate placed them in the line of battle. In such an examination it is well to turn to the utterances of our ancestors to learn definitely what it is that the fathers have spoken. We need to hear from their own lips what were their intentions in founding the republic, what their hopes and fears, what the spirit that animated them through the first century of the existence of the nation. A great collection of these utterances is therefore brought together under expert editorship in the opening set of The Collier Classics—"American Patriots and Statesmen."
Again, the issue which has agitated the public mind of the United States above all others for the past year has been that of military and naval preparation. We are busy enlarging our means of national defense, and thousands of Americans hitherto indifferent to the technique of war are offering their personal services and undergoing training. But the vast majority have only vague notions of the nature and extent of the
General Preface present military and naval establishments of the nation, know little of how they are recruited and maintained, and would be at a loss how to proceed if they wished themselves to take an active part in them. The voters, and even the members of Congress called upon to revise our present means of defense, are largely ignorant of how other nations have dealt with the same problem. There is manifestly a place for the group of volumes, now being planned, which will give clearly and succinctly up-to-date information on all these subjects.
But life is not all war and politics. Even in such tremendous times as these the imagination still lives and craves stimulus. Indeed, it is in such times more than ever that the spirit of man needs some place of occasional retreat from the intolerable pressure of actual events. So some of these groups will gather together the finer specimens of modern imaginative literature, of fiction and poetry. The form of fiction in which this country has been especially distinguished is less the full-length novel than the short story; and an early publication will present a collection of short stories by a number of the most distinguished contemporary American authors.
The characteristic of the reading public in this country in one day is its devotion to periodicals and newspapers, and this characteristic has inevitably been intensified by the sensa