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This volume follows in general the plan adopted in Mr. Craik's English Prose and in Mr. Ward's English Poets. Its object is to present extracts of considerable length from the works of each of the chief American prose-writers, preceded by a critical essay and a brief biographical sketch. Authors now living --- great as has been the temptation — are not included. The text of the extracts has been carefully reprinted from the best editions, without any attempt at producing uniformity in spelling or punctuation. The source of each extract is explicitly stated. The editor is responsible for the selection of the authors, the choice of the extracts, and for the biographical sketches of Brown, Irving, Cooper, Hawthorne, Longfellow, Poe, Thoreau, Whitman, and Lowell. Thanks are due to many publishers, whose names are mentioned in the appropriate places, for their kindness in allowing the use of extracts from works still in copyright, or revised texts, still in copyright, of works that themselves have already passed out of copyright. On the other hand, it must be stated that to the singular unwillingness of the publishers of Holmes's writings to allow the use of a few thousand words from his principal works is due the absence of extracts from Holmes in this volume.
Indifference to American literature, as well as ignorance of its history, its development, and its value, is so common among us, even with those whose passion is the study of the literatures of other lands, that it is hoped that this volume may open the eyes
of rany to its interest and beauty. English literature, from about Dryden's time on, falls into two main branches,—that produced in Great Britain and that produced in the United States. In the Introduction I have shown why I believe that the prose literature produced here during this long period, whatever may be said of the poetry, is one of the most interesting in the world, and may appropriately be placed, not indeed first or second, but probably third, and certainly not lower than fourth, among modern prose literatures. But whatever be its value to humanity at large, it is ours; and surely no · American can read sympathetically the body of literature here presented without realizing — perhaps for the first time — that even from colonial times the deepest and most characteristic sides of our national life and feeling have been reproduced in our prose.
In conclusion it is proper to say that the number and length of the extracts have been determined not so much by a desire to indicate the relative rank of the several authors as by a desire to give a clear impression of the range and character of each author's production, and, in some cases, of the degree to which he expressed dominant moods of national feeling.
G. R. C.
AUGUST 1, 1898.
Government and Freedom
An American Navy ·
The Universal Right of Conscience
A Profession of Faith