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by the elegance, of their diction, and by the pure mo. rality which they breathe. They have been very attentively revised, and, where necessary, abridged, in order to adapt them to the nature and limits of this work. They are taken from original British writers, not from translations, that they may exhibit the English language in its native purity, liveliness, and simplicity. They have chiefly been written in modern times, and on domestic and familiar subjects: they are, therefore, the better calculated to instruct and interest the young reader, and to afford the most useful and pleasing specimens of epistolary composition. The importance of writing letters with propriety," says Dr. Johnson, “justly claims to be, considered with care ; since, next to the power of pleasing with his presence, every man would wish to be able to give delight at a distance. This great art should be diligently taught, the rather because of those letters which are most useful, and by which the general business of life is transacted, there are no examples easily to be found. It seems the usual fault of those who undertake this part of education, that they propose for the exercise of their scholars, occasions which rarely happen, and neglect those without which life cannot proceed. It is possible to pass many years without the necessity of writing panegyrics or epithalamiums; but every man has frequent occasion to make a narrative of the minute incidents of common life. On these subjects, therefore, young persons should be taught to think justly, and to write clearly, neatly, and succinctly, lest they come from school into the world without any acquaintance with common affairs, and stand idle spectators of mankind, in expectation that some great event will give them an opportunity to exert their rhetoric."
The biographical notices of the writers from whom the letters are selected, will, it is presumed, be found a useful and an interesting appendage to this work. Many of them have been extended to a greater length than was originally intended; because it was hoped that, whether read in a continued series, or according to the order of the letters to which they immediately relate, they would prove peculiarly instructive and pleasing to young persons, and exhibit to them some striking, ennobling, and animating views of human life and human character,
INTRODUCTORY RULES AND OBSERVATIONS
To write letters well is an attainment of great importance, It affords scope for the exercise and display of the highest powers of the mind, and the finest feelings of the heart. It is of constant utility in every department of business, and in every endearing relation of social and domestic life.
The art of epistolary writing, as the late translator of Pliny's letters has observed, was esteemed by the Romans among the number of liberal and polite accomplishments; and Cicero, in some of his letters, mentions, with great pleasure, the elegant specimens of epistolary composition which he had received from his son. It seems indeed to bave formed part of the education of the Romans; and it deserves to have a share in ours. “ It has," says Mr. Locke, “so much to do in all the occurrences of human life, that no gentleman can avoid showing himself in this kind of writing. Occasions will daily force him to make this use of his pen ; which, besides the consequences that, in his affairs, his well or ill managing of it often draws after it, always lays him open to a severer examination of his breeding, his sense, and his abilities, than oral discourses, whose transient faults dying for the most part with the sound that gives them life, and so not subject to a strict review, more easily escape observation and censure."
To facilitate to children and young persons the acquisi. tion of the epistolary art, they should frequently be exer
cised in writing letters to their absent friends or relatives ; on such occasions as naturally occur in domestic life, or on subjects chosen by themselves and adapted to their taste and acquirements. Every error which they commit in orthography or in punctuation, in language or in sentiment, should be pointed out and fully explained to them, either by their instructer, or some other friend, previously to the letters being sent; or, afterwards, by the persons to whom they are addressed. But no fault should be corrected by a teacher or friend, or on his suggestion; and the letters should always be sent exactly in the state in which they come from the pupils' own hands, except the occasion be very important, and the writers very urgent to be allowed to correct and transcribe their little performances. Thus, will some of the best and most operative feelings of their minds be powerfully excited; their appli. cation, their desire of improvement, will be quickened ; and they will probably look forward, with anxious expectation, to a future opportunity of gratifying themselves and their friends, by an exhibition of their enlarged abilities and attainments. It is scarcely necessary to add that these letters should be voluntary, not compelled; rather allowed as a privilege, than required as a task. “When chil. dren,” says Mr. Locke, “ understand how to write English with due connexion, propriety, and order, and are pretty well masters of a tolerable narrative style, they may be advanced to the writing of letters; in which they should not be put upon any strains of wit or compliment, but taught to express their own plain, easy sense, without any incoherence, confusion, or roughness."
To practice, should be added the frequent and attentive perusal of letters, written with correctness, ease, and elegance; for which purpose, the epistolary selections contained in this volume, will, it is presumed, prove peculiarly useful and acceptable.
But young persons should be