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portals leading to the famous shrines of nature, art, and history, his aim was to make evident that further exploration would abundantly reward the eager and appreciative pilgrim. In the same general way he has endeavored in these volumes to present what in the world of letters has instructed and delighted him, and to suggest by the selections chosen what else may prove inspiring to his old companions over land and sea.
Out of the fields of literature he has sought to gather many fadeless flowers, not to dissect them scientifically, but to weave them into garlands, and diffuse their perfume. In the construction of this Library care has been taken also to prepare its volumes with a view to satisfying the æsthetic tastes of its pos
Beautiful thoughts are worthy of artistic presentation. They certainly lose nothing of their strength and value, when appropriately framed. The illustrations, to whose preparation in soft, pleasing colors great attention has been given, have been especially chosen, in order to familiarize the reader with the homes of many of the authors quoted, or with some spots associated with their lives. · All of the biographical sketches have been purposely made brief. Only the most important facts which every one would wish to learn, or to recall, have been concisely stated.
Some critics of the general purpose of a work like this may claim that they are not content with mere quotations, but wish to own the entire works of all those represented in its pages. But such a vast collection would prove far too bulky and expensive for a private owner. Others may urge that public libraries furnish all they care to read. But who will there conduct them through the labyrinth of letters, and place before them what they wish to know in a compact and entertaining form? Moreover, what a difference exists between a book, borrowed for brief perusal from a colossal storehouse of such printed matter, and the loved private volumes which adorn the home, and can be constantly referred to! It may be also said that one man's taste can never be a guide in making an anthology. Alas, it is too true that no selection can be perfect, and that no single choice is faultless. Yet, though opinions differ as to the relative value of much that has been chosen or omitted here, it may be claimed with confidence that nothing worthless has been printed on these pages, and that at least an introduction is thus given to hundreds of the foremost writers of the world, whose works withstand triumphantly the test of criticism and the tooth of time.
From such a standpoint, therefore, one can accurately judge how much or little of their other writings he may care to read. That an increasing love for literature may be stimulated by a study of these volumes is almost a certainty. To see an exquisite bouquet of freshly cut and dewy roses fills one with a longing to explore the floral paradise in which they bloom. To gaze upon one noble mountain peak is certainly inspiring, but having felt the thrill awakened by its radiant beauty, we remain unsatisfied till we behold the whole sublime expanse of the great Alpine world. Another wish of the compiler of this work has been to offer some selections, less distinguished for their intellectual brilliancy than for a tender sentiment, which, often after centuries, still moves the heart, and stirs its holiest emotions. There is in all good writing worthy of the name a touch of human nature that makes kindred of us all. This he has tried to find, as the prospector seeks the vein of gold. A memorable thought connected with the preparation of a Library like this is the enormous influence which it is capable of exerting. It is not one book, or a dozen books, but the carefully distilled quintessence of a thousand! It is a concentration of tremendous intellectual and moral forces, - an inexhaustible spiritual dynamo, - a compilation of the very pages which have transformed lives, determined history, and decided destinies. Such literature is the priceless heritage of humanity. We know that life will ultimately end upon our planet; but it is almost inconceivable that certain books, or parts of books, with all their precious consolations of religion, science, poetry, and philosophy, will fail to cheer to the last moment the declining remnant of the race. And even when the final flicker of intelligence shall have been extinguished, and all the world's accumulated volumes shall have shriveled into ashes in the earth's combustion, or have been sepulchered in monster glaciers on its frozen frame, the soul of literature, rising from its printed words, as music soars above the ivory keys and quivering strings of instruments which gave it voice, will still survive. As surely as our consciousness outlives the body's dissolution, all that is best and highest in our
books will still continue to exist in minds inspired, memories quickened, and characters ennobled by its influence. The master works of literature are deathless in their psychic power; imperishable, while the men and women molded by them tread our globe; immortal also in that brighter realm, to which our tiny planet is the anteroom, and death the curtained door.
JOHN L. STODDARD.
NOTE. — The extracts used in this work from Hodgkin's “Italy and her Invaders” and from Jowett's translation of Thucydides are inserted by permission of The Clarendon Press, Oxford, England.