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For Extracts from the writings of

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For an Extract from The Poenis

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INTRODUCTION.

WE frequently hear it said of the century in which we live that it is an age of progress—an age of great inventions and discoveries. We have learned, it is frequently said, to annihilate Space and Time ; and again, The laws of nature are become the agents of our will.

It is perfectly true that we have found out many wonderful things — railways, balloons, arms of precision, steam engines of all kinds, from the printing-press to the plough; and when we reflect that these things have all been made for the first time within the last few years we feel a not unnatural exultation and a pardonable pride in ourselves and in the age in which we live.

But a little thought will show us that we must not take all the credit to ourselves, and that we are reaping only because others have sowed. Nor must we even flatter ourselves that we are the greatest of inventors. It is true that we can put a girdle round about the earth in forty minutes, that we can speak to each other across the sea, and that our forefathers could not do this. But what shall we say of the invention by which we are enabled to read the thoughts of those who are

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departed from our midst ? For more than two centuries and a half have the bones of Shakespeare been laid in Stratford Church. For nearly twice the number of those years, the grave of Chaucer has attracted more loving pilgrims to Westminster than did the tomb of Becket to the Kentish town. No invention of ours can compare in importance with the invention by which the thoughts of men are communicated to each other by writing. To whom shall we ascribe it? In ages long since past, among tribes and nations known to us only by some scattered monuments, this wonderful art had its birth. Imperceptibly the symbolic picturewriting—the hieroglyphics engraved on stonegave way to alphabetic writing; and the annals of nations were written on rolls of parchment, instead of on the sides of Pyramids. After many centuries had slowly rolled away, after many a written literature had grown old and been partly lost and wholly forgotten, was this great invention completed by the discovery of the art of Printing. This is the power that has changed the world, that makes the feeblest amongst us the heir of all the ages. For by it knowledge is made possible for all : but for it, the discoveries and inventions of which we are justly proud could never have been. But so common are its fruits that we are apt to forget its importance. Books lie about all our homes; we can buy them in every street, and so we are tempted to treat them carelessly, unmindful of the wonders they really are.

We are apt to say that in these days every one

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