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DISTRICT OF MASSACHUSETTS, to wit :
District Clerk's Office. BE IT REMEMBERED, that on the twenty-third day of June, A. D. 1823, and in the forty-seventh year of the independence of the United States of America, William B. Fowle, of the said District, has deposited in this office the title of a book, the right whereof he claims as Proprietor, in the words following, to wit:- The American First Class Book; or, Exercises in Reading and Recitation: selected principally from Modern Authors of Great Britain and America; and designed for the use of the highest class in publick and private schools. By John Pierpont, Minister of Hollis-street Church, Boston: author of Airs of Palestine, &c. In conformity to the Act of the Congress of the United States, entitled, “ An Act for the encouragement of learning, by securing the copies of maps, charts, and books, to the authors and proprietors of such copies, during the times therein mentioned :" and also to an Act, entitled, “An Act, supplementary to au Act, entitled, An Act for the encouragement of learning, by securing the copies of maps, charts, and books, to the authors and proprietors of such copies, during the times therein mentioned; and extending the benefits thereof to the arts of designing, engraving, and etching historical, and other prints."
INO, W. DAVIS, Clerk of the District of Massachusetts.
The sale of a thousand copies of THE AMERICAN FIRST CLASS BOOK, in a sew weeks, is a satisfactory evidence that it has obtained the publick approbation, and is what they required. Errours in stereotyped books may be easily corrected, and as no new errours can arise except from accidental injury to the plates, (which may, of coursc, be repaired,) a book of this kind may finally be made perfectly correct. Such errours as escaped in the first edition of this work, and have been since detected in a very careful revision of it, are corrected. It may now be considered as almost immaculate, and as the best return that the proprietor can make for its favourable reception, he pledges bimself to spare no pains or expense to keep it so.
Extract from the Records of the School
Committee of Boston. At a meeting of the School Committee, held July 18th, 1823, it was---Or. dered, That THE AMERICAN FIRST CLASS BOOK be hereafter used in the publick reading schools instead of Scott's Lessons.
WM. WELLS, Secretary.
as our own.
THIS book has been compiled with a special reference to the publick Reading and Grammar Schools of this city. It is the result of an attempt to supply the want-which has long been a subject of complaint among those whom the citizens of Boston have charged with the general superintendence of their publick schools, as well as with those who are appointed to the immediate instruction of them--of a book of Exercises in Reading and Speaking better adapted, than any English compilation that has yet appeared, to the state of society as it is in this country; and less obnoxious to complaint, on the ground of its national or political character, than it is reasonable to expect that any English compilation would be, among a people whose manners, opinions, literary institutions, and civil government, are so strictly republican
But, though the immediate design of this compilation was a limited and local one, it has been borne in mind, throughout the work, that the want, which has been a subject of complaint in this city, must have been still more widely felt; especially by those, in every part of our country, who are attentive to the national, moral, and religious sentiments, contained in the books that are used by their children while learning to read, and while their literary taste is beginning to assume something of the character which it ever afterwards retains.
How far the objections, which have been made to other works of this sort, have been obviated in the present selection, it is for others to determine. I willingly leave the decision of this question to the ultimate and only proper tribunal- the publick; to whose kindness, as shown towards one of my efforts, in another department of literature, I am no stranger, and for which I should prove myself ungrateful should I not acknowledge my obligation.-I only hope that the kindness of the publick towards the past, may not have led me into presumption and carelessness in regard to the present.
In as much, however, as this book departs, in some particulars, from most others of the same general character, it may be expected that the author should assign his reasons for such deviations. These relate principally to the omission of some things that are usually deemed essential to a schoolreader; and to the arrangement of the materials of which this is made up.
First, then, it may be urged as an objection to this, as a compilation that is to be used by those who are learning to read, that it consists entirely of exercises in reading and speaking, to the exclusion of those rules, the knowledge of which is indispensable to any considerable proficiency in either.
I have observed, however, that that part of school-books which consists of Brief Treatises upon Rhetorick, Rules for Reading, and Essays on Elocution, is, almost uniformly, little worn: an evidence that it is little used; in other words, that it is of little use. I have construed this fact into an oracular monition not to devote to such Rules, Treatises, or Essays, any part of the present work.
The truth probably is, that reading, like conversation, is learned from example rather than by rule. No one becomes distinguished, as a singer, by the most familiar knowledge of the gamut: so, no one is ever made an accom, plished reader or speaker by studying rules for elocution, even though ajded
by a diagram. There is even less aid derived from rules ia reuing than in singing : for, musick is, in a great degree, a matter of strict science; while reading, after the alphabet is learned, is altogether an art:-an art, indeed, which requires a quick perception, a delicate taste, a good understanding, and, especially, a faculty of nicely discriminating and accurately expressing the various shades of an author's meaning :but, still, an art that is less capable than musick of being reduced to definitive rules, or of being taught by them.
To become a good reader or a good speaker, the best examples of elocution, in these respective departments, must be seen, and heard, and studied. The tones that express particular emotions and passions must be caught by the ear.
The same organ must inform us what is meant by the very terms in which all rules must be expressed,—what is meant by a rapid or deliberate enunciation; what by speaking loudly or softly, on a high or low key, with emphasis or in a monotony, distinctly or indistinctly. We may amuse our selves, if we please, with laying down rules upon these matters, but, till our rules are illustrated by the voice and manner of a good reader, they are 'otally inoperative ; and, when thus illustrated, totally unnecessary. The learner imitates the example of reading which is given in explaining a rule, and the rule itself is forsaken and soon forgotten.
It seems to me that the readiest, indeed, the only good way, to teach chil. dren to read well, is, to give them to the charge of instructers who are them. selves good readers ;-instructers, who, like teachers of musick, will not con. tent theinselves with laying certain rules for regulating the tones, inflexions, and cadences of the voice before your child's eye, which can neither receive a sound nor give one, but who will address luis ear with living instruction, with the rich and informing melody of the huınan voice.
Secondly,-in regard to the arrangement of the lessons, a different course has been parsued from that which has been usually followed in compilations of this kind.
By devoting fifty or more pages, in succession, to lessons of any one kind, whether narrative, didactick, or descriptive; then putting together all the dramatick pieces; then giving, in an unbroken series, all the specimens of eloquence from the senate, the pulpit, and the bar; and then making the young literary pilgrim travel over many days' journey of poctry, albeit unsmit. ten with the love of song, and undesirous of being “ wedded to immortal verse" we may, indeed, secure to ourselves the credit of methodical arrangement; but we shall be sure to make few friends, either among teachers or learners ;among masters, who are not displeased with a little variety in their exercises, or among scholars, who must have it.
By a severe method, in the arrangement of reading lessons, the teacher is compelled to consult his own comfort, and to keep alive the interest of his scholars, by frequently skipping from one part of the book to another; the consequence of which is, either that those pieces only are read which happen to be favourites, and those are so constantly read that they come ere long to be rehearsed almost by rote, and, therefore, with little thought and little improve ment; cr, if the master determines that, at all events, the book shall be reso lutely read through in course, the consequence is that the children soon get heaitily tired of it, while the poor man cannot find it in his heart to blame them, for he is heartily tired of it himself.
With a view to obviate this difficulty, I have studiously avoided that method which to some may seem indispensable to the reputation of every literary work, and have been governed by considerations of practical utility, in so arranging the following lessons that they may be read in course, and at the same time present that variety, in the frequent alternation of prose and poetry, and the constant succession of different subjects in each, which will relieve both learner and teacher from that sameness, which makes it an irkseme task to either give or receive instruction.
It will be perceived, however, that I have not been entirely unmindful of method. I have endeavoured to consult the capacity of the scholar, and to provide for his gradually increasing strength, by giving the precedence, in the book, to pieces that are plain and easy, and reserving, for the latter part of it, such as will call for a more mature judgment and a more disciplined taste in reading.
It will be seen, moreover, from the table of contents, that the selection contains pieces of every kind, usually found in works of this nature; and that the book is not without order, so far as order has been deemed useful.
Since the days of Addison and Pope, and even of Johnson, time, which shows the mutability of all human affairs, has wrought a considerable change in the manners of the English, in the objects of scientifick attention, and in the character of literary lahours among them. The style of their best
writers, both of prose and verse, has undergone a corresponding change. The miscellaneous literature of the present day, however, is probably as well adapted to the present modes of thinking and acting, and to the present wants of society, as was the literature of the periodical essayists, and their contemporary poets, to the age of Anne: and, judging on the ground of comparative utility, we ought, perhaps, in severe justice, to be as reluctant to prefer the poetry, especially, of Gay, and Parnel, and even of Pope, to that of Beattie, and Byron, and Campbell, as the contemporaries of Milton and Dryden would, and should have been, to give Drayton and Spenser, and Chaucer the preference in comparison with the lights of their own age. An old coin may be as pure metal, and intrinsically as valuable, as a new one; and to the curious much more valuable; but, for the ordinary purposes of life, it is useful no longer than it is current. So it is with literature with the golden thoughts that have received the impress of genius. In the following work, therefore, I have drawn liberally from the literary treasures of our own age, not to the exclusion, however, of many pieces of old English poetry, especially of several from Shakspeare, which are common stock in works of this kind, and over which time has no power.
I have also laid under contribution the literature of our own country : and this I have done with the view of rendering the book an acceptable offering to the American people, not so much by appealing to their national pride, as by making it more worthy of their approbation, on account of its intrinsick merits. It is not my province to decide upon the value of those pieces which are drawn from European sources, compared with those of American origin, in respect to the proofs they furnish of a cultivated literary taste, of poetical genius, of a mature and manly eloquence, and of pure and lofty moral sentiment. On this subject I choose rather to let the world decide for itself; and, that this may be the more easily done, I have distinguished the latter from the former, in the table of contents, by giving in small capitals, the names of their authors, or of the books from which they were taken. These formi nearly one quarter of the volume. It might have deserved, and might meet, a more flattering reception from the publick, had a still greater proportion of it consisted of the labours of our own authors. Of these there are two classes, to whom it may be thought I owe an apology--those with whom I have taken liberties, and those from whom I have taken nothing.
In regard to the latter class, it is but justice to them, and to myself, to say that it has required an effort on my part to resist, rather than to feel and acknowledge, the claims of many writers among us, to a share in the honour of having their names brought before the eye, and their strains of eloquence or poetry poured upon the ear, and made familiar to the mind, of the rising generation. But such authors-among whom are my personal friends, men whom I love and venerate—will do me the justice to consider, that much that is excellent in itself is not well adapted to the use of schools, and that had I taken all that is good in American literature, or even a tithe from each one of the authors of the present day who have done honour to their country, both at home and abroad, I should have swelled the book to such a size as to exectually exclude it from school-houses; and thus should have defeated,' at the threshold, the leading object of the compilation.
To the former class, for the liberties which I have taken with what I now give forth under their name, in occasionally substituting one word for another, in withdrawing some passages from their original connexion, and bringing others into immediate contact which were originally separate, and in connecting them by a phrase or a line of my own-my answer is, first, that I have in no instance wantonly sacrificed or maimed the beautiful offspring of their imagination; and, secondly, my reason, for the violence that in any case has been offered them, was my wish to crowd as many of them as I could into the narrow space within which I am restricted, and so to group them that they might do all possible good in their present service, and thus reflect all possible honour upon their parents.--When I have been compelled to amputate, I have conscientiously endeavoured to retrench only " those members of the body which seemed to be more feeble," that upon the others might be bestowed the
more abundant honour.” If I have broken off the legs and arms of the Farnese Hercules, it was that I might the better display " the breadth of his shoul. ders, and the spaciousness of his chest."
Without attempting to furnish schools with what might be denominated a pronouncing reader, I have, in many instances, indicated the proper pronunciation, either by such accents, attached to the words in the text, as are generally understood, or, where these accents were insufficient, by a note at the foot of the page. This has been done only in words of which a vicious pronunciation has obtained in some parts of the country, and even these I have not uniformly or constantly marked; supposing it sufficient to have called the attention of teachers, once or twice, to any particular word. When the pronunciation of an English word is given, it is that of Walker.
In or thography, the same standard has been followed, with perhaps one or two deviations upon the authority of Johnson.
In regard to errata, whether in respect to the real words of the author, the spelling, or the punctuation, it is hoped that there will be no great cause of complaint. In many instances, in the lessons from Shakspeare especially, I have restored the genuine reading of the author, which has been corrupted in many other compilations. The punctuation too, which, when incorrect, so constantly misleads the learner, and embarrasses the learned, has been an object of assiduous care. Should any one be curious to compare particular pieces, in this compilation, especially those from Shakspeare, with the same in other school-books, he will probably feel that it is but just, before condemning this for differing from them, either in the reading or the punctuation, to refer to some good edition of the author, for satisfaction as to his words, and then, by a careful comparison of the different modes of pointing, to judge which of them best discovers his meaning.
Such as I have been able to make the book, in respect to its arrangement, accuracy, and general character, it goes forth into the world without any letters of recommendation. The truth is, I have asked none for it. If it is a good book, the publick understands its own interest too well to let it die. If it is not a good one, no recommendations can keep it alive. I have made it, in the hope that it might be an acceptable offering to schools, especially those of this city, in which there are inany children who are the objects of my pas toral care. In regard to them, and the young in general, the book will fulfil my hopes, if, while it helps them on towards the end of their scholastick labours--the general improvement of their minds,-it shall enable them better to understand and discharge their duties in life, and lead them to contemplate, with pleasure and religious reverence, the character of the Great Author of their being, as discovered
in his works, his providence, and his word; and thus help them to attain the end of their Christian faith,--the salvation of their souls.
Boston, June, 1823.