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“THE ACKWORTH READING BOOK” has been compiled with a view to provide a work, adapted for the senior classes of our Middle and Upper Class Schools. Many works already exist, well fitted to meet the requirements of the British and National Schools ; but it was thought a selection was still wanted, containing choice extracts from our best standard and modern authors, and calculated both to give a taste for English literature, and to lay the foundation of a good English style.
A large number of the reading books that have appeared, have sought to combine two objects -- the study of fine passages from English literature, and the imparting of scientific and historical information; the latter often conveyed in language by no means adapted to improve the style of the youthful reader. But practical teachers have long discovered that these two objects, even if it were possible to secure the latter in forcible and telling English, are not compatible with each other. You may either teach elocution, dwelling upon the beauties of style, the structure and force of sentences, the power and meaning of figures of speech, the effects of emphasis, of modulation of the voice, and of tone generally; or you may teach historical, geographical, and scientific facts. "But to attempt to teach both in the same lesson; and by means of the same book, must prove a failure. If the attention be thoroughly given during the lesson to the avowed purpose for which a Reading Book is provided, there will be little to spare for the acquisition of facts.
In preparing the present work, the aim has been to select both from “the grand old masters” of the English language, and from the best writers. of modern times; and, whilst desirous that the selections should not be characterized by any particular bias, care has been taken that the sentiments contained in the extracts should have a tendency to uphold true morality, and the requirements of Christian truth. Especially has care been exercised, that in no case should extracts be admitted that speak in a glorifying tone of the spirit of war. Even to those who have come to the conclusion that war is an unavoidable evil, selections calculated to stimulate the spirit of war, and to throw a false glory round its "pomp and circumstance," must surely be distasteful and objectionable; whilst, to those who feel that it is part of the great duty of Christians to seek to plant and culture the spirit of peace and goodwill in the world, selections of this kind must be felt to be full of the most insidious mischief.
The larger portion of the volume has been devoted to prose selections, from the belief that suitable readings in poetry are much more easily procurable than readings in prose. The works of Cowper are admirably adapted for systematic reading by a class of intelligent boys; and they contain a great variety, both in style and subject. Still, a good selection of poetry is no doubt much wanted ; and, if judiciously prepared, would prove a great boon to the Christian teacher. · It remains for the Editor to add, with regard to the present work, that, whilst he has been materially assisted in its preparation by competent persons, he alone is responsible for the selection.
In conclusion, the Editor is bound to express his grateful acknowledgments to the authors and publishers of the various copyright works from which extracts have been taken, for the kindness with which they have given permission for the use of these selections in the present work.
Ackworth, Sixth Month, 1865.
DESCRIPTIVE AND NARRATIVE PIECES.