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Being Selections from the Chief American Writers
Author: Benj. N. Martin
Release Date: February 17, 2004 [EBook #11122]
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BEING SELECTIONS FROM THE CHIEF AMERICAN WRITERS,
PROF. BENJ. N. MARTIN, D.D., L.H.D., PROFESSOR OF THE UNIVERSITY OF THE
The former edition of this work was prepared simply as a supplement to Shaw's "Choice Specimens of English Literature." Though it extended to a larger size than had been anticipated, and was therefore issued in a
separate volume, it still proved so straitened in point of space as to
be in some important respects defective and inadequate. The decision of
the publishers to reprint it in an enlarged form furnishes to the editor
a welcome opportunity to correct its deficiencies, and to make several
When the work of collecting suitable extracts from the great body of our
literature was fairly entered upon, it soon became apparent that little
aid could be had from the earlier manuals. Besides being in great
measure obsolete, they were from the beginning disproportionate, and
geographically too local in subject and spirit; both of which may be
deemed grave defects.
The last twenty years have made great changes in American authorship.
Many new names must now be added to the older lists, and many formerly
familiar ones must be dropped from them. Hence these extracts have for
the most part been derived, with assiduous care, directly from the
collected works of our standard authors. This part of my labor has been
greatly facilitated by the courtesy of the gentlemen connected with the
Society, the Mercantile, and the Astor, Library, whose constant kindness
I gratefully acknowledge.
2. A much larger space has been allotted to the more eminent authors. Such writers as Franklin, Jefferson, Calhoun, Webster, Wirt, Irving, Cooper, Hawthorne, Channing, Beecher, Prescott, Motley, Shea, Bryant, Poe, Emerson, and Lowell, have been much more adequately exhibited.
4. A few writers, formerly included, have been dropped from the list,
not always as less deserving a place, but sometimes as having less
adaptation to the purposes of the book.
Much care has been bestowed upon the dates of the several authors, and
in bringing up details of information to the latest period. The same
pains have been taken to furnish a just representation of the writers,
too often overlooked in our manuals, of the Southern and Western
portions of our country. Though often wanting in mere grace of style,
they are apt to be original and vigorous; and often possessing valuable
material, they are well worthy of perusal. In all these respects this
collection has been carefully elaborated; and the editor hopes that it
will be found to give a somewhat proportionate and complete view for its
compass, of our best literature.
In adapting the selections to Mr. Tuckerman's interesting "Sketch of
American Literature," specimens have generally been taken from several
authors in each of his groups. Some names not found in his "Sketch,"
have been introduced, chiefly for the fuller illustration of the
literature of the south and west. In this particular, Coggeshall's
"Poets and Poetry of the West" has afforded great assistance. Among
the more recent aids of the same kind, I must also mention Davidson's
"Living Writers of the South," and Raymond's "Southland Writers."
Especial acknowledgment is due to the "Cyclopedia" of the Messrs.
Duyckinck; Appleton's "Annual Cyclopedia" has furnished many important
dates; and I have occasionally been indebted to the works of Allibone,
Cheever, Griswold, Cleveland, Hart, and Underwood. Not only the local
literature however, but the several professions, and the great religious
denominations, are also represented by prominent writers.
It seemed unnecessary to treat the female writers as a distinct class;
they are, therefore, arranged under the departments to which they
respectively belong, as Essayists, Novelists, Poets, &c.
I should be claiming a merit which does not belong to me, should I fail
to say, that, for much of the labor which this treatise has involved, I
am indebted to the co-operation of my brother, Mr. William T. Martin,
whose acquaintance with our literature has not often been surpassed, and
whose valuable aid and counsel have been freely afforded me.
The hours which have been spent in culling extracts from so many able
and entertaining writers, though laborious, have been to the editor full
of interest, and often of delight. He trusts that these fruits of his
labor will be useful, in imparting, especially to his youthful readers,
not only an acquaintance with the best of our national authors, but a
taste for literature, and a good ideal of literary excellence, than
which few things in intellectual education are more to be esteemed. If
successful in these respects, he will be abundantly satisfied; and in
this hope, he submits his work to the judgment of the public.
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