J. Ireland, Beauties in Prose and Verse: or, the new, pleasing, and entertaining collection, selected from the most eminent English Authors, to which is added a practical English grammar; or, an easy introduction to speaking and writing the English language (Newcastle: T. Angus, 1784)
Information about the collection: no headnotes; no authors or dates listed at any point in the text itself (292 pp., 240 for the selections)
The Preface: "The Editor of this Collection, presuming that a work of this kind might be serviceable in schools, makes no other apology for ushering it into the world, than this, -- that he has endeavoured to collect the best materials, from the most approved authors, and those of a moral tendency he has always given the preference. It may, therefore, the Editor hopes, be a very useful book, in the hands of youth at school; at the same time it is evident, upon inspection, that it abounds with such extracts as may be read by them at any age with pleasure and improvement. Though it is chiefly and primarily adapted to scholars at school; yet it is certain, that all readers, who have a relish and taste for elegant compositions, may find it an agreeable companion, and particularly well adapted to fill up short intervals of accidental leisure.
As to the Authors from whom the extracts are made, they are those whose characters want to recommendation. The Spectators, Guardians, and Tatlers, have been often gleaned for the purpose of Collections; -- but to have omitted their most striking beauties in a work of this sort, for that reason only, would have been like rejecting coin of the fullest weight, because it is not quite fresh from the mint, but has been sometime in circulation. It may be alleged, that though the writings of Addison and his coadjutors may want the grace of novelty in the eyes of veterans, yet they will always be new to a rising generation. -- The principal part, however, of this book consists of extracts from more modern writers, and such as have not been used for the purpose of selections. And it is equally well calculated for classical schools, as for those in which only English is taught.
Young persons cannot read a book containing such excellence of language, and dignity of sentiment, without acquiring a great improvement in the English language; together with many pleasing subjects of taste and literature; and which is of much higher importance, they may imbibe with an increase of knowledge, the purest principles of virtue and religion. Books imbellished with scenes of lewd fictious, and indelicate armours, poison the mind, and steel it against all the impressions of virtue, -- but it is to publications of a different cast, we must have recourse to, if we really mean to assist the juvenile mind in acquiring virtuous principles, which, if timely instilled, bid fair to make the most lasting impression.
The book may be employed in various methods for the use of learners, according to the judgment of various instructors. If, however, some of the most beautiful and striking passages were occasionally commited to memory, and recited with proper action and pronunciation, it would tend greatly to the improvement of their power of utterance. If a boy is designed for any of the learned professions, it is absolutely necessary; yet, to any profession, a clear and manly utterance is a valuable acquisition; and an excellence in it certainly depends more on practice, under the superintendance of a skillfull master, than on written precepts. I shall, therefore, not pretend to lay down rules on the subject; but rather offer matter for practice for the improvement of the pupil.
To make the work more generally useful, I have added, A Practical English Grammar, and endeavoured to throw as much grammatical knowledge, into as short a compass, as the nature of the subject would admit of to be clearly understood. Grammars, in general, from the length of them, are seldom committed to memory, and when they are, but in so superficial a manner, that no solid acquisition had accrued to the pupil: whereas had they been delivered in a more compendious form, the discouragement would have been lessoned, and boys would then enter with greater alacrity upon a work, that held out the inviting temptation of being sooner accomplished.
With regard to the paucity of examples, under the exercises of false syntax, they may easily be enlarged by the false reading of some author, and giving them to the scholar to rectify. -- I have just given them what I thought would be necessary to examplify the rules, and contributed my mite towards the improvement of the English Scholar. It is from an amicable union of labours, together with a generous emulation in all the friends of science, that we must reasonably expect the extension of all kinds of useful knowledge, for the easier attainment of which, this publication is ushered into the world, -- and I shall be happy if, in any measure, it conduces to so desireable an end, -- if not, the consciousness of an industrious application, and an earnest desire to assist the rising generation, shall console me in disappointment."
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