Page images
[merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors]


"We content ourselves to present to thinking minds the original seeds from whence spring vast fields of new thought, that may be further cultivated, beautified, and enlarged." CHEVALIER RAMSAY.

"CLASSICAL quotation," says Dr. Johnson, "is the parole of literary men all over the world ;" and a knowledge of general literature, as exhibited in the works of distinguished writers, is one of the evidences of an enlightened mind. From the earliest periods, there is not a celebrated name that has not contributed something to the great mass of sentential lore. It is a treasure which has been constantly accumulating, till at length it comprises a brief abstract of the wisdom of all ages and of all nations. Whether we resort to the Sacred Records, the works of the ancients, the aphoristic writings of the Middle Ages, or the more refined productions of modern times, we have presented to us the most striking instances of the antiquity, dignity, and prevalence of the apothegmatic modes of instruction. Of these, the English language itself presents an inexhaustible mine, in which we may trace the genius and spirit of the people. "We are a mixed race,”


says Capel Lofft, "and our character partakes of the compound nature of our descent. Its excellence consists not in one predominant quality, but in the union of several; we have not the rich humour and glowing imagination of the Spaniards, the insidious refinement of the Italians, nor the delicacy and gaiety of the French; but we have a sprinkling of all these."

In the various authors whose sentiments are embodied in the present collection, will be found illustrations of nearly all the principal phases of Divine goodness, of moral wisdom, of benevolence, of virtue, and of political or personal prudence: for there are certain truths in action which are as unchangeable, mighty, and palpable as the laws of Nature; and will continue so to the end of the world. In modern times, we find that in the pensive and graceful Petrarch, in the writings of the sublime Dante and the elegant Cervantes, the lively La Bruyère, and the sarcastic La Rochefoucauld, in the productions of Rousseau, Lavater, Franklin, Shakspeare, Pope, Addison, and Swift, and in the many brilliant writers of the present day—Carlyle, Dickens, Longfellow, Macaulay, Sigourney, Tennyson, and Thackeray, these most impressive moral truths everywhere abound, and present themselves as landmarks in ethical philosophy.

From these and many other sources the gems of thought have been carefully selected, the flowers of intellect duly culled, and the sands of gold diligently sifted,-in which almost every scene of human life that can warm the heart, or illumine the understanding, is faithfully portrayed.

In the present Work, many glorious emanations of the mind have doubtless been omitted, and others of inferior merit have perchance been inserted; but allowance must be made for the diversities of taste, and for the difficulties attendant on SO


extensive a selection; while the merits of the respective extracts will speak for themselves, and the names of their authors will be a sufficient guarantee for their excellence. The Compiler therefore ventures to express a hope that the work will be found useful to the student and general reader as a Dictionary of Reference, and, at the same time, suggestive even to the scholar, without the necessity of his sacrificing hours of tedious research. among the scattered materials of thought.

This Compilation, however, is not only adapted for occasional reference to any particular subject, but, from the variety of interesting topics, both in prose and verse, which it comprises, may also afford many an hour of agreeable and instructive reading. We are here conducted as it were through a picture-gallery of the first masters,-through a garden of the choicest flowers, where the social virtues may be promoted, the pleasures of refined intellectuality cultivated, and some of the purest delights of which the human heart is susceptible freely enjoyed.

In this collection, alphabetical classification and analysis have been closely observed, to enable the student to refer with facility. to any general subject in which he may feel interested, and which he will find illustrated, in its various phases, by some distinguished writer of ancient or modern times.

In almost all Dictionaries of Quotations, it will be found that the selections intended to illustrate a subject are jumbled together in promiscuous confusion; but in the present collection each subject is closely analysed, and its many different aspects presented and arranged under alphabetical sub-heads. The advantages of this plan will be directly manifest on reference to the Analytical Contents; or to any word of an abstract nature, such asAmbition, Anger, Beauty, Love, etc.


« PreviousContinue »