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TO THE FIRST EDITION.
SINCE dragons and fairies, giants and witches, have vanished from our nurseries before the wand of reason, it has been a prevailing maxim, that the young mind should be fed on mere prose and simple matter of fact. A fear, rational in its origin, of adding, by superstitious and idle terrors, to the natural weakness of childhood, or contaminating, by any thing false or impure, its truth and innocence -has, by some writers, and some parents, been carried to so great an excess, that probably no work would be considered by them as unexceptionable for the use of children, in which any scope was allowed to the fanciful or marvellous. It may well be questioned, A 2 however,
however, whether the novel-like tales now written for the amusement of youth, may not be productive of more injury to the mind; by giving a false picture of the real world, than the fairy fictions of the last generation, which only wandered over the region of shadows;whether a romantic sensibility be not an evil, more formidable in magnitude, and protracted in duration, than a wild and exalted fancy.
Poetry has many advantages for children over both these classes of writing. The magic of rhyme is felt in the very cradle-the mother and the nurse employ it as a spell of soothing power. The taste for harmony, the poetical ear, if ever acquired, is so almost during infancy. The flow of numbers easily impresses itself on the memory, and is with difficulty erased. By the aid of verse, a store of beautiful imagery and glowing sentiment may be gathered up as the amusement of childhood, which, in riper years, may soothe the heavy hours of langour, solitude, and sorrow, may strengthen feelings of piety, humanity, and tenderness,