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The pupil who is in his sixth year at scnool should be able to read quite well. He should be able to pronounce at sight and without hesitation all new or unusual words; and when reading aloud, his tones should be so clear, his enunciation so faultless, and his manner so agreeable that his hearers shall listen with pleasure and shall have a ready understanding of whatever is being read. He is now prepared to devote more and more attention to literary criticism — that is, to the study of the peculiarities of style which distinguish any selection, the passages wkich are remarkable for their beauty, their truth, or their adaptation to the particular purpose for which they were written. The habit should be cultivated of looking for and enjoying the admirable qualities of any literary production, and particularly of such productions as are generally recognized as the classics of our language. While learning to distinguish between good literature and that sort of writing which, properly speaking, is not literature at all, the pupil's acquaintance with books is enlarged and extended. He learns to know what are the best books and why they are so considered ; and he acquires some knowledge of the lives of the best authors and of the circumstances under which certain of their works were produced.
The present volume is designed to aid the learner in the acquisition of all these ends. The selections are of a highly interesting character, and illustrate almost every variety of English composition. To assist in their comprehension, many of the selections are introduced or followed by brief historical or bibliographical notes. Hints also are given as to collateral, or supplementary readings on a variety of subjects. To assist the pupil still further to enlarge his acquaintance with books and authors, additional notes, literary and biographical, are given in the appendix ; here also may be found several pages of brief notes explanatory of difficult passages, unusual expressions, and historical references, such as might otherwise be stumbling stones in the way of the learner. The numerous portraits of authors is another important feature designed to add to the interest and beauty of the book, and to assist the pupil to a more intimate acquaintance with the makers of our literature. Most of the full-page pictures are reproductions of famous paintings, and these, while serving as illustrations of the text which they accompany, are designed to introduce the learner to some of the masters of art also, and perform the more important office of cultivating and enlarging his æsthetic tastes and sympathies.