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The contents of this volume comprise a selection of Dr. Collyer's best known lectures, and a small group of ballads and hymns. The poems, with the exception of the one entitled “Lucretia Mott,” have been printed many times and in widely different places; but the lectures, with the exception of “ Clear Grit,” although delivered again and again from pulpit and platform, have never before been published. This book, therefore, from the standpoint of the printed word at least, may be described with perfect truth as new.
The lectures may be roughly classified into two groups. On the one hand, there are the lectures which were specifically written for use upon the so-called Lyceum platform - of which Dr. Collyer was one of the most popular figures in the latter years of its power and prosperity — and which were delivered therefore to enormous audiences in all parts of the country. Of the lectures included in this volume, “ Clear Grit,” “The Human George Washington” and “ Robert Burns are to be ranked as the distinctive members of this group.
How he came to enter the public lecture field, and remain there for a period of time, is told us
by Dr. Collyer in the closing pages of his charming autobiographical volume, “Some Memories." For some winters prior to the great fire in Chicago, he had lectured “through the Redpath Bureau in Boston, to (his) great satisfaction and profit.” This work was purely incidental, however, to his professional activities as minister of Unity Church, and during the period when the great new building was under way, was given up altogether. In 1871 came the fire, in which church and home and personal property were all alike destroyed, and the resulting problem of beginning life anew both as man and minister. An especial worry was the new home for the wife and children, which“ we found after a while we were not able to finish save by a heavy mortgage.” “In this strait," says the Doctor, “ the Redpath Bureau offered me work through a whole winter, if I could take it at prices I had never manded. So I told my people how we stood. The work would pay for the home if I would take it in about six months; and, if they would give me my time, my stipend they had then begun to pay should be used for the supply of the pulpit, and would command the best men they could lay their hands on. So they voted me my vacation, and I went into the work with all good will from early in November, 1872, to well on in May, 1873, lecturing from Belfast in Maine to far away in Minnesota, and do not remember missing an appointment, nor did those who came to hear me