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It had been suggested to us, that a book consisting principally of select passages from modern literature, arranged under proper heads, might afford much useful amusement to those readers who have neither time nor inclination to labour through a multitude of uninteresting pages, purchased at a great price, for the sake of a few entertaining paragraphs. Approving of this idea, from a conviction of its propriety, and encouraged by the flattering reception · which several of our former publications had · met with, we again stept forward in the path of polite literature, in the hope of experiencing the same indulgence and candour as we had
already enjoyed, and we have not been disap· pointed. The encouragement which has been · given to our two first volumes has induced us u to continue our exertions; and though, from a
variety of unforeseen circumstances, the present edition must be very far from that perfection which we wished it to attain; yet, we feel confident, that it will admit of no disparagement, even by minute comparison, with those by which it has been preceded.
The success which has attended our public cation has been very great, and this must certainly be attributed, in a considerable degree, to the conveniency of its form, as well as its adaptation to the present taste of the social world. Its miscellaneous arrangement is cer"tainly well calculated to relieve that frequent ** ennui which prevails, even in the most accom
plished families, when, from a want of subjects - for conversation, those who are together may be literally said to be alone. It is in such situations that scandalous anecdotes are expanded, and trivial news re-echoed, which can"not fail to generate habits of petty malice and - frivolity. The introduction of books is, of
course, the best antidote for such listlessness; *-but' the ordinary rubbish of circulating libra
ties too often' affords an aggravation rather than a cure. We have frequently had oppor
tunities of condemning the pernicious senti"ments of modern novels, with which such .. libraries abound; and of holding up to admie
ration those few which are excellent in their • principles, and elegant in their style; but even -the-best of these publications do not answer
the wished-for purpose. They are begun, but } they cannot be continued, because different • engagements intervene; while such a volume
as we annually present, by its division, as it were, into sittings, and by including many dis
tinct wholes, each proper for an evening's , amusement, seems to be considered as the bestexpedient for filling up a vacant hour.
But amidst our pride and gratitude for the approbation we have received, there is a cir. cumstance on which we pique ourselves in no : trivial degree. We have always resisted, with persevering firmness, every temptation with, which we have been assailed by the lax mon, rality of novelists, the pretended philanthropy of modern politicians, and the sophisticated reaa sonings of some recent sentimentalists, to adopt in our volumes indelicate paragraphs, party, absurdities, or disloyal inuendoeş., By such, firmness, instead of having excited the censure, of those tremendous potentates, the Reviewers, whose condemnation the most spirited writer. cannot withstand, we have received their un, qualified praise for our honest endeavours in support of the altar and the throne, of pure morality and refined taste. The Monthly, the Anti-Jacobin, the British Critic, and the Critical Reviews; the Monthly Mirror, the Literary Journal, the Gentleman's and the European Magazines, have all spoken of our exertions in the most flattering terms*. Ani.. mated, therefore, by such general encouragement, and confident that we shall always deserve the good opinion of the public, we have continued our excerpta literaria, and have brought forward our third volume, or that for : the year 1804. .. · It remains, however, for us to say a few words on the circumstances which have protracted the publication of this volume till the present period. We had faithfully promised that it should appear at Christmas last, and for a long time we saw no reason to apprehend that our promise would be forfeited. Besides several delays too trivial to mention, a considerable part of the volume had been printed, before we could succeed in obtaining correct portraits for the engraver, of the celebrated characters given in the plate; but this object being accomplished, a serious and almost irre
* The satisfaction we felt on observing the esteem in which our production was held by all the independent and unprejudiced critics above mentioned, was considerably heightened
by the scurrility which two venal and unprincipled scribblers poured upon us at the same time: one in a ponderous volume ycleped the Annual Review; and another in an obscure publicacation, so little known, that to name it would only be to bring ignorance into notice. The abuse of such writers, (who, till lately, have been stigmatized by the name of Jacobins, the word being now little used,) forms the proudest laurels we can obtain, and which we shall always endeavour to deserve.
“ On us, when dunces are satyric,
We take it for a panegyric: