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The continual call in our schools for extracts suitable for declamation, and the difficulty of obtaining them, has induced the editor to prepare the present work, which he hopes will meet the demand. Of the many compilations of a similar design in print, some are utterly unfit for their intended purpose, by reason of the too great length of the selections, and nearly all having been long in use, have become irksome to the student; and it has been an especial endeavor in this work to present new and spirited extracts, and not to encumber it with those too lengthy for practical use. With the object in view of compiling a really valuable book for declamation, the usual mode has been slightly departed from; the prose being made to outbalance the poetry, and dialogues being entirely omitted, as the writings of the best dramatists,—and those alone can be used with profit,—are in every one's hands, and the introduction of the usual hackneyed colloquies of school-books would only serve to crowd out more useful matter.
Yet, in making this a new book, the editor has not permitted himself to lose sight of those master-pieces of eloquence, which, though familiar, never grow old, neither lose their interest by lapse of years, nor grow stale by repetition, and which should always find a place in a book of this character, until the great names of American and of European story fall unheeded on the ear, until the mention of Marathon and Bannockburn and Bunker Hill fails to quicken the pulse and brighten the eye.
It has not been thought best to insert rules for declamation, as comprehensive and approved works on elocution are accessi
ble to every one, and the compiler of this volume would only urge the absolute necessity of a constant and persevering course of drilling and practice in declamation, if the student would attain any excellence in the great art of oratory. An often cited maxim from Horace might not untruly read,
“ Poeta nascitur, orator fit,"
since it is only by untiring study that pre-eminence in elocution can be attained ; and, to substantiate this, we have the example of the Athenian orators, of Lord Chatham practising before his glass the gestures and the very expression which so entranced the House of Lords, and the known fact that the most eloquent men of our own time are diligent students and imitators of the best models. And it is grateful to observe that the art of oratory is every day obtaining more attention, and gradually regaining the rank and consideration it held in the early republics.
The editor takes this opportunity to thank his personal friends for their assistance in this undertaking, and to acknowledge the courtesy of those gentlemen in various parts of the Union, to whom he has had occasion to apply, and whose liberal and efficient aid will always be remembered with pleasure and with pride.
C. D. W.
Cazenovia, N. Y., Nov. 1851.
61. Peaceful Conquests.