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"Itdoesnottreatofmineralsorfossils, ofthevirtuesofplants, ortheinfluenceofplanets; it doesnotmeddlewithformsof'belieforsystemsofphilosophy,norlaunchintotheworldofspiritual existences; butitmakesfamiliarwiththeworldofmenandwomen, recordstheiractions,assigns their motives, exhibits their whims,characterises theirpursuits in all theirsingularand endless variety,ridicules their absurdities, exposestheir inconsistencies, 'holdsthe mirror up to nature, andshowstheveryageandbodyofthetime,itsform andpressure;' lakes minutesofourdress, owuhrolleogokasm,ewoorfdhs,umtahonuglhitfes,ovaenrdbeafcotrieounss.; s.ho.ws.usIwthaisttwheebaerset,aannddmowshtatnawteuraarleconuorts;epolfasytsudtyh.e . . . Itinquireswhathumanlifeisandhasbeen, toshowwhatitmighttobe." WILLIAM HAZLITT.
PEEFACE SOME ofthe most valuable and permanent contributions made from time to time to British literature have been in the form of the Essay. These contributions form bothdelightful and profitable readingwhentheyunite conciseness ofexpression with fulness ofthought. An attempt has been made in'the present volume, byjudicious selection, to give a fair view of the wealth and broad expanse of the writings of the British Essay ists, beginning with Lord Bacon's "Essays, Civil and Moral," and ending with the brilliant periodical contributions of Macaulay and Carlyle, and the eloquent prose ofJohn Ruskin. With such a wide field to traverse, it has been the aim ofthe Editorto give, as far as possible, the represen tative essays of each writer. The volume may be termed an endeavour to furnish the reader with what is permanently valuable in the best pro ductions ofour representative Essayists.