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BY JOHN PIERPONT,
Minister of Hollis-street Church, Boston: Author of Airs of Palestine, &c.
PUBLISHED BY WILLIAM B. FOWLE,
No. 45, Cornhill.
DISTRICT OF MASSACHUSETTS, to wit:
BE IT REMEMBERED, that on the twenty-third day of June, A. D. 1823, and in the forty-seventh year of the independence of the United States of America, William B. Fowle, of the said District, has deposited in this office the title of a book, the sight whereof he claims as Proprietor, in the words following, to wit:-"The American First Class Book; or, Exercises in Reading and Recitation: selected principally from Modern Authors of Great Britain and America; and designed for the use of the highest class in publick and private schools. By John Pierpont, Minister of Hollis-street Church, Boston: author of Airs of Palestine, &c." In conformity to the Act of the Congress of the United States, entitled, "An Act for the encouragement of learning, by securing the copies of maps, charts, and books, to the authors and proprietors of such copies, during the times therein mentioned:" and also to an Act, entitled, "An Act, supplementary to an Act, entitled, An Act for the encouragement of learning, by securing the copies of maps, charts, and books, to the authors and proprietors of such copies, during the times therein mentioned; and extending the benefits thereof to the arts of designing, engraving, and etching historical, and other prints." JNO. W. DAVIS, Clerk of the District of Massachusetts.
The sale of a thousand copies of THE AMERICAN FIRST CLASS BOOK, in a few weeks, is a satisfactory evidence that it has obtained the publick approbation, and is what they required. Errours in stereotyped books may be easily corrected, and as no new errours can arise except from accidental injury to the plates, (which may, of course, be repaired,) a book of this kind may finally be made perfectly correct. Such errours as escaped in the first edition of this work, and have been since detected in a very careful revision of it, are corrected. It may now be considered as almost immaculate, and as the best return that the proprietor can make for its favourable reception, he pledges himself to spare no pains or expense to keep it so.
Extract from the Records of the School
At a meeting of the School Committee, held July 18th, 1823, it was-Ordered, That THE AMERICAN FIRST CLASS BOOK be hereafter used in the publick reading schools instead of Scott's Lessons.
WM. WELLS, Secretary.
THIS book has been compiled with a special reference to the publick Reading and Grammar Schools of this city. It is the result of an attempt to supply the want-which has long been a subject of complaint among those whom the citizens of Boston have charged with the general superintendence of their publick schools, as well as with those who are appointed to the immediate instruction of them-of a book of Exercises in Reading and Speaking better adapted, than any English compilation that has yet appeared, to the state of society as it is in this country; and less obnoxious to complaint, on the ground of its national or political character, than it is reasonable to expect that any English compilation would be, among a people whose manners, opinions, literary institutions, and civil government, are so strictly republican
as our own.
But, though the immediate design of this compilation was a limited and local one, it has been borne in mind, throughout the work, that the want, which has been a subject of complaint in this city, must have been still more widely felt; especially by those, in every part of our country, who are attentive to the national, moral, and religious sentiments, contained in the books that are used by their children while learning to read, and while their literary taste is beginning to assume something of the character which it ever after. wards retains.
How far the objections, which have been made to other works of this sort, have been obviated in the present selection, it is for others to determine. I willingly leave the decision of this question to the ultimate and only proper tribunal the publick; to whose kindness, as shown towards one of my efforts, in another department of literature, I am no stranger, and for which I should prove myself ungrateful should I not acknowledge my obligation.-I only hope that the kindness of the publick towards the past, may not have led me into presumption and carelessness in regard to the present.
In as much, however, as this book departs, in some particulars, from most others of the same general character, it may be expected that the author should assign his reasons for such deviations. These relate principally to the omission of some things that are usually deemed essential to a schoolreader; and to the arrangement of the materials of which this is made up.
First, then, it may be urged as an objection to this, as a compilation that is to be used by those who are learning to read, that it consists entirely of exercises in reading and speaking, to the exclusion of those rules, the knowledge of which is indispensable to any considerable proficiency in either.
I have observed, however, that that part of school-books which consists of Brief Treatises upon Rhetorick, Rules for Reading, and Essays on Elocution, is, almost uniformly, little worn-an evidence that it is little used; in other words, that it is of little use. I have construed this fact into an oracular monition not to devote to such Rules, Treatises, or Essays, any part of the present work.
The truth probably is, that reading, like conversation, is learned from example rather than by rule.-No one becomes distinguished, as a singer, by the most familiar knowledge of the gamut: so, no one is ever made an accomplished reader or speaker by studying rules for elocution, even though aided
by a diagram. There is even less aid derived from rules ia reading than in singing: for, musick is, in a great degree, a matter of strict science; while reading, after the alphabet is learned, is altogether an art:-an art, indeed, which requires a quick perception, a delicate taste, a good understanding, and, especially, a faculty of nicely discriminating and accurately expressing the various shades of an author's meaning:-but, still, an art that is less capable than musick of being reduced to definitive rules, or of being taught by them.
To become a good reader or a good speaker, the best examples of elocution, in these respective departments, must be seen, and heard, and studied. The tones that express particular emotions and passions must be caught by the ear. The same organ must inform us what is meant by the very terms in which all rules must be expressed,-what is meant by a rapid or deliberate enunciation; what by speaking loudly or softly, on a high or low key, with emphasis or in a monotony, distinctly or indistinctly. We may amuse ourselves, if we please, with laying down rules upon these matters, but, till our rules are illustrated by the voice and manner of a good reader, they are otally inoperative; and, when thus illustrated, totally unnecessary. The learner imitates the example of reading which is given in explaining a rule, and the rule itself is forsaken and soon forgotten.
It seems to me that the readiest, indeed, the only good way, to teach children to read well, is, to give them to the charge of instructers who are themselves good readers;-instructers, who, like teachers of musick, will not content themselves with laying certain rules for regulating the tones, inflexions, and cadences of the voice before your child's eye, which can neither receive a sound nor give one, but who will address his ear with living instruction,-with the rich and informing melody of the human voice.
Secondly, in regard to the arrangement of the lessons, a different course has been pursued from that which has been usually followed in compilations of this kind.
By devoting fifty or more pages, in succession, to lessons of any one kind, whether narrative, didactick, or descriptive; then putting together all the dramatick pieces; then giving, in an unbroken series, all the specimens of eloquence from the senate, the pulpit, and the bar; and then making the young literary pilgrim travel over many days' journey of poctry, albeit unsmit ten with the love of song, and undesirous of being "wedded to immortal verse' -we may, indeed, secure to ourselves the credit of methodical arrangement; but we shall be sure to make few friends, either among teachers or learners;→→→ among masters, who are not displeased with a little variety in their exercises, or among scholars, who must have it.
By a severe method, in the arrangement of reading lessons, the teacher is compelled to consult his own comfort, and to keep alive the interest of his scholars, by frequently skipping from one part of the book to another; the consequence of which is, either that those pieces only are read which happen to be favourites, and those are so constantly read that they come ere long to be rehearsed almost by rote, and, therefore, with little thought and little improvement; or, if the master determines that, at all events, the book shall be resolutely read through'in course, the consequence is that the children soon get heartily tired of it, while the poor man cannot find it in his heart to blame them, for he is heartily tired of it himself.
With a view to obviate this difficulty, I have studiously avoided that method which to some may seem indispensable to the reputation of every literary work, and have been governed by considerations of practical utility, in so arranging the following lessons that they may be read in course, and at the same time present that variety, in the frequent alternation of prose and poetry, and the constant succession of different subjects in each, which will relieve both learner and teacher from that sameness, which makes it an irksome task to either give or receive instruction.
It will be perceived, however, that I have not been entirely unmindful of