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MOSAICS OF GRECIAN HISTORY

BY MARCIUS WILLSON AND ROBERT PIERPONT WILLSON

PREFACE.

The leading object had in view in the preparation of the present volume has been to produce, within a moderate compass, a History of Greece that shall not only be trustworthy, but interesting to all classes of readers.

It must be acknowledged that our standard historical works, with all their worth, do not command a perusal by the people at large; and it is equally plain that our ordinary School Manuals the abridgments and outlines of more voluminous works do not meet with any greater favor. The mere outline system of historical study usually pursued in the schools is interesting to those only to whom it is suggestive of the details on which it is based; and we have long been satisfied that it is not the best for beginners and for popular use; that it inverts the natural order of acquisition; that for the young to master it is drudgery; that its statistical enumeration, if ever learned by them, is soon forgotten; that it tends to create a prejudice against the study of history; that it does not lay the proper foundation for future historical reading; and that, outside of the enforced study of the school room, it is seldom made use of. The people in general the masses do not read such works, while they do read with avidity historical legends, historical romances, historical poems and dramas, and biographical sketches. And we do not hesitate to assert that from Shakspeare's historical plays the reading public have acquired (together with much other valuable information) a hundred fold more knowledge of certain portions of English history than from all the ponderous tomes of formal history that have ever been written. It may be said that people ought to read Hume, and Lingard, and Mackintosh, and Hallam, and Froude, and Freeman, instead of Shakspeare's "King John," and "Richard II.," and "Henry IV.," and "Henry VIII.," etc. It is a sufficient reply to say they do not.

Historical works, therefore, to be read by the masses, must be adapted to the popular taste. It was an acknowledgment of this truth that led Macaulay, the most brilliant of historians, to remark, "We are not certain that the best histories are not those in which a little of the exaggeration of fictitious narrative is judiciously employed. Something is lost in accuracy, but much is gained in effect. The fainter lines are neglected, but the great characteristic features are imprinted on the mind forever." If the result to which Macaulay refers be once attained by an introductory work so interesting that it shall come into general use, it will, we believe, naturally lead to the reading of some of the best standard works in the same historical field. In our attempt to make this a work of such a preparatory character, we have borne in mind the demand that has arisen for poetic illustration in the reading and teaching of history, and have given this delightful aid to historical study a prominent place ofttimes making it the sole means of imparting information. And yet we have introduced nothing that is not strictly consistent with our ideal of what history should be; for although some of the poetic selections are avowedly wholly legendary, and others, still, in a greater or less degree fictitious in their minor details like the by plays in Shakspeare's historic dramas we believe they do no violence to historical verity, as they are faithful pictures of the times, scenes, incidents, principles, and beliefs which they are employed to illustrate. Aside, too, from their historic interest, they have a literary value. Many prose selections from the best historians are also introduced, giving to the narrative a pleasing variety of style that can be found in no one writer, even if he be a Grote, a Gibbon, or a Macaulay.

THE PRINCIPAL HISTORIES OF GREECE.

Believing that it may be of some advantage to the general reader, we give herewith a brief sketch of the principal histories of Greece now before the public... Continue reading book >>




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