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MANKIND are creatures of sentiment and feeling, as well as of intelligence. Knowledge is chiefly interesting as it contributes to the development of feeling. The gratification which it affords, is one of the most powerful incentives to the acquisition of it; and is often an ample compensation for the expense and toil of acquisition.
This is particularly the case with that portion of human knowledge, which relates directly to the beautiful or sublime. Aside from the many other advantages which it affords, it is a source of immediate and abundant pleasure. It often fills us with inexpressible delight. Though it falls below the dignity and importance of the spiritual and religious, it rises far above the merely sensual. We contemplate the beautiful with a calm delight, but trace the sublime with impassioned and overpowering interest. When our susceptibility to impression from the sublime and wonderful is fully developed, it becomes a most commanding principle of action. It leads us to climb the cloud-capt mountain, and explore the untrodden wilds of the forest. The ocean may lie across our path, but it cannot effectually check our progress in quest of new objects of admiration. We
We gaze with intense delight on the varied and extended landscape, the majestic course of mighty rivers, the calm repose or resistless fury of the ocean and the storm.
Leaving the natural world, we find in the records of history the elements of a still higher interest, and the objects of more permanent and commanding passions, than even the proud sublimities of nature can produce. Amid the excitement of heroic fortitude, unconquerable energy, and bold and perilous adventure, accompanied with all the enchantment of diversified and overwhelming emotion, and the endless variety of good and ill which distinguish the more tragic scenes of life, we rise above ourselves and become conscious of capabilities of feeling and action which slept unexercised before, but which when once awakened are for ever wakeful.
Such is the interest which many of the following narratives are adapted to excite. They embrace some of the most sublime and affecting developments of history. The selection of them was made not from the extravagant and distorted caricatures of fiction, but from the authentic and well attested records of sober reality. As such, these narratives have been to the author an object of intense and lively interest, and it is confidently believed that a discern. ing public will find them worthy of its extended patronage and general approbation.
CONTENTS TO VOL. I