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CONCERNING the importance and indeed the necessity of
education and instruction in general, one opinion alone has been expressed, by men of enlightened understandings and of virtuous and beneficent dispositions, in every age of the world. In no quarter of the globe however, and at no epoch have the benefits of education been more justly appreciated, nor more extensively perceived thau in these islands, and at the present time. For these signal benefits and advantages various causes might be assigned: but it is to the liberal and manly spirit of the religious systems we process, and of the political constitution under which we live, that the advantages we enjoy are principally to be ascribed.
In preparing for the public eye the following work, it has been the purpose of the proprietor, and the study of the editur, to present to the reader, within a moderate compass of size and expense, a general introduction to knowledge, founded un accurate principles, and applicable to various businesses and occupations in ordinary life. In the execution of this design it has been deemed adviseable to deviate, in some material points, from the mode generally adopted in the composition of similar works. Cases do certainly occur, and instances may certainly be produced, of persons who, by mere mechanical address and imitatiou, have acquired great skill and reputation in important parts of science as well as of art. Such proficiency was certainly neither founded nor acquired on genuine scientific principles. Prodigies of this kind may justly excite our admiration, and stimulate our ambition : but this is not the way nor the process by which the great body of mankind attain knowledge and celebrity. The youth who, disdaining to follow the lengthened and arduous path, which conducts the traveller up the mountain of knowledge and truth, should at. tempt at once to bound from its base to its suinmit, would speedily convince the world that he was equally devoid of common under. standing as of the talents and genius cf the model of his pretended imitation.
For these considerations it has been resolved to lay before the
reader of the present work, in plain, direct, and intelligible language, not only the rules and practices peculiar to each branch of instruction, but in a special manner the original facts, principles and maxims on which those rules and practices are establisbed. Care has besides been bestowed on the explanation of every expression or word, of which the meaning might not be obvious to the generality of readers. Dictionaries of arts and sciences are not always at our command: nor are we always disposed to interrupt our course of reading, for the purpose of consulting them. The consequence is that many a reader may rise from his book, with a charge of words of which he has no distinct conception ;. and that he is in danger of imagiving himself acquainted with the nature and properties of things, while in fact he has only amassed a number of their names.
In elementary publications on the general principles of instruction, little novelty in the matter they contain can, at this late day of the world, be expected: it is therefore in the propriety and completeness of distribution of the several subjects, in the plainness and perspicuity with which each is handled, and in the aptness with which each is illustrated and applied to the purposes of life, that a work of this sort can found any claim to public favour. Utility in its legitimate signification ought to be the object of every work professing to instruct: but with utility entertainment is perfectly compatible. These purposes have therefore been combined in the following pages ; taking special care however that the useful shall never become subordinate to the agreeable.
That persons who have made some progress in life, without the advantage of much education, are consequently to be considered and treated as deficient in understanding, in fact as overgrown children, is an opinion but too generally entertained. It is neverthe. less equally unfounded in practical life, and insulting to the objects of it. In the present work the reader, whatever may be his station or his acquirements, is beheld with much more respect : he is regarded as pot only willing but desirous and able to learn; and on this cousideration pains are taken, not merely to tell him what he is to do, but why he is to do it: he has not only the practice, but the origin and principles of each branch of knowledge, with their application and utility in business, laid before him.
By attention to knowledge when conveyed in regular systematic order, we acquire vot merely the knowledge there conveyed, but also a matter of far higher iniportance. We learn to think and reason on rational grounds, and in that particular order by which our progress
is at once facilitated and secured. It is in this point of view that an introduction to general knowledge, or even the instructions of a living teacher, can be rendered the most service. able to the student. From these he may learn the first principles and properties of any branch of science or art; its divisions and uses, primary and subordinate. It is however, only by stedfastly pursuing the path pointed out to him by his instructors, into all its variety of tendencies and objects, that the student can hope to acquire a stock of information, sufficient to enable bim to acquit
himself in life with credit and comfort to himself, or with advantage to his fellow-creatures.
Of the nature and distribution of the present publication an idea may be formed from the following table of contents. With respect to the selection of subjects it must be sufficient to say, that those introduced seem to be the best adapted for the generality of readers, in the British public; and few readers will be found who, although they have no direct call, will have no curiosity at least to inquire into the nature of sundry departments of knowledge, hitherto unnoticed in simila: works, and indeed confined to the use of persons in particular situations and professions in life. Of this description is the 12th chapter on Navigation, a subject not only in itself of the very first importance to the members of the British empire, but capable, when treated at proper length, of being rendered peculiarly interesting to many other classes of readers besides that of mariners.
The principles of English grammar are stated at greater length than has usually been done in works of this sort; for this plain but powerful reason, that it is absolutely impossible, in a brief condensed shape, to put the student in possession of those principles, combined with the multiplied irregularities, defects, and redundancies, by which they are nodified. These deviations from grammatical and philosophical accuracy are, in Euglish, uot only nume. fous, but bighly important. Without entering therefore at some length into the peculiarities of tbe language, justice cannot be done to the reader's expectations of instruction; nor can he be duly prepared to speak and writes or even to read his mother-tongue with propriety.
On the modes and implements of writing in general, and on the uses of writing in common life, the observations are ample and practical. In conversation many improprieties of expression pass off unnoticed. In, written language bowever, the reverse must happen, when improprieties are presented to the eye as well as to the ear, and no mistakes in grammatical arrangement, or even in common spelling, can possibly escape detection and censure. The directions for drawing up letters, memorials, &c. are the result of personal experience in public life.
The chapter on arithmetic is so comprehensive, and the grounds and reasons assigued for the methods of calculation, recommended in each branch of that essentially important subject, are stated with so much simplicity, that the student must perceive the great object has been, 'not to load his memory with rules for which he can discover no foundation, but to enlighten bis mind, and thereby to excite him to make still greater progress in a part of education, without some portion of which, human society cannot possibly exist.
The 4th and 5th chapters contain popular explanations of two applications of arithmetic, most curious and attractive in them, selves, and indispensibly necessary in many important parts of computation. By observing the several steps of an algebraic calculation, we perceive the nature and effects of many primary