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The use of anthologies as an introduction to the general study of literature, and also as a preparation for an appreciative reading of complete texts, is rapidly growing in favor. They have for a long time been used on the continent, and were recently recommended by an international congress which met at Paris. They introduce the student to works with which he may, later on, be inclined to cultivate a more intimate acquaintance. By enabling the student to pass, in a brief interval, from the tragedy of Corneille, for example, to that of Racine, from Molière's comedy to the comedy of Marivaux and Beaumarchais, from the prose of Rousseau to that of Bernardin de Saint-Pierre and Chateaubriand, they give him, if not a complete, at least a first-hand idea of the succession of schools of writers and of the development of the methods of composition in poetry and prose. They also encourage him to appreciate the beauty and perfection of individual pages and even paragraphs, independent of the development of the plot. And the experience in our own classes has convinced us that, for American students, to whom it is desired to give, at the same time, proficiency in reading different styles of varied degrees of difficulty and some real acquaintance with the foreign authors themselves, with their style and their thought, the use of anthologies is of the greatest importance.
The present volume has been made with these practical ends in view. In the French anthologies, published in France,
we have found that in some cases the selections are too scrappy for American students and for American methods of instruction; in other cases some of the best and most familiar passages are omitted for the good reason that they are generally known by all French youths; and in still other cases the volumes are so burdened with selections from writers of minor importance, or else so critical that they seem to form a disconnected history of the literature rather than to be the representative passages of important writers. For these reasons the compilers have, in the present volume, attempted to prepare a book particularly suited to the needs of American college or advanced high-school classes.
The compilers desire to express to MM. Calmann-Lévy their appreciation of the permission to reprint selections from Anatole France and Pierre Loti; and also to M. A. Massein, who granted permission to reprint the pages from Paul Verlaine.