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FOR THE CURIOUS
HARVEST-FIELDS OF LITERATURE
A MELANGE OF EXCERPTA
“ Facts are to the mind the same thing as food to the body"
Published October, 1905
Electrotyped and Printed by
THE electrotype plates of a compilation which maintained remarkable popularity for more than thirty years, "Gleanings for the Curious from the Harvest Fields of Literature," having been destroyed in the fire which wrecked the extensive plant of the J. B. Lippincott Company in November, 1899, the publishers requested the compiler to prepare a companion volume on similar lines. Like its predecessor, at once grave and sportive, the present miscellany offers, as Butler says, “a running banquet that hath much variety, but little of a sort." It is a handy book for the shady nook in summer, or the cosey fireside in winter; for the traveller in a parlor-car, or on an ocean-steamer; for the military post, or the wardroom of a war-ship; for the waiting-room of a doctor or a dentist; for the stray half-hour whenever or wherever it may chance. It is not for a class of readers, but for the multitude. Even the scholar, who will find little in its pages with which he is unfamiliar, will have ready reference to facts and fancies which are not always within convenient reach. Even the captains of industry, in moments of relaxation, may find in its manifold topics something more than what Autolycus calls "unconsidered trifles.” It makes no pretension to systematic completeness ; it is at best, fragmentary, but as we are told in “Guesses at Truth," a dinner of fragments is often the best dinner, and in the absence of a uniform web, patchwork may have a charm of its own.
Literature, as an English writer remarks, is “not a matter of paper and ink, but a human voice speaking to human beings; a voice, or rather a collection of voices, from generation to generation, speaking to men and women of the present time.” To echo these voices the excursionist must not only follow the trail over beaten tracks, but must ramble through devious byways. He must be classed with those who endeavor, as Lord Bacon puts it, “out of monuments, names, words, proverbs, traditions, records, fragments of stories, passages of books, and the like, to save and recover somewhat from the deluge of time." The results of the literary activity of this wonder-working age and the marvels and miracles of the ever-widening field of science are, as Coleridge says, “not in everybody's reach, and though it is better to know them thoroughly than to know them only here and there, yet it is a good work to give a little to those who have neither time nor means to get more.”
For permission to select passages from copyrighted books, the grateful acknowledgments of the compiler are due to Messrs. Harper & Brothers and D. Appleton & Company, The Judge Company, publishers of Leslie's Weekly, Prof. R. B. Anderson of Wisconsin, and Hon. Hampton L. Carson, of Philadelphia. Indebtedness is also acknowledged to writers and publishers whose copyrights have expired by limitation.