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Illustrative art has been taxed to the utmost in the adornment of the book, and in its pictorial embellishment. At greatly increased editorial and pecuniary expense, the illustrations are all made to elucidate the various poems and prose pieces of the text. They form an artistic commentary on the choice subject matter, and give a charming and picturesque effect to the entire work.
In addition to the numerous full-page illustrations, and those of smaller size, there is a superb steel-plate Frontispiece of Longfellow, the world-renowned and beloved American poet. In view of the special fitness of “Gems for the Fireside” as a gift book, a beautifullywrought illuminated Presentation Plate is inserted also.
Among the distinguished artists whose pictorial gems adorn these pages, are Bensell, Darley, Grey, Hill, Hennessey, Heine, Herrick, Kensett, Linton, Macdonough, McEntee, Moran, Parsons, Smillie, Sooy, Schell, Sweeney (Boz)., and many others equally skillful.
A complete double system of Indexing, gives ready access to all the contents of this Treasury. Illustrations, with their titles and descriptive quotations ; Authors, with their several works as found in this casket; Poems, by titles and by first lines; and Prose articles, by titles, ‘are all given in the copious and carefully prepared indexes.
In short, whatever care and generous expenditure has been able to do to secure completeness and elegance, has been done in "Gems for the Fireside.” And now it is presented to the consideration of an appreciative public.
"GEMS FOR THE FIRESIDE.”
"LIBRARY OF PROSE AND VERSE."
T HESE terms from the title-page of the Publishers, admirably and
sufficiently express the scope and aim of the present beautifully illustrated volume. It has been the constant endeavor of both Publishers and Editor to gather from the entire range of litera
ture the very finest pieces, and the accumulated productions of the ages have been scanned, again and again, in order to secure such Gems as shall reach the high standard of excellence indicated by the Publishers in their prospectus.
Every unique work in literature has a history which may be thoroughly known and felt by its author, and yet be unknown and unsuspected by its reader. This history may be an extended one. Great preachers have said of their best sermons, that it had taken them many years to prepare them. They were the product of a lifetime spent in observation and study. Gray's Elegy, revolved in his own mind, was rewritten under fresh inspiration, and pruned again and again, until that brief poem stands as the one beautiful monument of his literary life.
Poe's name and fame live chiefly in that wonderful production “The Raven;" the outcome, doubtless, of some deep, wild, intense, personal experience. Miss Nancy Priest wrote nothing comparable with her exquisite "Over the River," and Mrs. Alexander gave us, to be treasured forever, “The Burial of Moses."
Exquisite gems of literature, in prose and poetry, are not often the productions of the cool thought of men and women of genius, but rather they are the outcome of some all-absorbing inspiration resulting from intense personal feeling, or from some momentous event. Patrick Henry's evermemorable words were fired to the white heat of devotion to his country by the crisis upon which hung the destinies of her three millions of people, and the question of freedom to this New World. Only the demands of a terrible crisis in the great war of the Rebellion, could have produced the immortal Emancipation Proclamation.
: Not unfrequently the accumulated thought of years is fixed and formulated by the occurrences of an instant. Glowing devotion to our country's flag found quick expression in “The Star Spangled Banner,” when, after a night of fierce bombardment, dawn disclosed it still proudly floating over the walls of old Fort McHenry. The overwhelming pride of an obedient British soldiery gave expression to the pen of Tennyson, in that intense and thrilling poem, “The Charge of the Light Brigade," when the noble six hundred made their famous dash at Balaklava.
As the great crises of human history call forth the great utterances, the world may never have another “Uncle Tom's Cabin,” or “Fool's Errand." As but few men have been permitted to impress humanity by many beroic deeds, so but few poets, philosophers, statesmen, or orators, have given many “apples of gold in pictures of silver” to the world.
Because of these well-attested facts one may possess many volumes, in most of which a few beauties form the chief attraction. The gems impart the value. Without them the volumes would lack their lustre. Not the mass of soil and rock, but the gold and jewels in that mass give value to the El Dorados and the Great Bonanzas of the world. And so it is with books.
In gathering "Gems for the Fireside," real gems only have been sought. Numberless productions of average worth have been passed by.
Nothing but excellence finds a place in this treasury. By reason of its unique character and wonderful variety, the book will prove a welcome companion; it will meet every mood of the human heart. The most exquisite humor, the most touching pathos, the most thrilling patriotism, the grandest words of statesmanship, the most impressive utterances of the orator, the profound reasonings of the philosopher, the cutting satire of the critic, indeed every department of literature is fittingly represented in this treasury.
And these “Gems" are for the “Fireside.” Nothing harmful must ever enter that Eden, but all influences of good must shield the purity, and stimulate the holy ambitions, which are so appropriately enshrined in that sanctuary of embowered bliss.
"Home," to an ear refined, is sweetest of spoken words; “Home,” to an appreciative heart, is fullest of good impulses and holiest memories. “Home” is the goal to which wanderers return in thought and hope; it is the influence which longest retains its hold on earnest youth, casting its starry brightness even over the stormy seas of vice and dissipation; it is the attraction which oftenest lures weary prodigals back from error and from sin to the peaceful happy isles of the blest; 80, Home, which is to all men the symbol of love, and purity, and hope, must have its "treasury" of "gems of purest ray serene.”
To constitute this “Library of Prose and Verse," the literary stores of many lands have been put under contribution, England and Germany, and France and Italy are represented by their choicest Poets. Russia, India, China, Greece and Rome are present in admirable translations. Our own America will be seen to be no whit behind the foremost in the full and copious list of men and women, who have made, and are daily increasing her claims for prominence in the world of letters. We have from Europe, the master mind of Shakespeare, the solid grandeur of Milton, the romantic beauty of Scott, the homely sincerity of Burns, the philosophic meditations of Wordsworth, the impassioned lines of Byron, the delicate fancy of Shelly, the melodious beauty of Moore, the mirthful humor of Hood, and from America the “very choicest productions” of the most famous of her sons and daughters. The topics and themes are as varied as the authors.
Since “freedom's battle once begun " is a perpetual inheritance, so round the fireside the ruddy flame of a loyal patriotism must glow. And heroic sires will find inspiration for their sons in the selections from Campbell, Longfellow, Baker, Everett, Webster and Lincoln.
As the Home must be the place for holy breathings and for consecrated hearts, it will be found that a number of selections have been made from Addison, Bunyan, Montgomery, Muhlenburg, Bonar, Willis and others, whose verse and meditations are alike free from pious cant and bigoted sectarianism.
It is believed that this collection contains vastly more of entertainment, culture and inspiration than any other volume of like size and price. It has been prepared at great expense and labor, to meet a want felt in every home, for a volume, that shall be for every day use, a source of constant instruction, inexhaustible entertainment and permanent good, that will cheer the solitary hour and charm the entire family circle.