[by John Cooke, 1892]
NONE, except those who have carefully considered the subject, can rightly estimate the difficulty of selecting suitable English prose books for the younger children in our schools. There are many books written in recent years well suited for class work; but they are practically prohibited, owing to copyright, the high price of publication, and the form in which they are necessarily issued. Most of the children's books, of an earlier date, can hardly be said to belong to literature. The Adventures of Ulysses, though not so well known as it ought to be, has held its position, and I have long desired to see it introduced into school use. It gave me, therefore, no little pleasure, when the present publishers placed it in my hands to be issued as one of their Intermediate School Series. Of its suitability as such, there can be no doubt. It deals with what has well been called "the current coin of the world's intercourse;" it is written by one of the greatest masters of English prose; and it was published specially for children. It appeals fully to the fancy and imagination, faculties which in youth are too often neglected, but which, when rightly cultivated, are the most fertile fields for true and lasting educational results.
I have taken an editor's liberty with the punctuation, for the purpose of giving more ease to the text, which Lamb's too frequent use of the colon rendered in many places heavy and involved. In no case have I made a change where the sense could be considered to suffer. I have made also a very few slight alterations which the demands of a school text rendered necessary. The quotations from Chapman will clearly show how close Lamb kept to his translation of the Odyssey, thus giving a quaint charm and old-world air to his prose.
The few will, doubtless, consider I have erred in giving too great fulness to the Notes; but it is done from the judgment bought by experience of what the many will require.