ANCIENT HISTORY possesses a charm which modern annals cannot rival; there is a sun-tinted mist of romance enveloping the remote past which flatters, like a wondrous mirage, and conjures, like a genie of youthful imagination, our conceptions of glorious things long since departed. Like a beautiful dream, antiquity looms up before our vision with its walled cities, castellated battlements, glittering minarets, frowning donjons, ponderous draw-bridges and armored knights, while tilting tournaments and furious engagements, with lance and rushing horse, are re-enacted for some fair lady's hand before our enraptured retrospective view. Appreciating this loving memory of the olden days, of the golden and heroic past, of the chivalry which may be dormant, but is ever present in the hearts of every one, ready to respond on the instant to patriotic call, I have herein attempted to gratify this affection and to rejuvenate an impulse which brings the world into more perfect rapport, by telling some of the stories that have never failed to quicken ambition, to excite emulation, to exalt daring energy, since their first narration. Novel reading has not yet done its worst, for, like a cancerous growth, it plants its deadly roots into the very soul, and the knife can therefore only check for a time its frightful ravages. The only remedy lies in a substitution of wholesome but no less attractive literature, or in a sanitation which will give immunity to those not yet affected by the taint, and reclaim such as may still be susceptible to more elevating influences. History is the only effective remedy that can be offered for this immeasurable evil, and I appeal to mothers and fathers, as well as to humanity in general, to give their example and efforts towards inducing an acceptance of this corrective, which, while serving to overcome pernicious habit, fills the mind with ineffaceable delights and ines-timable benefits.
This book has been prepared with the hope that it may prove a blessing in many ways; that it may inspire in every reader an unappeasable love for history; that it may diffuse both pleasure and knowledge in the family circle; that it may be helpful in teaching the value of good books; and above all, that it may be an aid to the perpetuation of honors won by heroes of discovery who have planted the cross of civilization among all the wild tribes of the world. To this end, and to create a fresh interest in a subject of such extreme importance, I have introduced herein histories of the most fearless navigators, the most intrepid explorers, and the most valorous adventurers in virgin fields, of which the annals of two thousand years afford any account. And in so doing I have been careful to observe the advantage to humanity that each career has bequeathed, and left the lesson and moral easily to be learned therefrom.
Thus I have aspired to an attempt to invest my subject with an interest that attaches to stories of extraordinary heroism, such as pictures the glories of a fadeless past to make the world emulous of proud examples. About books of this character there is an atmosphere at once inspirational and mind-invigorating, that kills the miasmatic influence which novels exhale, and which gives nourishment to laudable ambition towards the attainment of substantial, practical, and beneficent knowledge.
If my efforts in this direction prove successful I shall have obtained a reward, for the time and energies devoted to the preparation of this book, far beyond that which financial profit can bestow, and my chief aim will be accordingly accomplished.