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EVERY MAN who writes a book should, I think, have at least two good reasons for writing it. In the first place, he should be able to assert without fear of contradiction that what he has done is in itself worth doing; in the second place, he ought to have good grounds for believing that it has not been done before.
I suppose no one will deny that, if any literary task is worth undertaking, an Englishman may consider all time*well spent which is spent in attempting to ascertain what are the bodily and mental features possessed by the majority of Englishmen, to what sources those features are to be traced, and how far they resemble or differ from the marked features of other nations. I have then at least one excuse for my book.
It is dangerous to assert that there is anything new under the sun; I can only say that, so far as I am aware, no one has hitherto entered upon a systematic investigation of the whole subject. I have met with some historical criticism, with some philological arguments, and with some evidence bearing upon the physical characteristics of the English and their ancestors. But I have met with no examination of the Englishman's general disposition ; with no sketch of the Englishman in action drawn according to any fixed principles of art or science. I have met with no independent attempt to sift and knead together the whole of the evidence which has reference to our origin. The historian has generally taken for granted whatever the philologist, or the observer of physical characteristics, has chosen to tell him ; and each of these latter has in turn been no less ready to take for granted whatever he has found to his taste in the writings of the other or of the historian. I have endeavoured to analyse the whole of the evidence for myself, and have touched, though but lightly, upon one branch which I believe to be almost entirely new.
But although I think I have some justification for publishing my book, I publish it with no slight diffidence. We see every day that those who sail upon little-known and dangerous seas make shipwreck more frequently than they discover new lands. And I very much fear that some of those readers who may merely glance at what I consider the least important of these pages, without considering the context, will suspect that my vessel has gone to pieces