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TO THE EDITION OF 18 4 0.
However numerous the works of fiction with which, my dear Reader, I have trespassed on your attention, I have published but three, of any account, in which the plot has been cast amidst the events, and coloured by the manner, of our own times. The first of these, “Pelham,” composed when I was little more than a boy, has the faults, and perhaps the merits, natural to a very early age, when the novelty itself of life quickers the observation, - when we see distinctly, and represent vividly, what lies upon the surface of the world, and when half sympathizing with the follies we satirize, there is a gusto in our paintings which atones for their exaggeration. As we grow older we observe less, we reflect more; and, like Frankenstein, we dissect in order to create.
The second novel of the present day,* which, after an interval of some years, I submitted to the world, was one I now, for the first time, acknowledge, and which (revised and corrected) will be included in this series, viz. “Godolphin; a work devoted to a particular portion of society, and the developement of a peculiar class of character. The third, which I now reprint, is Ernest Maltravers," including the sequel which goes by the title of “Alice, or the Mysteries;” for the commencement and the sequel compose but one novel - the most mature, and, on the whole, the most comprehensive, of all that I have hitherto written.
For the original idea, which, with humility, I will venture to call the philosophical design, of a moral education or apprenticeship, I have left it easy to be seen that I am indebted to Goethe's “ Wilhelm Meister.” But, in “ Wilhelm Meister,” the apprenticeship is rather that of theoretical art. In the more homely plan that I set
* For “The Disowned” is cast in the time of our grandfathers, and " The Pilgrims of the Rhine” has nothing to do with actual life, and is not, therefore, to be called a novel.
before myself, the apprenticeship is rather that of practical life. And, with this view, it has been especially my study to avoid all those attractions lawful in romance, or tales of pure humour or unbridled fancy, - attractions that, in the language of reviewers, are styled under the head of “most striking descriptions," "scenes of extraordinary power,” &c.; and are derived from violent contrasts and exaggerations pushed into caricature. It has been my aim to subdue and tone down the persons introduced, and the general agencies of the narrative, into the lights and shadows of life as it is. I do not mean by 'life as it is,' the vulgar and the outward life alone, but life in its spiritual and mystic as well as its more visible and fleshly characteristics. The idea of not only describing, but developing character under the ripening influences of time and circumstance, is not confined to the apprenticeship of Maltravers alone, but pervades the progress of Cesarini, Ferrers, and Alice Darvil.
The original conception of Alice is taken from real life - from a person I never saw but twice, and then she was no longer young
- but whose history made on me a deep impression. Her early ignorance and home — her first love the strange and affecting fidelity that she maintained, in spite of new ties her final remeeting, almost in middle age, with one lost and adored almost in childhood all this, as shown in the novel, is but the imperfect transcript of the true adventures of a living woman.
In regard to Maltravers himself, I must own that I have but iuadequately struggled against the great and obvious difficulty of representing an author living in our own times, with whose supposed works or alleged genius, and those of any one actually existing, the reader can establish no identification, and he is therefore either compelled constantly to humour the delusion by keeping his imagination on the stretch, or lazily driven to confound the Author in the Book with the Author of the Book.* But I own, also, 1 fancied while aware of this objection, and in spite of it, that so much not hitherto said might be said with advantage through the lips or in
* In sonie foreign journal I have been much amused by a credulity of this latter description, and seen the various adventures of Mr. Maltravers gravely appropriated to the embellishment of my own quiet life, including the attachment to the original of poor Alice Darvil; who now, by the way, must be at least seventy years of age, with a grandchild nearly as old as myself.
the life of an imaginary writer of our own time, that I was contented, on the whole, either to task the imagination, or submit to the suspicions, of the reader. All that my own egotism appropriates in the book are some occasional remarks, the natural result of practical experience. With the life or the character, the adventures or the humours, the errors or the good qualities, of Maltravers himself, I have nothing to do, except as the narrator and inventor.
And now one word before I close this preface, upon the series of volumes in which it appears. I could have wished, certainly, that my earlier novels were included in the present edition, so as to render it thoroughly complete and minutely uniform; very large sum, not less than 1500 1., was offered to Messrs. Colburn and Bentley, not for the repurchase of copyrights, — which, by the way, must, if I live, ultimately return to me - but for the mere permission to print, in this series, the novels already printed in their several libraries of fiction; they retaining not the less all their present claims and property of copyright, and at full liberty to continue the sale in their own collections. It was also proposed to them, as an alternative, that the profits of the said novels, if admitted in the series, should be paid into their hands. These gentlemen, however, in spite of these proposals, paid me the inconvenient and unwelcome compliment of stating that the novels in dispute were so popular, and so valuable in aid of the other fictions in their collections, that they could not allow me to use them in mine, except upon terms which would have rendered the price of each volume a third higher than it is at present; and permitted no one volume to contain the entire of a single fiction. This avowal was at least an encouragement to present my other and better works in the same shape that bad been found so popular with their predecessors; and since I was willing, at least, that my own countrymen should, if they please, obtain all the writings intended to afford them some amusement at as cheap a rate, and in as convenient a form, as the natives of foreign countries, I have not the less put forth this edition, which will comprise all that I have hitherto published in more bulky and expensive forms, with the exception of the above novels from “Pelham,” to “The Last Days of Pompeii.” And since those novels are already printed ["Pelham," “The Disowned,” and “Devereux,” by Mr. Colburn; “Paul Clifford,” “Eugene Aram," and "The Last Days of Pompeii,” by Mr. Bentley] in precisely the same size, and at precisely the same price, as the volumes now in progress of publication, so the reader can if he choose so to honour me, thus
possess himself of all my works, in spite of the complimentary publishers aforesaid,* and in a shape if not quite so uniform as I could have wished, uniform enough for all useful and ordinary purposes
the only differences between this edition and the cheap edition of the novels published in their collections by Messrs. Bentley and Colburn, being a slight variation in the title-page, and some change, I hope not for the worse, in the plates and binding of the volumes now issued under my own eye; ; the latter being differences whereof no sensible reader can reasonably complain. Ye, therefore, who are disposed to purchase these, the children of my later and riper years, in their present comely and commodious apparel, if ye benevolently desire to include in your possession the whole progeny, have but to order your booksellers to procure their elder brethren from the bondage of Messrs. Colburn and Bentley! Of that as ye please since I have no personal and sordid interest in their ransom. But this at least, O sagacious Public! - let me advise and implore, all ye who have purchased, at six shillings each, “Pelham” or “Eugene Aram,' “Paul Clifford” or “The Disowned;' lose not the opportunity now to purchase on the same easy terms, “Rienzi,” and “Ernest Maltravers,” “ Alice, or the Mysteries,” Godolphin,"
," "The Pilgrims of the Rhine,” &c.; and so unite under your kindly roof a now scattered family, whose members in return will be ever at hand = to cheer, it may be, an hour of lassitude or sickness; or talk to you of life as it is and has been, as you sit by the winter's hearth, weary of your own thoughts, and willing to be amused. Piccadilly.
E. L. B.
* The only one not reprinted in the several collections of Messrs. Colburn and Bentley, and not included in this series, is one of which I have not indeed parted with the copyright, but which I should not consent to republish, I mean “Falkland," the crude and passionate performance of a mere boy, which I sincerely regret and would willingly retract.
Soph. Trachin. 144.
CHAPTER I. “My meanings in't, I protest, was very honest in the behalf of the maid .. yet, who would have suspected an ambush where I was taken?”
All's Well that Ends Well, Act iv. Scene 3. Some four miles distant from one of our northern manufacturing towns, in the year 18~, was a wide and desolate common; a more dreary spot it is impossible to conceive
the herbage grew up in sickly patches from the midst of a black and stony soil. Not a tree was to be seen in the whole of the comfortless expanse. Nature herself had seemed to desert the solitude, as if scared by the ceaseless din of the neighbouring forges; and even Art, which presses all things into service, had disdained to cull use or beauty from these unpromising demesnes. There was something weird and primeval in the aspect of the place. Especially when in the Jong nights of winter you beheld the distant fires and lights, which Ernest Maltravers.