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thing for itself, yet if that work can stand at all of itself, such a name as yours, like a Corinthian capital, may give that elegance and ornament to the shaft which are necessary to make it complete.
This I should say, if there were no other reason to make me wish to inscribe this labour of mine to your ladyship. But, on its perusal, all my readers (at least all who know you) will perceive ample and appropriate reason for the wish. For who that may take the trouble of investigating the character of Bertha, in the following pages, and remembers the graces of
your young years—but, above all, who that has witnessed the delightful affection and mutual esteem that have so long united you and your revered and noble father-but must allow that the delineation of such a portrait is most appropriately dedicated to you? How justly might I not also extend this still farther, and, following you from girlhood to maturer years, give the same reason for recommending the character of Lady Hungerford to your protection. At all events, I have a secret, but deep-felt pleasure, in thinking, that in being allowed thus to address you, a friendship which has gilded so many years of my life, and has been marked with such kindness and condescension on your part, may be told to the world ; and, if so, what can it tell of me but honour ?
As to the work itself, if it beguile an hour of your
time, by any thing like amusement; or, if in thus addressing it to you, I may cause you to believe that I have been as constant in my devotion to you (though in a different way) as Clifford was to Bertha; I shall be richly paid for the care it has cost
With this I am, as I have long-long been-your most obliged and attached friend and servant,
Okeover Hall, Staffordshire.
THE AUTHOR'S PREFACE.
My motives (if the world care for an author's motives) for engaging in this work, I have, in part, detailed in the preceding epistle to the noble person there addressed.
The work has at least innocently, if not usefully, filled a great deal of leisure, and adds one more Picture of Human Life to those which (with whatever success) I have already presumed to offer to the world. One, however, seemed to be still wanting to the series, and that was the impressions made by men and manners on a very young and unsophisticated mind, just starting into life, beginning even from his boyish days; and this, the total inexperience of the hero, and the very varied knowledge of those whom I may call his tutors, gave me, I thought, a good opportunity to accomplish.
For the better promotion of my object, it was necessary
that the view taken should not be the mere birdseye view of a man surveying the world at his ease,
from a comfortable retreat, but that he should be himself an actor, encountering and overcoming difficulties, and earning by exertion and reflection whatever knowledge he might acquire.
Then again, as in all epics, whether in prose or verse, some great passion must predominate and pervade the whole, in order to produce and continue the action, what could I do better than to make the hero, as a lover, the mirror of constancy ? Such love at least teaches this lesson, among the thousands taught by this all-pervading passion—that, whatever its good or ill success, where the object is well chosen, and the love pure,
it ennobles the mind, and keeps it stainless, delicate, and honourable, through all vicissitudes.
The story of Sir Harry Melford does not contradict, but rather confirms this, as it was his pride as much as his affection that was so wounded.*
All this, however, at once stamps on the work the character of a novel, and throws on the author the responsibility of a novelist.
What that responsibility is, I am not going to examine, in this novel-writing age, when it must long ago have been settled; especially as I find it done to my hand, by a shrewd and able critic, in a manner so concentrated, and yet so comprehensive, that nothing is wanting to make it complete.
“ These features," says the critic, referring to man
* See Vol. IV. p. 214.
ners and description of scenery, “ though necessary in a fiction, are not its main essentials,—which consist in the power to construct a story at once surprising and congruous, and of creating characters consistent with nature, themselves, and the circumstances of their lives, as well as of truly developing them in conduct, narrative, and dialogue.” *
Nothing can be more lucid than this direction, and I will only add, that in the following pages I have endeavoured to construct a story at once surprising and congruous, and to create characters consistent with nature, themselves, and the circumstances in which they are placed.
My chief object, however, being a view of motives to action, as well as the more tender motions of the heart, I am aware that there are in the book, as I think there ought to be, many didactic digressions and episodes.
For these I shall not offer the least apology to anybody who chooses to quarrel with them. All may not have the same taste ; but for myself, I see not how a novel which has for its object something more than the mere pictures of a magic-lanthorn, and aims at a knowledge of the springs of human nature, as well as amusement, can possibly realize that object without partaking of the didactic character.
Those who differ from me are welcome to their
* Review of“ Greyslayer," in the Spectator of July 1lth, 1840.