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For the power to make the greater part of this selection from his uncollected prose writings, the Author has to thank the proprietors of the Edinburgh and Westminster Reviews, of the New Monthly Magazine, of Tait, and Ainsworth, and the Monthly Chronicle. The courtesy which he experienced from all these gentlemen, and the instant cordiality of those with whom he was best acquainted, merit his warmest acknowledgments.
He has little to add, except that he has taken the opportunity of making a few corrections; and that he hopes the sincerity with which he writes everything, grave or gay, will procure him the usual indulgence for the defects that remain.
The title of the book, though a peculiar, is not a
The reader will see that “ Women," upon their own grounds, form an essential portion of its contents; and the word suggested itself as soon as the book was thought of. The name of the heroine might almost as well have been omitted, when a critic was giving an account of the history of “ Angelica and Medoro.”
Should anything else in the impulsive portions of those essays which were written when he was young, appear a little out of the pale of recognised manners, in point of style and animal spirits, the new reader will be good enough to understand, what old ones have long been aware of, and grown kind to,namely, that the writer comes of a tropical race; and that what might have been affectation in a colder blood, was only enthusiasm in a warm one. He is not conscious, however, of having suffered anything to remain, to which a reasonable critic could object. He has pruned a few passages, in order that he might not seem to take undue advantage of an extempore or anonymous allowance; and in later years, particularly when seated on
on the critical bench, he has been pleased, and perhaps profited, in conforming himself to the customs of “the court.” But had he attempted to alter the general spirit of his writings, he would have belied the love of truth that is in him, and even shown himself ungrateful to public warrant.
With regard to the engraved portrait of himself, from the masterly sketch of Mr. Severn, his publishers will allow him to say, that it makes its appearance only in compliance with their urgent wishes. The period of life at which it was taken, corresponds with that of the greater part of the volume. A work of a staider nature is in preparation, a contemporary portrait in which will duly present the Author as the battered senior which he is. Meantime, if the collection of articles now published shall be found to contain a less amount of gravity or reflection than may have been looked for from a man of his years, he hopes that the comparatively youthful face at the beginning of it may help to excuse the deficiency.
Not that he has abated a jot of those cheerful and hopeful opinions, in the diffusion of which he has now been occupied for nearly thirty years of a life passed in combined struggle and studiousness : or if there is anything which consoles him for those short-comings either in life or writings, which most
of reflection are bound
to discover in themselves as they grow old, and of which he has acquired an abundant perception, it is the consciousness, not merely of having been con sistent in opinion (which might have been bigotry), or of having lived to see his political opinions triumph (which was good luck), or even of having outlived misconstruction and enmity (though the goodwill of generous enemies is inexpressibly dear to him), but of having done his best to recommend that belief in good, that cheerfulness in endeavour, that discernment of universal beauty, that brotherly consideration for mistake and circumstance, and that repose on the happy destiny of the whole human race, which appear to him not only the healthiest and most animating principles of action, but the only truly religious homage to Him that made us all.
Let adversity be allowed the comfort of these reflections; and may all who allow them, experience the writer's cheerfulness, with none of the troubles that have rendered it almost his only possession.
May 1st, 1847