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IN the year 1842, Professor Wilson published in three volumes, under the title of "The Recreations of Christopher North," a collection of his miscellaneous writings selected from Blackwood's Magazine. These volumes (which will be reprinted in this edition of his works), were, however, very far from exhausting the materials which his prolific pen had contributed to that popular periodical. A quantity of writing much greater than that which was re-issued under his own auspices, still survives for republication; and it is now the business and duty of his Editor to place in the hands of the reader such a portion of these multifarious compositions as appears likely to amuse or interest him.
None of the Essays contained in the following volumes were prepared for republication by Professor Wilson himself. The advantage of his own deliberate selection and careful revision cannot be claimed for them: in this respect they labour under the same disadvantages which attach to the Noctes Ambrosianæ. Nevertheless it is certain that Professor Wilson intended, at one time or other, to republish these articles, or at least a large proportion of them. Separate copies of all his contributions to Blackwood had been made for his use, and were in his hands for some years before his death. On the covers of these copies he has, in most cases, jotted down a memorandum expressing very briefly his opinion of the article in question, and signifying, either directly or inferentially, what pieces were, in his judgment, worthy, and what were not worthy, of republica
tion. It is by these memoranda principally that I have been guided in bringing together this compilation. I have, in so far as the greater portion-indeed I might say the whole -of its contents are concerned, the Professor's own authority for sending it forth.
At the same time I have to regret, as I had in the case of the Noctes Ambrosianæ, that the Collection has not received the benefit of his final emendations. It has the seal of his imprimatur, but not the stamp of his corrections. To some extent, however, this disadvantage may be balanced by the compensating fact that, if these Essays have lost something in not having obtained the benefit of their Author's maturer judgment, they may also have gained something in having preserved, entire and undisturbed, the buoyancy and freshness of their original projection. The train of thought and feeling and humour which arose in Professor Wilson's mind under the fervent impulse of the moment, was generally such as no subsequent reflection could have inspired, and no subsequent criticism improved.
Short explanatory notices have been prefixed to such of the Essays as appeared to require them. In this place, therefore, I need only say that the chronological order in which the articles were originally published, has been adhered to as the rule. Where exceptions occur, the reason will either be assigned at its proper place, or will be sufficiently obvious to the reader. This may be added, that although Professor Wilson was a contributor (and a very efficient one) to Blackwood's Magazine from its commencement in 1817, the Essays contained in this collection are (with a few exceptions) of not older date than the year 1826 for this was the period about which he began to put forth his full strength, and to rejoice in the untrammelled exercise of his varied and peculiar powers.
LONDON, 14th July 1856.
J. F. F.