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securely into port; I again commit it to the waters, with more confidence than heretofore, and with a firmer reliance, that if it should be found “after many days,” it may prove a slight memorial of the warmest filial regard.
Exposed to trials of no ordinary difficulty, and visited by domestic affliction of no common severity, you, my dear Mother, have borne up against the ills of life, with a fortitude and resignation, which those, who know you best, can best appreciate; but which none can so well understand, or so thoroughly appreciate, as myself. Suffering is the lot of all. Submission, under the dispensation, is permitted to few. And it is
that children may emulate your virtues, if they are happily spared your sorrows.
Hereafter, if I should realise a design, which I have always entertained, of illustrating the early manners and customs, as well as the local peculiarities, of the great commercial town, to which I owe my birth, I would inscribe that book to my Father
une pauvre feuille de papier, tout ce que j'ai, en regrettant de n'avoir pas de granit;" as a fit tribute to the
whose energies were so unremittingly, and so successfully directed towards the promotion of the public improvements in Manchester, that his name may, with propriety, be associated with its annals. Would that he had lived to see the good work, he so well began, entirely accomplished !
But this Dedication I am now inscribing, and that which I meditate, are inseparably connected together in my mind by the same ties of reverence and love. I would offer one to both, and both to one.
My father, indeed, has a share, and an important one, in these pages. To his well-remembered anecdotes, I am indebted for the character of Turpin.
The tenderness lavished on my childhood, the guidance bestowed upon my youth, and the counsel afforded me in maturer years,
All these still legible in memory's page,
That you may be long spared to him, is the earnest wish of
My dear Mother,
Your very affectionate Son,
W. HARRISON AINSWORTH.
London, October 18. 1837.
THE PRESENT EDITION.
Cependant Panurge leur contoyt les fables de Turpin.
RABELAIS. Pantagruel. Liv. ii. ch. xxix.
DURING a visit to Chesterfield, in the autumn of the year 1831, I first conceived the notion of writing this Tale. Wishing to describe, somewhat minutely, the trim gardens, the picturesque domains, the rook-haunted groves, the gloomy chambers, and gloomier galleries of an ancient hall, with which I was acquainted; I resolved to attempt a story in the by-gone style of Mrs. Radcliffe (which had always inexpressible charms for me), substituting an old English squire, an old English manorial residence, and an old English highwayman, for the Italian marchese, the castle, and the brigand of that great mistress of Romance.
While revolving this subject, I happened, one evening, to enter the spacious cemetery, attached to the church with the queer, twisted steeple, which, like the uplifted tail of the renowned Dragon of Wantley, to whom "houses and churches were as capons and turkies," seems to menace the before-mentioned town of Chesterfield and its environs with destruction. Here, an incident occurred, on the opening of a vault, which it is needless to relate, but which supplied me with a hint for the commencement of my Tale, as well as for the ballad, entitled “ The Coffin," introduced in the course of the narrative. Upon this hint I immediately acted; and the earlier chapters of the book, together with the description of the ancestral mansion of the Rookwoods, were completed before I quitted Chesterfield.
Written at intervals, printed as it was written, and composed without a fixed scheme being previously laid down for the structure of the story, the work had, no doubt, a disjointed effect, on its first appearance,-a fault, which I have endeavoured to remedy in subsequent editions. But, having imagined the outline of a grim, Bluebeard-like legend (the hero of which was to play the part of a Henry the Eighth in private life), I gave myself little concern as to details ; leaving the disposition of my characters, and the solution of my mysteries, entirely to chance. * While framing one chapter, I thought as little of the events of its successor, as Sterne, during their concoction, dreamed of
* I have been charged by the Edinburgh Review with extravagance. The extravagance was intentional. My object was to blend the natural with the supernatural ; the sober realities of every-day life, and the calm colouring of rural scenery, with the startling situations, the wild grouping and fantastic delineations of romance, in a degree, that could not be accomplished without some appearance of irregularity and exaggeration. To the pursuit, however, of any fixed plan, I make no pretension. I wrote for the reader's amusement, and my
What presented a promising aspect to myself, I thought might be equally entertaining to him; and, it seems, I was not mistaken. Such productions, the Edinburgh Review says, are seldom read twice. I shall be perfectly content, if mine are read once; especially by a critic as ingenuous and indulgent as the one in question.