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and the most childish things be spoken. As soon as I began to write, that sister always stood before me, with her mild, heavenly eyes, her indulgent smile, intercepting the view of my unknown readers. I saw only her—I forgot them. I know that I have often erred in this way, and especially in the earlier portion of these collected letters, during a time when illness rendered me weak, and weakness strengthened egotism. If I have allowed this illness to remain too prominent in this portion of the letters, there is, however, this excuse for it, that it is a malady which is very prevalent in America, which is caused by the climate, the general diet and mode of life, and against which both natives and emigrants can not be sufficiently cautioned. And if I have said too much about this malady and its causes, other authors, on the contrary, had said too little. It is the most dangerous monster of the New World. In extreme cases it leads to the mad-house or to death. Happy they who know how to avoid it, or who, at the com
.d, a good physician, who, by the
prosaic, thought I; and the litbe overlooked for the sake of the ithout any merit of mine, is yet
And if, dear reader, thou hast now and then patience with the letter-writer when she speaks in sickness of body, or in the foolishness of affection, thou wilt be rewarded by being led, in her healthier and stronger moments, as by a sisterly hand, into a more familiar and cordial intimacy with that great country beyond the Atlantic, with its people, its homes, and its inner life, than might otherwise have been the case; and this thou wilt find is worth all the trouble.
I know the faults of my work, a knowledge often pain. ful to me, better than my reader, or any one else. And this knowledge would depress me, if I did not know, at the same time, that all which is best in this work will contribute in bringing nearer to each other the good homes of the New World, and the good homes of Europe, and, above all, those of my native land ; in bringing the noble, warm hearts there nearer to those which beat here, and thus, as far as I am able, aid in knitting together the beautiful bonds of brotherhood between widely-sundered nations.
Mayst thou, dear reader, feel the same, and let this rec oncile thee to the
TO MY AMERICAN FRIENDS.
Stockholm, May, 1853. THESE letters were written in your homes while I lived there with you, as a sister with her brothers and sisters -in the North, in the West, in the South of your great country. They were written during familiar intercourse with you. And without you they would not have been what they now are, for without you I could not have become acquainted with the Homes of the New World, nor have been able, from your sacred peaceful hearths, to contemplate social life beyond. To you, therefore, I inscribe these letters. They will bear witness to you of me, and of my life among you. You said to me,
“We hope that you will tell us the truth."
You wished nothing else from me. I have endeavored to fulfill your wishes. Be you my judges !
That which I saw and found in the New World has been set down in these letters. They are, for the most part, outpourings from heart to heart—from your homes to my home in Sweden. When I wrote, I little thought of committing them to the press, little thought of writing a book in America, least of all in these letters, and of that they bear internal evidence. Had such a thought been present with me, they would have been different to what they are ; they would have been less straightforward and natural ; more polished, more attired for company, but whether better-I can not say. My mind in America was too much occupied by thoughts of living to think of writing about life. Life was overpowering.
The idea of writing letters on America did not occur to
me until I was about to leave the great land of the West, and the feeling became more and more strong in me, that what I had seen and experienced during these two years' journeyings was not my own property alone, but that I had a duty to fulfill as regarded it. I had, it is true, a presentiment from the first that the great New World would supply me with many subjects for thought, to be made use of at some future time, perhaps even in books, but in what manner, in what books
of that I had no distinct idea. I confess to you that I went about in America with the thought of metamorphosing the whole of America in-a novel, and you, my friends, into its heroes and heroines, but that with such subtle delicacy that none of you should be able to recognize either America or yourselves.
But the realities of your great country could not be compressed into a novel. The novel faded away like a rainbow in the clouds, and the reality stood only the stronger forward, in all its largeness, littleness, pleasantness, sorrow, beauty, completeness, manifold and simplein one word, in all its truth ; and I felt that my best work would be merely a faithful transcript of that truth But how that was to be accomplished I did not clearly know when I left America.
“ You will understand, you will know it all when you are at home !" frequently said that precious friend who first met me on the shore of the New World, whose home was the first into which I was received, whom I loved to call my American brother, and who beautified my life more than I can tell by the charm of his friendship, by the guidance of his keen intellect, and his brotherly kind. ness and care; whose image is forever pictured in my soul in connection with its most beautiful scenes, its romantic life, its Indian summer, and, above all, its Highland scenery on that magnificent river, where he had built his delightful home, and now-has his grave! Yet