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A HISTORICAL TALE.
THOMAS COLLEY GRATTAN,
AUTHOR OF "THE HEIRESS OF BRUGES," &C.
Nought is there under Heaven's wide hollownesse
Than beautie brought t' unworthy wretchednesse,
Through envie's snares, or fortune's freakea unkinde.
I, whether lately through her brightuesse blynde,
Which I do owe unto all won,ankynde,
IN TWO VOLUMES.
PRINTED AND PUBLISHED BY J. & J. HARPER,
AND (OI.D BT THE PRINCIPAL BOOKSELLERS THROUGHOUT
SIR ARTHUR BROOKE FAULKNER, Knt.
<$-c. #c. q-c.
My Dear Friend,
Were not the reading world so intolerant of mere undisguised prefaces, I should not have been induced to cheat it into attention and bespeak its favour, by pressing your name into such light service as this; nor have carried into public a correspondence which is. so much the pleasure of my private life.' But there are several reasons for my choosing you as a literary sponsor on the present occasion, independent of the motives of regard and respect implied in every Dedication. It is perhaps sufficient to mention the sympathy which I know you to feel in my subject.
We have cut through the fogs of a Dutch winter together. While I sought inspiration in the chronicles of the olden time, and you drew from the still deeper and purer wells of practical philosophy, we were now and then encouraged by glimpses of fair forms, showing through the mist enough of grace and beauty to add truth to fancy and embellishment to fact. You have traced with me nearly every locality of my Heroine's adventurous life. You can, therefore, better than any one else, admit the probability of my imaginings, and vouch for the veracity of my descriptions.
Yet I have been, if not actually disheartened, at least much discouraged, in venturing on ground so unexplored as the countries I have chosen for the scene of this and my last novel. By readers who will believe in my pages, the redundant wealth of Netherland annals may be guessed at. To understand it thoroughly, many a folio must be waded through, teeming with such lore.
If I can, even with moderate success, bring some of those abounding subjects to light, I shall be satisfied. To paint Holland as it was four centuries back—torn by factions and the prey of a rapacious usurper—may convince some skeptic as to the influences of civilization, who sees the same country today, in an aspect of union and energy, which extracts our admiration, in spite of the many revolting anomalies in a people so selfish and unsocial: while, on the other hand, we may marvel at, and draw a moral from, the spectacle of a nation so changed by commerce, from its once generous and chivalric character, as to hate in the abstract, and grudge to others, the liberty so bravely won and so amply enjoyed by itself. While universal Europe throbs with painful exultation at each new detail of Polish heroism, and glories in the well regulated triumph of popular right in England, Holland is the exception which proves the general rule. For there is to be found a whole people imbued with those prejudices against European freedom, so nauseously natural in the sycophants who bow down, body and mind, in the closets and antirooms of despotism.
Yet it is probably the egotistical narrowness so remarkable in the Dutch character that creates the present display of national power. When each individual takes care of number one, the total of the country's interest is in safe keeping. But so much that is abstruse may be connected with this topic, that I will merely throw it out as a text, on which I do not profess the capability of preaching.
Quite independent, however, of any purpose of utility is the pleasure derivable from the composition of such a book as this. History, properly so called, is but a profound science, by which the mere student is more fatigued than improved, but which is to the Novelist a buoyant recreation. The writer of Romance, who brings men and women to move on the well-known scenes of history, walks on real grounds, with forms instead of shadows, and lives in a freshspringing circle of beings and events, that are of interest and value, in proportion as they do not violate the general truths of Nature, or those which the wqrld has agreed to consider as admitted, if not proved.
But this career of romance writing is as perilous as it is seductive; and might deter any one who does not despise the reproach of imitation. Are sculptors or painters to be frightened, because great artists have used the chisel or brush before them 1 And must authors of my own pursuits throw down the pen, because others have done miracles in the delineation of that nature which should be our common study 1 Must I, for instance, let Jacqueline of Holland rot in a niche of vulgar history, because Mary, of Scotland, or English Elizabeth, has been granted a new patent of immortality, from the hands of the first Romancewriter of the age 1 No. I, at least, will persist in offering my mite towards these illustrations, doing justice to female worth, and exhibiting the baseness of History's favourites—mispainted and miscalled,