« 前へ次へ »
The reader will oblige me by letting me explain to him, how the volume, here offered to his perusal, came to be what it is. I think it due to myself to make the explanation ;
a conscientious reader of the prefaces of other men, I may request his indul. gence without scruple.
The work was originally intended to be nothing but a selection from the Author's writings, preceded by a biographical sketch. I engaged for it, together with another work, as soon as I returned to England; but the delight of finding myself among
my old scenes and friends, the prospect of better health and resources, the feeling of the first taste of comfort (a novelty unknown for years), and the very dread of seeing this new piece of rose-colour in
existence vanish before the re-exertion of my brain and the ink-spots it produces between me and the sun,—all conspired with bad habits of business and the sorriest arithmetic, to make me avail myself unawares of the handsome treatment of my publisher, and indulge in too long a holiday. I wrote, but I wrote little: I had not even yet learned how much I might have done with that little, if done regularly; and the consequence was, that time crept on, uneasiness returned, and I fqurid riyself painfully anxious to show my emptoysr : how much I would fain do for him: ::The worst of it was, that the sick hours which I dreaded on a renewal of work, returned upon me, aggravated by my not
having dared to encounter them sooner; and my anxieties became thus increased. I wished to make amends for loss of time: the
plan of the book became altered; and I finally made up my mind to enlarge and enrich it with an account of Lord Byron.
It had been wondered, when I returned to England, how it was that I did not give the public an account of my intimacy with Lord Byron. I was told that I should put an end to a great deal of false biography, and do myself a great service besides. My refusal of this suggestion will at least show, that I was in no hurry to do the work for my own sake; and to say the truth, it would never have been done at all, but for the circumstances above-mentioned. I must even confess, that such is my dislike of these personal histories, in which it has been my lot to become a party, that had I been rich enough, and could have repaid the handsome conduct of Mr. Colburn with its proper interest, my first impulse on finishing the work would have been to put it into the fire. Not that I have not written it conscientiously, and that it is not in every respect fit to appear; but it has long ceased to be within my notions of what is necessary for society, to give an unpleasant account of any man; and as to my own biography, I soon became tired of that. It is true, I should have entered into it in greater detail, and endeavoured to make the search into my thoughts and actions of some use, seeing that I had begun it at all; but I was warned off this ground as impossible on account of others, and gladly gave it up. The Byron part of the work I could not so well manage. What was to be told of the Noble Poet, involved of necessity a painful retrospect; and humanize as I may, and as I trust I do, upon him as well as every thing else,—and certain as I am, that although I look upon this or that man as more or less pleasant and admirable, I partake of none of the ordinary notions of merit and demerit with regard to any one, I could not conceal from myself, on looking over the manuscript, that in renewing my intercourse with him in imagination, I had involuntarily felt an access of the spleen and indignation, which I experienced as
a man who thought himself illtreated. With this, to a certain extent, the account is coloured, though never with a shadow of untruth; nor have I noticed a great deal that I should have done, had I been in the least vindictive, which is a vice I disclaim. If I know any two things in the world, and have any two good qualities to set off against many defects, it is that I am not vindictive, and that I speak the truth. I have not told all: for I have no right to
In the present case it would also be inhumanity, both to the dead and the living.