"From woman's eyes this doctrine I derive: They sparkle still the right Promethean fire; They are the books, the arts, the academes, That show, contain, and nourish all the world." Love's Labour Lost.
IN THREE VOLUMES.
HENRY COLBURN, NEW BURLINGTON STREET.
J. B. NICHOLS, 25, PARLIAMENT STREET.
An Author who is only making a début, should be particularly careful not to offend against established rules; otherwise you and I might be spared the plague of a Preface; but as I am heartily desirous to conciliate your regard, I will not forfeit any portion of your esteem at my onset, by the slightest contempt of Court. I will therefore say a few words in the way of introduction to Blue-stocking Hall, though I may find it difficult to tell you more than you will easily find out for yourself, if you take the trouble of reading the following Letters, which sufficiently explain their own story. They are selected from a correspondence which is supposed to have been spread over a period of four years.
As to my motives (for I observe that most prefaces talk of motives) for publishing the letters which I have been at the pains to collect, they are such as we may in charity suppose to operate upon the mind of a criminal, when by the expiatory tribute of his "last speech and dying words," he endeavours, in a recantation of his own errors, to prevent others from falling into similar ones. Besides, we are generally eager to make as many proselytes as we can to any opinion which we have newly adopted; and as my prejudices upon some subjects were very strong before I visited Blue-stocking Hall, I am induced, through abundance of the milk of human kindness, to wish that if my reader entertains any prejudices against ladies stigmatized as Bas Bleus, as I myself once did, he may, like me, become a convert to another and a fairer belief respecting them.
Charles Falkland to Arthur Howard.
My Dear Howard,
Perhaps you and I are at this moment similarly situated, and similarly employed. I am seated at a window which opens on the sea, waiting for a summons to the steam-packet which is to waft me over to Calais—while you are, probably, expecting that which is to convey you to Ireland. When I reach France I shall certainly send you a bill of health from time to time; but as few things are less satisfactory than letters from the road, I shall reserve my share in the performance of our parting covenant till I am quietly settled at Geneva.
You do not require descriptions of either places or people; because innumerable diaries, journals, and sketch-books, tell you as much as you want to know of all the scenes which it is your intention ere long to visit; and as to men and women, no second-hand account can supply the place of actual acquaintance with the few of either sex that deserve to occupy thoughts or pen. What you do desire, and what I have engaged to furnish, is a history of my own employments, pursuits, and impressions; but leisure is necessary for collecting and arranging; and, till I can satisfy myself by sending you such details as I hope may interest, you must be content to receive only certificates of whole bones.
Now you are to be set down quietly in less than a week at the end of your journey; and before I set sail I shall take the liberty of repeating the terms of our epistolary contract, by way of flapper to your memory, and leaving you no possible excuse for violating the treaty ratified at Cambridge on Monday evening, ere a mutual Vale dismissed us on our several adventures.
You see that I have first registered my own part in our engagement, and generously bound myself, before I proceed to tie you down.—Now for your undertaking. Remember, that when you reach the wilds of Kerry, you are under a heavy bond to devote a part of every day regularly to the task which I have assigned you of narrating, in minute detail, every circumstance connected with the external situation, personal appearance, mind, manners, and habits of your aunt and her family. Aye, there I see you at this instant in a full roar of laughter: so be it.—I am case-hardened; and have so long endured your merriment with becoming philosophy, that I am not to be subdued by a little louder ridicule than you are accustomed to level at my romance. Well, I will confess (now that I am a few miles distant from that taunting smile), that my notions are somewhat odd, quaint, old fashioned, or romantic if you will; and in return for this concession, I only ask that you will bear with me, and indulge your friend's peculiarities, as they are at least harmlessly eccentric. The bias of my mind is to be traced without difficulty to the circumstances of my early life, so different from your own, that it would be very extraordinary if much dissimilarity were not discoverable in our ways of thinking. My boyish years were passed in the seclusion of almost perfect solitude, with a mother, whose image lives indelibly engraven on my heart. A child of feeble frame, I was unable in early life to bear the "peltings of the pitiless storm," and from every wind that would have visited my infant form too roughly, did the tenderest of maternal affections shroud, without enervating, my childhood. My widowed mother was every thing to me—my friend, my tutor, my protectress, my play-fellow—my all on earth. In losing her at sixteen, I was left a mere wreck upon the ocean of life; and, while "Memory holds her seat," never shall I forget the sweet expression of her elegant and feminine countenance, as it spoke the language of love, kindness, or pity; nor shall I ever lose the recollection of that fine understanding which sparkled through her eye, in the brightest scintillations of intellectual energy, and acuteness. She was my Gamaliel, and no wonder if her lessons, her thoughts, her sentiments, have left traces upon my mind not easily to be obliterated. When I entered Cambridge, I felt no affection for any living creature. Relations I had none, that were not too remote to fill the chasm which death had created in my heart. My guardian, though an excellent man, only put me painfully in mind of my bereavement, when he attempted to condole or advise; and I turned from him, not with disrespect, but in disgust with all created things.
The natural elasticity of youth, and your society, gradually reclaimed me from a state which, had it continued, must have ended in madness, or idiotcy; and I am able now, at the termination of our collegiate career, to think gratefully of prolonged existence, and look back with thankfulness.
Perhaps you have just laid down my letter to exclaim, "Poor Falkland! surely the man is bewildered, or he would not tell me now, as if for the first time, what I have known these six years." Now, my good fellow, be not so hasty in declaring me non compos.