IT will be well, perhaps, that the reader bear in mind, while running over the following pages, that many passing observations, many trifles, which naturally find their way into any sketch of social life, refer chiefly to things and notions in favour some ten years since; a period which is certainly not beyond the memory of man, but very possibly beyond the clear recollection of some young lady reader, just within her teens. New opinions, new ideas, new fashions have appeared among us since then, and made their way perceptibly. Twenty years’ possession constitutes a legal title, if we may believe the lawyers; but a single season is often sufficient for a new fancy — fancies of a serious nature too, sometimes — to take full possession of the public mind, and assume arbitrary control of the premises for the time being, at least.
It will be more honest to confess, at once, before the reader undertakes the first chapter, that the tale now before him is a first appearance in print — a first appearance, too, of one who, even now that the formidable step is taken, feels little disposed to envy the honours of authorship. Writing may be a very pleasant pastime; but printing seems to have many disagreeable consequences attending every stage of the process; and yet, after all, reading is often the most irksome task of the three. In this last case, however, the remedy is generally easy; one may throw aside the volume, and abuse the author. If there are books which mustbe read, stupid or not, owing to the claim of some great name on the binding, the present story is not one of the number; and perhaps the perfect liberty enjoyed by the reader under such circumstances — to like or dislike independent of critics, to cut every leaf, or skip a dozen chapters at a time without fear of reproach — will incline him to an amiable mood. It is to be hoped so; it will be unfortunate if, among many agreeable summer excursions both on terra firma and in the regions of fancy, the hour passed at Longbridge should prove a tedious one: in such a case the fault will belong entirely to the writer of the narrative, for there are certainly some very pleasant and very worthy people among the good folk of Longbridge.
----, August, 1845.