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TO ELIZA ANNE ST. JOHN.
MY DEAR DAUGHTER,
It may, at first sight, perhaps, appear strange to some, that having devoted so many years of my
life to the Manners and Institutions of the Athenians, I should now be found endeavouring to describe our own ; but the strangeness is merely apparent; for while living in the world, I could not be altogether inattentive to its peculiarities; nay, whatever efforts I may have made to project my mind “o'er the dark backward and abysm” of time the whole body of my experience must be modern, must be contemporary. It is in London, not in ancient Athens, that I have lived. It is here that ill or well, successfully or unsuccessfully, I have studied. While, therefore, my work on Greece was growing up, the materials for this also were accumulating. The
country of Homer, Plato, and Æschylus could not hide from me the country of Shakespeare, Milton, Bacon, and Locke, and above all my
Besides, there appeared to me, and still appears to be a spirit at work in the present age a thousand times more powerful, original, and creative of romance, than that which animated any former period. Society is quick with inconceivable vicissitudes. Old forms, old associations, old habits of thought and action, are dying away, and all things are preparing to flow into new moulds. To study such a state of things is no mean pleasure ; properly to delineate the features which characterise it would be an achievement worthy of commendation. At partly effecting this I have aimed, reserving other portions of the subject for other works, if I am permitted to write them. I have proceeded upon the supposition that the sources of poetry and romance are rife amongst us, and that, in fact, they are in themselves inexhaustible, as I trust to see you also one day aim at proving in similar productions. Meanwhile, you identify your ambition and feelings with what is mine; and will, I am sure, look forward with a deep and anxious interest to the reception which “Sir Cosmo Digby” may meet with from the
world. It owes in part its existence to your aid. We have passed, I will venture to say, speaking for us both, many delightful hours together in weaving its fanciful and, perhaps, fantastic web; often merry, but sometimes indulging that artificial sadness, not always unaccompanied by tears, which we strangely enough reckon among the pleasures of life. Should the public decide that our enjoyment was not based on delusion, I shall be happy. Sir Cosmo will not have reasoned, or Pierre laughed, or Alexis sentimentalized, or Denzil and Isabella loved in vain. We will untie a second ream of paper, and recommence in high spirits the task of building up another little world of fiction. If not-but I will not be guilty of uttering what might prove an evil omen At all events I shall ever remain,
Your affectionate father,
JAMES AUGUSTUS ST. JOHN.
St. John's Wood.