When a writer calls his work a Romance, it need hardly be observed that

he wishes to claim a certain latitude, both as to its fashion and

material, which he would not have felt himself entitled to assume had

he professed to be writing a Novel. The latter form of composition is

presumed to aim at a very minute fidelity, not merely to the possible,

but to the probable and ordinary course of man's experience. The

former--while, as a work of art, it must rigidly subject itself to

laws, and while it sins unpardonably so far as it may swerve aside from

the truth of the human heart--has fairly a right to present that truth

under circumstances, to a great extent, of the writer's own choosing or

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creation. If he think fit, also, he may so manage his atmospherical

medium as to bring out or mellow the lights and deepen and enrich the

shadows of the picture. He will be wise, no doubt, to make a very

moderate use of the privileges here stated, and, especially, to mingle

the Marvelous rather as a slight, delicate, and evanescent flavor, than

as any portion of the actual substance of the dish offered to the

public. He can hardly be said, however, to commit a literary crime

even if he disregard this caution.

In the present work, the author has proposed to himself--but with what

success, fortunately, it is not for him to judge--to keep undeviatingly

within his immunities. The point of view in which this tale comes

under the Romantic definition lies in the attempt to connect a bygone

time with the very present that is flitting away from us. It is a

legend prolonging itself, from an epoch now gray in the distance, down

into our own broad daylight, and bringing along with it some of its

legendary mist, which the reader, according to his pleasure, may either

disregard, or allow it to float almost imperceptibly about the

characters and events for the sake of a picturesque effect. The

narrative, it may be, is woven of so humble a texture as to require

this advantage, and, at the same time, to render it the more difficult

of attainment.

Many writers lay very great stress upon some definite moral purpose, at

which they profess to aim their works. Not to be deficient in this

particular, the author has provided himself with a moral,--the truth,

namely, that the wrong-doing of one generation lives into the

successive ones, and, divesting itself of every temporary advantage,

becomes a pure and uncontrollable mischief; and he would feel it a

singular gratification if this romance might effectually convince

mankind--or, indeed, any one man--of the folly of tumbling down an

avalanche of ill-gotten gold, or real estate, on the heads of an

unfortunate posterity, thereby to maim and crush them, until the

accumulated mass shall be scattered abroad in its original atoms. In

good faith, however, he is not sufficiently imaginative to flatter

himself with the slightest hope of this kind. When romances do really

teach anything, or produce any effective operation, it is usually

through a far more subtile process than the ostensible one. The author

has considered it hardly worth his while, therefore, relentlessly to

impale the story with its moral as with an iron rod,--or, rather, as by

sticking a pin through a butterfly,--thus at once depriving it of life,

and causing it to stiffen in an ungainly and unnatural attitude. A

high truth, indeed, fairly, finely, and skilfully wrought out,

brightening at every step, and crowning the final development of a work

of fiction, may add an artistic glory, but is never any truer, and

seldom any more evident, at the last page than at the first.