The reader may perhaps choose to assign an actual locality to the
imaginary events of this narrative. If permitted by the historical
connection,--which, though slight, was essential to his plan,--the
author would very willingly have avoided anything of this nature. Not
to speak of other objections, it exposes the romance to an inflexible
and exceedingly dangerous species of criticism, by bringing his
fancy-pictures almost into positive contact with the realities of the
moment. It has been no part of his object, however, to describe local
manners, nor in any way to meddle with the characteristics of a
community for whom he cherishes a proper respect and a natural regard.
He trusts not to be considered as unpardonably offending by laying out
a street that infringes upon nobody's private rights, and appropriating
a lot of land which had no visible owner, and building a house of
materials long in use for constructing castles in the air. The
personages of the tale--though they give themselves out to be of
ancient stability and considerable prominence--are really of the
author's own making, or at all events, of his own mixing; their virtues
can shed no lustre, nor their defects redound, in the remotest degree,
to the discredit of the venerable town of which they profess to be
inhabitants. He would be glad, therefore, if-especially in the quarter
to which he alludes-the book may be read strictly as a Romance, having
a great deal more to do with the clouds overhead than with any portion
of the actual soil of the County of Essex.
LENOX, January 27, 1851.