Devereux Page 01
EDWARD BULWER LYTTON (Lord Lytton)
ADVERTISEMENT TO THE PRESENT EDITION.
IN this edition of a work composed in early youth, I have not attempted to remove those faults of construction which may be sufficiently apparent in the plot, but which could not indeed be thoroughly rectified without re-writing the whole work. I can only hope that with the defects of inexperience may be found some of the merits of frank and artless enthusiasm. I have, however, lightened the narrative of certain episodical and irrelevant passages, and relieved the general style of some boyish extravagances of diction. At the time this work was written I was deeply engaged in the study of metaphysics and ethics, and out of that study grew the character of Algernon Mordaunt. He is represented as a type of the Heroism of Christian Philosophy,--a union of love and knowledge placed in the midst of sorrow, and labouring on through the pilgrimage of life, strong in the fortitude that comes from belief in Heaven.
KNEBWORTH, May 3, 1852.
E. B. L.
JOHN AULDJO, ESQ., ETC.,
MY DEAR AULDJO,--Permit me, as a memento of the pleasant hours we passed together, and the intimacy we formed by the winding shores and the rosy seas of the old Parthenope, to dedicate to you this romance. It was written in perhaps the happiest period of my literary life,--when success began to brighten upon my labours, and it seemed to me a fine thing to make a name. Reputation, like all possessions, fairer in the hope than the reality, shone before me in the gloss of novelty; and I had neither felt the envy it excites, the weariness it occasions, nor (worse than all) that coarse and painful notoriety, that, something between the gossip and the slander, which attends every man whose writings become known,--surrendering the grateful privacies of life to
"The gaudy, babbling, and remorseless day."
In short, yet almost a boy (for, in years at least, I was little more, when "Pelham" and "The Disowned" were conceived and composed), and full of the sanguine arrogance of hope, I pictured to myself far greater triumphs than it will ever be mine to achieve: and never did architect of dreams build his pyramid upon (alas!) a narrower base, or a more crumbling soil! . . . Time cures us effectually of these self-conceits, and brings us, somewhat harshly, from the gay extravagance of confounding the much that we design with the little that we can accomplish.
"The Disowned" and "Devereux" were both completed in retirement, and in the midst of metaphysical studies and investigations, varied and miscellaneous enough, if not very deeply conned. At that time I was indeed engaged in preparing for the press a Philosophical Work which I had afterwards the good sense to postpone to a riper age and a more sobered mind. But the effect of these studies is somewhat prejudicially visible in both the romances I have referred to; and the external and dramatic colourings which belong to fiction are too often forsaken for the inward and subtile analysis of motives, characters, and actions. The workman was not sufficiently master of his art to forbear the vanity of parading the wheels of the mechanism, and was too fond of calling attention to the minute and tedious operations by which the movements were to be performed and the result obtained. I believe that an author is generally pleased with his work less in proportion as it is good, than in proportion as it fulfils the idea with which he commenced it. He is rarely perhaps an accurate judge how far the execution is in itself faulty or meritorious; but he judges with tolerable success how far it accomplishes the end and objects of the conception. He is pleased with his work, in short, according as he can say, "This has expressed what I meant it to convey." But the reader, who is not in the secret of the author's original design, usually views the work through a different medium; and is perhaps in this the wiser critic of the two: for the book that wanders the most from the idea which originated it may often be better than that which is rigidly limited to the unfolding and /denouement/ of a single conception. If we accept this solution, we may be enabled to understand why an author not unfrequently makes favourites of some of his productions most condemned by the public. For my own part, I remember that "Devereux" pleased me better than "Pelham" or "The Disowned," because the execution more exactly corresponded with the design. It expressed with tolerable fidelity what I meant it to express. That was a happy age, my dear Auldjo, when, on finishing a work, we could feel contented with our labour, and fancy we had done our best! Now, alas I I have learned enough of the wonders of the Art to recognize all the deficiencies of the Disciple; and to know that no author worth the reading can ever in one single work do half of which he is capable.
What man ever wrote anything really good who did not feel that he had the ability to write something better? Writing, after all, is a cold and a coarse interpreter of thought.