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Basil

To Charles James Ward, Esq. Page 1
IT has long been one of my pleasantest anticipations to look forward to the time
when I might offer to you, my old and dear friend, some such acknowledgment of
the value I place on your affection for me, and of my grateful sense of the many
acts of kindness by which that affection has been proved, as I now gladly offer in
this place. In dedicating the present work to you, I fulfil therefore a purpose
which, for some time past, I have sincerely desired to achieve; and, more than
that, I gain for myself the satisfaction of knowing that there is one page, at least,
of my book, on which I shall always look with unalloyed pleasure--the page that
bears your name.
I have founded the main event out of which this story springs, on a fact within my
own knowledge. In afterwards shaping the course of the narrative thus
suggested, I have guided it, as often as I could, where I knew by my own
experience, or by experience related to me by others, that it would touch on
something real and true in its progress. My idea was, that the more of the Actual I
could garner up as a text to speak from, the more certain I might feel of the
genuineness and value of the Ideal which was sure to spring out of it. Fancy and
Imagination, Grace and Beauty, all those qualities which are to the work of Art
what scent and colour are to the flower, can only grow towards heaven by taking
root in earth. Is not the noblest poetry of prose fiction the poetry of every-day
truth?
Directing my characters and my story, then, towards the light of Reality wherever
I could find it, I have not hesitated to violate some of the conventionalities of
sentimental fiction. For instance, the first love-meeting of two of the personages
in this book, occurs (where the real love-meeting from which it is drawn,
occurred) in the very last place and under the very last circumstances which the
artifices of sentimental writing would sanction. Will my lovers excite ridicule
instead of interest, because I have truly represented them as seeing each other
where hundreds of other lovers have first seen each other, as hundreds of
people will readily admit when they read the passage to which I refer? I am
sanguine enough to think not.
So again, in certain parts of this book where I have attempted to excite the
suspense or pity of the reader, I have admitted as perfectly fit accessories to the
scene the most ordinary street-sounds that could be heard, and the most
ordinary street-events that could occur, at the time and in the place represented--
believing that by adding to truth, they were adding to tragedy--adding by all the
force of fair contrast--adding as no artifices of mere writing possibly could add, let
them be ever so cunningly introduced by ever so crafty a hand.
Allow me to dwell a moment longer on the story which these pages contain.
Believing that the Novel and the Play are twin-sisters in the family of Fiction; that
the one is a drama narrated, as the other is a drama acted; and that all the strong
and deep emotions which the Play-writer is privileged to excite, the Novel-writer
is privileged to excite also, I have not thought it either politic or necessary, while
 
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