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Original Preface
IN the republic of letters, there is no member of such inferior rank, or who is so
much disdained by his brethren of the quill, as the humble Novelist; nor is his fate
less hard in the world at large, since, among the whole class of writers, perhaps
not one can be named of which the votaries are more numerous but less
Yet, while in the annals of those few of our predecessors, to whom this species
of writing is indebted for being saved from contempt, and rescued from depravity,
we can trace such names as Rousseau, Johnson,(1)Marivaux, Fielding,
Richardson, and Smollett, no man need blush at starting from the same post,
though many, nay, most men, may sigh at finding themselves distanced.
The following letters are presented to the Public-for such, by novel writers, novel
readers will be called,-with a very singular mixture of timidity and confidence,
resulting from the peculiar situation of the editor; who, though trembling for their
success from a consciousness of their imperfections, yet fears not being involved
in their disgrace, while happily wrapped up in a mantle of impenetrable obscurity.
To draw characters from nature, though not from life, and to mark the manners of
the times, is the attempted plan of the following letters. For this purpose, a young
female, educated in the most secluded retirement, makes, at the age of
seventeen, her first appearance upon the great and busy stage of life; with a
virtuous mind, a cultivated understanding, and a feeling heart, her ignorance of
the forms, and inexperience in the manners of the world, occasion all the little
incidents which these volumes record, and which form the natural progression of
the life of a young woman of obscure birth, but conspicuous beauty, for the first
six months after her Entrance into the world.
Perhaps, were it possible to effect the total extirpation of novels, our young ladies
in general, and boarding-school damsels in particular, might profit from their
annihilation; but since the distemper they have spread seems incurable, since
their contagion bids defiance to the medicine of advice or reprehension, and
since they are found to baffle all the mental art of physic, save what is prescribed
by the slow regimen of Time, and bitter diet of Experience; surely all attempts to
contribute to the number of those which may be read, if not with advantage, at
least without injury, ought rather to be encouraged than contemned.
Let me, therefore, prepare for disappointment those who, in the perusal of these
sheets, entertain the gentle expectation of being transported to the fantastic
regions of Romance, where Fiction is coloured by all the gay tints of luxurious
Imagination, where Reason is an outcast, and where the sublimity of the
Marvellous rejects all aid from sober Probability. The heroine of these memoirs,
young, artless, and inexperienced, is
No faultless Monster that the world ne'er saw;
but the offspring of Nature, and of Nature in her simplest attire.
In all the Arts, the value of copies can only be proportioned to the scarcity of
originals: among sculptors and painters, a fine statue, or a beautiful picture, of
some great master, may deservedly employ the imitative talents of young and