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THE main purpose of this story is to appeal to the reader's interest in a subject
which has been the theme of some of the greatest writers, living and dead -- but
which has never been, and can never be, exhausted, because it is a subject
eternally interesting to all mankind. Here is one more book that depicts the
struggle of a human creature, under those opposing influences of Good and Evil,
which we have all felt, which we have all known. It has been my aim to make the
character of "Magdalen," which personifies this struggle, a pathetic character
even in its perversity and its error; and I have tried hard to attain this result by the
least obtrusive and the least artificial of all means -- by a resolute adherence
throughout to the truth as it is in Nature. This design was no easy one to
accomplish; and it has been a great encouragement to me (during the publication
of my story in its periodical form) to know, on the authority of many readers, that
the object which I had proposed to myself, I might, in some degree, consider as
an object achieved.
Round the central figure in the narrative other characters will be found grouped,
in sharp contrast -- contrast, for the most part, in which I have endeavored to
make the element of humor mainly predominant. I have sought to impart this
relief to the more serious passages in the book, not only because I believe
myself to be justified in doing so by the laws of Art -- but because experience has
taught me (what the experience of my readers will doubtless confirm) that there
is no such moral phenomenon as unmixed tragedy to be found in the world
around us. Look where we may, the dark threads and the light cross each other
perpetually in the texture of human life.
To pass from the Characters to the Story, it will be seen that the narrative related
in these pages has been constructed on a plan which differs from the plan
followed in my last novel, and in some other of my works published at an earlier
date. The only Secret contained in this book is revealed midway in the first
volume. From that point, all the main events of the story are purposely