The Professor HTML version

This little book was written before either "Jane Eyre" or "Shirley," and yet no
indulgence can be solicited for it on the plea of a first attempt. A first attempt it
certainly was not, as the pen which wrote it had been previously worn a good
deal in a practice of some years. I had not indeed published anything before I
commenced "The Professor," but in many a crude effort, destroyed almost as
soon as composed, I had got over any such taste as I might once have had for
ornamented and redundant composition, and come to prefer what was plain and
homely. At the same time I had adopted a set of principles on the subject of
incident, &c., such as would be generally approved in theory, but the result of
which, when carried out into practice, often procures for an author more surprise
than pleasure.
I said to myself that my hero should work his way through life as I had seen real
living men work theirs--that he should never get a shilling he had not earned--that
no sudden turns should lift him in a moment to wealth and high station; that
whatever small competency he might gain, should be won by the sweat of his
brow; that, before he could find so much as an arbour to sit down in, he should
master at least half the ascent of "the Hill of Difficulty;" that he should not even
marry a beautiful girl or a lady of rank. As Adam's son he should share Adam's
doom, and drain throughout life a mixed and moderate cup of enjoyment.
In the sequel, however, I find that publishers in general scarcely approved of this
system, but would have liked something more imaginative and poetical--
something more consonant with a highly wrought fancy, with a taste for pathos,
with sentiments more tender, elevated, unworldly. Indeed, until an author has
tried to dispose of a manuscript of this kind, he can never know what stores of
romance and sensibility lie hidden in breasts he would not have suspected of
casketing such treasures. Men in business are usually thought to prefer the real;
on trial the idea will be often found fallacious: a passionate preference for the
wild, wonderful, and thrilling--the strange, startling, and harrowing--agitates
divers souls that show a calm and sober surface.
Such being the case, the reader will comprehend that to have reached him in the
form of a printed book, this brief narrative must have gone through some
struggles--which indeed it has. And after all, its worst struggle and strongest
ordeal is yet to come but it takes comfort--subdues fear--leans on the staff of a
moderate expectation--and mutters under its breath, while lifting its eye to that of
the public,
"He that is low need fear no fall."
The foregoing preface was written by my wife with a view to the publication of
"The Professor," shortly after the appearance of "Shirley." Being dissuaded from
her intention, the authoress made some use of the materials in a subsequent