by Wilkie Collins
(of the western circuit).
THE various papers of which the following collection is composed were most of them written some years since, and were all originally published --with many more, which I have not thought it desirable to reprint--in Household Words and in the earlier volumes of All the Year Round. They were fortunate enough to be received with favor by the reader, at the period of their first appearance, and were thought worthy in many instances of being largely quoted from in other journals. After careful selection and revision, they are now collected in book form; having been so arranged, in contrast with each other, as to present specimens of all the shorter compositions which I have contributed in past years to periodical literature.
My object in writing most of these papers--especially those collected under the general heads of "Sketches of Character" and "Social Grievances"--was to present what I had observed and what I had thought, in the lightest and the least pretentious form; to address the public (if I could) with something of the ease of letter-writing, and something of the familiarity of friendly talk. The literary Pulpit appeared to me at that time--as it appears to me still--to be rather overcrowded with the Preachers of Lay Sermons. Views of life and society to set us thinking penitently in somejcases, or doubting contemptuously in others, were, I thought, quite plentiful enough already. More freshness and novelty of appeal to the much-lectured and much-enduring reader seemed to lie in views which might put us on easier terms with ourselves and with others; and which might encourage us to laugh good-humoredly over some of the lighter eccentricities of character, and some of the more palpable absurdities of custom --without any unfair perversion of truth, or any needless descent to the lower regions of vulgarity and caricature. With that idea, all the lighter contributions to these Miscellanies were originally written; and with that idea they are now again dismissed from my desk, to win what approval they may from new readers.