Third Preface-- 1883
ORIGINAL PREFACE. 
THIS book is neither more nor less than it pretends to be: it is a collection of those floating Reveries which have, from time to time, drifted across my brain. I never yet met with a bachelor who had not his share of just such floating visions; and the only difference between us lies in the fact that I have tossed them from me in the shape of a Book.
If they had been worked over with more unity of design, I dare say I might have made a respectable novel; as it is, I have chosen the honester way of setting them down as they came seething from my thought, with all their crudities and contrasts, uncovered.
As for the truth that is in them, the world may believe what it likes; for having written to humor the world, it would be hard if I should curtail any of its privileges of judgment. I should think there was as much truth in them as in most Reveries.
The first story of the book has already had some publicity; and the criticisms upon it have amused and pleased me. One honest journalist avows that it could never have been written by a bachelor. I thank him for thinking so well of me, and heartily wish that his thought were as true as it is kind.
Yet I am inclined to think that bachelors are the only safe and secure observers of all the phases of married life. The rest of the world have their hobbies, and by law, as well as by immemorial custom, are reckoned unfair witnesses in everything relating to their matrimonial affairs.
Perhaps I ought however to make an exception in favor of spinsters, who, like us, are independent spectators, and possess just that kind of indifference to the marital state which makes them intrepid in their observations, and very desirable for--authorities.
As for the style of the book, I have nothing to say for it, except to refer to my title. These are not sermons, nor essays, nor criticisms;--they are only Reveries. And if the reader should stumble upon occasional magniloquence, or be worried with a little too much of sentiment, pray let him remember--that I am dreaming.
But while I say this in the hope of nicking off the wiry edge of my reader's judgment, I shall yet stand up boldly for the general tone and character of the book. If there is bad feeling in it, or insincerity, or shallow sentiment, or any foolish depth of affection betrayed,-- I am responsible; and the critics may expose it to their heart's content.
I have moreover a kindly feeling for these Reveries from their very private character ; they consist mainly of just such whimseys, and reflections, as a great many brother bachelors are apt to indulge in, but which they are too cautious, or too prudent, to lay before the world. As I have in this matter shown a frankness and naïvéte which are unusual, I shall ask a corresponding frankness in my reader; and I can assure him safely that this is eminently one of those books which were "never intended for publication."
In the hope that this plain avowal may quicken the reader's charity, and screen me from cruel judgment,
I remain, with sincere good wishes,
NEW YORK, Nov., 1850.
MY publisher has written me that the old type of this book of the Reveries are so far worn and battered, that they will bear no further usage; and, in view of a new edition, he asks for such revision of the text as I may deem judicious, and for a few lines in way of preface.
I began the revision. I scored out word after word; presently I came to the scoring out of paragraphs; and before I had done, I was making my scores by the page.
It would never do. It might be the better, but it would not be the same. I cannot lop away those twelve swift, changeful years that are gone.
Middle age does not look on life like youth; we cannot make it. And why mix the years and the thoughts? Let the young carry their own burdens, and banner; and we--ours.
I have determined not to touch the book. A race has grown up which may welcome its youngness, and find a spirit or a sentiment in it that cleaves to them, and cheers them, and is true. I hope they will.
For me those young years are gone. I cannot go back to that tide. I hear the rush of it in quiet hours, like the murmur of lost music. The companions who discussed with me these little fantasies as they came reeking from the press,--and suggested how I might have mended matters by throwing in a new light here, or deepening the shadows there,--are no longer within ear-shot. If living, they are widely scattered;--heads of young families, maybe, who will bring now to the re-reading of passages they thought too sombre, the light of such bitter experience as, ten years since, neither they nor I had fathomed. Others are dapper, elderly bachelors,--coquetting with the world in the world's great cities,--brisk in their step,--coaxing all the features of youth to stay by them,--brushing their hair with needless and nervous frequency over the growing spot of baldness,--perversely reckoning themselves still proper mates for girlhood,--dreaming yet (as we once dreamed together) of an Elysium in store, and of a fairy future, where only roses shall bloom.
The houses where I was accustomed to linger show other faces at the windows,--bright and cheery faces, it is true,--but they are looking over at a young fellow upon the other side of the way.
The children who sat for my pictures are grown; the boys that I watched at their game of taw, and who clapped their hands gleefully at a good shot, are buttoned into natty blue frocks, and wear little lace-bordered bands upon their shoulders; and over and over, as I read my morning paper, I am brought to a sudden pause, and a strange electric current thrills me, as I come upon their boy-names printed in the dead-roll of the war.
The girls who wore the charming white pinafores, and a wild tangle of flaxen curls, have now netted up all those clustering tresses into a stately Pompadour head-dress; and they rustle past me in silks, and do not know me.
The elderly friends who cheered me with kindly expressions of look and tongue--I am compelled to say--now trip in their speech; and I observe a little morocco case at their elbows--for eye-glasses.
And as they put them on, to read what I may be
saying now, let them keep their old charity, and think as
well of me as they can.
In the year 1863--more than ten years after the first printing of the REVERIES OF A BACHELOR-I wrote a new Preface for a new edition, thinking that I was then parting company with this little book forever.
Yet now--twenty years later--more than thirty since this waif of younger years was first launched on the tide of public favor, I am called again to face the youngness of it--to measure its short-comings--to be critical over its affluent diction, and yet--to launch it once again upon a new cruise amongst the abounding book-craft of later and shapelier make.
I would not have the courage to do this, were I not assured by the publisher that its homely old-style qualities are still welcome to very many young people; and its short-comings disturb me all the more when I am told --as the publishers' accounts do tell me--that many hundreds of new buyers every year do still find somewhat in its fervent rhetoric to warm their girlish or boyish hearts
I am grateful for this; and yet I think I have grown too old to understand it fully.
It is quite certain that at the first issue of this book, I had no belief and no warrant that it would maintain so strong and so long a hold upon the public attention. Its publication, indeed, was almost an accident; and perhaps the Preface I write to-day will be most pardonable and most agreeable to my readers if it take the shape of a history of the first writing of these REVERIES, and of a garrulous old man's tale of the way in which they first came to be printed.
At the opening of the year 1850, I began, in New York, the publication of a little weekly paper or pamphlet--in very elegant shape as regarded typography--called The Lorgnette; or, Studies of the Town, in which there was some satire and a good deal of what I counted honest preachment against the follies of the day. These papers were afterward gathered into book-shape, making two dainty volumes, which are still occasionally to be met with in old book-shops. The pamphlets were published anonymously , and were sold with the imprint of HENRY KERNOT (he being a small bookseller up Broadway, at the centre of what was then the fashionable shopping region), and the secret of authorship was very carefully guarded.
Perhaps for this reason--perhaps for the satiric tone which belonged to them--the papers had a certain success, and were subject of much comment. Even Mr. Kernot himself was not cognizant of their true authorship; and knew little save that the big bundle of yellow-covered pamphlets was delivered in a mysterioous way upon his counter every Thursday morning. Indeed I am disposed to believe that Mr. Kernot's importa nt air, and affable smiles, and tightly closed lips, fed the mystification not a little. The good man even volunteered the keeping of a weekly diary, in which he entered the opinions, pro and con, of his fashionable clients--a very full diary and humorsome (Mr. Kernot not lacking in that quality); and this budget,--which always found its way to me through the mediation of one or two friends who were alone in the secret-- is still in one of my pigeon-holes, scored with underlinings, and radiant with notable New York names of thirty years since.
By the time, however, the Lorgnette had reached its twelfth number (there were twenty-four in all) suspicion of authorship--which had drifted about amongst some dozen or more of well or ill-known names--began to settle upon my own with an ugly pertinacity.
To divert this growing suspicion, and to guard more effectually a secret which had been so well kept, and which had been full of its pleasant entertainments, I bethought me of publishing somewhat under my own name, of an entirely different quality and tone. A single paper of such sort (the First REVERIE of the present volume) I had published the year previous in the Southern Literary Messenger--a journal of comparatively small circulation--printed at Richmond, Va., by my friend Mr. Jno. R. Thompson.
This paper had been--Mr. Thompson informed me-- received with much approval; and indeed it had come at about this time to the honor of a private printing, in elegant quarto form, and an edition of twelve copies, by a curious bibliophile and (I trust) worthy gentleman, then living at Savannah, Ga.
Application had also been made to me by Mr. Henry
J. Raymond--at that time casting about for material to
make up the early numbers of Harpers New Monthly
Magazine, then near its beginning--for permission to
reprint the First REVERIE. This permission was freely
granted; and the paper thus had the honor of appearing
Its style and strain being wholly unlike that of the
Lorgnette, it occurred to me that it would be a politic
thing, and further my purpose of mystifying the literary
quidnuncs, to add more papers in a kindred vein, and
publish all together as an independent volume.
I wrote, therefore, the two succeeding chapters, and
submitted them, with the one previously printed, to Mr.
Fields (then of the house of Ticknor & Fields), who declined their publication.
I had made this proposal to a Boston house, because
my well-known and most friendly relations with Mr.
Charles Scribner, and his half-understood privity to the
origin of the Lorgnette papers, would (in the event of
my publishing the new book with him) go to fasten the
suspected authorship more strongly upon me.
But--as I said--Mr. Fields declined the new venture; though, some years after, flattering me with the
admission that he more than half regretted his decision
in the case. The decision, however, did not at all disturb my pleasant relations--then, and always after--
with the author-publisher. Indeed, I am glad of this
opportunity to declare my high appreciation of the virtues which belonged to him as publisher and editor: he
was honest; he was sympathetic; he was most liberal.
In all my later association with him, during his editorship of the Atlantic, I found his advices judicious and
pertinent; and his little notelets--of which I have a
great bundle--are full of those bits of cheery encouragement
--of piquant praise of what he counted good--of
adroit suggestions of what might work betterment, which
made them, as it seems to me, model letters for a publisher who wishes to bring an author to his best endeavor.
He flattered, to be sure; but his was a headlong,
hearty flattery, full of an unction that deceived no man
of sense, yet encouraged and cheered everybody on
whom the unction fell. Then, as I said, he had
abundant sympathy with an author's work; -not a
bumptious, outside calculation of its bearings--but a delicate
fathoming of your own intentions and expectancies that
was very helpful and stimulative. Whether he criticised,
or praised, or made suggestions, he had the charming
art of making one believe thoroughly in his friendliness.
For these things I should have always welcomed, and
did always welcome his crisp, pointed, marrowy little
letters, even if they had not brought--as they so often
did bring--a most agreeable and prompt tidbit in form
of a bank cheque.
Its style and strain being wholly unlike that of the
But I return to my budget about the REVERIES. Failing of an outside publisher, the little book was speedily put through the press by Mr. Scribner-- though with only moderate hopes, on his part, of its success.
It was, however, in a vein that struck people as being somewhat new; it made easy reading for young folks; it laid strong hold upon those of romantic appetites and reached, within a very few months, a sale which surprised the publisher as much as it surprised the author.
And the surprise continues. It seems to me that I have written very much better books, every way, since that time; but the world of book-buyers will not agree with me--but goes on insisting upon the larger interest and values attaching to these young "REVERIES OF A BACHELOR."
Well, I shall not quarrel with my good friends: but when my publisher sends me the old sheets for revision, I am in the same quandary which beset me twenty years ago, I may make, and have made, a few verbal emendations--a little coy toning down of over-exuberance; and I have put here and there a short patch of homely words into the place of some garish bit of color: yet when I come to deal with the sentiment of the book,
They do say that as age draws on, and the days come nigh "when the grasshopper is a burden," that the illusions of youth come back again with something of their old unreal charm and glory; and that even boyish sentiment may again take root and grow in brains that are mellowed with over-ripeness.
Maybe: Yet, though I recognize no rampant re-growth of youthful sentiment, I think that I do take note of a kindlier tolerance stealing over me for these fantastic children of my brain, than was entertained in the days when vitality was stronger and manhood more assured of its headway against Time.
I am not certain that I would blot out from staid people's knowledge what they may count the idle vagaries and wanton word-leaps and the over-tenderness of this book,--even though I could.
Whatever the astute critics may think, I do not and will not believe that the boisterous and scathing and rollicking humor of our time has blown all of pathos and all of the more delicate human sympathies into limbo.
Surely--surely there are loves and sorrows in life, which will not be exorcised with a laugh--howsoever gamesome or sparkling. And that these loves and sorrows may be wrought into language which will keep them healthily alive in letters--how many witnessing monuments there be, amongst the books that all men cherish! But I did not mean to be led into any defence of these youthful whimseys, or into any apology for them: it were too late now. Indeed, if this little craft of a book were wholly unseaworthy, it would--seems to me-- have sunk out of sight long ago; my own expectation was that this would be its fate.
As it is--I put its decks and spars in trim once more --a toy-boat, you may call it, if you like--and launch it once again, and for the last time now--waving an adieu to it--hoping it may drift into seas where it has never found passage before, and get good Christian holding when it comes to harbor, and good favoring breezes wherever, it may float.
D. G. M.
EDGEWOOD, Aug., 1883.