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FOR THE GENTLE AMERICAN READER.

10

SOMETIMES when I am dreaming wildly, I tell myself that I am asleep, and then, surprised to find myself simultaneously awake and asleep, I proceed to explain to myself by careful psychological analysis how it comes that I have the illusion of being awake when I am really asleep, or the illusion of lively movement when I am really quiescent. I have not seldom carried on long trains of scientific reasoning while unable to stir hand or foot, seeming to myself to have endless outer husks of personality, the final ME wrapped up in countless layers of mental tissue paper, like something very small but very precious. Whether my brother novelists suffer similarly from their sub-consciousness or over-consciousness I know not; though I fancy this complexity must have something to do with the power of character-creation. But I am certain it was this same power of standing outside myself that enabled me, a shy youth writing his first book, to hit off a passing character in The Premier and the Painter" in words which I knew well at the time constituted a candid criticism of myself and my own book. “He had signalised himself and his ignorance by writing a Alippant satire on everything under the sun in the form of a political burlesque, and his shyness in society was only equalled by his audacity on paper." Perhaps “Aippant” is not quite the right adjective. “Sardonic"were a truer description of this elaborate - this too elaborate - mockery of human affairs and political machinery, this grimly ironical impeachment of the pretentious babble we style history. There is something akin to the teaching of Browning's “Ring and the Book " in the moral of the whole, as there is something of the same attempt to view an episode exhaustively from every side. The simple facts were interpreted as variously as if they had been parts of the life of Hamlet and had never happened at all” (p. 285). I make this comparison with Browning's poem because nobody else has ever seen any relation between the two books ---- except in bulk. Indeed, and to speak in all seriousness, no critic has ever understood this or any other of my books. I would go on remedying this defect of criticism in the case of “The Premier and the Painter"— which is so supersubtle that I can almost forgive the critics - but then, being conscientious, I should have to read the book myself, and that no power on earth shall induce me to do, not even the part due to my collaborator. I would as lief rewrite the book.

Suffice it then to say that the political portions of the story, though they have deceived British politicians, were done from that refined form of ignorance which ladies call intuition, that I had never seen a political salon, had never heard a political speech in my life, nor ever attended a debate in Parliament. To this day, indeed, though I have inspected Cabinet ministers, I have never seen the House of Commons from the inside. Nevertheless, the course of political history was curiously foreshadowed in this intuitional work. The decay and fall of an eminent statesman were prognosticated when he was still a dominant force; the Irish question was made the crisis of the plot ere Mr. Gladstone had taken it up, and if a Home Rule bill is not ultimately brought in by the Conservative party, why, then, you shall say that prophecy has died out of Israel.

But the East End portions of the book rest upon a solid basis of intimate knowledge; if I did not know Belgravia I knew Bethnal Green, though at bottom, of course, Mrs. Dawe and her cookshop are as imaginative creations as the Right Hon. Arnold Floppington and his Cabinet. In case you have not read the preceding preface — or, being a critic, intend to skip the following book- - let me add that the title refers to a Tory premier and a Radical house-painter, who once in an unwritten episode of the history of England), finding themselves “doubles," exchanged places for a season, each undertaking to do the other's work. The tangle of tragi-comic situations that ensued, further complicated by their having to change back again just for one important occasion, is the theme of the fantastic romance, which I hereby commend to the guileless American reader in the fullest confidence that he will find much to interest, amuse, bore, and bewilder him.

I. ZANGWILL. LONDON, January, 1896.

THE

PREMIER AND THE PAINTER

Book E

CHAPTER I.

WITH THE COGERS.

[graphic]

P'SHL Hekker! 'Ave the Hekker, sir! Dissensions in the Kabbernet !”

It was a dull evening in May; the sort of evening of which London appears to have a monopoly, which is not grudged it by the rest of the country. The

almanacs, with one accord, and a unanimity worthy of better things, assured all who chose to look at them that the season called summer was about to dawn upon the metropolis. But Nature, in London at any rate, treats almanacs with contempt. A cold wind was blowing vigorously along the streets, making the diary-deluded pedestrian wish that he had brought his overcoat with him, and causing him to look enviously at those who had ignored the calendar. A drizzly rain was falling in an undecided, hesitating fashion, as if not comfortable in its mind as to its having any right to be where it was. The streets, never• theless, were full of people hurrying to and fro; though but few of them stopped to buy the evening papers of the eager newsvendors, who shouted and displayed their contents bills with an ever-growing conviction of the inferiority of politics to other forms of crime. “ Dissension in the Cabinet might be printed in the biggest of type, with rumour of” in the smallest ; but the hurrying wayfarers wanted to get home. The ordinary Englishman might be fairly enough described as a political animal. It would be far more true than to describe him as a cooking animal, which some rash scientist has done. But in the year of disgrace with which this history deals, he was used to having his evening news'

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