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In the writing of History we may distinguish roughly three methods; the first, of Picturesque or Prejudiced Narration; the second, of Philosophic Narration; and the third, of Scientific or Factual Narration; and, though all have co-existed, the three methods have-broadly speaking-been sequent in their appearance on the scientific platform.
By classifying histories according to their respective methods, three species are obtained : the first is composed of those works which contain all the essentials of Historiography except the facts ; the second comprises all works in which historical facts are exhibited as containing a philosophy of their own, or proving that of the writer; the third consists of those works which present Truth naked and unashamed.
But Scientific Narration has hitherto lacked extreme Specialization, and it is in the thorough application of Specialization to History that what little originality the present work may have consists. Though no greater mistake could be made than to confound this minute study of a brief episode in the career of the Elder Floppington with that extinct literary type, the “historical romance," yet the blunder is excusable when it is considered that the new method attempted by the present work is simply a novel method of writing history, and that real personages and real events are for the first time treated with the fulness of domestic and political detail hitherto accorded only to the creations of fiction. The advantages of this innovation are obvious. So long as historical figures are not shown in their work-a-day environment, in all their manifold relations to their fellow-creatures of every grade, so long will it remain impossible to understand the work-aday motives which have made our national history what it is.
The writer need say little of the Herculean labour involved in thus recording the history of almost a quarter of a year, and he cannot hope that his existence will be prolonged sufficiently to enable him to complete nis projected magnum opus, dealing with
eleven-and-a-half days of what is usually considered a humdrum and uneventful year. The subjoined list of authorities includes less than a hundredth part of the volumes and newspapers consulted by him, and is intended chiefly as a guide to those readers whom the present work may stimulate to extend their acquaintance with a most fascinating period of our annals.
The writer may, without undue immodesty, claim that for more than twenty years he has been trying to familiarize himself with that epoch, to impregnate himself with its customs, its politics, and its literature-in a word, to live in it—a task he has found by no means easy ; and if his work prove sufficiently graphic to charm one reader into the belief that he, too, is living in it, he will feel amply repaid for his long and dusty researches. He hopes that the footnotes will explain all phrases of any real difficulty ; but, should he have overlooked any obscurities, he hopes the reader will do the same, and he promises to clear up all such in a future edition.
As he has throughout, and in the accompanying list, recognised his obligations to modern authors, it would be supererogatory to enumerate them here; but he cannot refrain from expressing his indebtodness to Charles Chesterfield, Esq., O.K., Rector of Grimsby University, for his kind revision of the whole work, his suggestion of rumerous improvements, and especially for his aid in the preparation of the epitome, which is issued simultaneously with the present work as a compendium for schools and colleges.
PREFACE TO THE SECOND EDITION. In thanking the critics and the public for the cordial reception they have given this history, it is, perhaps, due to my readers to mention the ingenious theory of a recent writer in the Old English Historical Review, who, while praising my industry as a compiler, wonders my new facts did not lead me to see that the Premier and the Painter exchanged places (!). He explains away obvious inconsistencies by the further hypothesis of unforeseen temporarily - necessitated readoptions of their native (sic) rôles in Caps. v., vii., viii., and ix. of Book IV. viewer surely forgets how far-fetched and improbable all this is; and I am still content to present Truth naked of theory and unashamed.
J. F. B.
PREFACE TO THE THIRD EDITION.
This edition of what was, roughly speaking, “My First Book," differs only by a phrase or two from the original editions published under the joint pen-name of J. Freeman Bell. Although there is much of my own share of the work which I could not better to-day —for a writer does not always improve with age—there is more which I should like to alter; so much, in fact, that I have had to leave the text untouched, in order not to write a different book. Aster all, one owes some reverence to one's dead youth. I need scarcely say anything here of the genesis of this satirical, political, and philosophical fantasia, since I have so recently explained in the Idler how it grew under my hand out of a “Shilling Skit" which I planned with a friend, and which, through seven-eights of the writing being left to me, evolved into an outlet for all the ferment and audacity of youth
“ In the brave days when I was twenty-one." From a practical point of view, the great mistake of the book is the sacrifice of lucidity to super-subtle satire by our reluctance to state straight out that the world-weary Premier and the ambitious House-Painter agreed to change places for a period, at the end of Cap. i.; that owing to an unexpected consequence of this compact the real Premier had to call upon Lady Harley to warn her against the love of his artisan double (Book IV., Cap. v.); while as a result of the further “unforeseen contingency” of the next Chapter, the Painter was compelled to go home again for a aight to his mother's cookshop (Book IV., Caps. vii, and viii.)—just the very night of the second reading of his Female Franchise Bill, over which the real Premier was thus reluctantly forced to preside (Book IV. Cap. ix.). Missing these obvious points, many readers lost themselves in the labyrinth of resultant complications, though I still think the method of narration by indirect suggestion not without compensations for the subtle. In drawing up the main outlines, we thought the real Premier's trick of philosophic reverie, as contrasted with the go-ahead style of the working-man Premier, amply sufficient to tell the reader which was which, whenever either appeared. Surely Cowen, at least, was old enough to know better ; not to expect any assistance from the audience. I cannot conclude without remarking on the shamelessness with which History has plagiarised from a romance conceived nearly a decade ago, or without thanking those critics and readers who on the first appearance of this book more than five years ago were generous in praise of the unknown “Freeman Bell.” Dr. Nichol has accused me of sneering at the late James Runciman, because in a leader in the Family Herald and elsewhere, he said that “The Premier and the Painter" was the most brilliant book of the generation. But Dr. Nichol misunderstood my reference. I am deeply grateful to the dead man I never saw-he had courage, if not balanced judgment, and he did not wait till Mr. Bell was dead to praise him immoderately. I only regretted that the organs he praised him in were so uninfluential, that for long years after the publication of “the most brilliant book of the generation," I was the only editor with whom Mr. Bell's work was in request.