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It is not, however, with the hope of gain, still less in the expectation of waking Byronically, that the fabricator of these trifles asks you for the patronage which leaves you debtor ; it is with a more secret motive that the little vessel trims its sails to the wind of readers' favour. I am the victim of success, as the world counts it, and am condemned to perennial gloom by an undeserved reputation for an almost puritanical sobriety. In my constituency, and round the modest mansion with which my grandfather's assiduous habits and commercial probity have provided me, I am pointed at by prudent parents as a paragon, and hated by boys, I have little doubt, as a hypocrite. They alone know me, for they judge me by themselves,
My uncle always intended that I should occupy his seat in the House, regardless of my private opinions, when the incursion of Labour Members in flannel shirts had in process of time rendered St. Stephen's unbearable to his old-fashioned prejudices; and with this future before me I early felt that gaiety would be unbecoming, and wine, laughter, and song as dangerous as they were delightful.
I became a slave: I am still in bondage, and every year adds a new rivet to my fetters; So this book is the safety-valve of an overcharged existence.
Even at school people took me for serious ; and when, a couple of years ago, I put forth that little volume on Bimetallism as a Panacea for Pauperism (which nobody has ever read), I was sadly convinced that all my friends would say how well I had fulfilled my destiny. I have, in fact, succeeded where to fail is happiness, and am now chained for life to a reputation which I have not hitherto had the moral courage to injure, and can never hope to shake off. When I last saw my large and expressionless features in the illustrated papers, I writhed beneath my mask in powerless fury, smiling sardonically to think that with my handsome majority, no profession, and what rich men call a competence, I am for life a public man. For the next half-century, it may be, my chief duty will be to march and countermarch to the crack of the Whip, to gravely discuss the details of party measures I may not desire, and to vote against reforms I am convinced would be beneficial to the community. In the execution of this blameless programme my simplest actions are spied upon and praised by my unwelcome admirers, and I have to consult their tastes and prejudices before my own.
I must not be absent from my place in church, I must not play golf on Sunday, I must eschew clay pipes and beer, and books which others read with interest and enjoyment must not lie upon my table: in fact, I have to eat, drink, smoke, and read to order, and to travel three hundred miles to find a desert place to laugh in.
To be the thrall of petty principles, shackled by the restrictions of a narrow morality; to have no more individual existence than an oyster or a cabbage; to desire the unconventional merely because it is free; and to despise the voice of praise: if this be success, I certainly have not failed. But human nature has its limitations even in public men, and I have been compelled to indulge privately in a pleasure which is both risky and enchanting.
I write. "I was not born under a rhyming planet,” but when my friends, acquaintances, or political allies are characteristically offensive, when the ladies I have the honour to be associated with besmear me with confident adulation, I relieve the tension of my mind by caricaturing them in pen and ink, and writing personal sketches which would be easily recognised by their fidelity, if published, and would be ruinous from their red-hot rancour. I have scores of them by me which might make the fortune of a literary aspirant, but they are perfectly useless to a Conservative and Unionist M.P.; dozens more of my harmless fireworks have been converted, without editorial intervention, into that constituent of our atmosphere that gives us trees. Oh that you could have seen my Post-obita Dicta, or my Laughable Lyrics, by a Liliputian Laureate !
But the taste for ink grows into a passion, and having wasted hours on the enjoyment of composing what must be safely hidden or instantly destroyed, I drifted insensibly to articles and sketches which do not betray their authorship, though they would be severely damaging,
if detected, to a name like mine. some of the least trivial and the least slangy of them, all connected, as it happens, with one subject; and I hope it will not be long before I have the opportunity of openly disparaging my own secret creations to those who honestly think me incapable of anything less serious or less " important” than an Essay on Man, or an article in the Quarterly. This is the object of publication. It has long been the desire of my life to find upon the drawing-room tables of my lady-canvassers, and my more rigid neighbours, a frivolous, shallow, useless book (as they will successfully invite me to call it), which they may possibly hear well spoken of by detrimentals, and called gossipy by indolent reviewers. After all, fishing itself is eminently respectable as well as fascinating, and if some untoward accident should reveal the authorship of what was originally composed as the indulgence of a passion, it is no hanging matter, and by some, by most, I shall be forgiven—for all except the preface. I need hardly say that I shall deny everything.