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NOVELS AND NOVELISTS
IN ILLUSTRATION OF THE
MANNERS AND MORALS OF THE AGE.
WILLIAM FORSYTII, M. A.,'Q.C.,
AUTHOR OF " THE LIFE OF CICERO," "CASES AND OPINIONS ON CONSTITUTIONAL LAW,"
I BEGAN this work intending to amuse the idleness of a long vacation; but a severe and dangerous illness, caused by an accident, entirely baffled my design, and I was obliged to finish the task when I had much less leisure. I do not say this to deprecate criticism-if the work is to be criticised at allbut merely state the fact, which may account for shortcomings that are very likely to be discovered. But I hope that the book will be judged by what it professes to be, and not by what it is not. It is not a history of the works of fiction of the last century, which would have required much more copious detail, but a view of the manners and morals of that century, as gathered principally from hints and descriptions in
the norels of the period, corroborated by facts from other sources. But I have not thought it necessary to adhere strictly and formally to this programme, and have therefore introduced sketches of the plots and characters of some of the most interesting and once widely-popular novels, which for various reasons remain practically unknown to the great mass of readers of the present day, and especially to the female part of them. To do this and give any thing like a just idea of the originals, without offending against decorum, is no easy task, nor do I at all flatter myself that I have succeeded. But the
difficulty is in itself a proof of the difference, in one important respect, between the taste and manners of the last and the taste and manners of the present century. In these, I think, it cannot be denied that there has been a great improvement; but I hope it will not be supposed that I mean to imply that our more decorous sins are not morally quite as bad as the vices of our coarser and more free-spoken ancestors. We may be thankful that in many aspects the state of society is better now than then : but the luxury of ·
the rich is still in startling contrast with the misery of the poor, and, although vice may have lost its grossness, it still lurks like a canker in the Common
wealth. We shall have little cause to boast of our
superior morality, if we
“ Compound for sins we are inclined to,
By damning those we have no mind to."