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This new Edition of the English Baron begs permission to acknowledge your patronage and protection, of which it bas long since felt the advantages.
You cast an eye of favour upon his first appearance, under all the disadvantages of an incorrect and very faulty impression. You took him out of this degrading dress, and encouraged him to assume a graceful and ornamental habit.
You did still more for him. You took upon yourself the trouble to revise and correct the errors of the first impression ; and, in short, you gave him all the graces necessary to solicit and obtain the notice and approbation of the public.
The Author cannot fully enjoy her success, without acknowledging from whence she in great measure derives it.
You, madam, as becomes the daughter of Richardson, are more solicitous to deserve the acknowledgments of a grateful heart, than to receive them. You have no reason to suspect me of flattery, but of vanity you may, in wishing to mention your name thus publicly as the patroness and friend of,
Your most obliged humble Servant,
Sept. 1, 1780.
As this Story is of a species which, though not new, is out of the common track, it has been thought necessary to point out some circumstances to the reader which will elucidate the design, and, it is hoped, will induce him to form a favourable, as well as a right judgment of the work before him.
The Story is the literary offspring of the CASTLE OF OTRANTO, written upon the same plan, with a design to unite the most attractive and interesting circumstances of the ancient Romance and modern Novel, at the same time it assumes a character and manner of its own, that differs from both; it is distinguished by the appellation of a Gothic Story, being a picture of Gothic times and manners. Fictitious stories have been the delight of all times and all countries, by oral tradition in barbarous, by writing in more civilized ones ; and although some persons of wit and learning have condemned them indiscriminately, I would venture to affirm, that even those who so much affect to despise them under one form, will receive and embrace them under another.
Thus, for instance, a man shall admire and almost adore the Epic poems of the Ancients, and yet despise and execrate the ancient Romances, which are only Epics in prose.
History represents human nature as it is in real life, alas, too often a melancholy retrospect! Romance displays only the amiable side of the picture; it shews the pleasing features, and throws a veil over the blemishes. Mankind are naturally pleased with what gratifies their vanity; and vanity, like all other passions of the human heart, may be rendered subservient to good and useful purposes.
I confess that it may be abused, and become an instrument to corrupt the manners and morals of mankind; so may poetry, so may plays, so may every kind of composition ; but that will prove nothing more than the old saying lately revived by the philosophers, the most in fashion, “ that every earthly thing has two handles.”
The business of Romance is, first, to excite the attention; and, secondly, to direct it to some useful, or at least innocent, end. Happy the writer who attains both these points, like Richardson ; and not unfortunate, or undeserving praise, he who gains only the latter, and furnishes out an entertainment for the reader.
Having in some degree opened my design, I beg leave to conduct my reader back again, till he comes within view of the Castle of Otranto; a work which, as already has been observed, is an attempt to unite the various merits and graces of the ancient Romance and modern Novel. To attain this end, there is required a sufficient degree of the marvellous, to excite attention ; enough of the manners of real life, to give an air of probability to the work; and enough of the pathetic to engage the heart in its behalf.
The book we have mentioned is excellent in the two last points, but has a redundancy in the first. The opening excites the attention very strongly; the conduct of the story is artful and judicious ; the characters are admirably drawn and supported; the diction polished and elegant; yet, with all these brilliant advantages, it palls upon the mind (though it does not upon the ear ;) and the reason is obvious, the machinery is so violent, that it destroys the effect it is intended to excite. Had the story been kept within the utmost verge of probability, the effect had been preserved, without losing the least circumstance that excites or detains the attention.
For instance; we can conceive, and allow of, the appearance of a ghost; we can even dispense with an enchanted sword and helmet; but then they must keep within certain limits of credibility. A sword so large as to require an hundred men to lift it ; a helmet that by its own weight forces a passage through a court-yard, into an arched vault, big enough for a man to go through ; a picture that walks out of its frame; a skeleton ghost in a hermit's cowl:~When your expectation is wound up to the highest pitch, these circumstances take it down with a witness, destroy the work of imagination, and instead of attention, excite laughter. I was both surprised and vexed to find the enchantment dissolved, which I wished might continue to the end of the book ; and several of its readers have confessed the same disappointment to me. The beauties are so numerous, that we cannot bear the defeets, but want it to be perfect in all respects.
In the course of my observations upon this singular book, it seemed to me that it was possible to compose a work upon the same plan, wherein these defects might be avoided ; and the keeping, as in painting, might be preserved.
But then I began to fear it might happen to me as to certain translators and imitators of Shakespeare ; the unities may be preserved, while the spirit is evaporated. However, I ventured to attempt it; I read the beginning to a circle of friends of approved judgment, and by their approbation was encouraged to proceed and to finish it.
OLD ENGLISH BARON.
In the minority of Henry the Sixth, King of inquire into the situation of his friend. He England, when the renowned John, Duke of landed in Kent, attended by his Greek friend Bedford, was Regent of France, and Humphry, and two faithful servants, one of which was the good Duke of Gloucester, was Protector of maimed by the wounds he had received in the England, a worthy knight, called Sir Philip defence of his master. Harclay, returned from his travels to England, Sir Philip went to his family-seat in Yorkhis native country. He had served under the shire. He found his mother and sister were glorious King Henry the Fifth with distinguish- dead, and his estates sequestered in the hands ed valour, had acquired an honourable fame, of commissioners appointed by the Protector. and was no less esteemed for Christian virtues He was obliged to prove the reality of his claim, than for deeds of chivalry. After the death of and the identity of his person, (by the testihis Prince, he entered into the service of the mony of some of the old servants of his family,) Greek emperor, and distinguished his courage after which every thing was restored to himn. against the encroachments of the Saracens. In He took possession of his own house, establisha battle there, he took prisoner a certain gentle- ed his household, settled the old servants in their man, by name M. Zadisky, of Greek extraction, former stations, and placed those he brought but brought up by a Saracen officer ; this man home in the upper offices of his family. He he converted to the Christian faith ; after which then left his friend to superintend his domestic he bound him to himself by the ties of friend- affairs; and, attended by only one of his old ship and gratitude, and he resolved to continue servants, he set out for the castle of Lovel, in with his benefactor. After thirty years travel the west of England. They travelled by easy and warlike service, he determined to return to journeys; but, towards the evening of the sehis native land, and to spend the remainder of cond day, the servant was so ill and fatigued his life in peace; and, by devoting himself to he could go no further; he stopped at an inn, works of piety and charity, prepare for a better where he grew worse every hour, and the next state hereafter.
day expired. Sir Philip was under great conThis noble knight had, in his early youth, cern for the loss of his servant, and some for contracted a strict friendship with the only son himself, being alone in a strange place; however, of the Lord Lovel, a gentleman of eminent vir- he took courage, ordered his servant's funeral, tues and accomplishments. During Sir Philip's attended it himself, and, having shed a tear of residence in foreign countries, he had frequent- humanity over his grave, proceeded alone on his ly written to his friend, and had for a time re- journey. ceived answers; the last informed him of the As he drew near the estate of his friend, he death of old Lord Lovel, and the marriage of began to inquire of every one he met, whether the young one ; but from that time he had heard the Lord Lovel resided at the seat of his ances. no more from him. Sir Philip imputed it not tors? He was answered by one, he did not to neglect or forgetfulness, but to the difficulties know; by another, he could not tell ; by a third, of intercourse, common at that time to all tra- that he never heard of such a person. Sir Philip vellers and adventurers. When he was return- thought it strange that a man of Lord Lovel's ing home, he resolved, after looking into his consequence should be unknown in his own family affairs, to visit the castle of Lovel, and neighbourhood, and where his ancestors had