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WHEN the author commenced this work he proposed to himself three objects. First. To establish a periodical which should enable him to present, under one general head, and not as separate and distinct publications, certain fictions which he had it in contemplation to write. Secondly. To produce these Tales in weekly numbers; hoping that to shorten the intervals of communication between himself and his readers would be to knit more closely the pleasant relations they had held for forty months. Thirdly. In the execution of this weekly task, to have as much regard as its exigencies would permit, to each story as a whole, and to the possibility of its publication at some distant day apart from the machinery in which it had its origin. The characters of Master Humphrey and his three friends, and the little fancy of the clock, were the result of these considerations. When he sought to interest his readers in those who talked, and read, and listened, he revived Mr. Pickwick and his humble friends; not with any intention of reopening an exhausted and abandoned mine, but to connect them in the thoughts of those whose favourites they had been, with the tranquil enjoyments of Master Humphrey. It was never the author's intention to make the members of Master Humphrey's Clock active agents in the stories they are supposed to relate. Having brought himself in the commencement of his undertaking to feel an interest in these quiet creatures, and to imagine them in their old chamber of meeting, eager listeners to all he had to tell, the author hoped—as authors will—to succeed in awakening some of his own emotions in the bosoms of his readers. Imagining Master Humphrey in his chimney-corner, resuming, night after night, the narrative—say of the Old Curiosity Shop—picturing to himself the various sensations of his hearers—thinking how Jack Redburn might incline to poor Kit, and perhaps lean too favourably even toward the lighter vices of Mr. Richard Swiveller—how the deaf gentleman would have his favourite, and Mr. Miles his—and how all these gentle spirits would trace some faint reflection of their past lives in the varying current of the tale—he has insensibly fallen into the belief that they are present to his readers as they are to him, and has forgotten that, like one whose vision is disordered, he may be conjuring up bright figures where there is nothing but empty space. * .
The short papers which are to be found at the beginning of thir volume were indispensable to the form of publication and the limited extent of each number, as no story of lengthened interest could be begun until “The Clock” was wound up and fairly going. The author would fain hope that there are not many who woulddisturb Master Humphre, and his friends in their seclusion; who would have them forego their present enjoyments, to exchange those confidences with each other, the absence of which is the foundation of 4 their mutual trust. For when their occupation is gone, when their. tales are ended, and but their personal histories remain, the chimneyo will be growing cold and the clock will be about to stoo, Or ever. One other word on his own person, and he returns to the more grateful task of speaking for those imaginary people whose little world lies within these pages. It may be some consolation to the well-disposed ladies or gentlemen who, in the interval between the conclusion of his last work and the commencement of this, originated a report that he had gone raving mad, to know that it spread as rapidly as could be desired, and was made the subject of considerable dispute; not as regarded the fact, for that was as thoroughly established as the duel between Sir Peter Teazle and Charles Surface in the School for Scandal; but with reference to the unfortunate lunatic's place of confinement: one party insisting positively on Bedlam, another inclining favourably toward Saint Luke's, and a third swearing strongly by the asylum at Hanwell;. while each backed its case by circumstantial evidence of the same excellent nature as that brought to bear by Sir Benjamin Backbite on the pistol-shot, which struck against the little bronze bust of Shakspeare over the fire-place, grazed out of the window at a right angle, and wounded the postman, who was coming to the door with a double letter from Northamptonshire. It will be a great affliction to these ladies and gentlemen to learn— and he is so unwilling to give pain that he would not whisper the circumstance on any account, did he not feel in a manner bound to do so, in gratitude to those among his friends who were at the trouble of being angry with the absurdity—that their invention made the author's home unusually merry, and gave rise to an extraordinary number of jests, of which he will only add, in the words of the good Vicar of Wakefield, “I cannot say whether we had more wit among us than usual; but I am sure we had more laughing.”
Devonshire Terrace, York Gate,