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WHEN I first determined upon writing a tale of fiction as a resource against "leisure hours" those mental vampires which suck out all the health of fitful occupation-I was particularly desirous of fixing upon an entirely new subject. It is said that our every motive is of a compound nature, but as far as I have been able to analyse my motive for this, I can find no ingredient but the one of simple and unmixed humility; that is, as much humility as may be consistent with writing at all in these days. I am aware that as a good housewife is said to
"Gar auld claes look 'maist as weel's the new," so a very skilful writer can dress up a threadbare subject so tastefully, that if it had itself
the power of speech it would cry out, this is none of I!" But as my humility whispered to me that my right hand might not possess that cunning, I endeavoured to find out a subject which should "win by rareness." I first ran through the catalogue of the passions -it would not do, they have been "torn to tatters." Not a character could I fancy, from the hired bravo to the gentle swain withering in secrecy and silence beneath the shade on his mistress's eye-brow, without perceiving, as I looked behind me through the ghosts of departed novels, the double of my incipient hero. Now, as Peter Schlemihl owed his notoriety to the loss of his own natural and proper shadow, very reasonably apprehended that a hero with a double would at once "be laid"-aside, and that by the most charitable ;—I therefore abandoned the passions as being-out of date.
I thought for a moment of the manners and customs of artificial life; but they have been painted, described, caricatured, lampooned, and
dished up in so many different forms for the public taste, that not only is "the boudoir" itself as familiar to the vulgar eyes as the sign upon the windows of their own circulating libraries, but every lamp and every lustre belonging thereto is nightly burned in effigy in their own "squalid parlours." So that really, unless by having recourse to the cuisine itself, I should not now know how to cater to the appetites of folk so greedy after "high living." Then for the converse of the human picture, the lower Irish, who live professedly "by their ways and their manes;" has that subject not been exhausted between open enemies and nominal lovers until their own orthography, if not pronunciation, becomes correct, and the means being gone, their ma-nes alone remain? Thus, between ghosts and gourmands, the spirit and the flesh, I was nearly scared altogether from my undertaking, when an opportune visit to Paris, by introducing "animal magnetism" to my notice, suggested to me that the point I