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country, when I mention the name of Robert Southey as that of one who has more than once expressed his decided approbation of this performance, I am sure I shall have said quite enough to satisfy any one that the work is not devoid of merit.”
I could now add many names of distinguished persons who have been pleased with this work and its pendent, the Tales and Popular Fictions. I shall only mention that of the late Mr. Douce, who, very shortly before his death, on the occasion of the publication of this last work, called on me to assure me that "it was many, many years indeed, since he had read a book which had yielded him so much delight."
The contents of the work which gave such pleasure to this learned antiquary are as follows:I. Introduction—Similarity of Arts and Customs-Similarity of
Names-Origin of the Work-Imitation-Casual Coincidence-
Peter the Fool-Emelyan the Fool-Conclusion. Appendix. Never, I am convinced, did any one enter on a literary career with more reluctance than I did when I found it to be my only resource- --fortune being gone, ill health and delicacy of constitution excluding me from the learned professions, want of interest from every thing else. As I journeyed to the metropolis, I might have sung with the page whom Don Quixote met going a-soldiering:
A la guerra me lleva-mi necesidad,
Si tuviera dineros—no fuera en verdad : for of all arts and professions in this country, that of literature is the least respected and the worst remunerated. There is something actually degrading in the expression“ an author by trade," which I have seen used even of Southey, and that by one who did not mean to disparage him in the slightest degree. My advice to those who may read these pages is to shun literature, if not already blest with competence.
One of my earliest literary friends in London was T. Crofton Croker, who was then engaged in collecting materials for the Fairy Legends of the South of Ireland. He of course applied to his friends for aid and information; and I, having most leisure, and, I may add, most knowledge, was able to give him the greatest amount of assistance. My inquiries on the subject led to the writing of the present work, which was succeeded by the Mythology of Ancient Greece and Italy, and the Tales and Popular Fictions; so that, in effect, if Mr. Croker had not planned the Fairy Legends, these works, be their value what it may, would in all probability never have been written.
Writing and reading about Fairies some may deem to be the mark of a trifling turn of mind. On this subject I have given my ideas in the Conclusion; here I will only
; remind such critics, that as soon as this work was completed, I commenced, and wrote in the space of a few weeks, my Outlines of History; and whatever the faults of that work may be, no one has ever reckoned among them want of vigour in either thought or expression. It was also necessary, in order to write this work and its pendent, to be able to read, perhaps, as many as eighteen or twenty different languages, dialects, and modes of orthography, and to employ different styles both in prose and verse.
At all events, even if it were trifling, dulce est desipere in loco ; and I shall never forget the happy hours it caused me, especially those spent over the black-letter pages of the French romances of chivalry, in the old reading-room of the British Museum.
Many years have elapsed since this work was first published. In that period much new matter has appeared in various works, especially in the valuable Deutsche Mythologie of Dr. Grimm. Hence it will be found to be greatly enlarged, particularly in the sections of England and France. I have also inserted much which want of space obliged me to omit in the former edition. In its present form, I am presumptuous enough to expect that it may live for many years, and be an authority on the subject of popular lore. The active industry of the Grimms, of Thiele, and others, had collected the popular traditions of various countries. I came then and gathered in the harvest, leaving little, I apprehend, but gleanings for future writers on this subject. The legends will probably fade fast away from the popular memory; is not likely that any one will relate those which I have given over again ; and it therefore seems more probable that this volume may in future be reprinted, with notes and additions.
What precedes may suffice by way of preface. I will now yield to an impulse which I cannot resist; and, as it is the only opportunity I may have, say a few words about myself
I and my works in general.
Juvenal himself did not hold family pride in less esteem than I do; yet, where the strain is good, it may be pardoned. I have never, therefore, spoken of my family; but now that
, it seems on the point of extinction (such is human weak
ness !) I cannot refrain from telling what it was in former days. I am, then, by descent a gentleman, of ancient and respectable family. I attach no importance whatever to the fact of its arms being the same as those of the town of the same name in the North, for arms may be assumed; neither can I claim for it, with certainty, the knight who fell at Agincourt. But it was among those of the landed gentry in the time of the Tudors, and in the next century was allied by marriage with the Evelyns and Lord Clarendon; and, through him, with royalty itself. My immediate ancestor went over to Ireland with, I believe, Lord Rochester; and there its decay began, for it never struck root in the uncongenial soil. It had, however, too much of the “liberal hand and open heart' ever to be very prosperous. I am the only member of it, as far as I know, who has cultivated literature; and I think with pleasure on its thus, when about to expire, emitting some flashes which, however faint, may throw over it a little posthumous lustre.
It may seem bold, in one who lays no claim to creative genius, thus to expect his name to live. My grounds of confidence are these :
Human nature will ever remain unchanged. The love of gain and of material enjoyments, omnipotent as it appears to be at present, will never totally extinguish the higher and purer aspirations of mind; and there will always be those, however limited in number, who will desire to know how the former dwellers of earth, thought, felt, and acted. For these mythology, as connected with religion and history, will always have attractions. I have already explained why I think the present work will live. The Tales and Popular Fictions is sui generis ; like a poem or a romance, its own pages must be consulted for the matter which it contains. The scholars of Germany had, in various works, developed the true nature of most of the beautiful fictions of Grecian
mythology. These I carefully collected; I added to them, reduced the whole to harmony and system, developed the mythic cosmology and geography, and drew, for the first time, clear and distinct the line between the objects of Grecian and Italian worship. I made it plain that the creed of ancient Hellas was composed of significant mythes, and not, as is vulgarly supposed, of wanton fables ; and thus vindicated the moral and intellectual character of a noble people. This is certainly my most important work, and I know of nothing like it in modern literature. Welcker, the first authority on the subject in Europe, has always spoken of it in terms of high praise; and with respect to the style —the vital principle of a book—à most competent judge has pronounced it to be, “ the most elegant work on a classic subject in this, or perhaps any other, language.” There is surely, then, nothing over-veening in expecting that it may be read many years hence. At the same time I readily confess, that if my object had been immediate and extensive fame and popularity, I have not been very happy in my choice of subjects.
Any one who clears away obscurities from the works of the great writers of ancient or modern times, may be sure that his name, at least, will survive. Even should his discoveries, as is so often the case, be pilfered, à vindicator will appear. I have explained much that was obscure in the Latin classics. I am the first who has treated Sallust as an historian, and who was really acquainted with the subjects and the scenery of Virgil's rural poetry. It surely is some merit to have been able to throw additional light on Horace, who had been the subject of elaborate comment for more than three centuries. It is not unworthy of notice that I seem to be the only native of Ireland whose writings on classic subjects have met with approbation in this country or on the Continent. Neither Oxford nor Cambridge, I am