I have asked you to let me put your name here, that I might have the opportunity of saying how much pleasure I owe to your romances. They make one a boy again while one is reading them; and the student of “The Witch’s Head” and of “King Solomon’s Mines” is as young, in heart, as when he hunted long ago with Chingachgook and Uncas. You, who know the noble barbarian in his African retreats, appear to retain more than most men of his fresh natural imagination. We are all savages under our white skins; but you alone recall to us the delights and terrors of the world’s nonage. We are hunters again, trappers, adventurers bold, while we study you, and the blithe barbarian wakens even in the weary person of letters. He forgets proof-sheets and papers, and the “young lion” seeks his food from God, in the fearless ancient way, with bow or rifle. Of all modern heroes of romance, the dearest to me is your faithful Zulu, and I own I cried when he bade farewell to his English master, in “The Witch’s Head.”
In the following tales the natural man takes a hand, but he is seen through civilized spectacles, not, as in your delightful books, with the eyes of the sympathetic sportsman. If Why-Why and Mr. Gowles amuse you a little, let this be my Diomedean exchange of bronze for gold—of the new Phaeacia for Kukuana land, or for that haunted city of Kor, in which your fair Ayesha dwells undying, as yet unknown to the future lovers of She.
Very sincerely yours,
Cromer, August 29, 1886.
The writer of these apologues hopes that the Rev. Mr. Gowles will not be regarded as his idea of a typical missionary. The countrymen of Codrington and Callaway, of Patteson and Livingstone, know better what missionaries may be, and often are. But the wrong sort as well as the right sort exists everywhere, and Mr. Gowles is not a very gross caricature of the ignorant teacher of heathendom. I am convinced that he would have seen nothing but a set of darkened savages in the ancient Greeks. The religious eccentricities of the Hellenes are not exaggerated in “The End of Phaeacia;” nay, Mr. Gowles might have seen odder things in Attica than he discovered, or chose to record, in Boothland.
To avoid the charge of plagiarism, perhaps it should be mentioned that “The Romance of the First Radical” was written long before I read Tanner’s “Narrative of a Captivity among the Indians.” Tanner, like Why-Why, had trouble with the chief medicine-man of his community.
If my dear kinsman and companion of old days, J. J. A., reads “My Friend the Beach-comber,” he will recognize many of his own yarns, but the portrait of the narrator is wholly fanciful.
“In Castle Perilous” and “A Cheap Nigger” are reprinted from the Cornhill Magazine; “My Friend the Beach-comber,” from Longman’s; “The Great Gladstone Myth,” from Macmillan’s; “In the Wrong Paradise,” from the Fortnightly Review; “A Duchess’s Secret,” from the Overland Mail; “The Romance of the First Radical,” from Fraser’s Magazine; and “The End of Phaeacia,” from Time, by the courteous permission of the editors and proprietors of those periodicals.