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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 416 pages of information about Elsie Venner.
of man to his Creator, I attempted to illustrate the doctrine of inherited moral responsibility for other people’s misbehavior.  I tried to make out a case for my poor Elsie, whom the most hardened theologian would find it hard to blame for her inherited ophidian tastes and tendencies.  How, then, is he to blame mankind for inheriting “sinfulness” from their first parents?  May not the serpent have bitten Eve before the birth of Cain, her first-born?  That would have made an excuse for Cain’s children, as Elsie’s ante-natal misfortune made an excuse for her.  But what difference does it make in the child’s responsibility whether his inherited tendencies come from a snake-bite or some other source which he knew nothing about and could not have prevented from acting?  All this is plain enough, and the only use of the story is to bring the dogma of inherited guilt and its consequences into a clearer point of view.

But, after all, the tale must have proved readable as a story to account for the large number of editions which it has reached.

Some readers have been curious about the locality the writer was thought to have in view.  No particular place was intended.  Some of the characters may have been thought to have been drawn from life; but the personages mentioned are mostly composites, like Mr. Galton’s compound photographic likenesses, and are not calculated to provoke scandal or suits for libel.

O. W. H.

Beverly farms, mass., August 3, 1891.

ELSIE VENNER.

CHAPTER I.

The Brahmin caste of new England.

There is nothing in New England corresponding at all to the feudal aristocracies of the Old World.  Whether it be owing to the stock from which we were derived, or to the practical working of our institutions, or to the abrogation of the technical “law of honor,” which draws a sharp line between the personally responsible class of “gentlemen” and the unnamed multitude of those who are not expected to risk their lives for an abstraction,—­whatever be the cause, we have no such aristocracy here as that which grew up out of the military systems of the Middle Ages.

What we mean by “aristocracy” is merely the richer part of the community, that live in the tallest houses, drive real carriages, (not “kerridges,”) kidglove their hands, and French-bonnet their ladies’ heads, give parties where the persons who call them by the above title are not invited, and have a provokingly easy way of dressing, walking, talking, and nodding to people, as if they felt entirely at home, and would not be embarrassed in the least, if they met the Governor, or even the President of the United States, face to face.  Some of these great folks are really well-bred, some of them are only purse-proud and assuming,—­but they form a class, and are named as above in the common speech.

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