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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 350 pages of information about Basil.

Thus it is as no leisure work that I begin my narrative—­and begin it, too, on my birthday!  On this day I complete my twenty-fourth year; the first new year of my life which has not been greeted by a single kind word, or a single loving wish.  But one look of welcome can still find me in my solitude—­the lovely morning look of nature, as I now see it from the casement of my room.  Brighter and brighter shines out the lusty sun from banks of purple, rainy cloud; fishermen are spreading their nets to dry on the lower declivities of the rocks; children are playing round the boats drawn up on the beach; the sea-breeze blows fresh and pure towards the shore——­all objects are brilliant to look on, all sounds are pleasant to hear, as my pen traces the first lines which open the story of my life.


I am the second son of an English gentleman of large fortune.  Our family is, I believe, one of the most ancient in this country.  On my father’s side, it dates back beyond the Conquest; on my mother’s, it is not so old, but the pedigree is nobler.  Besides my elder brother, I have one sister, younger than myself.  My mother died shortly after giving birth to her last child.

Circumstances which will appear hereafter, have forced me to abandon my father’s name.  I have been obliged in honour to resign it; and in honour I abstain from mentioning it here.  Accordingly, at the head of these pages, I have only placed my Christian name—­not considering it of any importance to add the surname which I have assumed; and which I may, perhaps, be obliged to change for some other, at no very distant period.  It will now, I hope, be understood from the outset, why I never mention my brother and sister but by their Christian names; why a blank occurs wherever my father’s name should appear; why my own is kept concealed in this narrative, as it is kept concealed in the world.

The story of my boyhood and youth has little to interest—­nothing that is new.  My education was the education of hundreds of others in my rank of life.  I was first taught at a public school, and then went to college to complete what is termed “a liberal education.”

My life at college has not left me a single pleasant recollection.  I found sycophancy established there, as a principle of action; flaunting on the lord’s gold tassel in the street; enthroned on the lord’s dais in the dining-room.  The most learned student in my college—­the man whose life was most exemplary, whose acquirements were most admirable—­was shown me sitting, as a commoner, in the lowest place.  The heir to an Earldom, who had failed at the last examination, was pointed out a few minutes afterwards, dining in solitary grandeur at a raised table, above the reverend scholars who had turned him back as a dunce.  I had just arrived at the University, and had just been congratulated on entering “a venerable seminary of learning and religion.”

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