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PREFACE TO THE PRESENT EDITION.
It will afford the Author of Now and Then unspeakable satisfaction, to find that work received, in its new form, with the popular favour so liberally accorded to its two predecessors, the Diary of a Late Physician, and Ten Thousand A-Year. If ever a work was written in a catholic spirit, with a fervent desire to advance the cause of Christian morality, and illustrate, by as interesting incidents as the Author could devise, the adaptation of its doctrines to the most perplexing and appalling conditions in which man can be placed on earth, it was Now and Then. He has never heard an objection to it from either Protestant or Catholic, Churchman or Dissenter ; but on the contrary has repeatedly received from each, strong expressions of gratification, and a desire to see the work circulating widely among the humbler classes of society,—with whom are, indeed, the best sympathies of the Author's heart.
In this work the two principal characters are a noble Peer, and a nobler Peasant; but the lofty character of the former was long disfigured by pride and vindictiveness, till the rock was smitten by the thunderbolt of an awful Providential visitation ; and ere long gushed forth the waters of humility, resignation, and forgiveness. The Peasant was of a nature every whit as noble as the Peer ; but that nobility was from his youth sublimed by the religion of his Bible: the precepts of which sustained him under the pressure of fearful suffering, and at length linked together in humble love and piety, the hearts of both Peer and Peasant, as in the sight of Him who is no respecter of persons.
The mind of man can scarcely have presented to it any more awful subject of contemplation, than the solemn condemnation to death, by a just but erring tribunal, of an innocent man. It should teach, in tremendous tones, the lesson of caution; not, however, to the extent of palsying the hand of justice. And as for the victim of that error to which all human institutions are liable, what language can do justice to our agonising sympathy? Who can realise the state of mind and feeling excited in him? Who can conceive of any source of consolation and succour, but one—that to which the beloved minister of religion pointed Adam Ayliffe's despairing eye, in the condemned cell ?
These are the substantial lessons designed to be taught by Now and Then; and as they indicate the objects with which it was written, so they influence the heart of the writer in sending it forth finally from his hand, and wishing the book, God-speed !
be proper to add, for the information of foreign as well as some English readers, that the administration of the criminal law of this country has been altered in various particulars specified in the ensuing pages. At the period, however, at which the events in this tale are supposed to have happened, the criminal law was administered as there represented. It must not, however, be supposed that the law of murder, and its capital punishment, have undergone any change; but the sanguinary character of our criminal law, at the period referred to, and which is pointedly indicated by a passage to be found in the eighteenth chapter,* has yielded to the humane and benignant spirit of modern legislation.
INNER TEMPLE, LONDON, June 1851.
* Page 163. In the time of Sir William Blackstone-that is, nearly a century ago_“10 steal a handkerchief, or other trifle above the value of twelve pence, privately from one's person, is made capital !”_4 Comm. 16.
PREFACE TO THE THIRD EDITION.
I am at a loss for terms in which to express my sense of the favour with which this work has been received by the public, both at home and abroad. Two large editions, thrice as large as I could have contemplated, before yielding to the confidence of my publishers, were exhausted almost immediately, and the second has been now out of print for several months. I greatly regret the delay which has occurred in bringing out this Third Edition, and the disappointment which may have been felt by numerous applicants for copies of the work. That delay has been occasioned by the pressure of numerous engagements, which prevented my bestowing upon the present Edition the careful revision which it has now received. The necessity of that revision niay be accounted for, by the rapidity and suddenness with which Now and Then was written, and passed through the press. Not a line of the manuscript was in existence previously to near midnight on the 20th November 1847; yet it was in the hands of the printer at a very early hour in the morning of the 9th of December, and was actually published on Saturday the 18th of December; on which day, and the ensuing Monday, the entire Edition was disposed of, and the second in preparation. During the brief interval above mentioned, I wrote principally in the night-time, my days being necessarily otherwise occupied. While making these statements, however, I anxiously deprecate the imputation of having rushed before an indulgent public without due and respectful consideration; for this story, the elements of which had been long floating in my mind, had been thoroughly thought out, in all its parts, during the two months immediately preceding the day on which I began to write; and I venture to doubt whether many modern books of this description, have occasioned their authors more deliberate and anxious consideration, than I had bestowed on this one, before sitting down to write. Whatever faults of execution and detail may even still be found, this at least I can truly affirm, that every character, conversation, and incident introduced, is the result of much reflection, and in strict subordination to a determined purpose, steadily kept in view from beginning to end. The plan may be faulty, and the conception unsatisfactory; but such as it is, it has been completely carried out.
I had, as I con ived, very important objects in view, in writing this work; but it would be almost an impertinence here to indicate them, for they are sufficiently obvious to a thinking reader. I have, however, two observations to offer on this subject. First,—that I advisedly abstained, for grave reasons, from so contriving the plot of the story, as to make it in accordance with what is understood by the words "poetical justice.” Had I been so minded, few experienced readers can avoid perceiving, from the ensuing pages, how abundantly easy it would have been to carry such an intention into effect. In the second place, I solemnly disclaim an object which a lead.