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Idolatry:A Romance

A Romance

Library of Alexandria
To ROBERT CARTER, Esq. Not the intrinsic merits of this story embolden me to inscribe it to you, my dear friend, but the fact that you, more than any other man, are responsible for its writing. Your advice and encouragement first led me to book-making; so it is only fair that you should partake of whatever obloquy (or honor) the practice may bring upon me. The ensuing pages may incline you to suspect their author of a repugnance to unvarnished truth; but,—without prejudice to Othello,—since varnish brings out in wood veins of beauty invisible before the application, why not also in the sober facts of life? When the transparent artifice has been penetrated, the familiar substance underneath will be greeted none the less kindly; nay, the observer will perhaps regard the disguise as an oblique compliment to his powers of insight, and his attention may thus be better secured than had the subject worn its every-day dress. Seriously, the most matter-of-fact life has moods when the light of romance seems to gild its earthen chimney-pots into fairy minarets; and, were the story-teller but sure of laying his hands upon the true gold, perhaps the more his story had of it, the better. Here, however, comes in the grand difficulty; fact nor fancy is often reproduced in true colors; and while attempting justly to combine life’s elements, the writer has to beware that they be not mere cheap imitations thereof. Not seldom does it happen that what he proffers as genuine arcana of imagination and philosophy affects the reader as a dose of Hieroglyphics and Balderdash. Nevertheless, the first duty of the fiction-monger—no less than of the photographic artist doomed to produce successful portraits of children-in-arms—is, to be amusing; to shrink at no shifts which shall beguile the patient into procrastinating escape until the moment be gone by. The gentle reader will not too sternly set his face against such artifices, but, so they go not the length of fantastically presenting phenomena inexplicable upon any common-sense hypothesis, he will rather lend himself to his own beguilement. The performance once over, let him, if so inclined, strip the feathers from the flights of imagination, and wash the color from the incidents; if aught save the driest and most ordinary matters of fact reward his researches, then let him be offended