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Miss Margot Tennant,
OF LONG DARK WINTER NIGHTS
BY WITTY CONVERSATION.
THE epithets, speculative and suggestive, have not been given to these Essays without due consideration. Written in the isolation of this Alpine retreat, they express the opinions and surmisings of one who long has watched in solitude, "as from a ruined tower," the world of thought, and circumstance, and action. To such an one it may, perhaps, be pardoned if he prove a trifle whimsical in speculation and fantastic in suggestion. I am aware that the first, second, and sixteenth Essays will be judged, by many who may read them, to exceed the bounds of that critical common-sense which is recommended in the third. Possibly my prolonged seclusion from populous cities and the society of intellectual equals-a seclusion which has lasted now, with short and occasional interruptions, through twelve years-the renunciation of ambitious aims and active interests implied in such a life, and the peculiar influences to which those are subjected who spend a seven months' winter, year after year, among white snow-drifts and inhospitable, storm-swept mountains, have bred in me a mystical habit of regarding man's relation to the universe. In these conditions, and forced by broken health to meditate upon the problem of approaching death, a student comes insensibly to think more of nature and the world, less of humanity and self, than when he is swimming down the stream of competitive existence. The particular
loses importance in his range of vision. The universal, little understood, but powerfully felt, assumes ascendancy over his imagination. He is like one who surveys the world of things from a solitary mountain peak or from the centre of a boundless desert. Faiths spring up in him which have closer analogy with the first intuitions of primitive races than with the logical and analytical systems of reasoned thought. Such as they are, these penetrate his mind, and give peculiar tone to all his utterances. The point of view from which many of the more critical Essays in this collection have been written would not be apparent without a frank expression of the speculative thoughts that underlie them. I have, therefore, not shrunk from committing myself to theories and surmises which are advanced in no dogmatic spirit. To suggest ideas, to stimulate reflection, is the object of a book like this. At the same time, were I asked in what order these Essays ought to be studied, I should recommend most people to leave "The Philosophy of Evolution" unread, until one or another of the following articles aroused in them some curiosity about the author's views upon religion and man's relation to the universe.
N.B.-Seven of the following Essays have appeared, in whole or part, in The Fortnightly Review, one in Time, and one in The Century Guild Hobby-Horse. One has been extracted from a paper previously published in my own Italian Byways." All these have been re-written to a large extent. The remaining ten, together with the Appendices, are new, and come before the public for the first time now.