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The Kickleburys On The Rhine
by [?]

BY MR. M. A. TITMARSH

PREFACE TO THE SECOND EDITION:

BEING AN ESSAY ON THUNDER AND SMALL BEER.

Any reader who may have a fancy to purchase a copy of this present edition of the “History of the Kickleburys Abroad,” had best be warned in time, that the Times newspaper does not approve of the work, and has but a bad opinion both of the author and his readers. Nothing can be fairer than this statement: if you happen to take up the poor little volume at a railroad station, and read this sentence, lay the book down, and buy something else. You are warned. What more can the author say? If after this you WILL buy,–amen! pay your money, take your book, and fall to. Between ourselves, honest reader, it is no very strong potation which the present purveyor offers to you. It will not trouble your head much in the drinking. It was intended for that sort of negus which is offered at Christmas parties and of which ladies and children may partake with refreshment and cheerfulness. Last year I tried a brew which was old, bitter, and strong; and scarce any one would drink it. This year we send round a milder tap, and it is liked by customers: though the critics (who like strong ale, the rogues!) turn up their noses. In heaven’s name, Mr. Smith, serve round the liquor to the gentle-folks. Pray, dear madam, another glass; it is Christmas time, it will do you no harm. It is not intended to keep long, this sort of drink. (Come, froth up, Mr. Publisher, and pass quickly round!) And as for the professional gentlemen, we must get a stronger sort for THEM some day.

The Times’ gentleman (a very difficult gent to please) is the loudest and noisiest of all, and has made more hideous faces over the refreshment offered to him than any other critic. There is no use shirking this statement! when a man has been abused in the Times, he can’t hide it, any more than he could hide the knowledge of his having been committed to prison by Mr. Henry, or publicly caned in Pall Mall. You see it in your friends’ eyes when they meet you. They know it. They have chuckled over it to a man. They whisper about it at the club, and look over the paper at you. My next-door neighbor came to see me this morning, and I saw by his face that he had the whole story pat. “Hem!” says he, “well, I HAVE heard of it; and the fact is, they were talking about you at dinner last night, and mentioning that the Times had–ahem!–‘walked into you.'”

“My good M—-” I say–and M—- will corroborate, if need be, the statement I make here–“here is the Times’ article, dated January 4th, which states so and so, and here is a letter from the publisher, likewise dated January 4th, and which says:–

“MY DEAR Sir,–Having this day sold the last copy of the first edition (of x thousand) of the ‘Kickleburys Abroad,’ and having orders for more, had we not better proceed to a second edition? and will you permit me to enclose an order on,” etc. etc.?

Singular coincidence! And if every author who was so abused by a critic had a similar note from a publisher, good Lord! how easily would we take the critic’s censure!

“Yes, yes,” you say; “it is all very well for a writer to affect to be indifferent to a critique from the Times. You bear it as a boy bears a flogging at school, without crying out; but don’t swagger and brag as if you liked it.”

Let us have truth before all. I would rather have a good word than a bad one from any person: but if a critic abuses me from a high place, and it is worth my while, I will appeal. If I can show that the judge who is delivering sentence against me, and laying down the law and making a pretence of learning, has no learning and no law, and is neither more nor less than a pompous noodle, who ought not to be heard in any respectable court, I will do so; and then, dear friends, perhaps you will have something to laugh at in this book.–