Rambles Beyond Railways, by Wilkie Collins

Preface

to

The Present Edition.

I visited Cornwall, for the first time, in the summer and autumn of 1850; and in the winter of the same year, I wrote this book.

At that time, the title attached to these pages was strictly descriptive of the state of the county, when my companion and I walked through it. But when, little more than a year afterwards, a second edition of this volume was called for, the all-conquering railway had invaded Cornwall in the interval, and had practically contradicted me on my own title-page.

To rechristen my work was out of the question — I should simply have destroyed its individuality. Ladies may, and do, often change their names for the better; but books enjoy no such privilege. In this embarrassing position, I ended by treating the ill-timed intrusion of the railway into my literary affairs, as a certain Abbé (who was also an author,) once treated the overthrow of the Swedish Constitution, in the reign of Gustavus the Third. Having written a profound work, to prove that the Constitution, as at that time settled, was secure from all political accidents, the Abbé was surprised in his study, one day, by the appearance of a gentleman, who disturbed him over the correction of his last proof-sheet. “Sir!” said the gentleman; “I have looked in to inform you that the Constitution has just been overthrown.” To which the Abbé replied:—“Sir! they may overthrow the Constitution, but they can’t overthrow MY BOOK”— and he quietly went on with his work.

On precisely similar principles, I quietly went on with MY TITLE-PAGE.

So much for the name of the book. For the book itself, as published in its present form, I have a last word to say, before these prefatory lines come to an end.

Cornwall no longer offers the same comparatively untrodden road to the literary traveller which it presented when I went there. Many writers have made the journey successfully, since my time. Mr. Walter White, in his “Londoner’s Walk to the Land’s End,” has followed me, and rivalled me, on my own ground. Mr. Murray has published “The Handbook to Cornwall and Devon”— and detached essays on Cornish subjects, too numerous to reckon up, have appeared in various periodical forms. Under this change of circumstances, it is not the least of the debts which I owe to the encouraging kindness of my readers, that they have not forgotten “Rambles Beyond Railways,” and that the continued demand for the book is such as to justify the appearance of the present edition. I have, as I believe, to thank the unambitious purpose with which I originally wrote, for thus keeping me in remembrance. All that my book attempts is frankly to record a series of personal impressions; and, as a necessary consequence — though my title is obsolete, and my pedestrian adventures are old-fashioned — I have a character of my own still left, which readers can recognise; and the homely travelling narrative which I brought from Cornwall, eleven years since, is not laid on the shelf yet.

I have spared no pains to make these pages worthy of the approval of new readers. The book has been carefully revised throughout; and certain hastily-written passages, which my better experience condemns as unsuited to the main design, have been removed altogether. Two of the lithographic illustrations, (now no longer in existence) with which my friend and fellow-traveller, Mr. Brandling, adorned the previous editions, have been copied on wood, as accurately as circumstances would permit; and a “Postscript” has been added, which now appears in connexion with the original narrative, for the first time.

The little supplementary sketch thus presented, describes a cruise to the Scilly Islands, (taken five years after the period of my visit to Cornwall), and completes the round of my travelling experiences in the far West of England. These newly-added pages are written, I am afraid, in a tone of somewhat boisterous gaiety — which I have not, however, had the heart to subdue, because it is after all the genuine offspring of the “harum-scarum” high spirits of the time. The “Cruise of the Tomtit” was, from first to last, a practical burlesque; and the good-natured reader will, I hope, not think the worse of me, if I beg him to stand on no ceremony and to laugh his way through it as heartily as he can.

Harley Street, London,

March, 1861.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/c/collins/wilkie/rambles-beyond-railways/preface.html

Last updated Thursday, March 13, 2014 at 21:29