This novel ranks the third, in order of succession, of the works of fiction which I have produced. The history of its reception, on its first appearance, is soon told.
Unfortunately for me, “Hide And Seek” was originally published in the year eighteen hundred and fifty-four, at the outbreak of the Crimean War. All England felt the absorbing interest of watching that serious national event; and new books — some of them books of far higher pretensions than mine — found the minds of readers in general pre-occupied or indifferent. My own little venture in fiction necessarily felt the adverse influence of the time. The demand among the booksellers was just large enough to exhaust the first edition, and there the sale of this novel, in its original form, terminated.
Since that period, the book has been, in the technical phrase, “out of print.” Proposals have reached me, at various times, for its republication; but I have resolutely abstained from availing myself of them for two reasons.
In the first place, I was anxious to wait until “Hide And Seek” could make its re-appearance on a footing of perfect equality with my other works. In the second place, I was resolved to keep it back until it might obtain the advantage of a careful revisal, guided by the light of the author’s later experience. The period for the accomplishment of both these objects has now presented itself. “Hide And Seek,” in this edition, forms one among the uniform series of my novels, which has begun with “Antonina,” “The Dead Secret,” and “The Woman In White;” and which will be continued with “Basil,” and “The Queen Of Hearts.” My project of revisal has, at the same time, been carefully and rigidly executed. I have abridged, and in many cases omitted, several passages in the first edition, which made larger demands upon the reader’s patience than I should now think it desirable to venture on if I were writing a new book; and I have, in one important respect, so altered the termination of the story as to make it, I hope, more satisfactory and more complete than it was in its original form.
With such advantages, therefore, as my diligent revision can give it, “Hide And Seek” now appeals, after an interval of seven years, for another hearing. I cannot think it becoming — especially in this age of universal self-assertion — to state the grounds on which I believe my book to be worthy of gaining more attention than it obtained, through accidental circumstances, when it was first published. Neither can I consent to shelter myself under the favorable opinions which many of my brother writers — and notably, the great writer to whom “Hide And Seek” is dedicated — expressed of these pages when I originally wrote them. I leave it to the reader to compare this novel — especially in reference to the conception and delineation of character — with the two novels (“Antonina” and “Basil”) which preceded it; and then to decide whether my third attempt in fiction, with all its faults, was, or was not, an advance in Art on my earlier efforts. This is all the favor I ask for a work which I once wrote with anxious care — which I have since corrected with no sparing hand — which I have now finally dismissed to take its second journey through the world of letters as usefully and prosperously as it can.
HARLEY STREET, LONDON, SEPTEMBER, 1861.
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