TO MRS. ELLIOT,
(OF THE DEANERY, BRISTOL).
WILL YOU honor me by accepting the Dedication of this book, in remembrance of an uninterrupted friendship of many years?
More than one charming blind girl, in fiction and in the drama, has preceded “Poor Miss Finch.” But, so far as I know, blindness in these cases has been always exhibited, more or less exclusively, from the ideal and the sentimental point of view. The attempt here made is to appeal to an interest of another kind, by exhibiting blindness as it really is. I have carefully gathered the information necessary to the execution of this purpose from competent authorities of all sorts. Whenever “Lucilla” acts or speaks in these pages, with reference to her blindness, she is doing or saying what persons afflicted as she is have done or said before her. Of the other features which I have added to produce and sustain interest in this central personage of my story, it does not become me to speak. It is for my readers to say if “Lucilla” has found her way to their sympathies. In this character, and more especially again in the characters of “Nugent Dubourg” and “Madame Pratolungo,” I have tried to present human nature in its inherent inconsistencies and self-contradictions — in its intricate mixture of good and evil, of great and small — as I see it in the world about me. But the faculty of observing character is so rare, the curiously mistaken tendency to look for logical consistency in human motives and human actions is so general, that I may possibly find the execution of this part of my task misunderstood — sometimes even resented — in certain quarters. However, Time has stood my friend in relation to other characters of mine in other books — and who can say that Time may not help me again here? Perhaps, one of these days, I may be able to make use of some of the many interesting stories of events that have really happened, which have been placed in my hands by persons who could speak as witnesses to the truth of the narrative. Thus far, I have not ventured to disturb the repose of these manuscripts in the locked drawer allotted to them. The true incidents are so “far-fetched”; and the conduct of the real people is so “grossly improbable”!
As for the object which I have had in view in writing this story, it is, I hope, plain enough to speak for itself. I subscribe to the article of belief which declares, that the conditions of human happiness are independent of bodily affliction, and that it is even possible for bodily affliction itself to take its place among the ingredients of happiness. These are the views which “Poor Miss Finch” is intended to advocate — and this is the impression which I hope to leave on the mind of the reader when the book is closed.
January 16th, 1872.
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