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Page:Biographical and critical studies by James Thomson ("B.V.").djvu/12

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vii
PREFACE

without much loss; but looking at the curiosity of the subject, and its illustrations of Jonson's character and manner of workmanship, I was very unwilling to sacrifice it. All smokers will be interested by it; and as they far out-number (amongst the male sex, at the least) non-smokers, I need make no further apology for its retention.

I have experienced no small degree of pleasure in editing this volume; and now that my task is completed, I feel assured that the book is one which will receive a warm welcome from its fit audience—few or many, as the case may be. So much good English, good sense, good criticism, and keen thinking is not often to be found within the covers of a single book. I will not assert that it contains Thomson's finest work in prose; for, no doubt, the volume called "Essays and Phantasies," which was published during his lifetime, is his greatest achievement outside his verse. Nevertheless, it contains some things as fine as he ever accomplished; and if here and there a suspicion may arise that some passages were not so much the outcome of the author's peculiar temperament as of the struggle for subsistence, the candid and generous critic will hasten to make the proper allowances for them. But such passages are, after all, very few; and Thomson's task-work, however distasteful it may have been to him, was always honestly and conscientiously performed.