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The Author of this tale cannot happily commit it to his readers without begging them not to allow the lighter portions to hinder thoughtfulness in reading the more serious. The transition from the mirthful to the grave is perhaps unusually sudden; and this may be more startling because authors generally divide narratives of this description into solemn and cheerful chapters. But it is difficult to see what they gain by this method; for such works are not read by chapters, but by large portions, or straight through: 80 that, whatever objection attaches to the quicker transitions of this tale belongs equally to all books of the same class. And, indeed, the tendency which they have to mix up different states of feeling, and to lead persons to regard grave subjects with some degree of levity, might well induce the clergy to abandon this style of writing but for peculiar and counterbalancing advantages. Those advantages are that, just as catechising enables the teacher to mention many things, and to use modes of speech which are precluded in preaching; so here, it is easy to enter into details, and into lesser faults or virtues, or greater, as they manifest themselves in common place life, and so to give advice where it would not otherwise be possible. Again, a narrative partakes of the uses of biography. It pictures and makes vivid; it realises, and to all appearance renders possible, and even probable, virtues which would generally seem difficult, and almost unattainable.
Besides, it is well known that many persons can be induced to read an amusing book, who will not look at one which is grave and closely reasoned, though twice as improving. And we must add, that, after all, this sharp transition is truer and more faithful, more like our real daily life, and therefore not only safe but profitable, if rightly contemplated. Each day of a Christian man is made up of hopes and disappointments, of worldly business and pleasures, constantly seasoned and broken in upon by devotional acts and thoughts. To a thoughtful man, indeed, , pleasures and pains, labour and rest, and everything around him, are constantly suggesting some
spiritual meditation, so that all the day, from morning till evening, is a succession, and quick succession of ideas, grave and light, spiritual and worldly; and a man is never safe, and never happy, until he is able readily, and as it were naturally, to pass out of one state of feeling into another, or rather until he is so fixed and formed in religion, that those things which are not of it pass as it were through his mind, leaving him always the same; just as the blue heavens are crossed and re-crossed by the clouds, but remain in their own unchanging clearness.
It remains, therefore, with the reader to go with the transitions of this tale as with the transitions of his life. The Author can secure him from risk neither in the one case nor in the other; but a serious intention to do right, and to improve, will go far to insure its object, and will leave the mind free to pluck a few flowers of amusement by the way.
The Author, then, commends this little volume to his readers, in the belief that the farmers of England are an important class, and one hardly recognising its privileges, power, and consequent responsibility; believing, too, that hard times are coming, and that habits of exertion, simplicity of life, a more scientific and thorough education, with the self-discipline and quietness of spirit which our Church, when followed, so eminently produces, are necessary to meet the trials and difficulties of the day.
Would that he might also believe that, under God's blessing, these pages will assist some of those for whom they are written in the course before them; and help to make the English farmer that blessing to himself, and to those under and around him, which he may and ought to be.