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A brief explanation, both of the circumstances under which this work has been written and published, and of the plan upon which it has been prepared, is due to the reader.
When the author was about to go to Europe, in the year 1835, many of his friends requested him to write something respecting the countries which he might visit during his sojourn in the old world, if the nature of his work there, and the duties which resulted from it, should permit. He could hardly do otherwise than promise compliance with their wishes. At that epoch, neither he nor any of his friends foresaw that his labors in Europe, for the philanthropic and religious objects for which he was sent thither, would call him to any other country than France, and those which are contiguous to it.
In a short time, however, it became obvious that duty required him to visit almost the entire continent. Accordingly he has continued, with two interruptions, occasioned by visits to his native country, to pursue the work to which he was called, and in its prosecution he has visited most of the countries in Europe twice, and some of them three times.
These repeated and protracted visits to the various parts of the great field of his efforts, certainly offered him favorable opportunities for obtaining extensive information respecting the different countries which were comprised in it. But the nature and variety of his duties rendered the writing of a book extremely difficult, if not impossible. Nevertheless, last year, during his second visit to the Scandinavian countries, the attempt was made to write something which might be useful to his friends and countrymen, respecting at least that portion of the continent. And amidst the sufferingsresulting from a long-continued illness—which he endured, on a journey of several months in Scandinavia and Russia, the following work was mainly written; while his many and pressing duties since he returned to pass a few months in this country, have not left him time to do more than review what he had written on the spot, and supply such portions of the work as he had not been able to write in the course of the journey which it undertakes to describe.
Under these unfavorable circumstances, the work was prepared, and is presented to the public. The author is deeply sensible that it is neither what it ought to be, nor what it would have been,-if he could have spared the necessary time for its proper preparation. But such time he never expects to find, and therefore, if he published the work at all, he must publish it as it is, and throw himself upon a public which he believes to be disposed to judge with kindness every attempt, however humble, to contribute something towards the augmentation of useful knowledge respecting other countries. Thus much for the circumstances under which this book was written and now issues from
A word or two in relation to the plan which has been adopted.
Two courses, widely differing from each other, presented themselves to the author's mind at the outset, in regard to the nature of his proposed work.
The one was to write a book which should contain as much interesting and useful information respecting the countries of which it might treat, as could be conveniently exhibited in such a work, and as little about the personal adventures of the author as would be consistent with giving to it some degree of connection and unity.
The other was to write a book of travels, properly so called, and fill it with accounts of what he saw or heard in the countries under consideration, and of his intercourse with the various classes of persons with whom he came in contact.
There can be little doubt as to which of these courses it would have been the more easy to pursue; and just as little as to which would have secured the greater degree of popularity. Had the author resolved to follow the latter, he could without difficulty, and without drawing very largely on his imagination, have filled a work with incidents that fell under his observation, or which he heard from others, which, it is probable, would be read with not a little interest. This would have been more certainly the case if he had given freely and extensively the remarks that were made to him by many of the distinguished individuals with whose acquaintance he was honored, and whose hospitalities, in not a few cases, he was invited to enjoy.
It did not require a moment's deliberation to decide on the former course as more likely to be useful, however difficult to execute; and to reject the latter, as likely to lead, on the one hand, to the saying of many things of no sort of utility to the reader, and on the other, of violating confidence, and doing what would be discreditable to himself, and what is of far greater consequence, to the country which he is proud to call his own, and which he can truly say that every year's residence abroad renders dearer than ever to his heart.
He therefore resolved to prepare a work which, whilst it might contain some notices of his own comparatively insig nificant movements, should be filled mainly with such geographical, topographical, historical, and biographical sketches, interspersed with useful and interesting anecdotes and facts, as might, in his opinion, be instructive to the reader. Upon this basis the work has been written ; and this explains why so much detail has been given.
The author has had frequent occasion to lament, when perusing books of travels, that they often fail to give the reader a correct or satisfactory conception of the places which are proposed to be described. He would state a single instance: how often has he read in books of travels, to say nothing of letters in the newspapers, of the Golden Horn at Constantinople, and yet never, so far as he recollects, has he seen in any book, an intelligible description of that beautiful
sheet of water, which runs up from the Bosphorus and separates the city of Constantinople from a suburb that lies to the east, and forms, in fact, one of the finest harbors in the world. How far he has himself avoided this defect, it does not become him to say. Travellers, after having visited a particular scene, and of course having their minds filled with the clear impressions which personal observation always gives, are ever in danger, when they sit down to write, not only of losing all recollection of their own former ignorance and misconceptions, but of actually taking it for granted that those for whom they write have very much the same ideas of the scenes which they are about to describe as they themselves now possess.
The reader will find that the present work differs in many respects, from the generality of books of travels. A chapter has been bestowed on the history of each of the most important of the Scandinavian countries, because the author has supposed that the reader would be interested in perusing such an epitome of the past, before he enters upon the more minute details which follow. Biographical sketches have been given of Thorvaldsen, Griffenfeld, Tordenskiold, Tycho Brahé, and other distinguished men, because it was hoped that they would be found interesting and instructive.
In a word, the author, in preparing this work, has acted very much upon the principle of supposing that those who will read it know but little about the countries of which it treats; and in doing so, he has availed himself of all the means which he possessed of collecting such information as he deemed most likely to be useful, from books, from personal observation, and from the conversations and contributions of the best informed men, whose acquaintance he formed in the countries which are spoken of in this work.
It is probable that this book will fall into the hands of some who are already familiar with all the information which it contains. To such persons the author begs leave to offer two remarks: First, he prays them to remember that there may be others who are less informed on the subject than they are. And secondly, he forewarns them that the book was not written for them. Let them, therefore, put it aside.
The age of dedications is pretty much passed away; and if it were not, the author has no pretensions to the patronage of any one. But if he thought it advisable to attempt any thing of the sort, he would inscribe this humble work, first to the friends of his youth in his native county of Fayette, in Pennsylvania, who have been pleased to take a lively interest in all that has concerned him; and next to the many friends and acquaintances whom he is thankful for possessing in so many parts of his country.
It gives the author great pleasure to express here his many obligations to the diplomatic and commercial agents of his government, whom he met in the countries which he visited. He received nothing but kindness from these gentlemen, whose attentions he is happy to know, are most cordially rendered to all their countrymen who visit those hyperborean regions. To none of them is he more indebted than to Christopher Hughes, Esq., who has long been the acceptable and faithful representative of the United States at the Court of Sweden.
One word more: This work is wholly of a miscellaneous character, and treats of no subject exclusively. To such as have expected to find in it a more detailed account of the religious condition of the Scandinavian countries, he would say, that if it please God to spare his life, and continue his health, it is his intention to publish a work on the state of religion throughout the whole con of Europe, and he will, in that work, enter into all the details connected with that subject.
With these remarks the present work is commended by the author to the kind regards of his friends and of the public.
New-York, November, 1841.