This slightly-built romance was the outcome of a wish to set the
emotional history of two infinitesimal lives against the stupendous
background of the stellar universe, and to impart to readers the
sentiment that of these contrasting magnitudes the smaller might be
the greater to them as men.
But, on the publication of the book people seemed to be less struck
with these high aims of the author than with their own opinion,
first, that the novel was an 'improper' one in its morals, and,
secondly, that it was intended to be a satire on the Established
Church of this country. I was made to suffer in consequence from
several eminent pens.
That, however, was thirteen years ago, and, in respect of the first
opinion, I venture to think that those who care to read the story
now will be quite astonished at the scrupulous propriety observed
therein on the relations of the sexes; for though there may be
frivolous, and even grotesque touches on occasion, there is hardly a
single caress in the book outside legal matrimony, or what was
intended so to be.
As for the second opinion, it is sufficient to draw attention, as I
did at the time, to the fact that the Bishop is every inch a
gentleman, and that the parish priest who figures in the narrative
is one of its most estimable characters.
However, the pages must speak for themselves. Some few readers, I
trust--to take a serious view--will be reminded by this imperfect
story, in a manner not unprofitable to the growth of the social
sympathies, of the pathos, misery, long-suffering, and divine
tenderness which in real life frequently accompany the passion of
such a woman as Viviette for a lover several years her junior.
The scene of the action was suggested by two real spots in the part
of the country specified, each of which has a column standing upon
it. Certain surrounding peculiarities have been imported into the
narrative from both sites.