"I had a friend who loved me;” but he has gone, and the “great gulf” is between us.
After his death I received a packet of manuscript with these few words:—
“What I have written may appeal to you because of our friendship, and because, when you come to read them, you will seek to grasp, in these apparent confidences, an inner meaning that to the end will elude you. If you think others, not the many but the few, might find here any answer to their unuttered questionings, any fellowship of sympathy in those experiences which are the milestones of our lives, then use the letters as you will, but without my name. I shall have gone, and the knowledge of my name would make no one either wiser or happier.”
In the packet I found these letters. I cannot tell whether there is any special order in which they should be read—there was nothing to guide me on that point. I do not know whether they are to real or imaginary people, whether they were ever sent or only written as an amusement, a relief to feeling, or with a purpose—the one to which they are now put, for instance. One thing is certain, namely, that, however taken, they are not all indited to the same person; of that there seems to be convincing internal evidence.
The writer was, by trade, a diplomatist; by inclination, a sportsman with literary and artistic tastes; by force of circumstances he was a student of many characters, and in some sense a cynic. He was also a traveller—not a great traveller, but he knew a good deal of Europe, a little of America, much of India and the further East. He spent some time in this neighbourhood, and was much interested in the country and its people. There is an Eastern atmosphere about many of the letters, and he made no secret of the fact that he was fascinated by the glamour of the lands of sunshine. He died very suddenly by misadventure, and, even to me, his packet of letters came rather as a revelation.
Before determining to publish the letters, I showed them to a friend on whose opinion I knew the writer had set store. He said, “The critic will declare there is too much scenery, too much sentiment. Very likely he will be right for those whose lives are passed in the streets of London, and the letters will not interest so many readers as would stories of blood and murder. Yet leave them. Love is in the atmosphere day and night, and the scenery is in true proportion to our lives here, where, after all, sunsets are commoner than murders.” Therefore I have left them as they came to me, only using my discretion to omit some of the letters altogether.
To be continue in this ebook