Not having even been asked to do so, I write this preface from admiration of the book. The translation I have not yet seen, but knowing previous work by the same hand, have confidence in it.
How much the story is founded on fact I cannot tell; a substratum of fact there must be. To know that such a man once lived as is represented in it, might well wake a new feeling of both strength and obligation: here is one who, with absolutely no help from what is commonly meant by education, lived heroically. But be the tale as much a product of the imagination as the wildest romance, it remains a significant fact that the generation has produced a man capable of such an ideal.
For the more evident tendency of art has for some time been to an infinite degeneracy. The cry of "Art for art's sake," as a protest against the pursuit of art for the sake of money or fame, one can recognize in its half wisdom, knowing the right cry to be, "Art for truth's sake!" But when certain writers tell us that the true aim of the author of fiction is to give the people what they want, namely, a reflection, as in a mirror, of themselves--a mirror not such as will show them to themselves as they are, but as they seem to each other, some of us feel that we stand on the verge of an abyss of falsehood. The people--in whose favour they seem to live and move and have their being--desire, they say, no admixture of further object, nothing to indicate they ought not to be what they are, or show them what they ought to be: they acknowledge no relations with the ideal, only with that which is--themselves, namely, and what they think and do. Such writers do not understand that nothing does or can exist except the ideal; nor is their art-philosophy other than "procuress to the lords of hell." Whoever has an ideal and is making no struggle toward it, is sinking into the outer darkness. The ideal is the end, and must be the object of life. Attained, or but truly conceived, we must think of it as the indispensable.
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