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PREFACE.

The event on which this fiction is founded has been supposed, by Dr. Darwin, and some of the physiological writers of Germany, as not of impossible occurrence. I shall not be supposed as according the remotest degree of serious faith. to such an imagination ; yet, in assuming it as the basis of a work of fancy, I have not considered myself as merely weaving a series of supernatural terrors. The event on

which the interest of the story depends is exempt from the disadvantages of a mere tale of spectres or enchantment. It was recom

mended by the novelty of the situ

ations which it developes; and, however impossible as a physical fact, affords a point of view to the

imagination for the delineating of

human passions more comprehensive and commanding than any which the ordinary relations of existing events can yield. I have thus endeavoured to preserve the truth of the elementary

principles of human nature, while I have not scrupled to innovate upon

their combinations. The Iliad, the

tragic poetry of Greece,—Shake

speare, in the Tempest and Mid

[graphic]

summer Night's Dream,_and most especially Milton, in Paradise Lost, conform to this rule; and the most humble novelist, who seeks to confer or receive amusement from his labours, may, without presumption, apply to prose fiction a licence, or rather a rule, from the adoption of which so many exquisite combina: tions of human feeling have resulted in the highest specimens of poetry. . The circumstance on which my story rests was suggested in casual conversation. It was commenced, partly as a source of amusement, and partly as an expedient for exercising any untried resources of mind. Other motives were min- gled with these, as the work pro

ceeded. I am by no means indifferent to the manner in which whatever moral tendencies exist in the sentiments or characters it contains shall affect the reader; yet my chief concern in this respect has been limited to the avoiding the enervating effects of the novels of the present day, and to the exhibition of the amiableness of domestic affection, and the excellence of universal virtue. The opinions which naturally spring from the character and situation of the hero are by no means to be conceived as existing always in my own conviction; nor is any inference justly to be drawn from the following pages as prejudicing any philosophical doctrine of whatever kiud.

It is a subject also of additional interest to the author, that this story was begun in the majestic region where the scene is principally laid, and in society which cannot cease to be regretted. I passed the summer of 1816 in the environs of Geneva. The season was cold and rainy, and in the evenings we crowded around a blazing wood fire, and occasionally amused ourselves with some German stories of ghosts, which happenened to fall into our hands. These tales excited in us a playful desire of imitation. Two other friends (a tale from the pen of one of whom would be far more acceptable to the public than any thing I can ever hope to produce) and

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