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WILLIAM G O DWIN,
Author of “PoliticAL JUSTICE,” “cALEB williams,” Etc.,
IS RESPECTFULLY INSCRIBED BY THE AUTHOR.
<& HE 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 recording 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 recommended by the novelty of the situations which it develops; 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 endeavored 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; Shakspeare, in the “Tempest” and “Midsummer 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 labors, may, without presumption, apply to prose fiction a license, or rather a rule, from the adoption of which so many exquisite combinations 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