IT seems to be necessary to say a few words in reference to the contents of this volume as I offer it to the public. Several of the incidents related in the story have already appeared in print, and have been copied in various newspapers throughout the country. Sometimes they have been attributed to the author; but more frequently they have been given either without any name attached to them, or they have been credited to persons who probably never saw them. The best of the anecdotes have been imitated, but none of them, I believe, are imitations. I make this statement, so that if the reader should happen to encounter anything that has a familiar appearance, he may understand that he has the original and not a copy before him. But a very large portion of the matter contained in the book is entirely new, and is now published for the first time; while all the rest of it has been rewritten and improved, so that it is as good as new.
If this little venture shall achieve popularity, I must attribute the fact largely to the admirable pictures with which it has been adorned by the artists whose names appear upon the title page. All of these gentlemen have my hearty thanks for the efforts they have made to accomplish the best results; but while I express my appreciation of the beautiful landscapes of Mr. Schell, the admirable drawings of Mr. Sheppard and the excellent designs of Mr. Bensell, I wish to direct attention especially to the humorous pictures of Mr. Arthur B. Frost. This artist makes his first appearance before the public in these pages. These are the only drawings upon wood that he has ever executed, and they are so nicely illustrative of the text, they display so much originality and versatility, and they have such genial humor, with so little extravagance and exaggeration, that they seem to me surely to give promise of a prosperous career for the artist.
It is customary upon these occasions to say something of an apologetic nature for the purpose of inducing the public to believe that the author regards with humility the work of which he is really exceedingly proud—something that will tend to soften the blows which are expected from ferocious and cruel critics. But I believe I have nothing of this kind to offer. If I thought the book required an apology, I would not publish it. Any reviewer who does not like it is at liberty to say so; and I am the more ready to accord him this permission because I am impressed with the conviction that he will hit as hard as he wants to whether I give him leave or withhold it. All I ask is that the volume shall have fair play. If it is successful as an attempt to construct a book of humor which will contribute to innocent popular amusement without violating the laws that govern the construction and orthography of the English language, and as an effort to give pleasure to sensible grown people without offering entertainment to children and idiots, it deserves commendation. If it is a failure in these respects, then it ought to be suppressed, for it certainly has no mighty moral purpose, and it is not designed to reform anything on earth but the personal fortunes of the author.