Heart and Science by Wilkie Collins Page 1 of 375
HEART AND SCIENCE
A Story of the Present Time
By Wilkie Collins
I. PREFACE TO READERS IN GENERAL
You are the children of Old Mother England, on both sides of the Atlantic; you form the majority of buyers and borrowers of novels; and you judge of works of fiction by certain inbred preferences, which but slightly influence the other great public of readers on the continent of Europe.
The two qualities in fiction which hold the highest rank in your estimation are: Character and Humour. Incident and dramatic situation only occupy the second place in your favour.
A novel that tells no story, or that blunders perpetually in trying to tell a story-a novel so entirely devoid of all sense of the dramatic side of human life, that not even a theatrical thief can find anything in it to steal-will nevertheless be a work that wins (and keeps) your admiration, if it has Humour which dwells on your memory, and characters which enlarge the circle of your friends.
I have myself always tried to combine the different merits of a good novel, in one and the same work; and I have never succeeded in keeping an equal balance. In the present story you will find the scales inclining, on the whole, in favour of character and Humour. This has not happened accidentally.
Advancing years, and health that stands sadly in need of improvement, warn me-if I am to vary my way of work-that I may have little time to lose. Without waiting for future opportunities, I have kept your standard of merit more constantly before my mind, in writing this book, than on some former occasions.