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In presenting the following humble attempt at history-writing to the reader, I am selfish enough to admit a preference for his tender mercy rather than for his critical judgment. I would ask him to remember that there are many almost insurmountable difficulties to be faced in the accomplishment of a work like this, and a narrowed space adds to rather than diminishes from their antagonistic power.
When the work was first proposed to me, it was imagined that the subject could be fully disposed of in less than five hundred pages. I have already gone considerably over that number, and feel that the charge of incompleteness may still be brought against the book. But I also feel that if I had extended it to five thousand pages, the charge could still have been made, for with such a subject actual exhaustion cannot be expected; and so, despite the great quantity of unused material I have yet by me, I must rest satisfied with what I have done. I trust the reader will be satisfied also.
Almost everybody has in the course of his lifetime discovered some sort of a pet advertisement without which he considers no collection can be complete. During the progress of this "history" I have received many hundreds such—have received sufficient, with accompanying notes, to fill a bigger volume than this—and I can therefore imagine every fresh reader turning to look for his favourite, and, in the event of his finding it not, condemning the book unconditionally. I hope that in the event of a reconsideration some worthy representative will be found occupying the missing one's place. In like manner, and judging by my own friends' observations, I have found that almost every one would have treated the "history" differently, not only from my way but from each other's. Every one would have done something wonderful with such a wonderful subject.