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P. R. E. F. A. C. E.
In the present volume are included “Up the Rhine,” with all the original illustrations, and a series of “Romances and Extravaganzas.” .
“ Up the Rhine” was completed at Ostend in 1889, and was published before Christmas in that year, with such marked success that a large edition was disposed of in less than a fortnight. The second was locked up in a lawsuit, in which HooD was successful, but the book was a sufferer. It is now reproduced, from a copy of the second edition, the preface to which is dated the 23d of January, 1840. “Jane is horrified,” Hood wrote about the time of its appearance, “at my sending out ‘Up the Rhine’; she says it contains so many quizzes on the Germans. But as you know, I quiz by preference my best friends, and it is in favor of the Germans that they can afford to be quizzed. It may seem a paradox, but only respectable people are quizzable; nobody dreams of quizzing good-for-nothings and blackguards: and if ‘age commands respect.' (you remember your copy-book,) so it commands quizzing.”
The “Romances and Extravaganzas” — excepting a few taken from the later volumes of the Comic Annual—first appeared in the New Monthly and in Hood's Magazine, during the latter years of the author's life. Among the latest is “Mrs. Peck's Pudding.” which was published in the Christmas number of the Magazine in 1844, and of which the children of Hood write, in their charming Memorials, that it afforded seasonable amusement at all firesides but its author’s. “His own family,” they add, “never enjoyed his quaint and humorous fancies, for they were all associated with memories of illness and anxiety. Although Hood's ‘Comic Annual,” as he himself used to remark with pleasure, was in every house seized upon, and almost worn out by the frequent handling of little fingers, his own children did not enjoy it till the lapse of many years had mercifully softened down some of the sad recollections connected with it. The only article that I can remember we ever really thoroughly enjoyed, was ‘Mrs. Gardiner, a Horticultural Romance,’ and even this was composed in bed. But the illness he was then suffering from was only rheumatic fever, and not one of his dangerous attacks, and he was unusually cheerful. He sat up in bed, dictating it to my mother, interrupted by our bursts of irrepressible laughter, as joke after joke came from his lips, he all the while laughing and relishing it as much as we did. But this was a rare — indeed almost solitary — instance; for he could not usually write so well at any time as at night, when all the house was quiet. Our family rejoicings were generally when the work was over, and we were too thankful to be rid of the harass and hurry, to care much for the results of such labor.”
His son writes that he believes this last-named story the most humorous production of the author, and that the heroine was a ludicrous pen-and-ink portrait of a landlady with whom the family lodged in the Elm Tree Road.
We trust that both these stories, with the many equally entertaining in this new collection, will long continue to furnish to new readers, not merely Christmas amusement, but amusement for “all the year round.”