Poor Miss FinchWilkie Collins
Produced by James Rusk
POOR MISS FINCH
TO MRS. ELLIOT,
(OF THE DEANERY, BRISTOL).
WILL YOU honor me by accepting the Dedication of this book, inremembrance of an uninterrupted friendship of many years?
More than one charming blind girl, in fiction and in the drama, haspreceded "Poor Miss Finch." But, so far as I know, blindness in thesecases has been always exhibited, more or less exclusively, from the idealand the sentimental point of view. The attempt here made is to appeal toan interest of another kind, by exhibiting blindness as it really is. Ihave carefully gathered the information necessary to the execution ofthis purpose from competent authorities of all sorts. Whenever "Lucilla"acts or speaks in these pages, with reference to her blindness, she isdoing or saying what persons afflicted as she is have done or said beforeher. Of the other features which I have added to produce and sustaininterest in this central personage of my story, it does not become me tospeak. It is for my readers to say if "Lucilla" has found her way totheir sympathies. In this character, and more especially again in thecharacters of "Nugent Dubourg" and "Madame Pratolungo," I have tried topresent human nature in its inherent inconsistencies andself-contradictions--in its intricate mixture of good and evil, of greatand small--as I see it in the world about me. But the faculty ofobserving character is so rare, the curiously mistaken tendency to lookfor logical consistency in human motives and human actions is so general,that I may possibly find the execution of this part of my taskmisunderstood--sometimes even resented--in certain quarters. However,Time has stood my friend in relation to other characters of mine in otherbooks--and who can say that Time may not help me again here? Perhaps, oneof these days, I may be able to make use of some of the many interestingstories of events that have really happened, which have been placed in myhands by persons who could speak as witnesses to the truth of thenarrative. Thus far, I have not ventured to disturb the repose of thesemanuscripts in the locked drawer allotted to them. The true incidents areso "far-fetched"; and the conduct of the real people is so "grosslyimprobable"!
As for the object which I have had in view in writing this story, it is,I hope, plain enough to speak for itself. I subscribe to the article ofbelief which declares, that the conditions of human happiness areindependent of bodily affliction, and that it is even possible for bodilyaffliction itself to take its place among the ingredients of happiness.These are the views which "Poor Miss Finch" is intended to advocate--andthis is the impression which I hope to leave on the mind of the readerwhen the book is closed.
January 16th, 1872.
NOTE TO THE PRESENT EDITION.
IN expressing my acknowledgments for the favorable reception accorded tothe previous editions of this story, I may take the present opportunityof adverting to one of the characters, not alluded to in the Letter ofDedication. The German oculist--"Herr Grosse"--has impressed himself sostrongly as a real personage on the minds of some of my readers afflictedwith blindness, or suffering from diseases of the eye, that I havereceived several written applications requesting me to communicate hispresent address to patients desirous of consulting him! Sincerelyappreciating the testimony thus rendered to the truth of this littlestudy of character, I have been obliged to acknowledge to mycorrespondents--and I may as well repeat it here--that Herr Grosse has no(individual) living prototype. Like the other Persons of the Drama, inthis book and in the books which have preceded it, he is drawn from mygeneral observation of humanity. I have always considered it to be amistake in Art to limit the delineation of character in fiction to aliterary portrait taken from any one "sitter." The result of this processis generally (to my mind) to produce a caricature instead of a character.
November 27th, 1872