The editor of the following work thinks it may be interesting to his readers to know how the original manuscript came into his hands.
Some years ago, an old lady of rank and fashion died suddenly in the country, at the house of a friend where she had been paying a visit. She had long outlived all her contemporary relatives and friends, and, having no family, the little property she possessed passed to some distant relations.
As it was well known that her fortune consisted solely of her jointure, which she was accustomed to spend to the last farthing, no one entertained any idea of benefiting by the event; and consequently, no one taking any interest in the matter, the editor was deputed to examine her repositories, and to destroy such letters and papers as might appear to be of no importance.
While doing so, he discovered a curious old cabinet, which appeared to have been the receptacle for every description of old remembrance: miniatures, snuff boxes, locks of hair, and a quantity of old-fashioned trinkets of no intrinsic value - mingled with notes, letters, and copies of verses - filled the drawers.
After clearing them out, it struck the editor that there was something peculiar in the shape of the cabinet and disposition of the drawers, and after a minute examination, he became satisfied that there was a secret drawer, which he had not explored. It cost him a good deal of trouble to divine the secret, but at last he succeeded in opening it. He was somewhat disappointed at first on finding that it contained merely a packet of papers in an envelope, with a superscription in the old lady's handwriting, to the effect that it was to be destroyed unopened in the event of her death.
As there was no one alive who was likely to be annoyed by the disclosure of any secrets of which the old lady might have been the depository, the editor took the liberty of opening the packet and perusing the contents. These proved to be a series of letters, written in different hands, evidently of youthful writers.
One of them was clearly the hand of the old lady herself, though somewhat different from that of her later years. The letters not only bore the marks of age, but also of having been frequently perused, and it was quite apparent that the venerable lady had been unable to resist the temptation of occasionally recurring to these tender reminiscences of the joys of her youth, and had preserved them for this purpose. It appeared from a note on one of them that her own letters had been returned to her by her friend, who had long predeceased her, so that the series was complete.
The editor was so much interested and amused with the contents of these letters that, before complying with the direction to destroy them, he took the liberty of making a copy for his own perusal, and he now presents them to the world, with the hope that they may afford to others as much gratification as they have done to him.
The old lady had taken care to obliterate the names of all persons and places referred to in them, so far as necessary, in such a manner as to give no trace of the real actors in the scenes of pleasure. The only other alteration made has been to select such portions of the letters as bore upon the same subject, and to make them follow each other, so as to present a continuous narrative, without distracting the attention by diverging, from one set of adventures to another.
If the present series shall be as favourably received as the editor ventures to expect, the remainder may, someday, see the light.