« הקודםהמשך »
DEDICATED TO THE MEMORY OF MY BELOVED WIFE, MELVILLE,
MY COMPANION AND HELPER IN ALL GOOD WORKS
FOR NEARLY THIRTY YEARS ; AND OF
MY DEAR SON, GORDON, THE MOST UNSELFISH CHARACTER I
This book is the result of a severe breakdown in health which occurred more than a year ago. I was under the impression then that it had brought my public work to an end, and still fear that this may be its effect. It was the outcome of many years of overstrain, culminating in a complete collapse. I had no thought of attempting a review of my work till my dear old friend, Dr. J. Murray Mitchell, whose acquaintance I made in India forty years ago, strongly urged me to do so. The thought was at first repugnant to me. It seemed egotistical, and I put it from me. But my venerable friend persevered, and I began to see certain advantages that might accrue from this course. The chief was that it might keep alive the memory of causes to which I had dedicated my life, and perhaps advance them after I was gone. I saw that it gave me an easy way of speaking of great questions which I can no longer advocate in Parliament or on the platform, and that by means of the printed page it may be true in some measure that "he, being dead, yet speaketh."
An old veteran, after forty years of arduous life, feels it sad to ground arms, but a book like this may tend to keep alive his influence, and may enable him to speak to the next generation.
My object is not to write an autobiography, but to give a record of work done, strung lightly upon a thread of personal narrative. Without this thread there would be a lack of consecutive interest ; and personality is necessary to give a human interest to any real life. Beyond this I do not go. Things essentially private are rarely touched upon, and only when necessary to the general narrative. Living persons, I hope, are also touched in a way that will not cause umbrage to any.
It will be said by some that this is a book de omnibus rebus et quibusdam aliis.” It is true that my life touched on many points
of interest. It was filled full of strenuous effort, and varied by much travel, but the very variety may make it easier for the reader. Some subjects may seem to claim a disproportionate space, especially that of our great Indian Empire ; but it laid hold of me forty years ago, and has engaged much of my time and labours ever since. I have long felt that it involves by far the most difficult problems that confront our nation in the future, exceeding in complexity even those of South Africa, and I have offered the best suggestions I can give after pondering those questions for a lifetime. I have also dealt at some length with American questions, which I have studied closely in several visits, for our future relations with America are almost as important as those with India.
Those not interested in special subjects, such, for instance, as the bimetallic controversy, can pass them over ; but an effort has been made to free such questions from technicality, and make them intelligible to the general reader.
A certain amount of repetition is unavoidable, for public men have often to recur to the same subjects, and extracts from speeches and addresses are of necessity numerous. But many of these are thrown into the Appendix, so as not to break the course of the narrative unduly
This work has been pursued under difficulties : often intermitted in times of weakness, then resumed, and frequently pencilled in bed. It seemed at times a race with health, and even with life. The indulgence of the reader is claimed on this account; but if my book should inspire generous and ardent youth to a nobler life, it will have attained its object. May it enable some who come after me to leave
“Footprints on the sands of time-
Sailing o'er life's solemn main,
Seeing, may take heart again.”
Orchill, Braco, Perthshire,