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LORD JOHN RUSSELL
AUTHOR OF 'A HISTORY OF ENGLAND FROM 1815'
IN TWO VOLUMES—VOL. I.
LONGMANS, GREEN, AND CO.
AND NEW YORK : 15 EAST 16"' STREET
All rights reserved
My Dear Lady Russell,
It is now more than two years and a half ago since you did me the honour of asking me whether I would undertake to write the life of Lord John Russell. In doing so you were good enough to promise that 'all private as well as public papers, letters, diaries, would be at [my] disposal.' You subsequently gave me an assurance that, in carrying out my work, I should be free from any conditions, and at liberty to deal with the subject in my own way, and in accordance with my own opinions.
In now handing to you these volumes, I desire gratefully to acknowledge the manner in which you have fulfilled your promise and acted on your assurance. You have not only placed at my disposal the private and official papers which are either in your own or in your brother's (Mr. George Elliot's) custody; but you have given me access to diaries and letters of a much more private nature, which have proved of the utmost value to me, but which neither I nor any one— except those who are nearest and dearest to you—could have hoped to have had opened to him.
I have still more gratefully to acknowledge that, throughout my work, you have never attempted to influence me in my treatment of it. You at once acceded to my request that I should not show you what I had written till it was ready for publication. Under these circumstances, it is right that I should point out that the responsibility is with me alone; and that, if I have failed to draw an adequate portrait, the fault and the failure rest on my shoulders.
There are one or two points, in connection with my treatment of the subject, to which it is perhaps best that I should briefly refer.
1. As the materials which you placed at my disposal were laid before me I very soon came to the conclusion that I had two alternatives : (i) the publication of all the correspondence which had either a personal or an historic interest; (2) the selection of such portions of it as would adequately illustrate Lord John Russell's character and career. The first alternative would have involved a work extending over many volumes, which, however important to the historical student, would have been practically useless to the general reader. I consequently selected the second alternative, believing that it was rather the function of a biographer to write a book to be read, than to compile materials to be referred to.
2. In the selection of my materials I have endeavoured to choose those which were not necessarily the most important, but which bore most directly on Lord John's life and character ; while as a general rule I have given a preference to documents that are new, and excluded documents already published in other works.