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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. In 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.
I. 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: (1) 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 thatare new, and excluded documents already published in other works.
3. I can hardly expect that the principles on which I have thus acted will commend themselves to all my readers. An illustrious member of the Russell family, indeed, intimated to me at the commencement of my work that a life of Lord John Russell must be a history of England and of the Whig party during some fifty years. Any one who shares this opinion will meet with nothing but disappointment in these pages. From the beginning to the end of my book, I have endeavoured to recollect that I was not writing a history of England or of the Whig party, but a life of Lord John Russell: and I have been much more anxious to draw a portrait of the man, than to write an account of the time.
4. The title of a book is not perhaps a matter of great importance. But, as those whose judgment I value have told me that the life of a man who became a peer should bear his later and not his earlier name, I am glad to think that you, equally with myself, are of another opinion. The Fox Club, moreover, drinks at its meetings to the memory of Lord John Russell, not of Lord Russell; and it seems to me that it would be as illogical to call a life of Lord John Russell a life of Lord Russell, as it would be to call a life of Francis Bacon a life of Lord Verulam, or a life of Sir Robert Walpole a life of the Earl of Orford.
5. It only remains for me to add that in discharging my task I have endeavoured to remember that it was my business to give Lord John Russell’s opinions and