Author's Advertisement

AUTHOR'S ADVERTISEMENT The world has been very kind o this book. The sales of the English editions in their various forms have exceeded a million and a half. In Chicago I was assured many years ago, by an enterprising pirate now retired, that the sales throughout the United States had exceeded a million; and although, in consequence of its having been published before the Copyright Convention, this has brought me no material advantage, the fame and popularity it has won for me among the American public is an asset not to be despised. It has been translated into, I think, every European language, also into some of those of Asia. It has brought me many thousands of letters from young folk, from old fold; from well fold, from sick folk; from merry folk, from sad fold. They have come to me from all parts of the world, from men and women of all countries. Had these letters been the only result I should feel glad that I had written the book. I retain a few blackened pages of one copy sent me by a young colonial officer from South Africa. They were taken from the knapsack of a dead comrade found on Spion Kop. So much for testimonials. It remains only to explain the merits justifying such an extraordinary success. I am quite unable to do so. I have written books that have appeared to me more clever, books that have appeared to me more humorous. But it is as the author of Three Men in a Boat (to say nothing of the Dog) that the public persists in remembering me. Certain critics used to suggest that it was the vulgarity of the book, its entire absence of humour, that accounted for its success with the people; but one feels by this time that such a suggestion does not solve the riddle. Bad art may succeed for a time and with a limited public; it does not go on extending its circle throughout nearly half a century. I have come to the conclusion that, be the explanation what it may, I can take credit to myself for having written this book. That is, if I did write it. For really I hardly remember doing so. I remember only feeling very young and absurdly pleased with myself for reasons that concern only myself. It was summer time, and London is so beautiful in summer. It lay beneath my window a fairy city veiled in golden mist, for I worked in a room high up above the chimney-pots; and at night the lights shone far beneath me, so that I looked down as into an Aladdin's cave of jewels. It was during those summer months I wrote this book; it seemed the only thing to do.

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