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Tom Burke Of "Ours", Volume I   By: (1806-1872)

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By Charles James Lever

With Illustrations By Phiz. and Browne





Madam, This weak attempt to depict the military life of France, during the brief but glorious period of the Empire, I beg to dedicate to you. Had the scene of this, like that of my former books, been laid chiefly in Ireland, I should have felt too sensibly my own inferiority to venture on the presumption of such a step. As it is, I never was more conscious of the demerits of my volume than when inscribing it to you; but I cannot resist the temptation of being, even thus, associated with a name, the first in my country's literature.

Another motive I will not conceal, the ardent desire I have to assure you, that, amid the thousands you have made better, and wiser, and happier, by your writings, you cannot count one who feels more proudly the common tie of country with you, nor more sincerely admires your goodness and your genius, than

Your devoted and obedient servant,


Temple O Nov. 25, 1848.


My dear O'Flaherty, It seems that I am to be the "next devoured." Well, be it so; my story, such as it is, you shall have. Only one condition would I bargain for, that you seriously disabuse your readers of the notion that the life before them was one either of much pleasure or profit. I might moralize a little here about neglected opportunities and mistaken opinions; but, as I am about to present you with my narrative, the moral if there be one need not be anticipated.

I believe I have nothing else to premise, save that if my tale have little wit, it has some warning; and as Bob Lambert observed to the hangman who soaped the rope for his execution, "even that same 's a comfort." If our friend Lorrequer, then, will as kindly facilitate my debut, I give him free liberty to "cut me down" when he likes, and am,

Yours, as ever,


To T. O'Flaherty, Esq.


I WAS led to write this story by two impulses: first, the fascination which the name and exploits of the great Emperor had ever exercised on my mind as a boy; and secondly, by the favorable notice which the Press had bestowed upon my scenes of soldier life in "Charles O'Malley."

If I had not in the wars of the Empire the patriotic spirit of a great national struggle to sustain me, I had a field far wider and grander than any afforded by our Peninsular campaigns; while in the character of the French army, composed as it was of elements derived from every rank and condition, there were picturesque effects one might have sought for in vain throughout the rest of Europe.

It was my fortune to have known personally some of those who filled great parts in this glorious drama. I had listened over and over to their descriptions of scenes, to which their look, and voice, and manner imparted a thrilling intensity of interest. I had opportunities of questioning them for explanations, of asking for solutions of this and that difficulty which had puzzled me, till I grew so familiar with the great names of the time, the events, and even the localities, that when I addressed myself to my tale, it was with a mind filled by my topics to the utter exclusion of all other subjects.

Neither before nor since have I ever enjoyed to the same extent the sense of being so entirely engrossed by a single theme. A great tableau of the Empire, from its gorgeous celebrations in Paris to its numerous achievements on the field of battle, was ever outspread before me, and I sat down rather to record than to invent the scenes of my story. A feeling that, as I treated of real events I was bound to maintain a degree of accuracy in relation to them, even in fiction, made me endeavor to possess myself of a correct knowledge of localities, and, so far as I was able, with a due estimate of those whose characters I discussed... Continue reading book >>

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