To read these stories again, thirty and more years after they were written, is to recall many memories, sad or glad, with which this reader need not be interrupted. But I have to make sure that they are intelligible to readers of a generation later than that for which they were written.
The story of The Brick Moon was begun in my dear brother Nathan's working-room in Union College, Schenectady, in the year 1870, when he was professor of the English language there. The account of the first plan of the moon is a sketch, as accurate as was needed, of the old chat and dreams, plans and jokes, of our college days, before he left Cambridge in 1838. As I learned almost everything I know through his care and love and help, directly or indirectly, it is a pleasure to say this here. The story was published in the "Atlantic Monthly," in 1870 and 1871. It was the last story I wrote for that magazine, before assuming the charge of "Old and New," a magazine which I edited from 1870 to 1876, and for which I wrote "Ten Times One is Ten," which has been printed in the third volume of this series.
Among the kind references to "The Brick Moon" which I have received from sympathetic friends, I now recall with the greatest pleasure one sent me by Mr. Asaph Hall, the distinguished astronomer of the National Observatory. In sending me the ephemeris of the two moons of Mars, which he revealed to this world of ours, he wrote, "The smaller of these moons is the veritable Brick Moon." That, in the moment of triumph for the greatest astronomical discovery of a generation, Dr. Hall should have time or thought to give to my little parable,--this was praise indeed.
Writing in 1870, I said, as the reader will see on page 66, that George Orcutt did not tell how he used a magnifying power of 700. Nor did I choose to tell then, hoping that in some fortunate winter I might be able myself to repeat his process, greatly to the convenience of astronomers who have not Alvan Clark's resources at hand, or who have to satisfy themselves with glass lenses of fifteen inches, or even thirty, in diameter. But no such winter has come round to me, and I will now give Orcutt's invention to the world. He had unlimited freezing power. So have we now, as we had not then. With this power he made an ice lens, ten feet in diameter, which was easily rubbed, by the delicate hands of the careful women around him, to precisely the surface which he needed. Let me hope that before next winter passes some countryman or countrywoman of mine will have equalled his success, and with an ice lens will surpass all the successes of the glasses of our time.
The plan of "Crusoe in New York" was made when I was enjoying the princely hospitality of Henry Whitney Bellows in New York. The parsonage in that city commanded a view of a "lot" not built on, which would have given for many years a happy home to any disciple of Mayor Pingree, if a somewhat complicated social order had permitted. The story was first published in Frank Leslie's illustrated paper. In reading it in 1899, I am afraid that the readers of a hard, money generation may not know that "scrip" was in the sixties the name for small change.
I regard a knowledge of every detail of the original Robinson Crusoe as well-nigh a necessity in education. Girls may occasionally be excused, but never boys. It ought to be unnecessary, therefore, to say that some of the narrative passages of Crusoe in New York are taken, word for word, from the text of Defoe. If I do state this for the benefit of a few unfortunate ladies who are not familiar with that text, it is because I think no one among many courteous critics has observed it.
"The Survivor's Story" is one of eight short stories which were published in the first Christmas number of "Old and New."
Of the other stories I think no explanation is needed, but such as was given at the time of their publication and is reprinted with each of them here.
EDWARD E. HALE.
ROXBURY, July 6, 1899.