THE following pages have been written in the scant leisure of a busy life, made doubly so by the loss which called them forth. They make no pretension to being a critical study of their subject or a minute history of his life. I have aimed to present, concisely and truthfully, the leading events in a career as full of dramatic incident and striking change as the pages of a romance; letting the story tell itself, wherever it has been possible, in the words of its illustrious subject.
Having the advantages of access to his printed and private papers, as well as of a close personal friendship of twenty years, I have been able, I think, to draw a faithful picture of John Boyle O'Reilly as he was in public and private. The picture has not been overcolored by the hand of friendship. If there appear to be more of eulogy than of criticism in the work, the fact is not to be wondered at. It would be impossible for anybody who knew John Boyle O'Reilly intimately to think or write of him in any other strain.
His public life and literary labors will be judged by posterity on their merits. I believe that the judgment will be even more favorable than that passed by his contemporaries. Of his personal character there can be but one judgment. Those nearest him are best able to testify to its unvarying heroism, tenderness, and beauty; but no earthly chronicler can ever tell the whole story of his kindly thoughts and words and deeds. A few of them are here recorded; the greater number are written on the hearts of the thousands whose lives he brightened and blessed; the whole are known only to the God whose mercy gave such a life to the world—whose inscrutable wisdom recalled the gift so soon.