Page:Literature and Dogma (1883).djvu/12

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

accompanied it. The public to which the book was in the first instance addressed was one which expects, with a work of this kind, such an apparatus. But to the general public its fulness is not so well suited, and, for them, its reduction probably improves the book at the same time that it shortens it.

I do not, however, choose for the experiment of a popular edition this book, merely because it admits of being shortened, or because it has been much in demand. I choose it far more for the reason that I think it, of all my books in prose, the one most important (if I may say so) and most capable of being useful. Ten years ago, when it was first published, I explained my design in writing it. No one who has had experience of the inattention and random judgments of mankind will be very quick to cry out because a serious design is not fairly and fully apprehended. Literature and Dogma, however, has perhaps had more than its due share of misrepresentation.

The sole notion of Literature and Dogma, with many people, is that it is a book containing an abominable illustration, and attacking Christianity. It may be regretted that an illustration likely to be torn from its context, to be improperly used, and to give pain, should ever have been adopted. But it was not employed aggressively or bitterly; on the contrary, it was part of a plea for treating popular religion with gentleness and indulgence. Many of those who have most violently protested against the illustration resent it, no doubt, because it directs attention to that extreme licence of affirmation about God which prevails in our popular religion; and one is not the easier forgiven for direct-