Roland Cashel Volume I (of II)

Language: English
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I first thought of this story—I should say I planned it, if the expression were not misleading—when living at the Lake of Como. There, in a lovely little villa—the "Cima"—on the border of the lake, with that glorious blending of Alpine scenery and garden-like luxuriance around me, and little or none of interruption or intercourse, I had abundant time to make acquaintance with my characters and follow them into innumerable situations, and through adventures far more extraordinary and exciting than I dared afterwards to recount.

I do not know how it may be with other story-tellers, but I have to own for myself that the personages of a novel gain over at times a degree of interest very little inferior to that inspired by living and real people, and that this is especially the case when I have found myself in some secluded spot and seeing little of the world. To such an ascendancy has this deception attained, that more than once I have found myself trying to explain why this person should have done that, and by what impulse that other was led into something else. In fact, I have found that there are conditions of the mind in which purely imaginary creations assume the characters of actual people, and act positively as though they were independent of the will that invented them.

Of the strange manner in which imagination can thus assume the mastery, and for a while at least have command over the mind, I cannot give a stronger instance within my own experience than the mode in which this story was first conceived.

When I began I intended that the action should be carried on in the land where the tale opened. The scene on every side of me had shed its influence, the air was weighty with the perfume of the lime and the orange. To days of dazzling brilliancy there succeeded nights of tropical splendor; with stars of almost preternatural magnitude streaking the calm lake with long lines of light. To people a scene like this with the sort of characters that might befit it, was rather a matter of necessity with me than choice, and it was then that Maritaña revealed herself to me with a charm of loveliness I have never been able to repicture. It was there I bethought me of those passionate natures in which climate and soil and vegetation reproduce themselves, glowing, ardent, and voluptuous as they are. It was there my fancy loved to stray among the changeful incidents of lives of wild adventure and wilder passion; and to imagine the strange discords that could be evoked between the traits of a land that recalled Paradise and the natures that were only angelic in the fall.

I cannot trust to my memory to remind me of the sort of tale I meaned to write. I know there was to have been a perfect avalanche of adventure on land and on sea. I know that through a stormy period of daily peril and excitement, the traits of the Northern temperament in Roland himself were to have asserted their superiority over his more impulsive comrades; I know he was to have won that girl's love against a rivalry that set life in the issue; and I have a vague impression of how such a character might come by action and experience to develop such traits as make men the rulers of their fellows....