The Desert Island Option
Contemplating the option of moving to a remote, uninhabited island (as one does) I was reminded of, and ordered a copy of Walter de la Mare's magnificent Desert Islands. It is a wonderful miscellany book containing an essay by de la Mare followed by dozens of excerpts on the topic. I love the book because it is hand-made, a labor of love, and not remotely linear. Point 'A' and Point 'B' are both included, but are nowhere near one another. There are a multitude of equally interesting points along the alphabet scattered more or less randomly through its pages.
Late in the book de la Mare shares this bit - a late addition to the proceedings, he says - the Preface to The Voyages, dangerous Adventures, and imminent Escapes of Capt. Richard Falconer...well, here's the full title (read the whole book here):
No wonder Falconer caught de la Mare's eye, the man knew how to make an entrance. The Preface holds the high standard set by the title:
I am told, that a Book without a Preface, is like a New Play without a Prologue, or a French Dinner without Soup; and tho' I cannot tell what to say, yet I am resolv'd to say something, tho' perhaps not any thing to the Purpose. So far I hope you'll allow me to be an Author. I shall give you, gentle Reader, (if you are so) Three of my Reasons why I publish these following Pages; which, I must confess, are not so well polish'd as I cou'd wish, but Truth is amiable tho' in Rags. The first and chiefest, to get Money; for tho' I have a considera∣ble Income, yet I can never bring both points together at the Year's End; but however, don't blame my economy, since I owe you nothing, and if I am beholden to any Body, it is to Honest Chetwood, my Bookseller; (I beg his Pardon if I miscall him, tho' I don't believe it will anger him in the least, for all Men love to be term'd so, whether they deserve it or no) being he will run the greatest Risque if my Book does not sell. Second, to save my Lungs, and a great deal of Trouble in repeating to my Friends these following Adventures, for now they may at a small Expence get 'em by Heart, if they will endeavour to stretch their Memories. Third and lastly, to appear in Print, which was, I assure you, a great Motive with me as well as with a great many others of the same Rank, that make Work for many Prin∣ters, tho' as little to the Purpose as my self. I could give a Catalogue of some of 'em, but that wou'd be making my Preface exceed the Bulk of my Book. Tho' I cou'd put the Booksellers in a Way to save Money in their Pockets, and that is to persuade a great many Authors to print their Lucubra∣tions at their own Charge, and that might make some of the poorest to desist; but for the richer Sort of Authors, there's no Help, it's like the Itch, and they must write to be scratch'd tho' the Blood comes. The follow∣ing Sheets, however extraordinary they ap∣pear, I assure you upon the Word of a Man are Truth, and I hope they will entertain you; but if they don't, and you should chance to slight 'em, you will not anger
Your Servant, R. Falconer.Canterbury, Nov. 7. 1719.
That's one page, there are 304 more. The estimable de la Mare did a couple of other books like this as well - Behold This Dreamer (1939...get that gorgeous Faber edition if you can), and Love (1946). They are treasures.