Most high and mighty Czar of all flesh, ceaseless reducer of empires, unfathomable glutton in the whole realms of nature.
With the most profound flesh-creeping I take the liberty of kissing the rattling leg-bones of your voracious Majesty, and humbly laying this little book at your dried-up feet. My predecessors have always been accustomed, as if on purpose to annoy you, to transport their goods and chattels to the archives of eternity, directly under your nose, forgetting that, by so doing, they only made your mouth water the more, for the proverb Stolen bread tastes sweetest is applicable even to you. No! I prefer to dedicate this work to you, feeling assured that you will throw it aside.
But, joking apart! methinks we two know each other better than by mere hearsay. Enrolled in the order of Aesculapius, the first-born of Pandora's box, as old as the fall of man, I have stood at your altar, have sworn undying hatred to your hereditary foe, Nature, as the son of Hamilcar to the seven hills of Rome, have sworn to besiege her with a whole army of medicines, to throw up barricades round the obstinate soul, to drive from the field the insolents who cut down your fees and cripple your finances, and on the Archaean battle-plain to plant your midnight standard. In return (for one good turn deserves another), you must prepare for me the precious TALISMAN, which can save me from the gallows and the wheel uninjured, and with a whole skin
Jusque datum sceleri.
Come then! act the generous Maecenas; for observe, I should be sorry to fare like my foolhardy colleagues and cousins, who, armed with stiletto and pocket-pistol, hold their court in gloomy ravines, or mix in the subterranean laboratory the wondrous polychrest, which, when taken with proper zeal, tickles our political noses, either too little or too much, with throne vacancies or state-fevers. D'Amiens and Ravaillac! Ho, ho, ho! 'Tis a good thing for straight limbs!
Perhaps you have been whetting your teeth at Easter and Michaelmas? the great book-epidemic times at Leipzig and Frankfort! Hurrah for the waste-paper! 'twill make a royal feast. Your nimble brokers, Gluttony and Lust, bring you whole cargoes from the fair of life. Even Ambition, your grandpapa War, Famine, Fire, and Plague, your mighty huntsmen, have provided you with many a jovial man-chase. Avarice and Covetousness, your sturdy butlers, drink to your health whole towns floating in the bubbling cup of the world-ocean. I know a kitchen in Europe where the rarest dishes have been served up in your honor with festive pomp. And yet who has ever known you to be satisfied, or to complain of indigestion? Your digestive faculties are of iron; your entrails fathomless!
Pooh I had many other things to say to you, but I am in a hurry to be off. You are an ugly brother-in-law go! I hear you are calculating on living to see a general collation, where great and small, globes and lexicons, philosophies and knick-knacks, will fly into your jaws a good appetite to you, should it come to that. Yet, ravenous wolf that you are! take care that you don't overeat yourself, and have to disgorge to a hair all that you have swallowed, as a certain Athenian (no particular friend of yours, by-the-by) has prophesied.