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The following Memoir of my late sister I have aimed to compose as if it had been intended especially for your perusal:-to you, then, it is dedicated. In keeping this idea before me, I have hoped to execute my task in a manner the most acceptable to the class of readers whom I would chiefly wish to please;-I mean persons like yourself, to whom, through her writings, the name of Jane Taylor has been associated with some of their earliest intellectual pleasures, and perhaps, with their first impressions of virtue and piety.
Long before you personally knew your late friend, you were taught to think of her as your guide and instructress; and when at length you were introduced to her, every preconceived feeling of respect and love was enhanced. The period of your intercourse with her was indeed almost entirely filled with a succession of painful
events; yet they all tended to fix in your heart an affectionate remembrance which time will not efface.
may therefore feel assured that, even independently of the new interest you possess in the name and character of my sister, you will be pleased to learn all that I can retrace of her history--of her habits of life-her occupations-her friendships, and her conduct amidst the ordinary occasions of common life.
But while I am endeavoring to give as much explicitness to my narrative as shall satisfy your wishes, and as much, especially, as may render the extracts from her Correspondence fully intelligible, you will perceive that I shall be embarrassed with a considerable difficulty in having to separate the personal history of my sister from that of her family. To do so as completely as I should wish, is plainly impracticable; especially as her character and habits were such as united her most closely in every thing with those she loved. I must, therefore, in many instances, dismiss the fear of being charged with egotism; and rather than omit particulars, which to you, and to
readers like yourself, may seem interesting and instructive, shall use ingenuousness, and claim the candor that the peculiarity of the case demands.
Yet so far as it may be done consistently with my avowed design, I shall detach what relates to the subject of this Memoir from the interests of those with whom, in fact, she was always most intimately joined. Let it then sulfice once to say, that an exemption is claimed for the living, from the demands of that curiosity which it is usual to gratify, relative to the dead who have occupied a place in public esteem.
Nor, I must add, is it solely on behalf of survivors that such exemption may be asked; for even in what relates to the deceased, a biographer must be considered as free to give or to withhold the facts of personal history. There may have been events of the deepest interest to the party, in reference to which he may be silent; even though the full narration of such facts might serve, beyond any others, to display the strength or christian fortitude of the character he has to exhibit. The common cares and griefs of life may be described for the edification of others; but there are sorrows that are sacred; and sora rows still fresh in the memory of survivors are especially so: for though the subject of them be passed where “there is no more pain, neither sorrow nor weeping,” yet, as for our own feelings' sake, we hide the mortal remains of the dead, so should we shroud their recent griefs.
By the indulgence of her friends, I have had the perusal of nearly* the entire mass of letters written by my sister during the course of five and twenty years: from this mass it would have been easy to furnish volumes without admitting any less interesting than those which have been selected. But many reasons forbade so copious
* I ought to mention a large exception made by the suppression of the whole of her letters to one much-loved friend. This suppression occasions, besides the loss, as I doubt not, of many interesting passages, a very important deficiency in the materials of the Memoir; as my sister's intimacy with this one friend constituted, of itself, a great part of the history of her mind, during many years. That so little trace of this friendship appears in the Memoir, or among the Extracts from the Correspondence, is not attributable to the option of her biographer. Memorials of the strength and tenderness of this friendship are, however, to be found among the Poetical Remains.