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Excerpt: "I wish to begin this bundle of ?Dead Letters,? collected from the Dead Letter Office of the World, with a living letter to you. These letters are in no wise meant to be either historical documents or historical studies or aids to the understanding of history, or learning of any kind with or without tears. They are the fruits of imagination rather than of research. The word research is not even remotely applicable here, for in my case it means the hazy memories of a distant education indolently received, a few hurried references to Smith?s ?Classical Dictionary,? a map of Rome which is in the London Library, and Bouillet?s ?Biographie Universelle.? So that if you tell me that my account of the Carthaginian fleet is full of inaccuracies, or that the psychology of my Lesbia conflicts with the historical evidence,viii I shall be constrained to answer that I do not care. Yet amidst this chaff of fancy there are a few grains of historical truth. By historical truth I mean the recorded impressions (they may be false, of course, and the persons who recorded them may have been liars, in which case it is historical falsehood) of men on events which were contemporary with them. One of the letters is entirely composed of such grains. I will not tell you which one it is until some of our common friends, who are historical experts, have singled it out as being the one letter which oversteps all bounds of historical possibility and probability. (It is not the letter on Heine, part of the substance of which was taken from Memoirs and freely blended with fiction.) Such singling out has already occurred with regard to certain details of the letters as they appeared week by week in the ?Morning Post.? But I confess that I have so far suffered more from the credulity than from the scepticism of my readers, and I was tempted at one moment rather to insert the impossible than to make the possible appear probable. For correspondents wrote to me, asking me to give them from my secret store further detailsix with regard to Lady Macbeth?s housekeeping, Lord Bacon?s business affairs, and the table talk of the Emperor Claudius."

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