A little more than a year ago I put forth a collection of articles under the title of Flowers of Freethought. The little volume met with a favorable reception, and I now issue a Second Series. By a "favorable reception" I only mean that the volume found purchasers, and, it is to be presumed, readers; which is, after all, the one thing a writer needs to regard as of any real importance. Certainly the volume was not praised, nor recommended, nor even noticed, in the public journals. The time is not yet ripe for the ordinary reviewers to so much as mention a book of that character. Not that I charge the said reviewers with being concerned in a deliberate conspiracy of silence against such productions. They have to earn their livings, and often very humbly, despite the autocratic airs they give themselves; they serve under editors, who serve under proprietors, who in turn consult the tastes, the intelligence, and the prejudices of their respective customers. And thus it is, I conceive, that thorough-going Freethought—at least if written in a popular style and published at a popular price—is generally treated with a silence, which, in some cases, is far from a symptom of contempt.
I am aware that my writing is sometimes objected to on grounds of "taste." But it is a curious thing that this objection has invariably been raised by one of two classes of persons:—either those who are hostile to my opinions, and therefore unlikely to be impartial judges in this respect; or those who, while sharing my opinions, are fond of temporising, and rather anxious to obtain the smiles—-not to say the rewards—of Orthodoxy. The advice of the one class is suspicious; that of the other is contemptible.
As I said in the former Preface, I refrain from personalities, which is all that can be demanded of a fair controversialist. There are sentences, and perhaps passages, in this volume, that some people will not like; but they are about things that I do not like. A propagandist should use his pen as a weapon rather than a fencing foil. At any rate, my style is my own; it is copied from no model, or set of models; although I confess to a predilection for the old forthright literature of England, before "fine writing" was invented, or "parliamentary" eloquence came into vogue, or writers were anxious to propitiate an imaginary critic at their elbows—the composite ghost, as it were, of all the ignoramuses, prigs, bigots, fools, and cowards on this planet.
It only remains to say that the articles in this volume are of the same general character as those in its predecessor. They were written at different intervals during the past ten or twelve years. I have not attempted to classify them. In several instances I have appended the date of first publication, as it seemed necessary, or at least convenient.G. W. FOOTE