WHEN I wrote The Devils Pool, the first of a series of pastoral tales which I meant to bring out together under the title of Tales of a Hemp-dresser, I had no system in view, and no design of introducing a revolution into literature. No one man has ever effected a revolution; for a revolution, especially in art, is an unconscious change which everybody has had a hand in. But this is not applicable to tales of rustic life, which have always existed, at all times, and under all forms, and have been sometimes pompous, sometimes affected, and sometimes natural.
I have said somewhere, and must now repeat, that pastoral life has always been the ideal of cities and of the courts of kings. I have attempted nothing new in following the easy path which brings back civilised man to the charms of primitive life. I have not tried to invent a new language nor to affect a new style, though many newspaper articles have told me so. I understand my own intentions better than anybody else can, and I am continually surprised that criticism should be so farseeking, when the simplest ideas and most trivial circumstances are all that inspire the creations of art. Especially as regards The Devils Pool, as I have related in the introduction, an engraving of Holbein, that had struck me, and a real scene that I had before my eyes at the same time, while the men were sowing the crops, were all that induced me to write the modest story laid among the humble landscapes of my daily walks.
If I am asked what I meant to do, I shall answer that I meant to write a very touching and very simple story, and that I have not succeeded to my satisfaction. I have indeed seen and felt the beauty of simplicity, but seeing and describing are not the same thing. The best the artist can hope for is to persuade those who have eyes to see for themselves. Look at what is simple, my kind reader; look at the sky, the fields, the trees, and at what is good and true in the peasants; you will catch a glimpse of them in my book but you will see them much better in nature.