The sketches which make up this volume are neither purely critical nor merely biographical. They endeavor to give the American reader a clear and just idea of each individual in his intellect, his character, his place in politics, letters, and society. In some instances I have written of friends whom I know personally and well; in others of men with whom I have but slight acquaintance; in others still of persons whom I have only seen. But in every instance those whom I describe are persons whom I have been able to study on the spot, whose character and doings I have heard commonly discussed by those who actually knew them. In no case whatever are the opinions I have given drawn merely from books and newspapers. This value, therefore, these essays may have to an American, that they are not such descriptions as any of us might be enabled to put into print by the mere help of study and reading; descriptions for example such as one might make of Henry VIII. or Voltaire. They are in every instance, even when intimate and direct personal acquaintance least assist them, the result of close observation and that appreciation of the originals which comes from habitual intercourse with those who know them and submit them to constant criticism.