A third difficulty was the slavish admirer, who in all soils and even with different climates said: 'I have strictly carried out your instructions, and utter failure has been the result.' I wish once more to reiterate that anything I say, both in the last volume and in this, with regard to plant life is merely the result of my own personal experience. All that I state is by way of suggestion, not by any means as a law to be carried out at all times and in all places. Several letters of approval I received from working gardeners gave me great pleasure, and one said that he found the book 'very bright and holding.' This seems to me a most expressive word. Another complaint came from a Londoner, representing the opinion of the inhabitants of towns. He was in exact contrast to the gardener-friend in the suburbs and the country. He complained bitterly of the long lists of plants, the many details about gardening, and asked pitifully if this part might not have been relegated to an appendix, suggesting that this would make the book much more readable.

One man who professed to be no gardener at all said his leading idea in gardening was to dismiss the under-gardener. This is a very common theory with the master of the house who thinks gardens can be well kept very much under-handed. As a rule the best gardens are those where the master of the house superintends the gardening himself.

A woman friend who dislikes both garden books and gardening wrote: 'Notices of gardening books might for the sake of the village idiot, for whom everyone writes, have been put in a chapter quite at the end. "Fat," as the actors call it, should come at the beginning of a book to encourage the reader.' Perhaps she was not wrong, for I believe, so far as I can gather from the letters, that the non-gardening people like my book best - gardeners after all being, as they are the first to acknowledge, one-idea'd. And yet no, it cannot have been really so, as by far the most genuine and sympathetic letters I have received have been from real garden lovers - the sick, the old, the expatriated, all joining in one paean of praise over the soul-satisfying occupation of gardening.

A few of the London booksellers were rather amusing on the subject, and I have considerable sympathy with their opinions. One said to a friend of mine, a few months after the book had come out, that it was going into the sixth edition and that he 'couldn't conceive why, as there was nothing in it.' Another shrewdly remarked that he called the book 'a social success, not a literary one.' There was a vein running through several letters which I thought perhaps accounted in some way for the success of the book, as it proved that many people wished to give it to someone else because they found in it a gentle rod wherewith to scourge their neighbour. One critic said that 'a spirit of benign and motherly materialism broods over the book' - an expression which I thought rather nice, as it was what I had aimed at. A second said the book was 'full of good spirits from beginning to end,' and a third discovered that 'a tone of sadness ran through it all.'

After critics came the friends who amusingly said: 'The book is so extraordinarily like yourself, we can hear your voice speaking all through it.' Strangers, I am told, who know me only by reputation or not at all, kindly settled that it was not written by me, but by some mysterious unknown person they could not quite hit upon.

It is quite true, and I wish to state it again, as I did in my first preface, that I had very real and practical assistance from one of my nieces, who made a most efficient secretary. Our method of working was simple enough. I wrote what I wanted to say and then dictated it to her. In reading aloud, the more flagrant mistakes and repetitions struck the ear quicker than the eye, as is but natural for one more accustomed to speak than to write. Two or three other people helped me by toning down my crude opinions and taking out whole sentences that might have been causes of offence. It has for a long time been a favourite theory of mine that, as people generally write books with a vague hope that they may be read, it is wise to consult a small number of people typical of the public and to be guided, without too much self-esteem, by the opinions of these selected few. Of course this opens up the further discussion whether, as I saw it well put the other day in the 'spectator,' 'success with the multitude is in itself desirable, or if it is not rather the hall-mark of a commonplace inferiority. Who pleases foolish readers must himself be a fool. If the general reader is after all quite such a fool as the superior junta think him is another question altogether. But he has the marked advantage of holding the verdict in his hands.' The only raison d'Ítre of ephemeral literature is that it should be read. The writer of genius comes under a different category. He stands on a mountain-top and breathes a rarer atmosphere, and often can only be understood from a distance. 'Bethia Hardacre' exactly expresses this in verse:

I pray to fail, if to succeed Means faithlessness unto my creed.

Lady Eastlake says on this point: 'Genius, with its divine inspirations, may be left to find its way to the admiration of the few and in the end to the acknowledgment of all.' Many will remember when Mr. Quaritch brought out Fitzgerald's translation of 'Omar Khayyam,' disgusted at its complete failure, he threw the whole edition into a 'penny box.' Dante Rossetti found them, and we all know the rest.

Some people said that what really pleased them most in the book were the little bits of poetry. Considering that not one of these was mine, the remark by way of compliment was rather humorous. Another curious vein of flattery that ran through dozens of the letters was expressive of the writers' regret that they had not written 'Pot-Pourris' of their own, proving the general truth of how easy everything is if we only take the trouble to do it.