When on board H.M.S. 'Beagle,' as naturalist, I was much struck with certain facts in the distribution of the inhabitants of South America, and in the geological relations of the present to the past inhabitants of that continent. These facts seemed to me to throw some light on the origin of species--that mystery of mysteries, as it has been called by one of our greatest philosophers. On my return home, it occurred to me, in 1837, that something might perhaps be made out on this question by patiently accumulating and reflecting on all sorts of facts which could possibly have any bearing on it. After five years' work I allowed myself to speculate on the subject, and drew up some short notes; these I enlarged in 1844 into a sketch of the conclusions, which then seemed to me probable: from that period to the present day I have steadily pursued the same object. I hope that I may be excused for entering on these personal details, as I give them to show that I have not been hasty in coming to a decision.
There are times when we recall old memories much as we take down old favourites from our bookshelves, just to see how they have worn, how they have stood the test of years. Sometimes the books have worn so well that we cannot put them away until we have read every word to the very last again, we have not done with the memories until we have lived again through every moment of the past to which they belong. It is in this spirit that I brought my Nights of long ago to the test, and, finding that for me they stand it triumphantly and are still as vivid and vociferous and full of life as they were of old, I have not had the courage to loose my hold upon them and let them drift back once more into unfriendly silence.
Mackinaw, with its surroundings, has an interesting and romantic history, going back to the earliest times. The whole region of the Northwest, with its vast wildernesses and mighty lakes, has been traditionally invested with a mystery. The very name of Mackinaw, in the Indian tongue, signifies the dwelling-place of the Great Genii, and many are the legends written and unwritten connected with its history. If the testimony of an old Indian chief at Thunder Bay can be credited, it was at old Mackinaw that Mud-je-ke-wis, the father of Hiawatha, lived and died.