Quoted from the author's "Preface."
"I write this little work, my sixtieth or thereabouts, in unusual conditions. I am a thousand miles off the coast of Africa, the broad blue ocean exquisitely tempering the golden splendour of the tropical sun. Europe, with its poignant problems and its maddening futilities, is several thousand miles away, beyond the round, heaving breast of mother earth. And the sun lays its
warm fingers on one's tired temples, and smiles, and gives one a delicious, dreamy, painless oblivion of all but its own intoxicating glory, and its immense blue throne, and the wide blue-grey ocean; and at night there are the stars, which, now that one has for a spell become a child of nature, light up like lover's eyes with a greeting."
"I have dreamed for a week, and am now awake, and must work; for there is a faint breath of the cold south in the air. And it is of something human I must write. Nature is very close to one in this ocean-desert, but humanity is closer than ever. What is this strange enchantment of life at sea? Character becomes translucent. You see into the most shrinking corners of men's and women's hearts. Nowhere in the world is there more pretence and hypocrisy than here; and nowhere is there more childlike gaiety and outpour of self. People are solemn in their trivialities; trivial in their imagined solemnities."
"The sun set the other night in his most kingly pomp. Over his grave, far out over the darkening heavens, spread a fan of the most delicately and intensely luminous pale blue; so luminous that it far outshone the day sky. An ethereal rose turned the higher and more distant bands of cloud into such diaphanous films as one might imagine on the limbs of an eastern queen; and the thick, small rain-clouds of the foreground marched, in fantastic black shapes, across the screen of light, as if all the fabled beasts of the universe were mourning the death of Pan. Yet for three-fourths of the duration of this titanic drama in colour I was the
only worshipper. All others had gone down to dress for dinner. Next day the sun shone upon the stale scene and tawdry music of divine service at sea; yet few were absent, though assuredly one half of the worshippers had no heart in it."
"There is some misunderstanding; and religion, I gather, is at the root of it. So let this little book be about religion. Minds and hearts are, as I said, translucent here; and, looking in, I find, in regard to what most people say is the chief concern of life, much confusion, wilful haziness, insincerity. So let us talk it over, simply. There is no library within two thousand
miles, so I shall not be tempted to be learned, to deck my text with impressive footnotes and quotations, or to intimidate the reader with the sonorous language of philosophy or science. And let the talk be good-humoured, for my head is on the breast of nature, and all men are brothers. I just take the common questions which I find common folk discussing; and I offer such answers as forty years of assiduous study and thought have imposed upon me."