I had read the life and writings of Madame Guyon with interest, and I think with profit. The impression made upon my own mind was similar to that which has been made upon the minds of others. And this impression was, that the facts of her history and her opinions are too valuable to be lost. They make a portion, not only of ecclesiastical history; but of the history of the human mind. Under these circumstances, and in the hope of contributing something to the cause of truth and of vital religion, I have undertaken the present work.
In giving some account of Madame Guyon's life, it will be seen in what has been related, that I have made great use of her auto-biography. The origin of this remarkable work, entitled in French, in which language alone it has been printed in full, La Vie de Madame de la Mothe Guyon, icrite par elle-même, was this. After her return from Italy in 1686, La Combe, her spiritual Director, in accordance as I suppose with the authority allowed him by his church, an authority to which she readily submitted, required her to make a written record of her past life. This she did for the most part, when she was shut up, a year or two afterwards, in the Convent of St. Marie in Paris. She proposed, as she would be likely to do under such circumstances, to use a degree of discretion and to make a selection of incidents; but La Combe fearful that the delicacy of her feelings might prompt her to multiply omissions, required her to write every thing.
To this she at last consented, especially as she did not, and could not well suppose, that a biography, written under such circumstances, would ever be given to the public. There are some things, therefore, in her personal history, as it is actually given, which cannot be particularly profitable to the reader, because they are obviously unimportant; some things which she herself speaks of as unessential. But if her auto-biography, just as it stands, might be unprofitable and perhaps injurious, it is very evident, I think, that a biography, written on different principles, would be both interesting and beneficial.
To the information, derived from her auto-biography, I have added numerous facts, derived partly from her other writings, and partly from other sources. So that I speak with considerable confidence when I say; that the reader will find, in the following pages, a full account of the life and labors of this remarkable woman.
[TO BE CONTINUED]
— from The Life of Madame Guyon (1877) Volume 1 "Preface."