I need offer no apology for presenting a biography of Warren Hastings. Much new material has been unearthed since the last "life" appeared in 1894; various phases of his career have been subjected during recent years to detailed special study which has thrown important fresh light on many obscure points; mistakes of earlier biographers have received correction; and for that reason it is possible to hope that a new detailed study of the man and his achievements will not be unwelcome.
I lay no claim to overturning hitherto accepted views, though here and there I have tried to modify some, commonly held, which seemed to me in need of correction. Nor do I make any pretense of having produced a work of original research, with important discoveries of fact. The essential facts about Warren Hastings have long been known, but -- and herein lies the origin of this book -- a certain deficiency has always seemed to me to mark the manner in which those facts have been presented. For the space of fifteen years the subject has held me under a spell of extraordinary fascination, producing in me a kind of inner compulsion to embark upon a new biography that would attempt, despite all that had been written about Hastings, to do him more complete justice than had yet been done. An excessive amount of attention has always been paid to certain of his actions -- those which caused his impeachment -- and this has resulted in a distorted view of his career as a whole by throwing it out of focus. One of the things I have attempted to do is to place him in a better perspective and to present a well rounded view of his life in its entirety. There is an epic grandeur about his life that demands a certain spaciousness of treatment, and for that reason I have purposely not confined myself within any narrow limits. One has to remain with Warren Hastings for some time in order to appreciate properly the rare genius and spirit of the man.
How gigantic was the task I set myself, the reader will speedily discover for himself. Suffice it to say, that for twenty-five years Warren Hastings was the central figure in a stupendous drama, when the destinies of the great subcontinent of India were being decided -- a drama that had not unity of time, place or action, that spanned two continents and the intervening sea, involved two rival European nations and innumerable Indian races and rulers, embraced a labyrinth of plots and sub-plots, and employed a multitude of actors. Doubtless any author . . .