Do you read forewords/notes that precede many classics? Does it help you or hurt you in your enjoyment/understanding of the work?
When I began my blog, it was to follow my journey through The Well-Educated Mind by Susan Wise Bauer, and she suggests not to read the forewords or introductions unless they have been written by the author. This is so that the reader does not get someone else's interpretation of the work before reading and thinking about it himself. After the reader has formed his own opinion, then he is free to read the forewords.
At first, I avoided the forewords not written by the author, and I didn't always find it necessary to read it after I formed my own conclusions of the story. However, then I read Crime and Punishment by Dostoevsky, and I was stumped by one of my inquiry questions; hence I read the introduction in order to help me better understand the story. And I was glad I did, because as soon as I read it, I drew a clearer picture to help me comprehend.
After that, I was not as apprehensive about reading the forewords or introductions, if I found it necessary. Often times it helps to better understand the author and his trials or tribulations which may have contributed to the story, and sometimes it just explains the thought process of the author.
For example, I learned much from the forewords in The Trial, Mrs. Dalloway, The Portrait of a Lady, House of Mirth, and Heart of Darkness, and these I chose to read because I struggled understanding what I read after I read it. Even more so, I think I struggled so much with The Return of the Native, that I broke all the rules and read the introduction before reading it. (That actually did not help at all.)
So to answer the question: yes, sometimes I read the forewords or introduction, but I try to hold off until after I am done reading; and then I only read it when I want more information because it is usually helpful and insightful and aids in my understanding of the author and his work.