Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: A Letter Book - Selected with an Introduction on the History and Art of Letter-Writing
Author: Saintsbury, George, 1845-1933
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "A Letter Book - Selected with an Introduction on the History and Art of Letter-Writing" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



  +------------------------------------------------------------+
  | Transcriber's Note                                         |
  |                                                            |
  | Obvious typographical errors have been corrected in        |
  | this text. For a complete list, please see the bottom of   |
  | this document.                                             |
  |                                                            |
  | Text printed using the Greek alphabet in the original book |
  | is shown as follows: [Greek: logos].                       |
  |                                                            |
  | Superscript text in the original book is shown as follows: |
  | w^ch                                                       |
  +------------------------------------------------------------+



A LETTER BOOK



A LETTER BOOK

SELECTED WITH AN INTRODUCTION
ON THE HISTORY AND ART OF
LETTER-WRITING

BY

GEORGE SAINTSBURY


LONDON
G. BELL AND SONS, LTD.
NEW YORK: HARCOURT, BRACE AND CO.
1922



PREFACE


When my publishers were good enough to propose that I should undertake
this book, they were also good enough to suggest that the Introduction
should be of a character somewhat different from that of a
school-anthology, and should attempt to deal with the Art of
Letter-writing, and the nature of the Letter, as such. I formed a plan
accordingly, by which the letters, and their separate Prefatory Notes,
might be as it were illustrations to the Introduction, which was
intended in turn to be a guide to them. Having done this with a proper
_Pourvu que Dieu lui prête vie_ referring to both book and author, I
thought it well to look up next what had been done in the way before me,
at least to the extent of what the London Library could provide me in
circumstances of enforced abstinence from the Museum and from "Bodley."
From its catalogue I selected a curious eighteenth-century _Art of
Letter Writing_, and four nineteenth and earliest twentieth century
books--Roberts's _History of Letter Writing_ (1843) with Pickering's
ever-beloved title-page and his beautiful clear print; the _Littérature
Epistolaire_ of Barbey d'Aurevilly--a critic never to be neglected
though always to be consulted with eyes wide open and brain alert;
finally, two Essays in Dr. Jessopp's _Studies by a Recluse_ and in the
_Men and Letters_ of Mr. Herbert Paul, once a very frequent associate of
mine. The title of the first mentioned book speaks it pretty
thoroughly. "The Art of Letter Writing: Divided into Two Parts. The
First: Containing Rules and Directions for writing letters on all sorts
of subjects [_this line as well as several others is Rubricked_] with a
variety of examples equally elegant and instructive. The Second: a
Collection of Letters on the Most interesting occasions of life in which
are inserted--The proper method of Addressing Persons of all ranks; some
necessary orthographical directions, the right forms of message for
cards; and thoughts upon a multiplicity of subjects; the whole composed
upon an entirely new plan--chiefly calculated for the instruction of
youth, but may be [_sic_] of singular service to Gentlemen, Ladies and
all others who are desirous to attain the true style and manner of a
polite epistolary intercourse." May our own little book have no worse
fortune! Mr. Roberts's avowedly restricts itself to the fifth century as
a _terminus ad quem_, though it professes to start "from the earliest
times," and its seven hundred pages deal very honestly and fully with
their subjects. The essays of Dr. Jessopp and Mr. Paul are of course
merely Essays, of a score or two of pages: though the first is pretty
wide in its scope. There would be nothing but good to be said of either,
if both had not been, not perhaps blasphemous but parsimonious of
praise, towards "Our Lady of the Rocks." It cannot be too often or too
solemnly laid down that an adoration of Madame de Sévigné as a
letter-writer is not crotchet or fashion or affectation--is no result of
merely taking authority on trust. The more one reads her, and the more
one reads others, the more convinced should one be of her absolute
non-pareility in almost every kind of genuine letter (as apart from
letters that are really pamphlets or speeches or sermons) except pure
love-letters, of which we have none from her. As for _Littérature
Epistolaire_, it is a collection of some two dozen reviews of various
modern reprints of letters by distinguished writers--mostly but not all
French. The author has throughout used the letters he is considering
almost wholly as tell-tales of character, not as examples of art: and
therefore he does not, except in possible glances, require further
attention, though the book is full of interesting things. Its judgment
of one of our greatest, and one of the greatest of all,
letter-writers--Horace Walpole--is too severe, but not, like Macaulay's,
superficially insistent on superficial defects, and ought not to be
neglected by anyone who studies the subject.

If, however, there was no need to rely on any of these books, they did
nothing to hinder in the peculiar way in which I had feared some
hindrance. For it is a nuisance to find that somebody else has done
something in the precise way in which you have planned doing it. I have
not yet encountered that nuisance here. Dr. Jessopp's general plan is
most like mine--indeed some similarity was unavoidable: but the two are
not identical, and I had planned mine before I knew anything about his.

So with this prelude let us go to business, only premising further that
the object, unlike that of the anonymous Augustan, is not to "give rules
and instructions for writing good letters," except in the way (which far
excels all rules and instructions) of showing how good letters have been
written. Let us also modestly trust that the collection may deal with
some "interesting occasions of life" and contain "thoughts on a [fair]
multiplicity of subjects." Having been, as above observed, unable during
the composition of this book to visit London or Oxford, I have had to
rely occasionally on friendly assistance. I owe particular thanks (as
indeed I have owed them at almost any time these forty years) to the
Rev. William Hunt, D.Litt., Honorary Fellow of Trinity College, Oxford:
and I am also indebted to Miss Elsie Hitchcock for some kind aid at the
Museum given me through the intermediation of Professor Ker.

Besides the thanks given to Mr. Lloyd Osbourne, Mr. Kipling and Dr.
Williamson in the text in reference to certain new or almost new
letters, we owe very sincere gratitude for permission to reprint the
following important matters:

     _His Honour Judge Parry._ Two letters from "Letters from
     Dorothy Osborne to Sir William Temple."

     _Messrs. Douglas & Foulis._ A letter to Joanna Baillie, from
     "Familiar Letters of Sir Walter Scott."

     _Messrs. Longmans, Green & Co._ Two letters from Mrs.
     Carlyle's "Letters and Memorials," and one letter from Sir
     G. O. Trevelyan's "Life and Letters of Lord Macaulay."

     _Messrs. Macmillan & Co., Ltd._ Three letters from "The
     Letters of Charles Dickens"; one letter by FitzGerald and
     one by Thomas Carlyle, from "Letters and Literary Remains of
     Edward FitzGerald"; one letter from "Charles Kingsley: his
     Letters and Memories of his Life"; and two extracts from
     "Further Records, 1848-1883," by Frances Anne Kemble.

     _Mr. John Murray._ One letter from "The Letters of Elizabeth
     Barrett Browning."

GEORGE SAINTSBURY.

1 ROYAL CRESCENT, BATH,
_October, 1921_.



CONTENTS


                                                          PAGE

PREFACE                                                      v


INTRODUCTION ON THE HISTORY AND ART OF LETTER-WRITING        1

    I. Ancient History. II. Letters in English--before
    1700. III. The Eighteenth Century. IV. Nineteenth
    Century Letters--Early. V. Nineteenth
    Century Letters--Later. VI. Some Special Kinds
    of Letter. VII. Conclusion.


APPENDIX TO INTRODUCTION:

    GREEK LETTERS--SYNESIUS                                100

        (i)  To his Brother--Preparations to meet Raiders.
        (ii) To Hypatia--Longing but unable to come
             to her.

    LATIN LETTERS--PLINY                                   102

        Accepts a Brief for a Lady.

    LETTERS OF THE "DARK" AGES--SIDONIUS APOLLINARIS       105

        The exploits of Ecdicius.

    EARLY MEDIAEVAL (TWELFTH CENTURY) LETTER               108

        Duchess of Burgundy to King Louis VII.--Matchmaking.

ENGLISH LETTERS

THE "PASTON" LETTERS                                       111

    1. A Channel Fight.
    2. Margery is Willing.

ROGER ASCHAM                                               116

    3. "Up the Rhine."
    4. Nostalgia for Cambridge.

LADY MARY SIDNEY                                           122

    5. Have you no room at Court?

GEORGE CLIFFORD, EARL OF CUMBERLAND                        125

    6. A Death-bed letter.

JOHN DONNE                                                 129

    7-10. Letters to Magdalen Lady Herbert.

JAMES HOWELL                                               135

    11. "Long Melford for Ever."
    12. The White Bird.

JOHN EVELYN                                                139

    13. How to take care of ears, eyes and brains.

DOROTHY OSBORNE                                            146

    14. A discourse of Flying, and several other things.
    15. Some testimonies of kindness.

JONATHAN SWIFT                                             154

    16. Letter-hunger.

LADY MARY WORTLEY-MONTAGU                                  159

    17. Directions for running away with her.

PHILIP DORMER STANHOPE, EARL OF CHESTERFIELD               164

    18. Some manners that make a gentleman.

GEORGE BALLARD                                             173

    19. The wickedness of Reviewers.

THOMAS GRAY                                                180

    20. Romanities and Plain English.
    21. Kent, Rousseau, Lord Chatham, etc.

HORACE WALPOLE (AND W. M. THACKERAY)                       187

    22. What Horace wrote.
    23. What Horace might have written.

TOBIAS GEORGE SMOLLETT                                     195

    24. Of Johnson, and Johnson's Frank--To Wilkes.

WILLIAM COWPER                                             197

    25. About a Greenhouse.

SYDNEY SMITH                                               201

    26. Vegetation, stagnation, and assassination.
    27. His "hotel." Hasty judgments deprecated.

SIR WALTER SCOTT                                           206

    28. Authors and Morals.

SAMUEL TAYLOR COLERIDGE                                    212

    29. From Spinosa to Go_b_win through things in general.

ROBERT SOUTHEY                                             217

    30-33. The _Lingo Grande_.

CHARLES LAMB                                               221

    34. A Sigh for Solitude.

GEORGE GORDON, LORD BYRON                                  228

    35. Of Pictures, and Sepulture, and his Daughters.

PERCY BYSSHE SHELLEY                                       233

    36. Of Pictures only.

JOHN KEATS                                                 239

    37. A Voyage, and the _Quarterly_ and Charmian.

THE CARLYLES                                               244

    38. Thomas on _Latrappism_.
    39. Jane Welsh on her Travels.
    40. Jane Welsh on the blessings of Photography.

THOMAS BABINGTON MACAULAY                                  253

    41. Outfits, and Election Dinners. Miss Berry and
          Lady Holland.

THOMAS LOVELL BEDDOES                                      258

    42. Stage-coach tricks, and stage-play ghosts.

ELIZABETH BARRETT BROWNING                                 263

    43. An extended Honey-moon.

EDWARD FITZGERALD                                          270

    44. Of Bath, and Oxford, and some Immortals.

FRANCIS ANNE KEMBLE                                        275

    45. A Ghost in Flannel.
    46. Bakespearism.

WILLIAM MAKEPEACE THACKERAY                                279

    47. As himself.
    48. In character.

CHARLES DICKENS                                            286

    49. Straight dealing with the personages of _Nicholas
          Nickleby_.
    50. Advice to an Innocent in London.
    51. Mr. and Mrs. Harris.

CHARLES KINGSLEY                                           292

    52. _Tom Brown's Schooldays_; Pike fishing; and a
          pretty thing with Garth's.

JOHN RUSKIN                                                296

    53. The Servant question.

ROBERT LOUIS BALFOUR STEVENSON                             303

    54. John Gibson Lockhart, and an Umbrella.



INTRODUCTION

THE HISTORY AND ART OF LETTER
WRITING



I

ANCIENT HISTORY


On letter-writing, as on most things that can themselves be written and
talked about, there are current many _clichés_--stock and banal sayings
that express, or have at some time expressed, a certain amount of truth.
The most familiar of these for a good many years past has been that the
penny post has killed it. Whether revival of the twopenny has caused it
to exhibit any kind of corresponding resurrectionary symptoms is a
matter which cannot yet be pronounced upon. But it may be possible to
avoid these _clichés_, or at any rate to make no more than necessary
glances at them, in composing this little paper, which aims at being a
discussion of the Letter as a branch of Literature, no less than an
introduction to the specimens of the kind which follow.

If, according to a famous dictum, "Everything has been said," it follows
that every definition must have been already made. Therefore, no doubt,
somebody has, or many bodies have, before now defined or at least
described the Letter as that kind of communication of thought or fact to
another person which most immediately succeeds the oral, and supplies
the claims of absence. You want to tell somebody something; but he or
she is not, as they used to say "by," or perhaps there are circumstances
(and circum_standers_) which or who make speech undesirable; so you
"write." At first no doubt, you used signs or symbols like the feather
with which Wildrake let Cromwell's advent be known in _Woodstock_--a
most ingenious device for which, by the way, the recipients were scantly
grateful. But when reading and writing came by nature, you availed
yourself of these Nature's gifts, not always, it is to be feared,
regarding the interconnection of the two sufficiently. There is probably
more than one person living who has received a reply beginning "Dear
So-and-So, Thanks for your interesting and _partially legible_ epistle,"
or words to that effect. But that is a part of the matter which lies
outside our range.

On the probable general fact, however, some observations may be less
frivolously based. If this were a sentimental age, as some ages in the
past have been, one might assume that, as the first portrait is supposed
to have been a silhouette of the present beloved, drawn on her shadow
with a charcoaled stick, so the same, or another implement may have
served (on what substitute for paper anybody pleases) to communicate
with her when absent. But the silliness of this age--though far be it
from us to dispute its possession of so prevailing a quality--does not
take the form--at least _this_ form--of sentiment.

[Sidenote: THE BEGINNINGS]

There is, moreover, nothing silly or sentimental, though of course there
is something that may be controverted, in saying that except for purely
"business" purposes (which are as such alien from Art and have nothing
to do with any but a part, and a rather sophisticated part, of Nature)
the less the letter-writer forgets that he is merely substituting pen
for tongue the better. Of course, the instruments and the circumstances
being different, the methods and canons of the proceedings will be
different too. In the letter there is no interlocutor; and there is no
possibility of what we may call accompanying it with personal
illustrations[1] and demonstrations, if necessary or agreeable. But
still it may be laid down, with some confidence, that the more the
spoken word is heard in a letter the better, and the less that word is
heard--the more it gives way to "book"-talk--the worse. Indeed this is
not likely to be denied, though there remain as usual almost infinite
possibilities of differences in personal opinion as to what constitutes
the desirable mixture of variation and similarity between a conversation
and a letter. Let us, before discussing this or saying anything more
about the principles, say something about the history of this, at best
so delightful, at worst so undelightful art. For if History, in the
transferred sense of particular books called "histories," is rather apt
to be false: nothing but History in the wider and higher sense will ever
lead us to truth. The Future is unknown and unknowable. The Present is
turning to Past even as we are trying to know it. Only the Past itself
abides our knowledge.

[Sidenote: BIBLICAL EXAMPLES]

Of the oldest existing examples of epistolary correspondence, except
those contained in the Bible, the present writer knows little or
nothing. For, except a vanished smattering of Hebrew, he "has" no
Oriental tongue; he has never been much addicted to reading
translations, and even if he had been so has had little occasion to draw
him to such studies, and much to draw him away from them. There
certainly appear to be some beautiful specimens of the more passionate
letter writing in ancient if not exactly pre-Christian Chinese, and
probably in other tongues--but it is ill talking of what one does not
know. In the Scriptures themselves letters do not come early, and the
"token" period probably lasted long. Isaac does not even send a token
with Jacob to validate his suit for a daughter of Laban. But one would
have enjoyed a letter from Ishmael to his half-brother, when his
daughter was married to Esau, who was so much more like a son of Ishmael
himself than of the amiable husband of Rebekah. She, by the way, had
herself been fetched in an equally unlettered transaction. It would of
course be impossible, and might be regarded as improper, to devote much
space here to the sacred epistolographers. But one may wonder whether
many people have appreciated the humour of the two epistles of the great
King Ahasuerus-Artaxerxes, the first commanding and the second
countermanding the massacre of the Jews--epistles contained in the
Septuagint "Rest of the Book of Esther" (see our Apocrypha), instead of
the mere dry summaries which had sufficed for "the Hebrew and the
Chaldee." The exact authenticity of these fuller texts is a matter of no
importance, but their substance, whether it was the work of a Persian
civil servant or of a Greek-Jew rhetorician, is most curious. Whosoever
it was, he knew King's Speeches and communications from "My lords" and
such like things, very well indeed; and the contrast of the mention in
the first letter of "Aman who excelled in wisdom among us and was
approved for his constant good will and steadfast fidelity" with "the
wicked wretch Aman--a stranger received of us ... his falsehood and
cunning"--the whole of both letters being carefully attuned to the
respective key-notes--is worthy of any one of the best ironists from
Aristophanes to the late Mr. Traill.

Between these two extremes of the Pentateuch and the Apocrypha there is,
as has been remarked by divers commentators, not much about letters in
the Bible. It is not auspicious that among the exceptions come David's
letter commanding the betrayal of Uriah, and a little later Jezebel's
similar prescription for the judicial murder of Naboth. There is,
however, some hint of that curious attractiveness which some have seen
in "the King's daughter all glorious within--" and without (as the
Higher Criticism interprets the Forty-Fifth Psalm) in the bland way with
which she herself stipulates that the false witnesses shall be "sons of
Belial."

There is a book (once much utilised as a school prize) entitled _The
History of Inventions_. I do not know whether there is a "Dictionary of
Attributed Inventors." If there were it would contain some queer
examples. One of the queerest is fathered (for we only have it at second
hand) on Hellanicus, a Greek writer of respectable antiquity--the
Peloponnesian war-time--and respectable repute for book-making in
history, chronology, etc. It attributes the invention of letters--_i.e._
"epistolary correspondence"--to Atossa--not Mr. Matthew Arnold's Persian
cat but--the Persian Queen, daughter of Cyrus, wife of Cambyses and
Darius, mother of Xerxes, and in more than her queenly status a sister
to Jezebel. Atossa had not a wholly amiable reputation, but she was
assuredly no fool: and if, to borrow a famous phrase, it had been
necessary to invent letters, there is no known reason why she might not
have done it. But it is perfectly certain that she did not, and no one
who combines, as all true scholars should endeavour to combine, an
unquenchable curiosity to know what can be known and is worth knowing
with a placid resignation to ignorance of what cannot be known and would
not be worth knowing--need in the least regret the fact that we do not
know who did.

There are said to be Egyptian letters of immense antiquity and high
development; but once more, I do not profess direct knowledge of them,
and once more I hold that of what a man does not possess direct
knowledge, of that he should not write. Besides, for practical purposes,
all our literature begins with Greek: so to Greek let us turn. We have a
fair bulk of letters in that language. Hercher's _Epistolographi Graeci_
is a big volume, and would not be a small one, if you cut out the Latin
translations. But it is unfortunate that nearly the whole, like the
majority of later Greek literature, is the work of that special class
called rhetoricians--a class for which, though our term "book-makers"
may be a little too derogatory, "men of letters" is rarely (it is
sometimes) applicable, as we use it when we mean to be complimentary.
These letters are still close to "speech," thus meeting in a fashion our
initial requirement, but they are close to the speech of the
"orator"--of the sophisticated speaker to the public--not to that of
genuine conversation. In fact in some cases it would require only the
very slightest change to make those exercitations of the rhetors which
are not called "epistles" definite letters in form, while some of the
best known and characteristic of their works are so entitled.

[Sidenote: THE RHETORICIANS]

It was unfortunate for the Greeks, as it would seem, and for us more
certainly, that letter-writing was so much affected by these
"rhetoricians." This curious class of persons has perhaps been too much
abused: and there is no doubt that very great writers came out of
them--to mention one only in each division--Lucian among the extremely
profane, and St. Augustine among the greatest and most intellectual of
divines. But though their habitual defects are to be found abundantly
enough in modern society, these defects are, with us, as a rule
distributed among different classes; while anciently they were united in
this one. We have our journalists, our book-makers (literary, not
sporting), our platform and parliamentary palaverers, our popular
entertainers; and we also have our pedagogues, scholastic and
collegiate, our scientific and other lecturers, etc. But the Rhetorician
of old was a Jack of all these trades; and he too frequently combined
the triviality, unreality, sophistry and catch-pennyism of the one
division with the priggishness, the lack of tact and humour, and above
all the pseudo-scientific tendency to generalisation, classification
and, to use a familiar word, "pottering" of the other. In particular he
had a mania in his more serious moods for defining and sub-defining
things and putting them into pigeon-holes under the sub-definitions.
Thus the so-called Demetrius Phalereus, who (or a false namesake of his)
has left us a capital _general_ remark (to be given presently) on
letter-writing, elaborately divides its kinds, with prescriptions for
writing each, into "friendly," "commendatory," "reproving,"
"objurgatory," "consolatory," "castigatory," "admonishing,"
"threatening," "vituperatory," "laudatory," "persuasive," "begging,"
"questioning," "answering," "allegorical," "explanatory," "accusing,"
"defending," "congratulatory," "ironic" and "thankful," while the
neo-Platonist, Proclus, is responsible for, or at least has attributed
to him, a list of nearly double the length, including most of those
given above and adding many. Of these last, "love-letters" is the most
important, and "mixed" the _canniest_, for it practically lets in
everything.

This way, of course, except for purely business purposes--where
established forms save time, trouble and possible litigation--no
possible good lies; and indeed the impossibility thereof is clearly
enough indicated in the above-glanced-at general remark of Demetrius (or
whoever it was) himself. In fact the principle of this remark and its
context in the work called "Of Interpretation," which it is more usual
now to call, perhaps a little rashly, "Of Style," is so different from
the catalogue of types that they can hardly come from the same author.
"You _can_ from this, as well as from all other kinds of writing,
discern the character of the writer; indeed from none other can you
discern it so well." Those who know a little of the history of Criticism
will see how this anticipates the most famous and best definitions of
Style itself, as being "the very man," and they may perhaps also think
worthy of notice another passage in the same context where the author
finds fault with a rather "fine" piece of an epistle as "not the way a
man would talk to his friend," and even goes on to use the most familiar
Greek word for talking--[Greek: lalein]--in the same connection.

[Sidenote: ALCIPHRON. JULIAN]

Of such "talking with a friend" we have unfortunately very few
examples--hardly any at all--from older Greek. The greater
collections--not much used in schools or colleges now but well enough
known to those who really know Greek Literature--of Alciphron,
Aristaenetus, Philostratus and (once most famous of all) Phalaris
are--one must not perhaps say obvious, since men of no little worth were
once taken in by them but--pretty easily discoverable counterfeits. They
are sometimes, more particularly those of Philostratus, interesting and
even beautiful;[2] they have been again sometimes at least supposed,
particularly those of Alciphron, to give us, from the fact that they
were largely based upon lost comedies, etc., information which we should
otherwise lack; and in many instances (Aristaenetus is perhaps here the
chief) they must have helped towards that late Greek creation of the
Romance to which we owe so much. Nor have we here much if anything to do
with such questions as the morality of personating dead authors, or that
of laying traps for historians. It is enough that they do not give us,
except very rarely, good letters: and that even these exceptions are not
in any probability _real_ letters, real written "confabulations of
friends" at all. Almost the first we have deserving such a description
are those of the Emperor Julian in the fourth century of that Christ for
whom he had such an unfortunate hatred; the most copious and thoroughly
genuine perhaps those of Bishop Synesius a little later. Of these
Julian's are a good deal affected by the influence of Rhetoric, of which
he was a great cultivator: and the peculiar later Platonism of Synesius
fills a larger proportion of his than some frivolous persons might
wish. Julian is even thought to have "written for publication," as Latin
epistolers of distinction had undoubtedly done before him. Nevertheless
it is pleasant to read the Apostate when he is not talking Imperial or
anti-Christian "shop," but writing to his tutor, the famous sophist and
rhetorician Libanius, about his travels and his books and what not, in a
fashion by no means very unlike that in which a young Oxford graduate
might write to an undonnish don. It is still pleasanter to find Synesius
telling his friends about the very thin wine and very thick honey of
Cyrenaica; making love ("camouflaged," as they say to-day, under
philosophy) to Hypatia, and condescending to mention dogs, horses and
hunting now and then. But it is unfortunately undeniable that the bulk
of this department of Greek literature is spurious to begin with, and
uninteresting, even if spuriousness be permitted to pass. The Letters of
Phalaris--once famous in themselves, again so as furnishing one of the
chief battle-grounds in the "Ancient and Modern" quarrel, and never to
be forgotten because of their connection with Swift's _Battle of the
Books_--are as dull as ditchwater in matter, and utterly destitute of
literary distinction in style.

       *       *       *       *       *

[Sidenote: ROMAN LETTER-WRITING]

It is a rule, general and almost universal, that every branch of Latin
literature is founded on, and more or less directly imitative of Greek.
Even the Satire, which the Romans relied upon to prove that they could
originate, is more apparently than really an invention. Also, though
this may be more disputable, because much more a matter of personal
taste, there were very few such branches in which the pupils equalled,
much fewer in which they surpassed, their masters. But in both respects
letter-writing may be said to be an exception. Unless we have been
singularly unlucky in losing better Greek letters than we have, and
extraordinarily fortunate in Fate's selection of the Latin letters that
have come down to us, the Romans, though they were eager students of
Rhetoric, and almost outwent their teachers in composing the empty
things called Declamations, seem to have allowed this very practice to
drain off mere verbosity, and to have written letters about matters
which were worth pen, ink, paper and (as we should say) postage. We have
in Greek absolutely no such letters from the flourishing time of the
literature as those of Cicero, of Pliny[3] and even of Seneca--while as
we approach the "Dark" Ages Julian and Synesius in the older language
cannot touch Sidonius Apollinaris or perhaps Cassiodorus[4] in the
younger. Of course all these are beyond reasonable doubt genuine, while
the Greek letters attributed to Plato, Socrates and other great men are
almost without doubt and without exception spurious. But there is very
little likelihood that the Greeks of the great times wrote many
"matter-ful" letters at all. They lived in small communities, where they
saw each other daily and almost hourly; they took little interest in the
affairs of other communities unless they were at war with them, and
when they did travel there were very few means of international
communication.

Women write the best letters, and get the best letters written to them:
but it is doubtful whether Greek women, save persons of a certain class
and other exceptions in different ways like Sappho and Diotima,[5] ever
wrote at all. The Romans, after their early period, were not merely a
larger and ever larger community full of the most various business, and
constantly extending their presence and their sway; but, by their unique
faculty of organisation, they put every part of their huge world in
communication with every other part. Here also we lack women's letters;
but we are, as above remarked, by no means badly off for those of men.
There have even been some audacious heretics who have preferred Cicero's
letters to his speeches and treatises; Seneca, the least attractive of
those before mentioned, put well what the poet Wordsworth called in his
own poems "extremely va_loo_able thoughts"; one of the keenest of
mathematicians and best of academic and general business men known to
the present writer, the late Professor Chrystal of Edinburgh, made a
special favourite of Pliny; and if people can find nothing worse to say
against Sidonius than that he wrote in contemporary, and not in what was
for his time archaic, Latin, his case will not look bad in the eyes of
sensible men.

[Sidenote: SIDONIUS]

Sidonius, like Synesius, was a Christian, and, though the observation
may seem no more logical than Fluellen's about Macedon and Monmouth,
besides being in more doubtful taste, there would seem to be some
connection between the spread of Christianity and that of
letter-writing. At any rate they synchronise, despite or perhaps because
of the deficiency of formal literature during the "Dark" Ages. It is not
really futile to point out that a very large part of the New Testament
consists of "Epistles," and that by no means the whole of these epistles
is occupied by doctrinal or hortatory matter. Even that which is so,
often if not always, partakes of the character of a "live" letter to an
extent which makes the so-called letters of the Greek Rhetoricians mere
school exercises. And St. Paul's allusions to his journeys, his
salutations, his acknowledgment of presents, his reference to the cloak
and the books with its anxious "but especially the parchments," and his
excellent advice to Timothy about beverages, are all the purest and most
genuine matter for mail-bags. So is St. Peter's very gentleman-like (as
it has been termed) retort to his brother Apostle; and so are both the
Second and the Third of St. John. Indeed it is not fanciful to suggest
that the account of the voyage which finishes the "Acts," and other
parts of that very delightful book, are narratives much more of the kind
one finds in letters than of the formally historical sort.

However this may be, it is worth pointing out that the distrust of other
pagan kinds of literature which the Fathers manifested so strongly, and
which was inherited from them by the clergy of the "Dark," and to some
extent the Middle Ages, clearly could not extend to the practice of the
Apostles. If from the Dark Ages themselves we have not very many, it
must be remembered that from them we have little literature at all:
while from the close of that period and the beginning of the next we
have one of the most famous of all correspondences, the Letters of
Abelard and Heloise. Of the intrinsic merit of these long-and far-famed
compositions, as displaying character, there have been different
opinions--one of the most damaging attacks on them may be found in
Barbey d'Aurevilly's already mentioned book. But their influence has
been lasting and enormous: and even if it were to turn out that they are
forgeries, they are certainly early forgeries, and the person who forged
them knew extremely well what he was about. There is no room here to
survey, even in selection, the letter-crop of the Middle Ages; and from
henceforward we must speak mainly, if not wholly (for some glances
abroad may be permitted), of _English_ letters.[6] But the
ever-increasing bonds of union--even of such union in disunion as
war--between different European nations, and the developments of more
complex civilisation, of more general education and the like--all tended
and wrought in the same direction.



II

LETTERS IN ENGLISH--BEFORE 1700


Exceptions have sometimes been taken to the earliest collection of
genuine private letters, not official communications written in or
inspired by Latin--which we possess in English. "The Paston Letters"
have been, from opposite sides, accused of want of literary form and of
not giving us interesting enough details in substance. The objections in
either case[7] are untenable, and in both rather silly. In the first
place "literary form" in the fifteenth century was exceedingly likely to
be bad literary form, and we are much better off without it. Unless Sir
Thomas Malory had happened to be chaplain at Oxnead, or Sir John
Fortescue had occupied there something like the position of Mr.
Tulkinghorn in _Bleak House_, we should not have got much "literature"
from any known prose-writer of the period. Nor was it wanted. As for
interestingness of matter, the people who expect newspaper-correspondent
fine writing about the Wars of the Roses may be disappointed; but some
of us who have had experience of that dialect from the Russells of the
Crimea through the Forbeses of 1870 to the chroniclers of Armageddon the
other day will probably not be very unhappy. The Paston Letters are
simply genuine family correspondence--of a genuineness all the more
certain because of their commonplaceness. It is impossible to conceive
anything further from the initial type of the Greek rhetorical "letter"
of which we have just been saying something. They are not, to any but an
excessively "high-browed" and high-flying person, uninteresting: but the
chief point about them is their solidity and their satisfaction, in
their own straightforward unvarnished way, of the test we started with.
When Margaret Paston and the rest write, it is because they have
something to say to somebody who cannot be actually spoken to. And that
something is said.

[Sidenote: ASCHAM]

The next body of letters--Ascham's--which seems to call for notice here
is of the next century. It has not a few points of appeal, more than one
of which concern us very nearly. Most of the writers of the Paston
Letters were, though in some cases of good rank and fairly educated,
persons entirely unacademic in character, and their society was that of
the last trouble and convulsion through which the Early Middle Ages
struggled into the Renaissance, so long delayed with us. Ascham was one
of our chief representatives of the Renaissance itself--that is to say,
of a type at once scholarly and man-of-the-worldly, a courtier and a
diplomatist as well as a "don" and a man of letters; a sportsman as well
as a schoolmaster. And while from all these points of view his letters
have interest, there is one thing about them which is perhaps more
interesting to us than any other: and that is the fact that while he
begins to write in Latin--the all but mother-tongue of all scholars of
the time, and the universal language of the educated, even when not
definitely scholarly, throughout Europe--he exchanges this for English
latterly, in the same spirit which prompted his famous expression of
reasons for writing the _Toxophilus_ in our own and his own tongue.
There is indeed a double attraction, which has not been always or often
noticed, in this change of practice. Everybody has seen how important it
is, not merely as resisting the general delusion of contemporary
scholars that the vernaculars were things unsafe, "like to play the
bankrupt with books," but as protesting by anticipation against the
continuance of this error which affected Bacon and Hobbes, and was not
entirely without hold even on such a magician in English as Browne. But
perhaps everybody has not seen how by implication it acknowledges the
peculiar character of the genuine letter--that, though it may be a work
of art, it should not be one of artifice--that it is a matter of
"business _or_ bosoms," not of study or display.

Contemporary with these letters of Ascham, and going on to the end of
the century and the closely coincident end of the reign of Elizabeth, we
have a considerable bulk of letter-writing of more or less varied kinds.
The greatest men of letters of the time--to the disgust of one, but not
wholly so to that of another, class of "scholar"--give us little.
Spenser is the most considerable exception: and his correspondence with
Gabriel Harvey, though it is personal to a certain extent and on
Gabriel's side sufficiently character-revealing, is really of the hybrid
kind, partaking rather more of pamphlet or essay than of letter proper.
Indeed a good part of that very remarkable pamphlet-literature of this
time, which has perhaps scarcely yet received its due share of
attention, takes the letter-form: but is mostly even farther from
genuine letter-writing than the correspondence of "Immerito" and
"Master G. H." We have of course more of Harvey's; we have laments from
others, such as Lyly and Googe, about their disappointments as
courtiers; we have a good deal of State correspondence. There are some,
not very many, agreeable letters of strictly private character in whole
or part, the pleasantest of all perhaps being some of Sir Philip
Sydney's mother, Lady Mary Dudley. Others are from time to time being
made public, such as those in Dr. Williamson's recent book on the
Admiral-Earl of Cumberland. As far as mere bulk goes, Elizabethan
epistolography would take no small place, just as it would claim no mean
one in point of interest. But in an even greater degree than its
successor (_v. inf._) this _corpus_ would expose itself to the criticism
that the time for perfect letter-writing was not quite yet, in this day
of so much that was perfect, that the style was not quite the right
style, the knack not yet quite achieved. And if the present writer--who
swore fealty to Elizabethan literature a full third of a century ago
after informal allegiance for nearly as long a time earlier--admits some
truth in this, there probably is some. The letters included in it
attract us more for the matter they contain than for the manner in which
they contain it: and when this is the case no branch of literature has
perfected itself in art.

[Sidenote: THE SEVENTEENTH CENTURY]

The position of the seventeenth century in England with regard to
letter-writing has been the subject of rather different opinions. The
bulk of its contributions is of course very considerable: and some of
the groups are of prominent importance, the most singular, if not the
most excellent, being Cromwell's, again to be mentioned. As in other
cases and departments this century offers a curious "split" between its
earlier part which declines--not in goodness but like human life in
vitality--from, but still preserves the character of, the pure
Elizabethan, and its later, which grows up again--not in goodness but
simply in the same vitality--towards the Augustan. This relationship is
sufficiently illustrated in the actual letters. The great political
importance of the Civil War of course reflects itself in them. Indeed it
may almost be said that for some time letters are wholly concerned with
such things, though of course there are partial exceptions, such as
those of Dorothy Osborne--"mild Dorothea" as she afterwards became,
though there is no mere mildness of the contemptuous meaning in her
correspondence. In most remarkable contrast to these stand the somewhat
earlier letters of James Howell--our first examples perhaps of letters
"written for publication" in the fullest sense, very agreeably varied in
subject and great favourites with a good many people, notably
Thackeray--but only in part (if at all) genuine private correspondence.

Not a few men otherwise distinguished in literature wrote
letters--sometimes in curious contrast with other productions of theirs.
The most remarkable instance of this, but an instance easily
comprehensible, is that of Samuel Pepys. Only a part of Pepys' immense
correspondence has ever been printed, but there is no reason to expect
from the remainder--whether actually extant, mislaid or lost--anything
better than the examples which are now accessible, and which are for the
most part the very opposite in every respect of the famous and
delectable Diary. They are perfectly "proper," and for the most part
extremely dull; while propriety is certainly not the most salient
characteristic of the Diary; and the diarist manages, in the most
eccentric manner, to communicate interest not merely to things more
specially regarded as "interesting," but to his accounts and his
ailments, his business and his political history. His contemporary and
rather patronising friend Evelyn keeps his performances less far apart
from each other: but is certainly, though a representative, not a great
letter-writer, and the few that we have of Pepys' patronised
fellow-Cantabrigian Dryden are of no great mark, though not superfluous.
In the earlier part of the century Latin had not wholly shaken off its
control as the epistolary language; and it was not till quite the other
end that English itself became supple and docile enough for the purposes
of the letter-writer proper. It was excellent for such things as formal
Dedications, semi-historical narratives, and the like. And it could, as
in Sir Thomas Browne's, supply another contrast, much more pleasing than
that referred to above, of domestic familiarity with a most poetical
transcendence of style in published work. Yet, as was the case with the
novel, the letter, to gain perfection, still wanted something easier
than the grand style of the seventeenth century and more polished than
its familiar style.



III

THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY


[Sidenote: THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY]

But whatever may be the position of the seventeenth in respect of
letter-writing it is impossible for anything but sheer ignorance,
hopeless want of critical discernment, or idle paradox to mistake, in
the direction of belittlement, that of the eighteenth. By common consent
of all opinion worth attention that century was, in the two European
literatures which were equally free from crudity and decadence--French
and English--the very palmiest day of the art. Everybody wrote letters:
and a surprising number of people wrote letters well. Our own three most
famous epistolers of the male sex, Horace Walpole, Gray and
Cowper--belong wholly to it; and "Lady Mary"--our most famous
she-ditto--belongs to it by all but her childhood; as does Chesterfield,
whom some not bad judges would put not far if at all below the three men
just mentioned. The rise of the novel in this century is hardly more
remarkable than the way in which that novel almost wedded
itself--certainly joined itself in the most frequent friendship--to the
letter-form. But perhaps the excellence of the choicer examples in this
time is not really more important than the abundance, variety and
popularity of its letters, whether good, indifferent, or bad. To use one
of the informal superlatives sanctioned by familiar custom it was the
"letterwritingest" of ages from almost every point of view. In its least
as in its most dignified moods it even overflowed into verse if not into
poetry as a medium. Serious epistles had--of course on classical
models--been written in verse for a long time. But now in England more
modern patterns, and especially Anstey's _New Bath Guide_, started the
fashion of actual correspondence in doggerel verse with no thought of
print--a practice in which persons as different as Madame d'Arblay's
good-natured but rather foolish father, and a poet and historian like
Southey indulged; and which did not become obsolete till Victorian
times, if then. At the present moment one does not remember an exact
equivalent in England to the story of two good writers in French if not
French writers[8] living in the same house, meeting constantly during
the day, yet exchanging letters, and not short ones, before breakfast.
But very likely there is or was one, and more than one.

For those no doubt estimable persons who are not content with facts but
must have some explanations of them, it is less difficult to supply such
things than is sometimes the case. One--the attainment at last of a
"middle" style neither grand nor vulgar--has already been glanced at. It
has been often and quite truly observed that there are sentences,
passages, paragraphs, almost whole letters in Horace Walpole and Lady
Mary Wortley Montagu, in Fanny Burney and in Cowper, which no one would
think old-fashioned at the present day in any context where modern slang
did not suggest itself as natural. But this was by no means the only
predisposing cause, though perhaps most of the others were, in this way
or that, connected with it. Both in France and in England literature
and social matters generally were in something like what political
economists call "the stationary state" till (as rather frequently
happens with such apparently stationary states) the smoothness changed
to the Niagara of the French Revolution, and the rapids of the
quarter-century War. There were no great poets:[9] and even
verse-writers were rarely grand: but there was a greater diffusion of
competent writing faculty than had been seen before or perhaps--for all
the time, talk, trouble, and money spent on "education,"--has been
since. New divisions and departments of interest were accumulating--not
merely in Literature itself[10] (as to which, if people's ideas were
rather limited, they _had_ ideas), but in the arts which were in some
cases practised almost for the first time and in all taken more
seriously, in foreign and home politics, commerce, manufactures, all
manner of things. People were by no means so apt to stay in the same
place as they had been: and when friends were in different places they
had much easier means of communicating with each other. Nor should it be
forgotten that the more elaborate system of ceremonial manners which
then prevailed, but which has been at first gradually, and latterly with
a run, breaking down for the last hundred years, had an important
influence on letter-writing. One does not of course refer merely to
elaborate formulas of beginning and ending--such as make even the
greatest praisers of times past among us smile a little when they find
Dr. Johnson addressing his own step-daughter as "Dear Madam," and being
her "most humble servant" though in the course of the letter he may use
the most affectionate and intimate expressions. But the manners of
yester-year made it obligatory to make your letters--unless they were
merely what were called "cards" of invitation, message, etc.--to some
extent _substantive_. You gave the news of the day, if your
correspondent was not likely to know it; the news of the place,
especially if you were living in a University town or a Cathedral city.
If you had read a book you very often criticised it: if you had been to
any kind of entertainment you reported on it, etc. etc. Of course all
this is still done by people who really do write real letters: but it is
certainly done by a much smaller proportion of letter-writers than was
the case two hundred, one hundred, or even fifty years ago. The
newspaper has probably done more to kill letters than any penny post,
halfpenny postcard or even sixpenny telegram could do. Nor perhaps have
we yet mentioned the most powerful destructive agent of all, and that is
the ever increasing want of leisure. The dulness of modern Jack, in
letters as elsewhere, arises from the fact that when he is not at work
he is too desperately set on playing to have time for anything else. The
Augustans are not usually thought God-like: but they have this of Gods,
that they "lived _easily_."

There is perhaps still something to be said as to the apparently almost
pre-established harmony between the eighteenth century and
letter-writing. It concerns what has been called the "_Peace_ of the
Augustans"; the at least comparative freedom alike from the turmoil of
passion and the most riotous kinds of fun. Tragedy may be very fine in
letters, as it may be anywhere: but it is in them the most
dangerous,[11] most rarely successful and most frequently failed-in of
all motives--again as it is everywhere. Comedy in letters is good: but
it should be fairly "genteel" comedy, such as this age excelled in--not
roaring Farce. An "excruciatingly funny" letter runs the risk of being
excruciating in a sadly literal sense. Now the men of good Queen Anne
and the first three Georges were not given to excess, in these ways at
any rate; and there are few better examples of the happy mean than the
best of their letters. The person who is bored by any one of those sets
which have been mentioned must bring the boredom with him--as, by the
way, complainers of that state of suffering do much oftener than they
wot of. Nor is much less to be said of scores of less famous epistolers
of the time, from the generation of Berkeley and Byrom to that of Scott
and Southey.

[Sidenote: SWIFT]

To begin with Swift, it is a scarcely disputable fact that opinions
about this giant of English literature--not merely as to his personal
character, though perhaps this has had more to do with the matter than
appears on the surface, but as to his exact literary value--have
differed almost incomprehensibly. Johnson thought, or at least
affected to think, that _A Tale of a Tub_ could not be Swift's,
because it was too good for him, and that "Tom Davies might have
written _The Conduct of the Allies_": while on the other hand
Thackeray, indulging in the most extravagant denunciation of Swift as
a man, did the very fullest, though not in the least too full, homage
to his genius. But one does not know many things more surprising in
the long list of contradictory criticisms of man and genius alike,
than Mr. Herbert Paul's disapproval of the _Journal to Stella_ as
letters while admitting its excellence as "narrative."[12] To other
judges these are some of the most perfect letters in existence, some
of the most absolutely genuine and free from the slightest taint of
writing for publication; some of the most extraordinarily blended of
intense intimacy which is neither ridiculous nor productive of the
shame-faced feeling that you ought not to have heard it; and full of
that dealing with matters less intimate but still interesting to both
correspondents which displays the "narrative" excellence conceded by
this acute critic. It must of course be remembered that these
"Journal-letters" are by no means Swift's only proofs of his
epistolary expertness. The Vanessa ones perhaps display a little of
the hopelessly enigmatic character which spreads like a mist over the
whole of that ill-starred relationship: but they make all the more
useful contrast to the "wholeheartedness"--one may even use that word
in reference to the little bit of what we may call constructive
deception as to "the other person"--of those to her rival.[13] Those
to Pope (of which so shabby a use was made by their strangely
constituted recipient), to Bolingbroke and others are among the best
of friendly letters: and the curious batch to the Duchess of
Queensberry might be classed with those "court-paying" letters of man
to woman which are elsewhere more particularly noted. But the "Stella"
or "Stella-cum-Dingley" division (if that most singular of
value-completing zeros is to be brought in) is a thing by itself.
Perhaps appreciating or not appreciating the "little language" is a
matter very largely of personal constitution, and the failure to
appreciate is (like colour-blindness or other physical deficiencies) a
thing to be sorry for, not to condemn. But one might have thought that
even if what we may call "feeling" of this were absent there would be
an intellectual understanding of the way in which it completes the
whole-heartedness just mentioned--the manner in which the writer deals
with politics, society, letters, the common ways of life, and his own
passion--this last sometimes in the fore-sometimes in the background,
but never far off. Other letters, from Horace Walpole's downwards, may
contain a panorama of life as brilliant as these give, or more
brilliant. Yet it is too frequently a panorama or a puppet show, or at
the best a marvellously acted but somewhat bloodless drama. On the
other hand, the pure passion-letters lack as a rule this
many-sidedness. With Swift we get both. Seldom has any collection
shown us more varied interests. But through it all there is an
anticipation of the knell of this commerce of his--"Only a woman's
hair"--and that hair threads, in subtle fashion, the whole of the
Journal, turning the panorama to something felt as well as seen, and
the puppet-show to realities of flesh and blood.

That this magical transforming element is wanting in a most remarkable
pair of contemporaries, Chesterfield and "Lady Mary," has been generally
allowed; though a strong fight has been made by some of her sisters for
"my lady" and though the soundest criticism allows that "my lord" did
not so much lack as dissemble heart and even sometimes showed the heart
he had. It would be out of our proper line to discuss such questions
here at any length. It may be enough to warn readers who have not yet
had time to look into the matter for themselves that Pope's coarse
attacks on Lady Mary and Johnson's fine rhetorical rebuff of
Chesterfield were unquestionably outbursts of hurt personal pride.
Horace Walpole made hits at both for reasons which we may call personal
at second-hand, because the one was a friend of his sister-in-law and
the other an enemy of his father. As for Dickens' caricature of "Sir
John Chester" in _Barnaby Rudge_ it is not so much a caricature as a
sheer and inexcusable libel. Anyhow, the letters of the Earl and the
Lady are exceedingly good reading. Persons of no advanced years who have
been introduced to them in the twentieth century have been known to find
them positively captivating: and their attractions are, not merely as
between the two but even in each case by itself, singularly various.
Lady Mary's forte--perhaps in direct following of her great forerunner
and part namesake, Marie de Sévigné, though she spoke inadvisedly of
her--lies in description of places and manners, and in literary
criticism.[14] Her accounts of her Turkish journey in earlier days, and
of some scenes in Italy later, of her court and other experiences, etc.,
rank among the best things of the kind in English; and her critical
acuteness, assisted as it was by no small possession of what might
almost be called scholarship, was most remarkable for her time. Also,
she does all these things naturally--with that naturalness at
which--when they possess it at all--women are so much better than men.
People say a lady can never pass a glass without looking at herself.
(One thinks by the way one has seen men do that.) But after all what the
glass gives is a reflection and record of nature: and women learn to see
it in others as well as in themselves.

[Sidenote: CHESTERFIELD]

Few English writers have suffered more injustice in popular estimation
than Chesterfield. Even putting aside the abuse by which, as above
mentioned, Johnson showed (on Fluellen's principles convincingly) that
he had more in common with the Goddess Juno than the J in both their
names--that is to say an _insanabile vulnus_ of vanity--there remain
sources of mistakes and prejudice which have been all too freely tapped.
The miscellaneous letters--which show sides of him quite different from
those most in evidence throughout the "Letters to his Son"--are rarely
read: these latter have been, at least once and probably oftener, made
into a schoolbook for translation into other languages--an office by no
means likely to conciliate affection. And even when they are not
suspected of positive immorality there is a too general idea that they
are frivolously and trivially didactic--the sort of thing that Mr.
Turveydrop the elder might have written on Deportment--if he had had
brains enough. Yet again, unbiassed appreciation of them has been
hampered by all sorts of idle controversies as to the kind of man that
young Stanhope actually turned out to be--a point of merely gossiping
importance in any case, and, whatever be the facts of this one, having
no more to do with the merit of the letters than the other fact that
some people make mistakes in their accounts after having learnt the
multiplication table has to do with the value of that composition. As a
matter of relevant fact the letters--except (and even here the
accusations against them are much exaggerated) from the point of view of
very severe morality in regard to one or two points--perhaps no more
than one--are full of sound advice, clear common-sense, and ripe
experience of the world. The manners they recommend are not those of any
but a very exceptional "dancing master," they are those of a gentleman.
The temper that they inculcate and that they exhibit in the inculcator
is positively kindly and relatively correct. Both these and the other
batch of "Letters to his Godson" and successor in the Earldom (the Lord
Chesterfield for forging whose name Dr. Dodd was hanged) show the most
curious and unusual pains on the part of a man admitted to be in the
highest degree a man of the world, and sometimes accused of being
nothing else, to make himself intelligible and agreeable to young--at
first very young--boys. In his letters to older folk, both men and
women, qualities for which there was no room in the others arise--the
thoughts of a statesman and a philosopher, the feelings of a being quite
different from the callous, frivolous, sometimes "insolent"[15]
worldling who has been so often put in the place of the real
Chesterfield. And independently of all this there is present in all
these letters--though most attractively in those to his son--a power of
literary expression which would have made the fortune of any
professional writer of the time. If Chesterfield's literary taste was
too often decided by the fashionable limitations of this time, it was,
within those limitations, accomplished: and it was accompanied, as mere
taste very often is not, by no small command of literary production. He
could and did write admirable light verse; his wit in conversation is
attested in the most final fashion by his enemy Horace Walpole, and some
of the passages in the letters where he indulges in description or even
dialogue are by no means unworthy of the best genteel comedy of the
time. But he could also, as was said of someone else, be "nobly
serious," as in his "character" writing and elsewhere. His few
contributions to the half-developed periodical literature of his day
show how valuable he would have been to the more advanced Review or
Magazine of the nineteenth century: and if he had chosen to write
Memoirs they would probably have been among the best in English.[16] Now
the Memoir and the Letter are perhaps the most straitly and intimately
connected forms of literature.

[Sidenote: HORACE WALPOLE]

Horace Walpole--like his two contemporaries, fellow-members of English
aristocratic society, acquaintances and objects of aversion just
discussed--has been the subject of very various opinions. Johnson (of
whom he himself spoke with ignorant contempt and who did not know his
letters, but did know some of his now half-forgotten published works)
dismissed him with good-natured belittlement. Macaulay made him the
subject of some of the most unfortunately exaggerated of those
antitheses of blame and praise which, in the long run, have done the
writer more harm than his subjects. To take one example less likely to
be known to English readers, the wayward and prejudiced, but often very
acute French critic already mentioned, Barbey d'Aurevilly, though he
admits Horace's _esprit_ pronounces it _un fruit brillant, amer, et
glacé_. There are undoubtedly many things to be said against him as a
man--if you take the "Letters-a-telltale-of-character" view, especially
so. He was certainly spiteful, and he had the particularly
awkward--though from one point of view not wholly unamiable--peculiarity
of being what may be called spiteful at second hand. To stand up for
your friends at the proper time and in the proper place is the duty, and
should be the pleasure, of every gentleman. But to bite and for the most
part, if not almost always, to _back_-bite your friends' supposed
enemies--often when they have done nothing adverse to those friends on
the particular occasion--is the act at the best of an intempestively
officious person, at the worst of a cur. And Horace was always doing
this in regard to all sorts of people--his abuse of Johnson himself, of
Chesterfield and Lady Mary, of Fielding and others, having no personal
excuse or reason whatsoever.

His taste in collecting, building, etc., is not a matter in which men of
other times should be too ready to throw stones, for taste in all such
matters at almost all times, however sure a stronghold it may seem to
those who occupy it, is the most brittle of glass-houses to others. He
had also a considerable touch of almost original genius in important
kinds of literature, as _The Mysterious Mother_ and _The Castle of
Otranto_ showed--a touch which undoubtedly helped him in his letters.
But of critical power he had nothing at all; and his knowledge (save,
perhaps in Art) was anything but extensive and still less accurate.
Politically he was a mere baby, all the eighty years of his life; though
he passed many of them in the House of Commons and might have passed
several in the House of Lords, had he chosen to attend it. When he was
young he was a theoretical republican rejoicing in the execution of
Charles I.: when he was old the French Revolution was to him anathema
and he was horrified at the execution of Louis XVI. He was incapable of
sustaining, perhaps of understanding, an argument: everything with him
was a matter, as the defamers of women say it is with them, of personal
and arbitrary fancy, prejudice, or whim.

But all this does not prevent him from being one of the best
letter-writers in the English language: and if you take bulk of work
along with variety of subject; maintenance of interest and craftsmanship
as well as bulk, perhaps the very best of all. The latest standard
edition of his letters, to which additions are still being made, is in
sixteen well-filled volumes, and there are probably few readers of good
taste and fair knowledge who would object if it could be extended to
sixty. There is perhaps no body of epistles except Madame de Sévigné's
own--which Horace fervently admired and, assisted perhaps by the
feminine element in his own nature, copied assiduously--exhibiting the
possible charm of letter-writing more distinctly or more copiously.

To examine the nature of this charm a little cannot be irrelevant in
such an Introduction as this: and from what has just been said it would
seem that these letters will form as good a specimen for examination as
any. They are not very much "mannerised": indeed, nobody but Thackeray,
in the wonderful chapter of _The Virginians_ where Horace is made to
describe his first interview with one of the heroes, has ever quite
imitated them. Their style, though recognisable at once, is not a matter
so much of phrase as of attitude. His revelations of character--his own
that is to say, for Horace was no conjuror with any one else's--are
constant but not deeply drawn. He cannot, or at least does not, give a
plot of any kind: every letter is a sort of _review_ of the
subject--larger or smaller--from the really masterly accounts of the
trial of the Jacobite Lords after the "Forty-five" to the most trivial
notices of people going to see "Strawberry"; of remarkable hands at
cards; of Patty Blount (Pope's Patty) in her autumn years passing his
windows with her gown tucked up because of the rain. Art and letters
appear; travelling and visiting; friendship and society; curious belated
love-making with the Miss Berrys; scandal (a great deal of it); charity
(a little, but more than the popular conception of Horace allows for);
the court-calendar, club life, almost all manner of things except
religion (though it is said Horace had an early touch of Methodism) and
really serious thought of any kind, form the budget of his letter-bag.
And it is all handled with the most unexpected equality of success.
There is of course nothing very "arresting." Cooking chickens in a sort
of picnic with madcap ladies, and expecting "the dish to fly about our
ears" is perhaps the most exciting incident[17] of the sixteen volumes
and seven or eight thousand pages. But everywhere there is interest; and
that of a kind that does not stale itself.

The fact would seem to be that the art of letter-writing is a sort of
mosaic or macédoine of nearly all departments of the general Art of
Literature. You want constant touches of the art narrative, and not very
seldom some of the art dramatic. Always you want that of
conversation--subtly differentiated. Occasionally, though in the
ordinary letter not very often, you want argument: much oftener
description. Pathos, tenderness, etc., are more exceptionally required:
and it is, in modern times at least, generally accepted that in the
letter consolatory, that almost greatest of Shakespearian magic phrases,
"the rest is silence" should never be forgotten and very quickly
applied. Wit is welcome, if it be well managed: but that is a pretty
constant proviso in regard to the particular element. Perhaps the
greatest negative caution of all is that the letter should not be
_obviously_ "written for publication."

Now the curious thing about Walpole is that his letters were, pretty
certainly in some cases (those to Mann) and not improbably in nearly
all, written with some view to publication if only of a limited sort,
and yet that the intention is rarely prominent to an offensive degree.
Even if we did not know the curious and disgusting tricks that Pope
played with his, we should be certain that he was always thinking of the
possibility of somebody else than the reader to whom they were
addressed reading them. With nearly an equal presumption as to the fact
in the case of Horace (though to do him justice he did not indulge in
any ignoble tricks with them) this fact rarely occurs and never offends.
An unkind critic with a turn for rather obvious epigram might say that
the man's nature was so artificial that his artifice seems natural. If
so, all the more credit to him as an artificer. And another feather in
his cap is that, although you can hardly ever mistake the writer, his
letters take a slight but sufficient colour of difference according to
the personality of the recipient. He does not write to Montagu exactly
as he writes to Mann; to Gray as to Mason; to Lady Upper-Ossory as to
earlier she-correspondents. So once more, though there are large and
important possible subjects for letters on which "Horry" does not write
at all, it is questionable whether, everything being counted in that he
has, and no unfair offsets allowed for what he does not attempt, we have
in English any superior to him as a letter-writer.

[Sidenote: GRAY]

The case of another famous eighteenth-century epistoler--Walpole's
schoolfellow and except for the time of a quarrel (the blame of which
Horace rather generously took upon himself but in which there were
doubtless faults on both sides)[18] life-long friend--is curiously
different. Gray was a poet, while Walpole, save for a touch of fantastic
imagination, had nothing of poetry in him and could not, as some who
are not poets can, even appreciate it. In more than one other
intellectual gift he soared above Horace. He was essentially a scholar,
while his friend was as essentially a sciolist. He even combined the
scientific with the literary temperament to a considerable extent: and
thus was enabled to display an orderliness of thought by no means
universal in men of letters, and (at least according to common
estimation) positively rare in poets. His tastes were as various as his
friend's: but instead of being a mere bundle of casual likings and
dislikings, they were aesthetically conceived and connected. He was not
exactly an amiable person: indeed, though there was less spitefulness in
him than in Horace there was, perhaps, more positive "bad blood." As for
the feature in his character, or at least conduct, that impressed itself
so much on Mr. Matthew Arnold--that he "never spoke out"--it might be
thought, if it really existed, to have been rather fatal to
letter-writing, in which a sense of constraint and "keeping back" is one
of the very last things to be desired. And some of the positive
characteristics and accomplishments above enumerated (not the
poetry--poets have usually been good epistolers) might not seem much
more suitable.

As a matter of fact, however, Gray _is_ a good letter-writer--a very
good letter-writer indeed. His letters, as might be expected from what
has been said, carry much heavier metal than Horace's; but in another
sense they are not in the least heavy. They are very much less in bulk
than those of the longer lived and more "scriblative" though hardly more
leisured writer:[19] and--as not a defect but a consequence of the
quality just attributed to them--they do not quite carry the reader
along with them in that singular fashion which distinguishes the others.
But no one save a dunce can find them dull: and their variety is
astonishing when one remembers that the writer was, for great part of
his life, a kind of recluse. He touches almost everything except love
(one wonders whether there were any unpublished, and feels pretty sure
that there must have been some unwritten, letters to Miss Speed which
would have filled the gap) and with a result of artistic success even
more decided than that assigned to Goldsmith's versatility by Gray's
enemy or at least "incompatible" Johnson.[20] His letters of travel are
admirable: his accounts of public affairs, though sometimes extremely
prejudiced, very clever; those of University society and squabbles among
the very best that we have in English; those touching "the picturesque"
extremely early and remarkably clear-sighted; those touching literature
among the least one-sided of their time. If there are, as observed or
hinted above, some unamiable touches, his persistent protection of the
poor creature Mason; his general attitude to his friends the Whartons;
and his communications with younger men like Norton Nicholls and
Bonstetten, go far to remove, or, at least, to counterbalance, the
impression.

This last division indeed, and the letters to Mason, emphasize what is
evident enough in almost all, a freedom on his part (which from some
things in his character and history we might not altogether have
expected) from a fault than which hardly any is more disagreeable in
letters. This is the manifestation of what is called, in various more or
less familiar terms, "giving oneself airs," "side," "patronising," etc.
He may sometimes come near this pitfall of "intellectuals," but he never
quite slips into it, being probably preserved by that sense of humour
which he certainly possessed, though he seldom gave vent to it in verse
and not very often in prose. Taking them altogether, Gray's letters may
be said to have few superiors in the combination of intellectual weight
and force with "pastime" interest. To some of course they may be chiefly
or additionally interesting because of such light as they throw or
withhold on a rather problematic character, but this, like the allegory
in Spenser according to Hazlitt, "won't bite" anyone who lets it alone.
They are extremely good letters to read: and the more points of interest
they provide for any reader the better for that reader himself. Once
more too, they illustrate the principle laid down at the beginning of
this paper. They are good letters because they are, with the usual
subtle difference necessary, like very good talk, recorded.[21]

[Sidenote: COWPER]

Nor is there any more doubt about the qualifications of the fifth of our
selected eighteenth-century letter-writers. Cowper's poetry has gone
through not very strongly marked but rather curious variations of
critical estimate. Like all transition writers he was a little too much
in front of the prevailing taste of his own time, and a little too much
behind that of the time immediately succeeding. There may have been a
very brief period, before the great romantic poets of the early
nineteenth century became known, when he "drove" young persons like
Marianne Dashwood "wild": but Marianne Dashwoods and their periods
succeed and do not resemble each other.[22] He had probably less hold on
this time--when he had the best chance of popularity--than Crabbe, one
of his own group, while he was destitute of the extraordinary
appeals--which might be altogether unrecognised for a time but when felt
are unmistakable--of the other two, Burns and Blake, of the poets of the
seventeen-eighties. His religiosity was a doubtful "asset" as people say
nowadays: and even his pathetic personal history had its awkward side.
But as to his letters there has hardly at any time, since they became
known, existed a difference of opinion among competent judges. There may
be some unfortunates for whom they are too "mild": but we hardly reckon
as arbiters of taste the people for whom even brandy is too mild unless
you empty the cayenne cruet into it. Moreover the "tea-pot pieties" (as
a poet-critic who ought to have known better once scornfully called
them) make no importunate appearance in the bulk of the correspondence:
while as regards the madness this supplies one of the most puzzling and
perhaps not the least disquieting of "human documents." A reader may
say--by no means in his haste, but after consideration--not merely
"Where is the slightest sign of insanity in these?" but "How on earth
did it happen that the writer of these _ever_ went mad?" even with the
assistance of Newton, and Teedon, and, one has to say, Mrs. Unwin.

For among the characteristics of Cowper's letters at their frequent and
pretty voluminous best, are some that seem not merely inconsistent with
insanity, but likely to be positive antidotes to and preservatives from
it. There is a quiet humour--not of the fantastic kind which, as in
Charles Lamb, forces us to admit the possibility of near alliance to
_over_-balance of mind--but _counter_-balancing, antiseptic, _salt_.
There is abundant if not exactly omnipresent common-sense; excellent
manners; an almost total absence in that part of the letters which we
are now considering of selfishness, and a total absence of
ill-nature.[23] It is no business of ours here to embark on the problem,
"What was the dram of eale" that ruined all this and more "noble
substance" in Cowper? though there is not much doubt about the agency
and little about the principal agents that effected the mischief. But it
is quite relevant to point out that all the good things noticed are
things distinctly and definitely good for letter-writing. And sometimes
one cannot help regretfully wondering whether, if he--who dealt so
admirably with such interests as were open to him--had had more and
wider ones to deal with, _we_ should not have had still more varied and
still more delightful letters, and _he_ would have escaped the terrible
fate that fell on him. For although Cowper was the reverse of selfish
in the ordinary sense, he was intensely self-centred, and his life gave
too much opportunity for that excessive self-concentration which is the
very hotbed of mental disease.

It is not a little surprising from this point of view, and it perhaps
shows how imperative the letter-writing faculty is when it is
possessed--that Cowper's letters are as good as they are: while that
point of view also helps us to understand why they are sometimes not so
good.

    Of all the floating thoughts we find
    Upon the surface of the mind,

as he himself very happily sums up the subjects of letter-writing, there
are few in his case which are of more unequal value than his criticisms.
Cowper had more than one of the makings of a critic, and a very
important critic. He was, or at any rate had been once, something of a
scholar; he helped to effect and (which is not always or perhaps even
often the case) helped _knowingly_ to effect, one of the most
epoch-making changes in English literature. But for the greater part of
his life he read very little; he had little chance of anything like
literary discussion with his peers; and accordingly his critical remarks
are random, uncoordinated, and mostly a record of what struck him at the
moment in the way of like and dislike, agreement or disagreement.

But then there is nothing that we go for to Cowper as a letter-writer so
little as for things of this kind: and even things of this kind take the
benefit of what Coleridge happily called--and what everybody has since
wisely followed Coleridge in calling--his "divine chit-chat." As with
Walpole--though with that difference of idiosyncrasy which all the best
things have from one another--it does not in the least matter what,
among mundane affairs at least, Cowper was talking about. If his
conversation--and some of the few _habitués_ of Olney say it was--was
anything like his letter-writing, it is no wonder that people sat over
even breakfast for an hour to "satisfy sentiment not appetite" as they
said with that slight touch of priggishness which has been visited upon
them heavily, but which perhaps had more to do with their merits than
more mannerless periods will allow.

And not even Walpole's show to quite the same degree, that extraordinary
power of making anything interesting--of entirely transcending the
subject--which belongs to the letter-writer in probably a greater
measure than to any man-of-letters in the other sense, except the poet.
The matter which these letters have to chronicle is often the very
smallest of small beer. The price, conveyance and condition of the fish
his correspondents buy for him or give him (Cowper was very fond of fish
and lived, before railways, in the heart of the Midlands); one of the
most uneventful of picnics; hares and hair (one of his most
characteristic pieces of quietly ironic humour is a brief descant on
wigs with a suggestion that fashion should decree the cutting off of
people's own legs and the substitution of artificial ones); the height
of chairs and candlesticks--anything will do. He remarks gravely
somewhere, "What nature expressly designed me for, I have never been
able to conjecture; I seem to myself so universally disqualified for the
common and customary occupations and amusements of mankind." Perhaps
poetry--at least poetry of the calibre of "Yardley Oak," and "The
Castaway," of "Boadicea" and the "Royal George" in one division; of
"John Gilpin" in the other, may not be quite properly classed among the
"common and customary occupations of mankind." But letter-writing might
without great impropriety be so classed: and there cannot be the
slightest doubt that Nature intended Cowper for a letter-writer. Whether
he writes "The passages and events of the day as well as of the night
are little better than dreams" or "An almost general cessation of
egg-laying among the hens has made it impossible for Mrs. Unwin to
enterprise a cake" one has (but perhaps a little more vividly) that
agreeable sensation which at one time visited Tennyson's Northern
Farmer. One "thinks he's said what he ought to 'a said" in the exact
manner in which he ought to have said it.

[Sidenote: MINORS]

It is however most important to remember that these Five are only, as it
were, commanding officers of the great Army, representative of the very
numerous constituents, who do the service and enjoy the franchise of
letter-writing in the eighteenth century. There is hardly a writer of
distinction in any other kind whose letters are not noteworthy; and
there are very numerous letter-writers of interest who are scarcely
distinguished in any other way. Perhaps Fielding disappoints us most in
this section by the absence of correspondence, all the more so that the
"Voyage to Lisbon" is practically letter-stuff of the best. From
Smollett also we might have more--especially more like his letter to
Wilkes on the subject of the supposed impressment of Johnson's negro
servant Frank, which we hope to give here. Sterne's character would
certainly be better if his astonishing daughter had suppressed some of
his epistles, but it would be much less distinct, and they are often, if
sometimes discreditably so, amusing if not edifying. The vast mass of
Richardson's correspondence would correspond in another sense to the
volume of his novels. We have letters from Berkeley at the beginning and
others from Gibbon at the end--these last peculiarly valuable, because,
as sometimes but not perhaps very often happens, they do not merely
illustrate but supplement and complete the published work. From ladies,
courtly, domestic, literary and others, we have shelves--and cases--and
almost libraries full; from the lively chat of the Lepels and Bellendens
and Howards of the early Georgian time to those copious and unstudied
but never dull, compositions which Fanny Burney poured forth to "Susan
and Fredy," to Maria Allen and to "Daddy Crisp" and a score of others;
those of the Montagu circle; the documents upon which some have based
aspersion and others defence of Mrs. Thrale; and the prose utterances of
the "Swan of Lichfield," otherwise Miss Seward.[24] There are
Shenstone's letters for samples of one kind and those of the Revd. Mr.
Warner (the supposed original of Thackeray's Parson Sampson) for another
and very different one. Even outside the proper and real "mail-bag"
letter all sorts of writings--travels, pamphlets, philosophical and
theological arguments, almost everything--throw themselves into the
letter form. To come back to that with which we began there is no doubt
that the eighteenth century is the century of the letter with us.



IV

NINETEENTH CENTURY LETTERS. EARLY


[Sidenote: EARLY NINETEENTH CENTURY GROUPS]

There is, however, not the slightest intention of suggesting here that
the art of letter-writing died with the century in which it flourished
so greatly. In the first place, periods of literary art seldom or never
"die" in a moment like a tropical sunset; and, in the second, the notion
that centennial years necessarily divide such periods, as well as the
centuries in which they appear, is an unhistorical delusion. There have
been dates in our history--1400 was one of them--where something of the
kind seems to have happened: but they are very rare. Most ships of
literature at such times are fortunately what is called in actual ships
"clinker-built"--that is to say overlappingly--and except at 1600 this
has never been so much the case as two hundred years later and one
hundred ago. When the eighteenth century closed, Wordsworth, Coleridge,
Scott and Southey were men approaching more or less closely, thirty
years of age. Landor, Hazlitt, Lamb and Moore were at least, and some of
them well, past the conventional "coming of age"; De Quincey, Byron and
Shelley were boys and even Keats was more than an infant. In the first
mentioned of these groups there was still very marked eighteenth-century
idiosyncrasy; in the second some; and it was by no means absent from
Byron though hardly present at all in most respects as regards Shelley
and Keats. Certainly in none of the groups, and only in one or two
individuals, is there much if any shortcoming as concerns
letter-writing. Wordsworth indeed makes no figure as a letter-writer,
and nobody who has appreciated his other work would expect him to do so.
The first requisite of the letter-writer is "freedom"--in a rather
peculiar sense of that word, closest to the way in which it has been
employed by some religious sects. Wordsworth could _preach_--nearly
always in a manner deserving respect and sometimes in one commanding
almost infinite admiration; but when the letter-writer begins to preach
he is in danger of the waste-paper basket or the fire. Coleridge's
letters are fairly numerous and sometimes very good: but more than one
of his weaknesses appears in them.

The excellence of Scott's, though always discoverable in Lockhart, was
perhaps never easily appreciable till they were separately collected and
published not very many years ago. It may indeed be suggested that the
"Life and Letters" system, though very valuable as regards the "Life" is
apt a little to obscure the excellence of the "Letters" themselves. Of
this particular collection it is not too much to say that while it threw
not the least stain on the character of one of the most faultless (one
singular and heavily punished lapse excepted) of men of letters, it
positively enhanced our knowledge of the variety of his literary powers.

Perhaps however the best of letter-writers amongst these four
protagonists of the great Romantic Revival in England (the inevitable
attempt sometimes made now to quarrel with that term is as inevitably
silly) is the least good poet. Southey's letters, never yet fully but
very voluminously published, have not been altogether fortunate in
their fashion of publication. There have been questionings about the
propriety of "Selected" Works; but there surely can be little doubt that
in the case of Letters a certain amount of selection is not only
justifiable but almost imperative. Everyone at all addicted to
correspondence must know that in writing to different people on the same
or closely adjacent days, if "anything has" in the common phrase
"happened" he is bound to repeat himself. He may, if he has the sense of
art, take care to vary his phrase even though he knows that no two
letters will have the same reader; but he cannot vary his matter much.
Southey's letters, in the two collections by his son and his son-in-law,
were edited without due regard to this: and the third--those to Caroline
Bowles, his second wife--might have been "thinned" in a different way.
But the bulk of interesting matter is still very large and the quality
of the presentation is excellent. If anyone fears to plunge into some
dozen volumes let him look at the "Cats" and the "Statues" of Greta
Hall, printed at the end of the _Doctor_, but both in form and nature
letters. He will not hesitate much longer, if he knows good letter-stuff
when he sees it.[25]

[Sidenote: LANDOR]

Most of the second group wrote letters worth reading, but only one of
them reaches the first rank in the art; it is true that he is among the
first _of_ the first. The letters of Landor supply not the least part of
that curious problem which is presented by his whole work. They
naturally give less room than the _apices_ of his regular prose and of
his poetry for that marvellous perfection of style and phrase which is
allowed even by those who complain of a want of substance in him. And
another complaint of his "aloofness" affects them in two ways rather
damagingly. When it is present it cuts at the root of one of the chief
interests of letters, which is intimacy. When it is absent, and Landor
presents himself in his well-known character of an angry baby (as for
instance when he remarked of the Bishop who did not do something he
wanted, that "God alone is great enough for him [Walter Savage Landor]
to ask anything of _twice_") he becomes merely--or perhaps to very
amiable folk rather painfully--ridiculous. De Quincey and Hazlitt
diverted a good deal of what might have been utilised as mere
letter-writing faculty into their very miscellaneous work for
publication. Moore could write very good letters himself: but is perhaps
most noted and notable in connection with the subject as being one of
the earliest and best "Life-and-Letters" craftsmen in regard to Byron.

But none of these restrictions or provisos is requisite, or could for a
moment be thought of, in reference to Charles Lamb. Of him, as of hardly
any other writer of great excellence (perhaps Thackeray is most like him
in this way) it can be said that if we had nothing but his letters we
should almost be able to detect the qualities which he shows in his
regular works. Some of the _Essays of Elia_ and his other miscellanies
are or pretend to be actual letters. Certainly not a few of his letters
would seem not at all strange and by no means unable to hold up their
heads, if they had appeared as Essays of that singularly fortunate
Italian who had his name taken, _not_ in vain but in order to be titular
author of some of the choicest things in literature.

Indeed that unique combination of bookishness and native fancy which
makes the "Eliesque" quality is obviously as well suited to the letter
as to the essay, and would require but a stroke or two of the pen, in
addition or deletion, to produce examples of either. One often feels as
if it must have been, as the saying goes, a toss-up whether the _London
Magazine_ or some personal friend got a particular composition; whether
it was issued to the public direct or waited for Serjeant Talfourd to
collect and edit it. The two English writers whom, on very different
sides of course, Lamb most resembles, and whom he may be said to have
copied (of course as genius copies) most, are Sterne and Sir Thomas
Browne. But between the actual letters and the actual works of these
two, themselves, there is a great difference, while (as has just been
noted) in Lamb's case there is none. The reason of course is that though
Sir Thomas is one of our very greatest authors and the Reverend Yorick
not by any means unplaced in the running for greatness, both are in the
highest degree artificial: while Lamb's way of writing, complex as it
is, necessitating as it must have done not a little reading and (as
would seem almost necessary) not a little practice, seems to run as
naturally as a child's babble. The very tricks--mechanical dots, dashes,
aposiopeses--which offend us now and then in Sterne; the unfamiliar
Latinisms which frighten some and disgust others in Browne, drop from
Lamb's lips or pen like the pearls of the Fairy story. Unless you are
born out of sympathy with Elia, you never think about them as tricks at
all. Now this naturalness--it can hardly be said too often here--is the
one thing needful in letters. The different forms of it may be as
various and as far apart from each other as those of the other Nature
in flora or fauna, on mountain and sea, in field and town. But if it is
there, all is right.

[Sidenote: BYRON]

There are few more interesting groups in the population of our subject
than that formed by the three poets whom we mentioned last when
classifying the epistolers of the early nineteenth century. There is
hardly one of them who has not been ranked by some far from contemptible
judgments among our greatest as poets; and merely as letter-writers they
have been put correspondingly high by others or the same. It is rather
curious that the most contested as to his place as a poet has been, as a
rule, allowed it most easily as a letter-writer. The enormous vogue
which Byron's verse at once attained both at home and abroad--has at
home if not abroad (where reputations of poets often depend upon
extra-poetical causes) long ceased to be undisputed: indeed has chiefly
been sustained by spasmodic and not too successful exertions of
individuals. It was never, of course, paralleled in regard to his
letters. But these letters early obtained high repute and have never, in
the general estimate, lost it. Some good judges even among those who do
not care very much for the poems, have gone so far as to put him among
our very best epistolers; and few have put him very much lower.
Acceptance of the former estimate certainly--perhaps even of the
latter--depends however upon the extent to which people can also accept
recognition in Byron of the qualities of "Sincerity and Strength." That
he was always a great though often a careless craftsman, and sometimes a
great artist in literature, nobody possessed of the slightest critical
ability can deny or doubt. But there are some who shake their heads over
the attribution of anything like "sincerity" to him, except very
occasionally: and who if they had to translate his "strength" into Greek
would select the word _Bia_ ("violence") and not the word _Kratos_
(simple "strength") from the _dramatis personae_ of the _Prometheus
Vinctus_. Now "sincerity" of a kind--even of that kind which we found in
Walpole and did not find in Pope--has been contended for here as a
necessity in the best, if not in all good, letters; and "violence" is
almost fatal to them. Of a certain kind of letter Byron was no doubt a
skilful practitioner.[26] But to some it will or may always seem that
the vital principle of his correspondence is to that of the real "Best"
as stage life to life off the stage. These two can sometimes approach
each other marvellously: but they are never the same thing.

[Sidenote: SHELLEY]

When Mr. Matthew Arnold expressed the opinion that Shelley's letters
were more valuable than his poetry it was, of course, as Lamb said of
Coleridge "only his fun." In the words of another classic, he "did it to
annoy, because he knew it teased" some people. The absurdity is perhaps
best antagonised by the perfectly true remark that it only shows that
Mr. Arnold understood the letters and did not understand the poetry. But
it was a little unfortunate, not for the poetry but for the letters,
against which it might create a prejudice. They are so good that they
ought not to have been made victims of what in another person the same
judge would have called, and rightly, a _saugrenu_[27] judgment. Like
all good letters--perhaps all without exception according to Demetrius
and Newman--they carry with them much of their author's idiosyncrasy,
but in a fashion which should help to correct certain misjudgments of
that idiosyncrasy itself. Shelley _is_ "unearthly," but it is an entire
mistake to suppose that his unearthliness can never become earthly to
such an extent as is required. The beginning of _The Recollection_ ("We
wandered to the pine forest") is as vivid a picture of actual scenery as
ever appeared on the walls of any Academy: and _The Witch of Atlas_
itself, not to mention the portrait-frescoes in _Adonais_, is quite a
_waking_ dream. The quality of liveness is naturally still more
prominent in the letters, because poetical transcendence of fact is not
there required to accompany it. But it _does_ accompany now and then;
and the result is a blend or brand of letter-writing almost as unlike
anything else as the writer's poetry, and in its own (doubtless lower)
kind hardly less perfect. To prefer the letters to the poems is merely
foolish, and to say that they are as good as the poems is perhaps
excessive. But they comment and complete the Shelley of the Poems
themselves in a manner for which we cannot be too thankful.

[Sidenote: KEATS]

The letters of Keats did not attract much notice till long after those
of Byron, and no short time after those of Shelley, had secured it. This
was by no means wholly, though it may have been to some extent
indirectly, due to the partly stupid and partly malevolent attempts to
smother his poetical reputation in its cradle. The letters were
inaccessible till the late Lord Houghton practically resuscitated Keats;
and till other persons--rather in the "Codlin not Short" manner--rushed
in to correct and supplement Mr. Milnes as he then was. And it was even
much later still before two very different editors, Sir Sidney Colvin
and the late Mr. Buxton Forman, completed, or nearly so, the
publication. Something must be said and may be touched on later in
connection with a very important division of our subject in general, as
to the publication by the last-named, of the letters to Fanny Brawne:
but nothing in detail need be written, and it is almost needless to say
that none of these letters will appear here. No one but a brute who is
also something of a fool will think any the worse of Keats for writing
them. A thought of _sunt lacrimae rerum_ is all the price that need be
paid by any one who chooses to read them, nor is it our business to
characterise at length the taste and wits of the person who could
publish them.[28]

But putting this question aside, it is unquestionable that for some
years past there has been a tendency to value the Letters as a whole
very highly. Not only has unusual critical power been claimed for Keats
on the strength of them, but general epistolary merit; and though
nobody, so far as one knows, has yet paralleled the absurdity above
mentioned in the case of Shelley, Keats has been taken by some
credit-worthy judges as an unusually strong witness to the truth of the
proposition already adopted here, that poets are good letter-writers.

He certainly is no exception to the rule; but to what exact extent he
exemplifies it may not be a matter to be settled quite off hand. There
is no doubt that at his best Keats is excellent in this way, and that
best is perhaps to be found with greatest certainty, by anyone who
wants to dip before plunging, in the letters to his brother and
sister-in-law, George and Georgiana. Those to his little sister Fanny
are also charming in their way, though the peculiar and very happy
mixture of life and literature to be found in the others does not, of
course, occur in them. His letters of description, to whomsoever
written, are, as one might expect, first-rate; and the very late
specimen--one of his very last to anyone--to _Mrs._ not Miss Brawne is
as brave as it is touching. As for the criticism, there are undoubtedly
(as again we should expect from the author of the wonderful preface to
_Endymion_) invaluable remarks--the inspiration of poetical practice
turned into formulas of poetical theory. On the other hand, the famous
advice to Shelley to "be more of an artist and load every rift with
ore"--Shelley whose art transcends artistry and whose substance is as
the unbroken nugget gold, so that there are no rifts in it to load--is,
even when one remembers how often poets misunderstand each other,[29]
rather "cold water to the back" of admiration.

It may, however, not unfairly introduce a very few considerations on the
side of Keats's letters which is not so good. All but idolaters
acknowledge a certain boyishness in him--a boyishness which is in fact
no mean source contributary of his charm in verse. It is perhaps not
always quite so charming in prose, and especially in letters. You do not
want self-criticism of an obviously second-thought kind in them. But you
do want that less obtrusive variety which prevents them from appearing
unkempt, "down-at-heel" etc. Perhaps there is, at any rate in the
earlier letters, something of this unkemptness in Keats as an epistoler.

A hasty person may say "What! do you venture to quarrel with letters
where, side by side with agreeable miscellaneous details, you may
suddenly come upon the original and virgin text of 'La Belle Dame sans
Merci'?" Most certainly not. Such a find, or one ten times less
precious, would make one put up with accompaniments much more than ten
times worse than the worst of Keats's letters. But it may be observed
that the objection is only a fresh example of the unfortunate
tendency[30] of mankind to "ignore elenchs" as the logicians say, or, as
less pedantic phraseology has it, to talk beside the question. A man
might put a thousand pound note (and you might spend many thousand pound
notes without buying anything like the poem just mentioned) in a coarse,
vulgar, trivial or in other ways objectionable letter. The note would be
most welcome in itself, but it would not improve the quality of its
covering epistle. Not, of course, that Keats's letters are coarse or
vulgar, though they are sometimes rather trivial. But the point is that
their excellency, _as_ letters, does not depend on their enclosures (as
we may call them) or even directly on their importance as biography
which is certainly consummate. Are they good letters as such, and of how
much goodness? Have they been presented as letters should be presented
for reading? These are points on which, considering the title and range
of this Introduction, it may not be improper to offer a few
observations. We have already ventured to suggest that, if not the "be
all and end all," at any rate the quality to be first enquired into as
to its presence or its absence in letters, is "naturalness." And we have
said something as to the propriety or impropriety of different modes of
editing and publishing them. The present division of the subject seems
to afford a specially good text for adding something more on both these
matters.

As to the first point, the text is specially good because of the
position of Keats in the most remarkable group in which we have rather
found than placed him. To the present writer, as a reader, it seems, as
has been already said whether justly or unjustly, that the element of
"naturalness"--it is an ugly word, and French has no better, in fact
none at all: though German is a little luckier with _natürlichkeit_ and
Spanish much with _naturaleza_--is rather conspicuously deficient in
Byron. In Shelley it is pre-eminent, and can only be missed by those who
have no kindred touch of the nature which it reflects. Shelley could be
vague, unpractical, mystical; he could sometimes be just a little silly;
but it was no more possible for him to be affected, or to make those
slips of taste which are a sort of _minus_ corresponding to the _plus_
of affectation, than it was (after _Queen Mab_ at least) to write
anything that was not poetry. Thus in addition to the literary
perfection of his letters, they have the _sine qua non_ of naturalness
in perfection also.

But with Keats things are different. Opinions differ as to whether he
ever quite reached maturity even in poetry to the extent into which
Shelley struck straight with _Alastor_, never losing it afterwards, and
leaving us only to wonder what conceivable accomplishment might have
even transcended _Adonais_ and its successors. That with all his
marvellous promise and hardly less marvellous achievement, Keats was
only reaching maturity when he died has been generally allowed by the
saner judgments.[31] Now _im_maturity has perhaps its own naturalness
which is sometimes, and in a way, very charming, but is not the
naturalness pure and simple of maturity. Children are sometimes, nay
often, very pretty, agreeable and amusing things: but there comes a time
when we rather wish they would go to the nursery. Perhaps the
"sometimes" occurs with Keats's earlier letters if not with his later.

[Sidenote: EDITING OF LETTERS]

He is thus also a text for the second part of our sermon--the duty of
editors and publishers of correspondence. There is much to be said for
the view that publication, as it has been put, "is an unpardonable sin,"
that is to say, that no author (or rather no author's ghost) can justly
complain if what he once deliberately published is, when all but the
control of the dead hand is off, republished. _Il l'a voulu_, as the
famous tag from Molière has it. But letters in the stricter sense--that
is to say, pieces of private correspondence--are in very different case.
Not only were they, save in very few instances, never _meant_ for
publication: but, which is of even more importance, they were never
_prepared_ for publication.[32] Not only, again, did the writer never
see them in "proof," much less in "revise," as the technical terms go,
but he never, so far as we know, exercised on them even the revision
which all but the most careless authors give before sending their
manuscripts to the printer. Some people of course do read over their
letters before sending them: but it must be very rarely and in special,
not to say dubious, cases that they do this with a view to the thing
being seen by any other eyes than those of the intended recipient. It is
therefore to the last degree unfair to plump letters on the market
unselected and uncastigated. To what length the castigation should
proceed is of course matter for individual taste and judgment. Nothing
must be put in--that is clear; but as to what may or should be left out,
"there's the rub." Perhaps the best criterion, though it may be admitted
to be not very easy of application, is "Would the author, in publishing,
have left it out or not?" Sometimes this will pass very violent
expressions of opinion and even sentiments of doubtful morality and
wisdom. But that it should invariably exclude mere trivialities, faults
of taste, slovenlinesses of expression, etc., is at least the opinion of
the present writer. And a "safety razor" of such things might perhaps
with advantage have been used on Keats's, though he has written nothing
which is in the least discreditable to him.



V

NINETEENTH CENTURY LETTERS. LATER


[Sidenote: A NINETEENTH CENTURY GROUP]

Part at least of these general remarks has a very special relevance to
the rest of our story. There may be differences of respectable opinion
as to the system of editing just advocated; but they will hardly concern
one point--that the susceptibilities of living persons must be
considered. To some extent indeed this is a mere counsel of selfish
prudence: for an editor who neglects it may get himself into serious
difficulties. Even where such danger does not exist, or might perhaps be
disregarded, it is impossible for any decent person to run the risk of
needlessly offending others. It will be seen at once that this
introduces a new matter for consideration in regard to most--practically
all--of the correspondences which we have still to survey. Even those
just discussed have only recently passed from under its range. Shelley's
son died not so very long ago: grandchildren of Byron much more
recently; and if Keats had lived to the ordinary age of man and had, as
he very likely would have done, married not Fanny Brawne, but somebody
else later, a son or daughter of his (daughters are particularly and
sometimes inconveniently loyal to their deceased parents) might be alive
and flourishing now. As this constraint extends not merely to the
families of the writers but to those of persons mentioned by them (not
to speak of these persons themselves in the most recent cases), it
exercises, as will at once be seen, a most wide-ranging cramp and brake
upon publication. Blunders are occasionally made of course: the most
remarkable in recent times was probably an oversight of the editor of
Edward FitzGerald's letters, than which hardly any more interesting
exist among those yet to be noticed. FitzGerald, quite innocently and
without the slightest personal malevolence but thinking only of Mrs.
Browning's work, had expressed himself (as anybody might in a private
letter) to the effect that perhaps we need not be sorry for her death.
Unfortunately the letter was published while her husband was still
alive: and many people must remember the very natural and excusable, but
somewhat excessive and undignified, explosion which followed on his
part.

Such things must of course be avoided at all costs; and the consequence
is that nineteenth century letters must frequently--in fact with rare if
any exceptions--have appeared in a condition of expurgation which cannot
but have affected their spirit and savour to a very considerable extent.
It is for instance understood that Mr. Matthew Arnold's were very
severely censored; and, while readily believing this and acquiescing in
its probable propriety, the old Adam in some readers may be unable to
refrain from regret.

Again, there is something to be said about the less good effects of that
"Life-and-Letters" system which has been quite rightly welcomed and
praised for its better ones. Drawing on the Letters--with good material
to work on and good skill in the worker--improves the Life enormously;
but it is by no means certain--indeed it has been hinted already--that
the Letters themselves do not to a certain extent lose by it. Indeed
from one point of view, the word "loss" may be used in its most literal
meaning. The compiler of one very famous biography was said, for
instance, to have--with a disregard of the value of letters as
autographs which was magnificent perhaps in one way but far from "the
game" in others--cut up the actual sheets and pasted the pieces on his
manuscript, sending the whole to the printers and chancing the survival
even of what was sent, when it came back with the proofs.

But there is another sense of "loss" which has also to be reckoned. The
framework of biography is, or at least ought to be, something more than
a mere frame: and it distracts attention from the letters themselves,
breaks up their continuous effect, and in many cases necessitates at
least occasional omission of parts which an editor of them by themselves
would not think of excluding. Of course this is no argument against the
plan as such: but it has, together with what was said recently, to be
taken into account when we compare the epistolary position of the last
century with that of its immediate predecessor.[33]

These remarks are made not in the least by way of depreciating or even
making an apology for nineteenth century letters, but only in order to
put the reader in a proper state for critical estimation of them. Nor is
it necessary to repeat--still less to discuss--the more general
lamentations with some reference to which we started as to any decay of
letter-writing. Provisos and warnings may be taken as having been made
sufficiently: and we pass to the actual survey.

It may have been noticed in reference to the principal group of
letter-writers in the eighteenth that, with the exception of Cowper,
they were all acquainted with each other. Walpole knew Lady Mary,
Chesterfield and Gray; while Gray, if he did not know the other two,
knew Walpole very well indeed. Something of the same sort might be
contended for among those whom we have selected on the bridge of the
eighteenth and nineteenth. Wordsworth, Coleridge, Southey and Lamb were
of course intimately connected: Southey knew Landor and Shelley, Keats
knew Shelley, Wordsworth and Lamb; while Byron and Shelley, however
unequally, were pretty closely yoked together. It is not meant that in
all these groups everybody wrote to each other; but that the writing
faculty was curiously prominent--diffused like a kind of atmosphere--in
all. Now if we look in the nineteenth for such a group it will be found
perhaps less readily. But one such at least certainly exists, to wit
that which includes Tennyson, Thackeray, Edward FitzGerald, Carlyle and
his wife, Fanny Kemble, Sterling and one or two more. There are of
course numerous others outside this group, and even in it Tennyson
himself is not a very remarkable letter-writer, any more than his great
rival, Browning, was. But there was the same diffusion of the
letter-writing spirit which has been noticed above, and Thackeray,
FitzGerald, the Carlyles, and perhaps Fanny Kemble are quite of the
greater clans among our peculiar people.

The most remarkable of all these--and as it seems to the present writer,
one of the most remarkable of all English letter-writers is one whose
letters have never been collected,[34] and from whom, until
comparatively lately, we had only few and as it were accidental
specimens. It is hoped that, notwithstanding the great changes of taste
recently as to reticence or indiscretion, there are still many people
who can not only understand but thoroughly sympathise with Thackeray's
disgust at the idea of having his "Life" written; and the even greater
reluctance which he would certainly have felt at that of having his
letters published. But, as has been suggested on a former occasion, when
things _are_ published there is nothing disgraceful in reading them: and
it may be frankly admitted that lovers of English literature would have
missed much pleasure and the opportunity of much admiration if the
"Brookfield" letters, those to the Baxter family and others in America,
those finally included in the "Biographical" edition, and yet others
which have turned up sporadically had remained unknown. It may be
doubted whether there is anything like them in our literature--if indeed
there is in any other--for the double, treble or even more complicated
gift of view into character, matter of interest, positive literary
satisfaction, and (perhaps most remarkable of all) resemblance to and
explanation of the author's "regular literature," as it has been called.
In some respects they resemble the letters of Keats; but there is absent
from them the immaturity which was noted in those, and which extended to
both matter and style. They are more various in subject and tone than
Shelley's. They are not deliberately quaint like Lamb's; and they
naturally lack (whether this is wholly an advantage or not, may admit,
though not here, of dispute) the restraint[35] which, in greater or less
degree and in varied kind, characterizes the great eighteenth century
epistolers.

[Sidenote: THACKERAY]

One additional charm which many of them possess may be regarded by
extreme precisians as of doubtful legitimacy as far as comment here is
concerned: but this may be ruled out as a superfluous scruple. It is the
illumination of the text "by the author's own candles" as he himself
says in a well-known Introduction: the actual "illustration" by
insertion in the script, of little pen-drawings. The shortcomings of
Thackeray's draughtsmanship have always been admitted: and by nobody
more frankly than by himself. But they hardly affect this sort of
"picturing" at all. The unfortunate inability to depict a pretty face
which he deplored need do no harm whatever: and his lack of
"composition" not much. A spice of caricature is almost invariably
admissible in such things: and the same tricksy spirit which prompted
the hundreds of initials, _culs-de-lampe_ etc. contributed by him to
_Punch_ and to be found collected in the "Oxford" edition of his works,
was most happily at hand for use in letters. Some years ago there
appeared, in a catalogue of autographs for sale, an extract of text and
cut which was irresistibly funny. The author and designer had had a
mishap by slipping on that peculiarly treacherous suddenly frozen rain
for which (though we are liable enough to it in England and though some
living have seen the entire Strand turned into one huge pantomime
scene, roars of laughter included, as people came out of theatres) we
have no special name. (The French, in whose capital it is said to be
even more frequent, call it _verglas_.) In telling it he had drawn
himself sitting (as involuntarily though one hopes not so eternally as
_infelix Theseus_) with arms, legs, hat, etcetera in disorder suitable
to the occasion and with a facial expression of the most ludicrous
dismay. It can hardly have taken a dozen strokes of the pen: but they
simply glorified the letter.

In no sense, however, can the value and delight of Thackeray's letters
be said to depend upon this _bonus_ of illustration. Without it they
would be among the most noteworthy and the most delectable of their
kind. One sees in them the "first state" of that extraordinary glancing
at all sorts of side-views, possible objections and comments on "what
the other fellow thinks," which is the main secret in his published
writings. If the view of him as a "sentimentalist" (which nobody, unless
it is taken offensively, need refuse to accept) is strengthened by them,
that absurd other view, which strangely prevailed so long, of his
"cynicism" is utterly destroyed. We see the variety of his interests;
the keenness of his sensations; the strange and kaleidoscopic rapidity
of the changes in his mood and thought. And through the whole there runs
the wonderful style which was so long unrecognised--nay, which those who
go by the trumpery machine-made rules of "composition books" used
gravely to stigmatise as "incorrect." Time lifts a great many (though
not perhaps all) the restraints upon publication which have been
discussed and advocated above: and it will probably be possible some day
for posterity to possess, not only a collected body of the now scattered
Thackeray letters, but a considerably larger one than has ever appeared
even in extracts and catalogues. It will be an addition to our
Epistolary Library which can bear comparison with any previous occupant
of those shelves: and one of the books which deserve, in a very peculiar
sense, the hackneyed praise of being "as good as a novel." For it will
be almost the equivalent of an additional novel of its author's own--a
_William Makepeace Thackeray_ in the familiar novel-form of title, and
in the old Richardsonian form of contents--but oh! how different from
anything of Richardson's save that it might possibly make you hang
yourself, not because you could not get to the story, but because you
had come to the end of it.

[Sidenote: FITZGERALD]

If, however, anyone insists on a formal and more or less complete
presentation, already existing, of nineteenth century "Letters" in a
body by a single writer, the palm must probably be given to those
(already referred to) of the translator or paraphrast of Omar Khayyàm.
Besides their great intrinsic interest and peculiar idiosyncrasy, they
have, for anyone studying the subject as we are endeavouring to do, a
curious attraction of comparison. Letter-writing, though by no means
exclusively, would appear to be specially and peculiarly the _forte_ of
men who live somewhat special and peculiar lives--men without the
ordinary family ties of wife and children--sometimes though by no means
always, recluses; possibly to some extent "originals," "humourists,"
"eccentrics," as they have been called at different times and from
different points of view. Even Walpole, fond as he was of society,
belongs to the class after a fashion, as do also Chesterfield[36] and
Lady Mary, while Gray, Cowper, and at a later period Lamb, are eminently
of it. But hardly anyone so unquestionably comes under the
classification as Edward FitzGerald. He certainly was for a time
married, but that marriage as certainly was not made in Heaven, if it
was not conspicuously of the other origin: and actual cohabitation
lasted but a short time. He had no children, and though he frequently
foregathered with the family from which he sprang, he was essentially a
"solitary." Such solitaries, even if they do not ticket and advertise
themselves as such after the fashion of Rousseau and Senancour and the
author of _Jacopo Ortis_, naturally enough find in letters the outlet
for communication with their fellows[37] which others find in
conversation, and the occupation which those others have ready-made, in
society, business of all kinds etc. That some copious and excellent
letter-writers, such as for instance Southey, have been extremely busy,
and "family men" of the most unblemished character, merely shows that
the rule is not universal. But it may be observed that their letters
usually have less intense idiosyncrasy than those of the others.

Of such idiosyncrasy, both in letters and in other work, few men have
had more than the author of _Euphranor_ and (as we have had to say
before) the "translator or paraphrast" not merely of Persian but of
Spanish and Greek masterpieces. It is indeed notorious that it was in
this latter capacity that he showed the individuality of his genius most
strongly. It is a frequently but perhaps idly[38] disputed question how
much is Omar and how much FitzGerald, while the problem might certainly
be extended by asking how much is Aeschylus and how much Calderon in his
versions of those masters: but it does not concern us here. What does
concern us is the fact that he has contrived to make his most famous
exercise in translation signally, and the others to some extent, not
dead "versions," but as it were reincarnations of the original, the
spirit or the flesh (whichever anyone pleases) being his own, or both
being blended of his and the author's. To do this requires a "strong
nativity" though not in the equivocal sense in which another great
translator of FitzGerald's own type[39] used that term. It shows in his
scanty "original" work: but it shows also and perhaps more strongly in
his letters. Everyone who has studied the history of the English
Universities in connection with that of English literature knows, even
if he has not been fortunate enough to experience it, the remarkable
fashion in which, at certain times, colleges and coteries at Oxford and
Cambridge have seemed to throw a strange and almost magical influence
over a generation (hardly more) of undergraduates. There was
unmistakably such an _aura_ or atmosphere about in Trinity College,
Cambridge, during the last of the twenties and the first of the thirties
of the nineteenth century--a spirit of literature and humour, of
seriousness and jest, of prose sense and half mystical poetry--which
produced things as diverse as _The Dying Swan_ and Clarke's _Library of
Useless Knowledge_, _Vanity Fair_ and the English _Rubaiyàt_.

Of this curiously blended mood-combination--of which in their different
ways Tennyson and Thackeray, as universally known, Brookfield, W. B.
Donne, G. S. Venables, as less known, but noteworthy instances suggest
themselves as examples--FitzGerald was certainly not the least
remarkable. He had, as eccentrics usually and almost necessarily have,
not a few limitations, some of which possibly were, though others
certainly were not, deliberately assumed or accepted. He would not allow
that Tennyson had ever in his later work (not latest by any means) done
anything so good as his earlier. In that unlucky though quite blameless
observation on Mrs. Browning which was referred to above, he ignored or
showed himself unable to appreciate the fact that the poetess had never
done anything better than, if anything so good as, some of her very
latest work.[40] It cannot be considered an entirely adequate cause for
ceasing to live with your wife,[41] that her dresses rustle; and many
other instances of what may be called practical and literary
_non-sequiturs_ might be alleged against him. But all these
"queernesses" are evidence of a temperament and a mode of thinking which
are likely to produce very satisfactory letters. They are sure not to be
dull: and when the queerness is accompanied by such literary power as
"Fitz" possessed they are not likely to be merely silly, as some things
are which attempt not to be dull. As a matter of fact they are
delightful: and their variety is astonishing. Odd stories and odd
experiences seem, despite his almost claustral life, to have had a habit
of flying to FitzGerald like filings to a magnet--as for instance the
irresistible anecdote of the parish clerk who insisted on giving out for
singing casual remarks of the parson above him as if they were verses of
a hymn, and who was duly echoed by the congregation. Even when he does
not make you laugh he satisfies you: even when you do not agree with him
you are obliged to him for having expressed his heresy.

[Sidenote: FANNY KEMBLE]

One of FitzGerald's special correspondents was, for reasons then
imperative, not a member of the Cambridge group itself, but as closely
connected with it as possible: being the sister of one of its actual
members. John M. Kemble, one of our earliest and best Anglo-Saxon
scholars in modern times, was, like others of his famous family (so far
as is generally known) a person of varied talents, though he showed
these neither in letter writing nor in the direction which Tennyson
incorrectly augured in the "Sonnet to J. M. K." His sister Frances
(invariably, like most though by no means all ladies of her name, called
"Fanny"[42]) was a very remarkable person indeed. After taking early and
with brilliant success to the stage which might almost be said to be
hers by inheritance,[43] she married an American planter with even worse
results (they were actually divorced) than her friend FitzGerald's
marriage brought about later: and for many years returned to public
life, not as an actress but as a reader. She wrote and published both
prose and verse of various kinds: but her best known work and that which
places her here, is a voluminous series of "Records," etc., much of
which is composed of actual letters, while practically the whole of it
is what we have called "letter-stuff." It has perhaps been published
_too_ voluminously: and it is certain that, as indeed one might expect,
its parts are not equal in interest. But experienced and balanced
judgment must always sum up in her favour as possessing, in letter- and
even other writing, more than ordinary talent, perhaps never quite
happily or fully developed. Merely as a person she seems to have
exercised an extraordinary attraction without being exactly amiable[44]:
and from the intellectual and artistic sides as a writer (we have
nothing here to do with her histrionic powers) to have been what has
sometimes in others been called "inorganic," "ill-regulated," "not
brought off," etc., but of extraordinary capacity.

This may have had something to do with her sudden and exceptional
success, when at barely twenty, and with no training except what
heredity might give her, she "took the town [and the country] by storm"
as Juliet, and very soon afterwards "carried" America likewise. But her
"records" of these and other things are of almost the first quality: and
this power of "recording" continued and was perhaps stimulated by the
less as well as the more fortunate events of her life. It may be said
indeed that in her time a young woman of full age (she was five and
twenty), unusual experience of the world, and still more unusual wits,
had no business to marry a planter in the Southern States, knowing that
she was to live there, unless she had reconciled herself to the
institution of slavery. Nor can anybody without prejudice deny this. But
the inconsistency and the troubles it developed gave occasion to some
very remarkable "recording," and the same had been the case earlier with
her life, whether at home, on the stage, or in society, and was the case
later whether she lived in England, in the Northern States, or on the
Continent of Europe. Perhaps you never exactly like her: an unusual
experience in the reading of letters, which for the most part are
singularly reconciling from the mere fact of their explanatory quality.
There is indeed no better confirmation of the well-known French saying
_tout comprendre c'est tout pardonner_. Here, however, there are, as
elsewhere, exceptions--Gray being perhaps one[45] as our present subject
is another. But there are few things more interesting, though their
interest may be somewhat tragic, than the spectacle of the way "things
go wrong" so easily, so finally, so fatally. Fanny Kemble had a sister
Adelaide, afterwards Mrs. Sartoris, with whom everything appears to have
gone right: but with herself it "seemed otherwise to the Gods." And her
letters or memoirs, or whatever they are to be called, are the record
thereof, as well as of other things.

[Sidenote: THE CARLYLES]

The letters and "letter-stuff" of the Carlyles, husband and wife,
according to the inevitable misfortune attending so much of our
subject--supplied the occasion of volumes of that disgusting and most
idle controversy which has made many people of taste pray that nothing
biographical may ever be published about them. Far be it from us to take
part in a game which if it does not always, like the unpleasant
personage in the old ballad,

    Come for ill and never for good,

certainly comes for the former much oftener than for the latter purpose
and result. _Sunt lacrimae rerum_ is--once more and as so often--the
best and the sufficient observation. But there remains in the letters of
both, and especially in those of the lady, plenty of wholesome interest
and of justifiable--not spying or eavesdropping--information as to
character. Judged comparatively, they certainly do not contradict the
notion formerly referred to, that in some respects letter-writing is a
specially feminine gift. Carlyle's own letters[46] have plenty of merit
and attraction--some of the descriptive ones especially: and they
demonstrate, in the infallible way which letters and letters alone can
supply in the absence of long personal familiarity, that the general
tone and key of his writings was no falsetto but a perfectly genuine
thing--that the often urged contrast of the _Life of Schiller_, instead
of evidencing affectation in the later work, only proves constraint in
the earlier. At the same time, except for what may be called
side-illustration of the works, and completion of the biography for
those who want it, there is not very much in Carlyle's letters which
would be a serious loss.

With his wife the case is different. Without her "Letters and Memorials"
we might (it is rather improbable that we _should_, owing to the
misdemeanours of more persons than one and the blow-fly appetite of a
part of the public for sore places) have escaped a good deal of the
ignoble wrangling above referred to. But we should not only have failed
to appreciate a very remarkable character, but have missed some of the
very best of our now existing contributions to epistolary literature.
Personally Mrs. Carlyle was by no means a general favourite. She had a
fearfully sharp tongue, and a still sharper wit in directing it upon her
victims; her experiences were not very likely to edulcorate her acids
and mollify her asperities. The letters show that, as so often happens,
there was plenty of sweetness within the sharp exterior, and that her
strength was the strength of passion, not of obduracy. But this is not
all. There might have been biographical whitewashing of this kind
without much gain to pure literature. But the letters showed likewise a
power of expression, both lighter and more serious, which is hardly
inferior to that found in any correspondence of man or woman, genuine or
fictitious. Some people, not given to rash superlatives and pretty
extensively acquainted with literature, have held that the letter
describing her visit after many years to Haddington, and the
reminiscences it called forth, has no superior in the vast range of our
subject for pure pathos perfectly expressed, without constraint on
nature yet without loss of dignity.[47] On the other hand, the half
comic accounts of her domestic troubles etc. are worthy of Fielding or
Thackeray. The fact is that Mrs. Carlyle possessed what is rare in
women--humour. And she exemplified, as few other women and not so very
many men have done, Anne Evans's matchless definition of it as "thinking
in jest while feeling in earnest." Moreover while, as all true
humourists can, she could drop the jest altogether when necessary, she
could, as is the case with them likewise, never quite discard the
earnest.

[Sidenote: MACAULAY AND DICKENS]

Some of the most distinguished of Carlyle's contemporaries, the great
men of letters of the mid-nineteenth century, have left letters more or
less copious and more or less valuable from one or both of the two
sides, biographical and literary, but not eminently so. Macaulay's
letters and diaries suit biography excellently, and have been
excellently used in his. They lighten and sweeten the rather boisterous
"cocksureness" of the published writings: and help his few but very
remarkable poems other than the _Lays_ (which are excellent but in a
different kind) to show the soul and heart of the man as apart from his
mere intellect. But they are not perhaps intrinsically very capital. So
also in Dickens's case the "Life-and-Letters" system is excellently
justified, but one does not know that the letters in themselves would
always deserve a first class in this particular school of _Literae
Humaniores_. Letter-writing admits--if it may not even require--a
certain kind of egotism. But it must be what the French call an _Egoisme
à plusieurs_--a temper which takes, if only for the moment, other people
into itself and cares for them there. "The Inimitable" was perhaps too
generally thinking of that Inimitable himself or of the fictitious
creations of his marvellous genius. If, like his own Mr. Toots, he could
have written some letters to or from _them_ it would have been a very
different thing. In this respect he does not, as in others he does,
resemble Balzac, whose egotism was in a way as intense as his own and
like it extended to his creations, but could extend farther: while the
contrast with Thackeray is even more salient than in other cases from
this same point of view. At the same time it must not be supposed that
there is any intention here of belittling Dickens, either as a
letter-writer or in any other way. It is only suggested that he lacks
one of the things necessary to perfect letter-writing. Perhaps his most
noteworthy productions in the style are his editorial criticisms--rather
limited in taste and purview, but singularly shrewd within other limits.
And many of the others tell their substance with that faculty of
"telling" which he possessed as few have ever done, while the comedy of
those given here is "the true Dickens."

[Sidenote: SOME NOVELISTS]

Mention of the three greatest novelists (English and French) of the
mid-nineteenth century naturally suggests the rest of a class so
predominant in that century's literary production. Their record in the
matter is rather chequered, for reasons, in some respects and cases at
any rate, not difficult to discover. Reference is elsewhere made to the
disappointment experienced (perhaps not too reasonably) by some readers
of the letters of George Eliot. A not dissimilar feeling had been
expressed earlier in regard to those of Miss Austen: which, however,
were intrinsically far superior. Except to her sister, and it may be
even to her, Jane Austen was not at all likely to indulge in what is
called in French _épanchement_: it was not in the least her line,
whether in writing for publication or otherwise. Only one full year
passed between the death of Miss Austen and the birth of Miss Evans, and
the two illustrated very fairly the comfortable if not invariably
accurate idea that when one human being dies another is born to succeed
him or her in their special functions. But, as in other respects, they
differed here remarkably; and though in neither case was the nature of
the writer exactly expansive, this want of expansiveness was very
differently conditioned. Miss Austen no doubt could, if she had chosen,
(she has done something like it as it is) have written most delightful
letters. A hundred scenes in the novels from Catherine Morland's tremors
and trials, or John Dashwood's progressive limitations of generosity for
his sisters, to some of the best things in _Persuasion_, would take
letter form with the happiest results. But she did not choose that it
should be so. George Eliot, on the other hand, after her earlier days,
had ensconced herself in such a chrysalis of quasi-philosophical and
quasi-scientific thought and speech that she could hardly have recovered
the freedom of expression which is almost the soul of letter-writing.

Some of Bulwer's (the first Lord Lytton's) letters are remarkable in
ways, especially that of literary criticism, which might hardly be
expected by anyone who had insufficiently taken the measure of his
strangely unequal and imperfect, yet as strangely varied, talent. But as
the century went on a new prohibitory influence arose in the enormous
professional production which began to be customary with
novelists--principally tempted no doubt by the corresponding gain of
money, but perhaps also by the nobler desire of increasing, or at least
living up to, their reputations. Even short of the unbroken drudgery
which, it is said, compelled one lady novelist, of high rank for a time,
to scribble her novels as she was actually receiving and talking to
morning callers, the production of three or four novels a year--and
those not the cock-boats we often see now but attempts at least at "the
old three-decker" in its fullest dimensions--could leave little time or
inclination for extensive letter-writing. There were, however, some
exceptions. Charles Kingsley--who, though his novels were not very
numerous, supplemented them with all sorts of miscellaneous writing for
publication, was a diligent sportsman, an active cleric, and a busy man
in many kinds and ways--wrote certainly good and probably many letters.
The two brighter stars in the Brontë constellation, especially
Charlotte, were scarcely less remarkable with the pen in this way than
in others: and Mrs. Gaskell, Charlotte's biographer, has been put high
by some. The unconquerable personality of Charles Reade showed itself
here as elsewhere[48]: and others might be mentioned.[49] But perhaps
the most distinguished novelist next to Thackeray of the nineteenth
century, who was also a most distinguished letter-writer, was one who
died in middle age not long before its end--Robert Louis Stevenson.

[Sidenote: STEVENSON]

Stevenson had in fact practically all the qualifications necessary for a
good practitioner of our art. He had, eminently, that gift which the
Romans called _facundia_ and the French can translate, if with a slight
degradation of meaning, by _faconde_; but for which we, though the
adjective "facund" has, one believes, been tried, possess no noun,
"Eloquence" being too much specified to "fine" writing or speaking.
"Facility of expression" perhaps comes nearest. Whether he corrected or
corrupted this native gift by his famous "sedulous aping" of stylists
before him is a debated question: but one quite unnecessary to touch
here. It is sufficient to say that he never aped anyone in his letters,
unless playfully and in a sort of concert with his correspondent. Indeed
he possessed, quintessentially, that "naturalness" of matter and form on
which so much stress has been laid. He had a disposition equally
favourable to the business--if business we may call it. A person who is
habitually gloomy may write capital letters of an impressive character
now and then: but is likely to produce little but boredom if he extends
his practice. Louis Stevenson did not habitually "regard the world
through a horse collar" (as it was once put), but he certainly did not
pass through it gnashing his teeth or holding his handkerchief to his
eyes. Although he did a good deal of work, sometimes under no small
difficulties, he had very little if any of that _collar_-work--that
grinding "in Gaza at the mill with slaves" which takes the spring out of
all but the springsomest of men. He had widely varied experience of
scene, occupation, personal society. He knew plenty of books without
being in the least bookish; had, as the old saying goes, "wit at will,"
and, though he never made deliberate and affected efforts to _get_ out
of ruts, _kept_ out of them without the least trouble. He was as little
of a "poser" or of a "rotter" as he was of a prig, and there was not a
drop of bad blood in his veins. If these things could not make a good
letter-writer nothing could; and there is little doubt that he will hold
his place as such as long as English literature lasts. It is a great
pleasure to me to give, as I hope to do, one unpublished letter of his
to myself as a sort of _bonus_ to the reader of this little book--a
letter of rather unusual interest in literary as in other respects.

At this point, perhaps, actual survey may, and indeed had best, stop:
not merely because space is closing in. Lovers of letters will of course
detect what seem to them omissions in what has gone before and what
comes after. Some of these, no doubt, will have been real oversights.
Others, for this or that reason deliberate, such as Gibbon and
Newman--the latter not merely for his re-statement of the
character-value of correspondence, but for his exemplifications of
it--might certainly have been more fully noticed. But in regard to later
writers there are several obstacles in the path. Of some it would not be
easy to speak on account of their own lives being too recent: in regard
of nearly all the same fact must have occasioned exercise of
"censorship" to a degree which makes absolute judgment of their
competence as epistolers rash, and comparative judgment almost
impossible. To take up once more one example of men who were born a full
or almost a full century ago, Mr. Paul,[50] speaking apparently with
intimate knowledge of the originals, speaks also of the "severe process
of excision and retrenchment to which these [_the letters of Mr. Matthew
Arnold_] have been exposed." And he thinks that very few letters "could
have endured" it. Those who remember the appearance of these letters
will also remember that some critics doubted whether even "these" had
exactly "endured it"--that is to say, whether the expected salt of the
author of so much published _persiflage_ had not been left out or had
singularly lost its savour. To take another from the next generation, it
is pretty certain that Mr. Swinburne's letters, though we have judicious
selections from them, must have needed much more excision or
retrenchment than Mr. Arnold's, unless he wrote them in a manner
remarkably different both from his conversation and from his published
works. In such cases it is best, the evidence being not fully before us,
not to anticipate either the privileges or the decisions of posterity.



VI

SOME SPECIAL KINDS OF LETTER


A few more general remarks, however, on _kinds_ of letter-writing--as
distinguished from personality and accomplishment of letter-writers--may
not improperly be added.

[Sidenote: LETTERS AND THE NOVEL]

One extremely curious application of the Letter has not yet been
noticed, except by a glance or two: and that is the way in which--when
after birth-struggles for some two thousand years the novel at last got
itself born--letter-writing was pressed into its service. Historically,
as was briefly indicated near the beginning of this, one may connect
Greek Rhetoric and Greek Romance, and suggest the connection as the
origin of the "novel-in-letters." In the romance proper--that is to say
that of the Middle Ages--letters do not play any very important part,
just as they played none in life. But in the "Heroic" variety of the
late sixteenth and the whole of the seventeenth centuries they play a
much larger--partly no doubt because of the influence (here noted) of
the Greek Romance itself, but more because of the increased frequency
and importance of actual correspondence in life and society. We need
not, however, attribute too much to this influence of imitation in
seeking for the cause or causes which made Richardson adopt the form:
nor need we even put down to Richardson's own popularity, abroad as well
as at home, the very general further adoption and continuance of a form
which has perhaps more to be said against it than for it. Most serious
students of the history of prose fiction must have noticed, and some of
them have already pointed out, the curious, rather naïf, but quite
obvious feeling on the part of the earlier practitioners of such fiction
that somebody might ask them, in more polite language than that in which
Cardinal Ippolito d'Este asked Ariosto a similar question, "Where they
got their stories from?" The feeling seems sometimes to have affected
poets, but much more rarely: the Muse being allowed to possess and
confer a certain immunity from such cross-examination. Of the
unnecessary and sometimes unnatural devices invented to answer this
inconvenient question Scott in one well-known passage,[51] and others
elsewhere, have made ironic lists: and not the least characteristic of
Miss Austen's satiric touches is the passage where Catherine Morland
expects palpitating interest from a bundle of washing-bills in a
wardrobe-cupboard. But the anticipation of such a question, though
perhaps it became conventional before it disappeared altogether, was
certainly at one time real.

At any rate, helped by the example of Richardson--Father of English
novels as he is with whatever justice called--and by that overmastering
fancy for letter-writing itself, which, as should have been already made
clear, affected the century in which English novels were born--the
practice spread and held its ground. Fielding was too perfect an artist
in the higher and purer kind of fiction to favour it: and though Sterne
himself was a sufficiently characteristic letter-writer, the form would
not have suited the peculiar eccentricity of his two novels. But
Smollett's best, _Humphrey Clinker_, adopts the method, and is perhaps
one of its most successful examples. It suited the author's preference
for a succession of scenes rather than a connected plot; for the sharp
presentation of "humours" in character and incident. And it continued to
be practised both early in the nineteenth century--examples had swarmed
at the end of the eighteenth--and later. _Redgauntlet_ (which some have
thought one of the best of Scott's novels and which few good judges
would put much lower) is written in it to a great extent, but not
wholly. And it may be noticed that this combination of Letters and
narrative, which came in pretty early, is rather tell-tale. It is a sort
of confession of what certainly is the fact--that the novel entirely by
letters is a clumsy device, constantly getting in the way of the
"story." Indeed the method of _Redgauntlet_ is a kind of retreat to the
elder and more modern--one may say the more artistic and rational--plan
of _introducing_ letters, but only occasionally as auxiliaries to, and
as it were illustrations of, the actual narrative, not as substitutes
for, or at any rate main constituents of, it.[52] Indeed, in order to
make a novel wholly composed of letters thoroughly and absorbingly
attractive, either charm of style such as to make the kind of literature
in which it appears, more or less indifferent; or passion which is more
suitable to poetry or drama than to prose; or both, may seem
unnecessary.

[Sidenote: LETTERS AND BIOGRAPHY]

It was also in the eighteenth century--_the_ century once more of
letter-writing--that letters, this time genuine not fictitious, began
to play, to an important extent, a subsidiary part in yet another
department of literature--biography. They had always done so, of course,
to an extent less important in History, of which Biography is really a
subdivision. The truth expressed in that dictum of the pseudo-Demetrius
quoted above as to the illuminative power of letters on character could
be missed by no historian and by no biographer who had his wits about
him--even if he had less striking examples at hand than that letter of
the Emperor Tiberius to the Senate which is one of the Tacitean flashes
of lightning through the dark of history. But the credit of using
letters as a main constituent of biography--of originating the
"Life-and-Letters" class of books which fills so large a part of modern
library-shelves--has been given, as far as English is concerned, to
Mason in his dealings with Gray. There is so little to be said in favour
of Mason, that we need not enquire too narrowly into his right to this
commendation: though critical conscience must be appeased by adding that
he abused his privilege as an editor and "literary executor" by garbling
unblushingly. Boswell did Mason honour by acknowledging his example, and
much more also by following it; and this practically settled the matter.
Except in short pieces, which had need be of special excellence like
Carlyle's _Sterling_, the plan has always been followed since: and there
can here at least be no question that with a little favour of
circumstances, it is the best plan possible. You get, as has been said,
your character at first hand; if the letters include epistles to as well
as from him or her, you get invaluable side-lights; you get, except in
cases of wilful deception or great carelessness, the most trustworthy
accounts of fact; and you can, or ought to be able to, hear the man
talking.

At the same time it must be admitted that this "Life-and-Letters"
scheme, like every kind of art, requires care: and like most human
things, is exposed to dangers and difficulties in addition to some
previously noticed. To begin with, the _quality_ of the letters has to
be considered. It so happened that Mason, the originator by courtesy,
had unusually good material to work with. Gray, as is above pointed out
and as is also, with some provisos already made or very soon to be made,
universally admitted, is one of our best letter-writers. But not
everybody--not every considerable man or woman of letters even--can
write good letters.

And besides this--besides the temptation to rely on the letters and
merely to print them whether they deserve it or not--there is the
further difficulty--to judge by the scarcity of good biographies a very
great and insistent one--of composing the framework of the biography
itself so as to suit the letters--to give the apples of gold in a
picture not too obviously composed of some metal baser than silver.
Unless this is done it would be better simply to "calendar" the letters
themselves, with the barest schedule of dates and facts to assist the
comprehension of them. But to consider the different methods of doing
this--still more of presenting letters apart from deliberate
biographical intention--would lead us too far. Carlyle's _Cromwell_--the
presentation of an extraordinarily difficult set of documents not merely
with connecting narrative, but with a complete explanatory commentary
including paraphrase, is as remarkable an achievement as, and a far more
elaborate one than, his _Sterling_ in the way of biography pure and
simple. It is perhaps, though less delectable, not less admirable in its
style than the other in its own. But it has, of course, the drawback of
carrying with it a distinctly controversial character and, indeed,
intention. We have more recently had at least two examples of the
fullest possible comment with the least possible controversy in Mr.
Tovey's "Gray," and of less voluminous but excellently adequate editing
in Mrs. Toynbee's "Walpole."

[Sidenote: "LETTERS FROM UNKNOWNS"]

One not very large, but extremely curious division of letter-writing
closely connected with those most recently mentioned, invites if it does
not insist upon a word or two. Many people--almost all who have happened
to be at any time "in the lime-light" as a modern phrase goes--that is
to say in positions of publicity--must have had experience of the
strange appetite of their fellow-creatures for writing them letters
without previous acquaintance, without excuse of introduction, and on
the most flimsy pretexts of occasion. The present writer once received
from Australia a long list of queries on a book of his--most if not all
of which could have been answered from the ordinary reference-bookshelf
in the writing-room of such a club as that--never mind whether it was in
Sydney or Melbourne or Adelaide--from which the querist dated his
epistle. Indeed, on another occasion somebody demanded a catalogue of
"the important references to the medical profession in French
literature"! This tendency of humanity sometimes exercises and magnifies
itself into really remarkable correspondences. There is perhaps none
such in English quite to match those _Lettres à une Inconnue_ which
(after standing the brunt of not a little unfavourable criticism,
provoked not so much by their contents as by the personal, political,
and above all religious or anti-religious idiosyncrasy of their author,
Prosper Mérimée) have taken their place, for good and all, among the
classics of the art. Our most curious example perhaps is to be found in
the _Letters of the Duke of Wellington to Miss J._, the genuineness of
which has been a matter of some controversy, but which are rather more
inexplicable as forgeries than as authentic documents. Authors, from
Richardson onwards, have been the special targets of such
correspondents: and romance reports some, perhaps even history might
accept a few, instances of the closest relations resulting. On the other
hand, one of the very best of Miss Edgeworth's too much neglected
stories, "L'Amie Inconnue" not only may be useful as a warning to the
too open-hearted but has probably had not a few parallels in fact.
Generally, of course, the uninvited correspondent is merely a passing
phenomenon--rarely perhaps welcome except to persons of very much
self-centred temperament with a good deal of time on their hands;
tolerated and choked off placably by the good-natured and well-mannered;
answered snappishly or not answered at all by moroser victims.

[Sidenote: LOVE LETTERS]

There is yet a kind of letter, fictitious or real examples whereof are
not usually given in books which (as the Articles say of the Apocrypha)
are to be read "for example of life and instruction of manners," though
it is in a way the most interesting of all; and that is the love-letter.
It is, however, so varied in kind and not so very seldom so pre-eminent
as an illustration of the epistolary ideal--"writing as you would
talk"--that it would be absurd to say nothing about it in this
Introduction, and that it may even be possible to give some examples of
it--one such of Swift's must be given--in the text. Of those which, as
it was said of one famous group (those of Mlle. de Lespinasse) "burn the
paper," those of which the Abelard and Heloise collection, with those of
"The Portuguese Nun," Maria Alcoforado, and Julie de Lespinasse herself
are the most universally famous--we have two pretty recent collections
in English from two of the greatest poets and one of the greatest
poetesses in English of the nineteenth century. They are the letters,
referred to above, of Keats to Fanny Brawne, and those of the Brownings
to each other.

There are, it is to be hoped, few people who read such letters (unless
they are of such a date that Time has exercised his strange power of
resanctifying desecration and making private property public) without an
unpleasant consciousness of eavesdropping. But there is another class
which is not exposed to any such disagreeable liability: and that is the
very large proportion of love-letters where the amativeness is, so to
speak, more or less concealed, or where, though scarcely covered with
the thinnest veil, it is mixed with jest sometimes, jest rather on the
wrong side of the mouth, perhaps, but jest exercising its usual power of
embalming. (Salt and sugar both preserve: but in this particular
instance the danger is of oversweetness already.) There can--or perhaps
we should say there could, but for some differences of opinion worth
attending to--be no doubt that Swift owes much to this mixture: and if
anybody ever undertook a large collection of the best private
love-letters he would probably find the same seasoning in the best of
them. For examples in which the actual amatory element is present but as
it were under-current, like blood that flushes a cheek but does not
show outside it, some of the best examples are those of Scott to Lady
Abercorn. Those recently published, and already glanced at, of Disraeli
to various ladies would seem to be more demonstrative and more
histrionic. But the section as admitted lies, for us, on the extreme
border of our province. It is too important to be wholly omitted and
therefore these paragraphs have been given to it. And it may require
future touching in reference to some particular writers, especially that
greatest and most unhappy of all Deans of Saint Patrick, the greatest
perhaps of all Deans that ever were with the exception of John
Donne--himself no small epistoler, but greatest in those verse-letters
which are denied us.[53]

It is perhaps superfluous, but for completeness' sake may be
permissible, to say a very little about the use of letters for purposes
other than that of genuine personal communication. Indeed in doing so we
are only executing the time-honoured manoeuvre of returning to the point
whence we set out, and bringing the wheel full circle.[54] The strictly
"business" letter--which is, of course, a personal communication in a
way--and the "despatch" which is a form of it intended sooner or later
for more general information, require no notice or at best mere mention.
But in times past if not also in those present, "Letters" have been
used--specially perhaps in that century of letters, the eighteenth--for
purposes of definite instruction, argument, propaganda and so forth.
There are obvious advantages in the form for certain of the lighter of
these purposes as it is used in Montesquieu's _Lettres Persanes_ or
Goldsmith's _Citizen of the World_. But why Bishop Hurd's _Letters on
Chivalry and Romance_ (really valuable as they are) should have been
"Letters" at all, except for fashion's sake, it is difficult to say.
There is perhaps more excuse for the pamphlet, especially the political
pamphlet, assuming the title of letter as it has so often done in
instances from the great example of Bolingbroke and Burke downwards.[55]
You have, with less unreality, the advantage of the classical "speech"
addressed often to a single person, who is supposed to be specially
aware of the facts or specially to need instruction and encouragement,
or modified remonstrance, as to them. It was probably from these great
exemplars--perhaps also aided by the custom of eighteenth century
periodicals, that pamphlets of all kinds became titular epistles such as
"A Letter to the deputy-manager of a Theatre Royal, London, on his
lately acquired notoriety in contriving and arranging the 'Hair Powder
Act'" (but this was satire), or "A letter writ by a clergyman to his
neighbour concerning the kingdom and the allegiance due to the King and
Queen."[56]

[Sidenote: LETTERS TO THE PAPERS]

For a last class may be taken the ever increasing body of things
"written to the papers." It is unnecessary to consider the justice of a
sarcastic division of mankind into "those who write to the papers and
those who do not read the letters," or to discuss what men have been
heard to say--that the people who write _to_ papers are people who have
not written _in_ them. It is quite certain that, for many years past,
the less frivolous kind of newspaper-correspondence has been of admitted
interest and importance; indeed a paper might conceivably maintain its
position after its repute has sunk in other ways, simply because more
letters of importance appear in it than in others. As a source of
illustrations of how to write and how not to write letters this modern
development of the art could hardly be quite neglected; and it offers a
curious study of various kinds. Except with very guileless writers the
character-index quality is of course less certainly present than in
letters written _not_ for publication. A man must be, in the old Greek
phrase, "either a God or a beast," if he does not prepare for print--if
not exactly with a touch of "stage-fright," at any rate with the
premeditation with which even stage-fright-free actors go on the stage.
But it requires a great master or mistress of dissimulation to write
even these letters at all frequently without a certain amount of
self-revelation. And there is perhaps no more curious and interesting
part of that most curious and interesting business of editing than
(when it is not merely tedious), the reading of offered correspondence.
There is the pure lunatic, such as the man who for years sends
despatches in a sort of cuneiform cipher, probably quite meaningless and
certainly not likely to meet with a decipherer; there is the abusive
person who (less piquantly than Reade in the letter quoted above) gives
his opinion of your paper; the volunteer-corrector of obvious misprints;
the innocent who merely wants to see his own signature in print, and who
generally tries to bribe his way into it by references to "your powerful
journal," etc. They are all there--waiting for the waste-paper basket.



VII

CONCLUSION


A few more general remarks may close this Introduction. Something on the
Art of Letter-writing and also something on its history, especially in
English, was promised. It is hoped that the promise has not been too
much falsified, at least to the extent necessary for illustration and
understanding of the specimens which should follow, and which in their
turn should illustrate it and make it more intelligible. The History
part requires little or no postscript; whether ill or well done it
should pretty well speak for itself. What touches the Art may require
certain cautions and provisos.

This is especially the case with regard to the stress laid above on
"naturalness." It is (as the present writer at least believes) the very
passport of admission to the company of good letter-writers. But it must
not be misconstrued. It is quite possible that too little care may be
taken with the matter and style of letters. After all they
correspond--in a certain, if in the most limited degree--to appearance
"in company," and require as that does a certain etiquette of
observance. Complete deshabille[57] on paper is not attractive: and
there are letters (it is unnecessary to specify any particular
examples) which somewhat exaggerate "simplicity."

Cowper is perhaps the accepted classic in this style who has the least
of _apparatus_: but even Cowper bestows a certain amount of
care--indeed, a very considerable amount--on the dress of his letter's
body, on the cookery of its provender. If you have only small beer to
chronicle you can at the worst draw it and froth it and pour it out with
some gesture. In this respect as in others, while letter-writing has not
been inaccurately defined or described as the closest to conversation of
literary forms that do not actually reproduce conversation itself, it
remains apart from conversation and subject to an additional degree of
discipline.

[Sidenote: CONCLUSION]

Enough should have been said earlier of the opposite fault by excess of
dressing, which has, however, for a sort of solace the fact that it may
pass as literature though not exactly as letter-writing. Actually
beautiful style--not machine-made "fine writing," but that embodiment of
thought which is a special incarnation of it--is the one thing secure of
success and survival, whatever literary form it takes. And even short of
this supreme beauty accomplished literary manner can never be quite
unwelcome. The highest place in letter-writing has been refused here to
Pope: and unfortunately there is hardly a division of his work which,
when you know a little more about it and him, excites more disgust at
the man's nature. But, at the same time, hardly even his verse convinces
one more of that extraordinary power of expression as he wished to
express things which this Alexander, in some ways the infinitely
Little, possessed. Yet it gives in the first place a rather
sophisticated enjoyment, open only to those whom the gods have made, or
who have made themselves, critical. And in the second, whether
sophisticated or not, what it gives is the enjoyment of literature not
of life:[58] whereas the direct satisfaction which genuine letters
afford is almost identical with that given by actual intercourse with
other human beings. However, it is unnecessary to "go on refining."

Perhaps indeed, after all, the artificial letters may be permitted if
only in an "utmost, last, provincial band," to add to the muster of
pleasure-giving things which epistolary literature so amply provides.
Even fiction itself, which, as has been said often, draws on this
source, cannot supply anything more "pastimeous"; even drama anything
more arresting to the attention. Indeed good letters may be said to be
constantly presenting little stories, little dramas, little
pictures--all of them sometimes not so _very_ little--which are now
practically complete; now easily filled up by any reasonable
intelligence; now perhaps tantalizingly, but all the more interestingly
enigmatic. For those people (one may or may not sympathise with them,
but they are certainly pretty numerous) who cannot take interest or can
only take a reduced interest in things that "did not really happen";
letters may be even more interesting than novels. Only to very wayward
or very unimaginative ones can they be less so, if they are in any
respect good of their kind.

One of their main attractions is, with the same caution, their
remarkable _variety_. It has been complained with a certain amount of
truth that fiction, whether in prose or verse, is a little apt to fall
into grooves: that all the histories are told, all the plays acted. This
is undoubtedly the curse of Art, and every now and then we see it
acknowledged in the most convincing manner by the frantic efforts made
to be "different." But that real things and persons are never quite
identical is not merely a philosophical doctrine but a practical fact.
The "two peas" of one saying are never so much "alike" as the "two
blades of grass" of another are unlike.

Now as letters--that is to say letters that deserve to exist at all--are
bound to reproduce the personality of their writers, it will follow that
a refreshing diversity must also belong to them. And as a matter of fact
this will be found to be the case. Even the eighteenth century--the
century of rule and class, of objection to "the streaks of the tulip,"
of machine-made verse, etc.,--has, except in the case of letters
artificially made to pattern, shown this signally.

One last recommendation. A bad letter-writer is sure to betray himself
almost everywhere, and letters are as a rule short. Most people must
have attempted books of other classes, especially novels, and hoping
against hope turned them over, and dipped and peeped till repeated
disappointment compelled the traditional flinging to the other end of
the room, or simply dropping the thing in less explosive weariness. You
never need do that with letters. If a man's letters are not worth
reading you will "have a confessing criminal" at once; if they are he
will hardly be able to keep the quality latent whenever he goes beyond
the shortest business note. The man of one book, in the sense of having
read it, is proverbially formidable but in fact too frequently a bore.
The man of one letter, in the sense of having written a good one and no
more, probably never existed.[59]



APPENDIX TO INTRODUCTION


I

GREEK LETTERS.--SYNESIUS (_c._ 375-430)

     English readers may know something, from Kingsley's
     _Hypatia_, of the excellent bishop of Ptolemais who, at the
     meeting of the fourth and fifth centuries, combined the
     functions of neo-Platonist philosopher, Christian prelate,
     country gentleman, and most efficient yeomanry officer
     against the ancestors, or at least forerunners, of the
     present Senussi, who were constantly raiding his diocese and
     its neighbourhood. These two letters--to Hypatia herself and
     to his brother--show him in different, but in each case
     favourable lights.


LETTER CVIII. (TO HIS BROTHER)

I have already got 300 spears and as many cutlasses, though I had, even
before, only half a score two-edged swords: and these long flat blades
are not forged with us. But I think the cutlasses can be struck more
vigorously into the enemies' bodies, and so we shall use them. And at
need we shall have bludgeons--for the wild olive trees are good with
us.[60] Some of our men have single-bladed axes at their belts with
which those of us who have no defensive armour shall chop their[61]
shields and make them fight on equal terms. The fight will, at a guess,
come off to-morrow: for when some of the foe had fallen in with scouts
of ours and pursuing them at their best speed had found them too good to
catch, they bade them tell us what pleased us mightily--if indeed we may
no more have to wander in the footsteps of those fellows who made off
into the wastes of the interior. For they said they were going to stay
where they were and wanted to find out what sort of fellows _we_ were,
who dared to separate ourselves so many days' journey from our own place
that we might fight with men of war, nomads in way of life, and whose
civil polity was like our discipline in war-time. Therefore, as one who
by God's help shall to-morrow conquer--nay, conquer again if needful
(for I would say nothing of bad omen) I commit to thee the care of my
children: for it is fitting that thou, their uncle, shouldest carry over
thine affection to them.


LETTER CXXIV

"But if oblivion be the lot of the dead in Hades yet will _I_, even
there, remember" my dear Hypatia. Beset as I am by the sufferings of my
country, and sick, as I see daily weapons of war about me and men
slaughtered like altar-victims; drawing as I do breath infected by
rotting corpses; expecting myself a similar fate, (for who can be
hopeful when the very atmosphere is weighed down and dusky with the
shadow of carnivorous birds?) yet do I cling to my country. For what
else would my feeling be, born and bred as I am, and with the not
ignoble tombs of my fathers before my eyes? For thee alone does it seem
to me that I could neglect my country, and if I could get leisure, force
myself to run away.[62]


LATIN LETTERS.--PLINY (62-114)

     The most famous letters of the younger Pliny are those which
     describe his country houses, that which gives account of his
     uncle's death in the great eruption of Vesuvius, and his
     correspondence with Trajan. But the first mentioned are
     rather long and require a good deal of technical
     annotation;[63] the second is to be found in many books; and
     the letters which make up the third (except those concerning
     Christianity, which are again to be found in many places)
     are mostly short and on points of business merely. The one I
     have chosen is extremely characteristic, in two respects, of
     the author and of Roman ways generally. It shows Pliny's
     good-nature and right feeling, but it shows also a certain
     "priggishness" with which he has been specially and
     personally charged, but which, to speak frankly, he shared
     with a great many of his famous countrymen. Priggishness was
     almost unknown among the Greeks--though one may suspect its
     presence among those Spartans who have told so few tales of
     themselves. But it flourished at Rome, and was one of
     Rome's many--and one of her worst--legacies to us moderns.
     Secondly, the letter is amusing because one thinks what an
     English judge would surely think and would probably say, if
     counsel for a lady were to inform the court _uberius et
     latius_ what an extremely good opinion that lady's father
     had of him, the learned speaker. A minor but still
     interesting difference is in Pliny's slight hesitation about
     taking a brief against a consul-elect. The subtleties of
     Roman etiquette are endless.


PLINIUS TO HIS ASINIUS GALLUS--HEALTH

You both advise[64] and ask me to take up the cause of Corellia in her
absence against C. Caecilius, Consul elect. I am obliged to you for
advising me but I complain of your _asking_. I ought to be advised that
I may know the fact, but not asked to do what it would be most
disgraceful for me _not_ to do. Could I doubt about protecting the
daughter of Corellius? True, there is between me and him against whom
you call on me, not exactly close friendship but still some friendship.
There is also to be taken into account the man's worth and the honour to
which he is destined, a thing which I ought to hold in the greater
respect that I have myself already enjoyed it. For it is natural that
things which one has oneself attained, one should wish to be regarded
with the greatest respect. But when I think that I am to help Corellius'
daughter, all this appears idle and empty. I seem to see the man than
whom our age had no one more dignified, more pious, of an acuter mind;
the man whom, when I had begun to like him out of admiration I admired
more, contrary to what usually happens, the more thoroughly I knew him.
For I did know him thoroughly; he kept nothing hid from me, neither
jocular nor serious, neither sad nor glad. I was quite a young man: but
already he held me in honour and I will dare to say respect--as if I
were his contemporary. He gave me his vote and interest in my standings
for honours; he, when I entered upon them, was my introducer and
companion; when I carried them out, my adviser and guide. In fact, in
every business of mine, though he was an old man and in weak health, he
was as forward as if he were young and strong. How much he furthered my
reputation, privately, publicly, and even with the Chief of the State!
For when by chance, in the presence of the Emperor Nerva, the
conversation had turned on young men of worth, and several persons spoke
in praise of me, he kept silence for a little, which gave him the more
authority. Then in the weighty manner you know, "I must needs," he said,
"say all the less about Secundus[65] because he never does anything but
by my advice." By saying this he gave me the credit (which it would have
been extravagant in me to hope for) of never doing anything in other
than the wisest way, seeing that I always acted on the advice of the
wisest man. Moreover, when dying, he said to his daughter, as she is
wont to declare, "I have provided you, as if I were myself to live
longer, many friends: but for the chief of them Secundus and Cornutus."
Now when I remember this, I see I must take care not in any way to
disappoint the trust in me of this most fore-thoughtful man. Therefore I
will come to Corellia's help without the least delay and will not refuse
to undergo inconveniences: though I think I shall secure not merely
pardon but even praise from the very person who as you say is bringing
a new action as against a woman, if it should happen to me to say these
same things in court more amply and fully than the narrow room of a
letter permits, either to excuse or indeed commend myself. Farewell.


LETTER OF THE "DARK" AGES

SIDONIUS APOLLINARIS (431?-482-4)

     Caius Sollius Sidonius Apollinaris is one of the most
     interesting figures of the troubled and obscure period
     intervening between the fall of the Roman Empire _proper_
     and the rise of mediaeval Europe. He was born at Lyons,
     married Papianilla, daughter of Flavius Avitus, who was to
     be one of the ephemeral "Emperors" of the West and the
     Decadence, but was not injured by his father-in-law's
     dethronement, and enjoyed various civil honours and posts.
     In 471, though a married layman, he was peremptorily made a
     bishop, and accordingly took orders, put away his wife, and
     discharged his sacred duties as creditably as he had
     discharged his profane ones. Sidonius was a not contemptible
     poet, and an interesting letter-writer. Like most literary
     men of his class he was given to what we call flattery; and
     this Ecdicius, of whom he made a sort of Dark Age Admirable
     Crichton, was his brother-in-law, an Emperor's son, and
     Count or Duke (the titles were often interchangeable) of the
     district. But it is fair to say that Gregory of Tours, the
     accepted historian of the period, and living only in the
     next century, makes the exploit over the Goths even more
     signal--for he reduces the troopers to _ten_. The Arverni
     (inhabitants of Auvergne and its neighbourhood) were the
     strongest tribe in Southern Gaul when the Romans first came
     into contact with them, retained much prominence in Caesar's
     time, and had not lost individuality, if they had lost
     independence, by this (5th) century. The mixture of "Arms"
     and the "Gown" is noteworthy.


BOOK III. LETTER III

SIDONIUS TO HIS ECDICIUS--HEALTH

If ever, now you are longed for by my Arvernians, whose love for you
subdues them remarkably, and indeed for all sorts of reasons. First,
because a man's native land has the greatest part in creating affection
for him.[66] Then, because in your time you are about the only mortal
who was longed for before his birth as much as he was rejoiced in after
it.... I say nothing of such things--common to all, but no mean
incitement to affection--as that you crawled as a child on the same turf
with them. I pass over the grass which you first trod, the river you
first swam, the woods you broke through in hunting. I leave out the fact
that it was here you first played ball[67] and backgammon,[68] that you
hawked, coursed, rode, shot with the bow. I omit the fact that for the
sake of your boyish presence students of letters came hither from all
parts; and that it was due to you as an individual that our nobility,
anxious to shed the slough of Celtic speech, imbued itself now with the
style of oratory, now with the measures of the Muse. And this specially
kindled the love of the community[69] that you forbade those whom you
had already made Latins[70] to remain barbarians.[71] For it could never
slip the memory of our citizens what and how great you seemed, to every
age and rank and sex on the half-ruined mounds of our walls, when,
accompanied by scarcely eighteen horsemen, you cut your way through some
thousands of Goths in full daylight and (which posterity will hardly
believe) in the open field. A well trained army stood aghast at the
sound of your name and the sight of your person: so that the leaders of
the enemy, in their astonishment, hardly knew how many were their
followers, how few yours. Their line was then withdrawn to the brow of a
steep hill; it had before been gathered together to storm, but on your
appearance was not deployed for battle. Meanwhile you, having slain some
of their best men whom not sloth but courage had made the rearmost of
the troop, occupied the level ground alone, though such a fight gave you
not so many comrades as your table is wont to contain guests. And when
you returned to the town at your leisure what came to meet you in the
way of official compliments, applause, tears, rejoicings can be better
guessed than described. One might see in the crammed halls of the
spacious palace that happy ovation for your thronged return. Some caught
up the dust of your footsteps to kiss it: others took out the horses'
curbs stained with blood and foam; others prepared the stands for the
saddles drenched with the horses' sweat; others, when you were about to
put off your helmet, unbuckled the clasps of its plated chin-straps, or
busied themselves with unlacing your greaves. Yet others counted the
notches on the swords, blunted with slaughter, or measured with
livid[72] fingers the rings of the corslets, slashed or pierced by
weapons.[73]


EARLY MEDIAEVAL LETTER (TWELFTH CENTURY)

     Of the other persons mentioned in this letter besides the
     widowed Duchess and King Louis VII., the first is Ralph,
     Count of (Peronne and) Vermandois, a leper. The lady's name
     was Eleanor, and she also was probably a widow; the
     Duchess's son Hugh was third of that name as Duke of
     Burgundy. Ivo, Count of Soissons, was the guardian of the
     Count of Vermandois, incapacitated legally by his plague.
     The proposed marriage did not come off. The business-like
     tone of the letter will only surprise those who do not
     really know the "Ages of Romance." I owe the selection of it
     to my friend the Rev. W. Hunt, D.Litt., who came to my aid
     in the dearth of books of this period which circumstances
     imposed on me.

To Louis[74] most excellent King of the Franks by the grace of God, and
her most beloved Lord, Mary, Duchess of Burgundy--health and due
respect. It is known to your Majesty that my son is your liegeman, and,
if it please you, your kinsman also. Whatsoever he can do is yours: and
if he could do more it were yours. And so I all the more confidently ask
your highest affection for my son. For it has been told me that Count
Ralph of Peronne has a certain marriageable sister who, as has been
reported to me and her own people, would be a suitable wife for my son.
For this reason, most beloved Lord, I and he ask that you would look to
this matter yourself and speak about it to the Count of Soissons, and
settle how this marriage may be contracted. You must know that though my
son might marry in another kingdom, I greatly prefer that he should
take a wife in yours, rather than in any other. The nearer he becomes
connected with you the more will he be yours and altogether a profit to
you.

FOOTNOTES:

[1] It may of course be "illustrated" in the other sense by a second use
of the pen; and we shall have instances of this kind to notice.

[2] As has often been pointed out Ben Jonson's exquisite "Drink to me
only with thine eyes" is a verse-paraphrase or mosaic from this writer's
prose.

[3] Pliny, if he did not always "write for publication," deliberately
"published," as we should say, his letters. Indeed, he is one of the
first to use the word in this sense, even if he uses it immediately of
an oration not a letter. Some think Cicero meant publication; and he was
very likely to do so.

[4] The Latin statesman, like the Greek bishop, condescends to write
about wine and even more fully. One of the most interesting and
informing things on the subject is his discourse on _vinum acinaticium_,
a sort of Roman Imperial Tokay made from grapes kept till the frost had
touched them.

[5] Genuine letters of Sappho would have been of the first interest to
compare with those of Heloise, and the "Portuguese Nun" and Mademoiselle
de Lespinasse. Diotima's might have been as disappointing as George
Eliot's: but by no means must necessarily have been so. Aspasia's,
sometimes counterfeited, ought to have been good.

[6] It is part of the plan to give, as a sort of Appendix to the
Introduction, and extension of it towards the main body of text, some
specimens of Greek, Roman (classical and post-classical) and Early
Mediaeval letter-writing, translated for the purpose by the present
writer. The _continuity_ of literary history is a thing which deserves
to be attended to, especially when there is an ever-growing tendency to
confine attention to things modern--albeit so soon to be antiquated! I
owe the last of these specimens, in the Latin from which I translate it,
to the kindness of my friend the Rev. W. Hunt, D.Litt., to whom I had
recourse as not myself having access to a large library at the moment,
and who has assisted me in other parts of this book.

[7] Yet others, as to authenticity, have, I believe, been rejected by
all competent scholarship.

[8] Benjamin Constant and Madame de Charrière.

[9] Some of us think Blake a great poet; but this is scarcely a general
opinion, and he does not appear till the century was three parts over.
Burns (whose own letters by the way do him little justice) hardly comes
in.

[10] Especially the most popular and voluminous if not the most
important of all--the periodical and the novel.

[11] The danger being of many sorts--usually in the direction of various
kinds of _excess_. A _quietly_ tragic letter may be a masterpiece:
perhaps there is no finer example than one to be again referred to, of
Mrs. Carlyle's.

[12] Mr. Paul thinks that "the baby language" is terribly out of
character, and that there is "too much of it"; that Swift "would try to
make love though he did not know what love meant"; and that the whole
rings hollow and insincere. Others, women as well as men, have held that
the "little language" is only less pathetic than it is charming; that
Swift was one of the greatest, if one of the unhappiest lovers of the
world; and that the thing is as sincere as if it had been written in the
Palace of Truth and only hollow as is the space between Heaven and Hell.

[13] It should never be, but perhaps sometimes is, forgotten that
"Stella" was a lady of unusual wits, and of what Swift's greatest
decrier called in his own protegée Mrs. Williams "universal curiosity,"
that is to say not "inquisitiveness" but "intelligent interest." The
politics etc. are not mere selfish attention to what interests the
writer only.

[14] It must not be forgotten that she was Fielding's cousin. And after
the remark above on Swift it is pleasant and may be fair to say that Mr.
Paul is a hearty "Marian."

[15] Johnson is again the chief and by no means trustworthy witness for
this "insolence." But in the same breath he admitted that Chesterfield
was "dignified." Now dignity is almost as doubtfully compatible with
insolence as with impudence.

[16] It is difficult to think of anyone who has combined statesmanship
(Chesterfield's accomplishments in which are constantly forgotten),
social gifts and literary skill in an equal degree.

[17] Excluding of course purely historical and public things like the
trials of the '45 and the riots of '80.

[18] They were travelling together (always rather a test of friendship)
in Italy, and Horace, as he confesses, no doubt gave himself airs. But
it is pretty certain that Gray had not at this time, if he ever had,
that fortunate combination of good (or at least well-commanded) temper
and good breeding which enables a gentleman to meet such conduct with
conduct on his own side as free from petulant "touchiness" as from
ignoble parasitism.

[19] Gray was not, like Walpole, a richly endowed sinecurist. But to use
a familiar "bull" he seems never to have had anything to do, and never
to have done it when he had. His poems are a mere handful; his excellent
_Metrum_ is a fragment; and as Professor of History at Cambridge he
never did anything at all.

[20] They do not seem to have known each other personally. But (for
reasons not difficult to assign but here irrelevant) Johnson was on the
whole, though not wholly, unjust to Gray, and Gray seems to have
disliked and spoken rudely of Johnson.

[21] The varieties of what may be called literary _exercise_ which have
been utilised for educational or recreative purposes, are almost
innumerable. Has anyone ever tried "breaking up" a letter (such as those
to be given hereafter) into a conversation by interlarded comment,
questions, etc.?

[22] As far as the accidents are concerned. The essentials vary not.
Marianne is eternal, whether she faints and blushes, or jazzes and--does
not blush.

[23] One unfortunate exception, the _ex-post facto_ references to the
split with Lady Austin, may be urged by a relentless prosecutor. But
when William has to choose between Mary and Anna it will go hard but he
will _have_ to be unfair to one of them.

[24] This "swan's" utterances in poetry were quite unlike those of
Tennyson's dying bird: and her taste in it was appalling. She tells
Scott that the Border Ballads were totally destitute of any right to the
name.

[25] For a singular misjudgment on this point see Prefatory Note
_infra_.

[26] Particularly when he is able to apply the _Don Juan_ mood of
sarcastic if rather superficial life-criticism in which he was a real
master.

[27] _I.e._ "violently and vulgarly absurd."

[28] It may, however, be suggested that the extraordinary _bluntness_
(to use no stronger word) of both is almost sufficiently evidenced in
the fact that in his last edition of Keats Mr. Forman committed the
additional outrage of distributing these letters according to their
dates among the rest. The isolation of the agony gives almost the only
possible excuse for revealing it.

[29] It is of course true that Shelley himself did not at first quite
appreciate Keats. But _Adonais_ cancels the deficit and leaves an almost
infinite balance in favour. One can only hope that, had the
circumstances been reversed, Keats would have set the account right as
triumphantly.

[30] This tendency makes it perhaps desirable to observe that in the
_particular_ context of the _Belle Dame_ there is nothing whatever to
cavil at.

[31] The recent centenary saw, as usual, with much welcome appreciation
some uncritical excesses.

[32] In not a few cases they may be said to have been deliberately
_un_prepared--intended though not labelled as "private and
confidential."

[33] In which, be it remembered, the "Life-and-Letters" system only came
in quite late.

[34] At the very moment when this is being written a considerable new
body of them is announced for sale.

[35] The word "restraint" may be misunderstood: but it is intended to
indicate something of the general difference between "classical" ages on
the one side and "romantic" or "realist" on the other.

[36] Chesterfield's deafness might, without frivolity, be brought in. It
is a hindrance to conversation, but none to letter-writing.

[37] Or at least expression of themselves.

[38] Idly: because he himself expressly and repeatedly disclaims _mere_
"translation."

[39] Dryden, in reference to Shadwell.

[40] "The Great God Pan" piece ("A Musical Instrument"), one of the
last, was perhaps her _very_ best. But he may have been thinking of
_Poems before Congress_, which are poor enough.

[41] Lucy, daughter of that curious Quaker banker's clerk Bernard
Barton, whose poetry is negligible, but who must have had some strong
personal attraction. For he was a favourite correspondent of two of the
greatest of contemporary letter-writers, Lamb and FitzGerald, though he
constantly misunderstood their letters; he received from Byron--on an
occasion likely to provoke one of the "noble poet's" outbursts of
pseudo-aristocratic insolence--a singularly wise and kindly answer; and
having as a perfect stranger lectured Sir Robert Peel he was--invited to
dinner!

[42] Some have attempted to make a distinction, alleging that there are
Franceses who can be called "Fanny" and others who can not. But it is
doubtful whether this holds. Of two great proficients of "letter-stuff"
in overlapping generations Fanny Burney was eminently a "Fanny." Fanny
Kemble, though always called so, was not.

[43] She was the niece of Mrs. Siddons and of John Kemble, generally
considered the greatest tragic actor and actress we have had; the
daughter of Charles Kemble, a player and manager of long practice and
great ability; while she had yet another uncle and any number of more
distant relations in the profession.

[44] See Prefatory Note on her letters _infra_, for an illustration of
what is said of her here and of Mrs. Carlyle a little further.

[45] Gray may not produce this effect of slight repulsion on everyone:
but on the other hand it is pretty generally admitted that the more you
read Walpole the more does the prejudice, which Macaulay and others have
helped to create against him, crumble and melt.

[46] They grow more and more numerous; a fresh batch having been
announced while this Introduction was being written.

[47] I see that Mr. Paul also has made special reference to this letter
and no wonder. From the time of its first publication I have regarded it
as matchless. But it seems to me that while it is lawful to mention it,
it should not have been published and that to republish it here would be
at least questionable.

[48] The present writer remembers as a boy reading (he supposes in the
newspaper to which it was addressed but is not sure) this very
remarkable epistle of Reade's to an editor: "Sir, you have brains of
your own and good ones. Do not echo the bray of such a very small ass as
the...." There was more, but this was the gist of it. Whether it has
ever reappeared he cannot say.

[49] Anthony Trollope did not choose to make his Autobiography a
"Life-and-Letters." But he has used the inserted letter very freely and
sometimes with great effect in his novels, for instance Mr. Slope's to
Eleanor Harding in _Barchester Towers_.

[50] In his Essay mentioned in Preface.

[51] The "Answer to the Introductory Epistle" of _The Monastery_.

[52] This plan was older than the "novel _by_ letters," and had, as
noticed above, been largely used in the sixteenth and seventeenth
century "heroic" romance.

[53] There is of course a class exactly opposite to the
love-letter--that of more or less modified hate or at least dislike.
Johnson's epistle to Chesterfield is an example of the dignified form of
this; Hazlitt's to Gifford of the undignified. But considering our
deserved reputation for humour we are less strong than might be expected
in letters which make the supposed writer make _himself_ ridiculous.
Sydney Smith's "Noodle's Oration" is the sort of thing in another kind:
and some of the letters in the _Spectator_ class of periodical are fun
in the kind itself. Defoe's _Shortest Way with the Dissenters_ comes
near. But we have nothing like the famous _Epistolae Obscurorum
Virorum_, which are the very triumph of the style.

[54] See the extensive classification of the Greeks, as noticed and
reproduced before.

[55] The "Letter to Sir W. Windham" of the one and the "Letter to a
noble Lord" of the other, have ample justification. _Letters on a
Regicide Peace_, great as they are in themselves, have less claim to
their title. But it was a favourite with both writers.

[56] The King was William and the Queen Mary, which limits considerably
the otherwise rather illimitable "concerning the kingdom."

[57] This word is of course a _vox nihili_, being neither French nor
English. But it has usage in its favour, and I do not see that it is
improved by writing it "_dis_habille." If anyone prefers the actual
French form he can add the accents.

[58] The account of the journey with Lintot the publisher is sometimes
quoted in disproof of this. It is amusing, but has still to some tastes
Pope's factitiousness without the technical charm of his verse to carry
it off.

[59] There is one small but rather famous class of letters which perhaps
should receive separate though brief notice. It is that of laconic and
either intentionally or unintentionally humorous utilisations of the
letter-form. Of one sort Captain Walton's "Spanish fleet taken and
destroyed as per margin" is probably the most noted type: of another the
equally famous rejoinder of the Highland magnate to his rival "Dear
Glengarry, When you have proved yourself to be my chief, I shall be
happy to admit your claim. Meanwhile I am Yours, Macdonald." In pure
farce of an irreverent kind, the possibly apocryphal interchange between
a Royal Duke and a Right Reverend Bishop, "Dear Cork, Please ordain
Stanhope, Yours, York," and "Dear York, Stanhope's ordained. Yours,
Cork," has the palm as a recognised "chestnut." But these things are
only the frills if not even the froth of the subject; and those who
imitate them should exercise caution in the imitation. The
police-courts, and even more exalted, but still more unwholesome abodes
of Justice, have sometimes been the consequences of misguided satire in
letters. Even in Captain Walton's case the Spaniards are said to have
endeavoured to show that his ironical laconism (which, moreover,
tradition has perhaps exaggerated in form) was not strictly in
accordance with fact.

[60] Wild olive, with more peaceful uses, was also the usual material
for the _un_peaceful club, or quarter-staff, often iron-shod, of the
ancients. It was probably like the _lathi_ which the mild Hindoo takes
with him to political meetings. The [Greek: pelekys] of the ancients was
generally double-bladed, hence the limitation here. This would be
lighter and more convenient to carry in the belt.

[61] Of course "the enemies'."

[62] Synesius addresses his letters to Hypatia [Greek: tê
philosophô]--"To _the_ Philosophess." This contains at least two of the
unapproachable "portmanteau" words in which Greek, and especially late
Greek abounds--[Greek: philochôrôn], "loving one's country," and [Greek:
metanasteuein], a rare and complicated compound in which I have ventured
to see a hint of ironic intention. He feels that he will be a sort of
shirker or deserter ([Greek: meta] often imparts this meaning) but he
will be coming to _her_.

[63] This necessity of annotating beyond suitable limits was what
prevented me, after due re-reading for the purpose, from giving any
letter of Cicero's.

[64] _Admoneo_ in Latin not unfrequently has our commercial sense of
"advise" = inform, or remind of a fact. It will be remembered that in
Elizabethan English this sense was not limited to business, as in "Art
thou aviséd of that."

[65] The younger Pliny's full name was C. Plinius _Secundus_.

[66] Among other natives of course.

[67] Doubtless the game still played in Italy (_pallone_) and the South
of France, with a wooden hand-guard strapped to the arm.

[68] _Pyrgus_ is not exactly backgammon. The Romans had a sort of
combined dice-box and board--the latter having a kind of tower fixed on
the side with interior steps or stops, among which the dice tumbled and
twisted before they fell out.

[69] _Universitas_: but though the context seems tempting, it is too
early for "university" as a translation.

[70] _I.e._ in citizenship.

[71] _I.e._ in speech.

[72] Why _livescentibus_ I am not sure. "Bruised by the rough mail"? But
Lucretius has _digiti livescunt_: and Sidonius, like other poets of
other decadences, is apt to borrow the phrases of his great
predecessors.

[73] Sidonius has nearly as much more of this curious story: but the
picture of the excitable Celts mobbing their heroes is vivid enough to
make a good stopping-place. If things really went as described, one must
suppose that a sudden panic came on the Goths, and that they took
Ecdicius and his handful of troopers as merely _éclaireurs_ of a sally
in force, and drew back to the higher ground to resist it.

[74] His own experience of marriage cannot have made the subject wholly
agreeable to him: for he was, it may not be quite impertinent to remind
the reader, the first husband of Eleanor of Guienne.



ENGLISH LETTERS



THE PASTONS. FIFTEENTH CENTURY


     Few families in England have achieved a permanent "place i'
     the story" after such a curious fashion as the Pastons of
     Paston (Pastons "of that ilk") in Norfolk. They were not
     exactly "great people" and no member of the family was of
     very eminent distinction in any walk of life, though they
     had judges, soldiers, and sailors etc. among them, and
     though, some time before the house became extinct, its
     representative attained the peerage with the title of Earl
     of Yarmouth. But they were busy people in the troublesome
     times of the Roses, and they obtained a good deal of
     property, partly by the death of Sir John Fastolf, noted in
     the French wars and muddled by posterity (there seems to
     have been no real resemblance between them except an
     accusation of cowardice, probably false in both cases, and
     an imperfectly anagrammatised relation of names) with
     Shakespeare's "Falstaff." But they produced, received, and
     kept a great mass of letters which, despite the extinction
     of the family in 1732 survived, were partially printed later
     in the century by Fenn, and more fully a hundred years after
     by the late Mr. Gairdner. Although (see Introduction) of no
     particular literary merit they are singularly varied in
     subject and authorship, and they give us perhaps a more
     complete view of the domestic experiences of a single family
     (not dissociated from public affairs) than we have from any
     period of English history till quite modern times. Indeed,
     it would not be easy to put the finger on an exact parallel
     to them at _any_ time. I have selected from a great mass of
     documents two--one of love and one of war according to the
     good old division. John Jernyngan's letter to Margaret
     Mauteby--wife of John Paston, and one of the most notable
     and businesslike, though not the least affectionate of wives
     and mothers--is interesting for its combination of the two
     motives (were there also _two_ "Mistress Blanches"?) and for
     the delightfully English frankness of its confession that
     "we were well and truly beat." On the other hand, that of
     Miss Margery Brews to John Paston the youngest (the John
     named above had two sons of his own name) is one of the most
     agreeable pieces of "plain and holy innocence," as Miranda
     calls it, on record. It is immediately preceded in the
     collection by another in which she is equally loving, and
     quotes some of the shockingly bad fifteenth century verse.
     One regrets to say that her "Valentine" had, apparently,
     more than one string to his bow at the moment. However,
     after vicissitudes in the "matter," as she delicately calls
     it, John and Margery did marry, and from them proceeded the
     later stages of the family. Whether things went equally well
     with Mr. Jernyngan and his Blanche (or either of his
     Blanches) does not seem to be recorded. (It has been thought
     better, though the taste of the moment seems to go rather
     the other way, not to encumber the reader with the original
     spelling, but there is no further modernisation.)


1. LETTER 317 (GAIRDNER)

Date June 1, 1458

Right worshipful and my most best beloved mistress and cousin, I
recommend me to you as lowly as I may, ever more desiring to hear of
your good welfare; the which I beseech almighty Jesus to preserve you
and keep you to his pleasure and to your gracious heart's desire. And,
if it please you to hear of my welfare, I was in good heal(th) at the
making of this letter, blessed be God.

Praying you that it please you for to send me word if my father was at
Norwich with you at this Trinitymas or no, and how the matter doth
between my mistress Blanche Witchingham and me and if ye suppose that it
shall be brought about or no, and how ye feel my father, if he be well
willing thereto or no; praying you lowly that I may be recommend(ed)
lowly to my mistress Arblaster's wife, and to my mistress Blanche her
daughter specially.

Right worshipful cousin, if it please you for to hear of such tidings as
we have here, the embassy of Burgundy shall come to Calais the Saturday
after Corpus Christi day, as men say, 500 horse of them. Moreover on
Trinity Sunday in the morning came tidings unto my Lord of Warwick that
there were 28 sails of Spaniards on the sea, and whereof there was 16
great ships of forecastle. And then my Lord[75] went and manned 5 ships
of forecastle and three carvells, and four pinnaces, and on the Monday,
in the morning after Trinity Sunday, we met together afore Calais at 4
at the clock in the morning and fought that (_sic_) gether till 10 at
the clock. And there we took six of their ships and they slew of our men
about four twenties and hurt a two hundred of us right sore; and there
were slain on their part about twelve twenties and hurt a five hundred
of them.

And (it) happened me at the first aboarding of us, we took a ship of
three hundred ton, and I was left therein and 23 men with me; and they
fought so sore that our men were fain to leave them, and then come they
and aboarded[76] the ship that I was in and there I was taken, and was
prisoner with them 6 hours, and was delivered again for their men that
were taken before. And as men say, there was not so great a battle upon
the sea this forty winters. And forsooth we were well and truly beat:
and my Lord hath sent for more ships, and like to fight together again
in haste.

No more I write unto you at this time, but that it please you for to
recommend me unto my right reverend and worshipful cousin your husband,
and mine uncle Gurney, and to mine aunt his wife and to all good masters
and friends where it shall please you; and after the writing I have from
you, I shall be at you in all haste. Written on Corpus Christi day in
great haste by your own humble servant and cousin,

JOHN JERNYNGAN.


2. LETTER 784 (GAIRDNER)

Date Feb. 1477

Right worshipful and well-beloved Valentine, in my most humble wise I
recommend me unto you. And heartily I thank you for the letter which
that ye send me by John Beckerton, whereby I am informed and know that
ye be purposed to come to Topcroft in short time, and without any errand
or matter but only to have a conclusion of the matter between my father
and you. I would be most glad of any creature in life so that the
matter might grow to effect. And there as ye say, an ye come and find
the matter no more towards you than ye did aforetime, ye would no more
put my father and my lady my mother to no cost nor business, for that
cause, a good while after--which causeth mine heart to be full heavy:
and if that ye come, and the matter take to none effect, then should I
be much more sorry and full of heaviness.

And as for myself I have done and understood in the matter that I can
and may, as good[77] knoweth: and I let you plainly understand that my
father will no more money part withal in that behalf but £100 and one
mark which is right far from the accomplishment of your desire.

Wherefore if that ye could be content with that good, and my poor
person, I would be the merriest maiden on ground. And if ye think not
yourself so satisfied, or that ye might have much more good, as I have
understood by you afore--good, true, and loving Valentine,[78] that ye
take no such labour upon you as to come more for that matter but let it
pass and never more be spoken of, as I may be your true lover and
bedeswoman[79] during my life.

No more unto you at this time but Almighty Jesus preserve you both body
and soul.

By your Valentine,

M. B.

FOOTNOTES:

[75] It is to be feared that "My Lord's" action was rather piratical.
The "Spanish Fleet" was of merchantmen ("convoyed" perhaps) on their way
to the North with iron etc. for fish, silk, etc., and we were not
definitely at war with Spain. But Henry the IV. of Castile was an ally
of France. Warwick had just been appointed "Captain of Calais," and it
was a general English idea that anything not English in the Channel was
fair prize. Warwick's conduct was warmly welcomed in London.

[76] This use of "abord" and that just before are slightly different
derivatives of the French _aborder_, which means to "approach,"
"accost," "come together with" as well as to "board" in the naval sense.
The first use here is evidently of the more general, the second of the
particular kind.

[77] This may be a mere mis-spelling of "God," or a sort of euphemism
like the modern "thank _goodness_!" to avoid the more sacred name.

[78] "I would" or "take care" or something similar to be supplied to
make a somewhat softened imperative.

[79] One who prays for you.



ROGER ASCHAM (1515-1568)


     Although the old phrase about "the schoolmaster being
     abroad" has never before had anything like the amount of
     applicableness which it now possesses, there is perhaps
     still a certain prejudice against schoolmasters. Indeed even
     some who have more than served time in that capacity will
     admit that it is a dangerous employment, profession, or
     vocation. But if all of us had been ever, or ever would try
     to be, like Roger Ascham, our class would never have
     deserved, or would victoriously wiped off, any obloquy. It
     was extraordinary good quality, or more extraordinary good
     fortune, that made the same man write _Toxophilus_ and _The
     Schoolmaster_. And there need hardly be any admission of
     possible good luck as causing, though some certainly helped,
     his performance as a letter-writer. Something was said
     before as to the importance of his "getting to English" in
     this matter. But it may be permissible to remind, or perhaps
     even inform, some readers of the curious combination which
     made this importance. As a Renaissance scholar; as a College
     tutor before the middle of the sixteenth century; as a
     Secretary of Embassy on the Continent; and as Latin
     Secretary at Court, he was positively _un_likely to favour
     the vernacular. Nor could anyone be a warmer or wiser lover
     of the classics than he was. But what he, being all these
     things, did for English was all the more influential, while
     the manner of his doing it could hardly be bettered.

     Ascham's letters being partly in English and partly in
     Latin, there is a certain temptation to translate one of the
     latter and put it side by side with one of the former. But
     the process might not be fair: and to give the fairer chance
     of comparison between originals in the two tongues would be
     out of the scheme of this book. I therefore choose a part of
     one of his long letters of travel to Cambridge friends--one
     of the earliest of the many "Up the Rhines" in English
     literature--and another part of his letters to Cecil. He has
     been reproached with the "begging" character of these, but
     it was the way of the time with Renaissance scholars. In the
     first "ioney" (Giles's text) must be wrong and towards the
     end "vile" is an amusing blunder for "_o_ile." "Peter
     Ailand" a Cambridge friend's child. "Brant" = "steep." In
     the second "Denny" is Sir Anthony D., a great favourite of
     Henry VIII. and Edward VI. who was now dead. "Cheke" the
     still better known "Sir John" had "taught Cambridge and King
     Edward Greek," and so raised the "goodly crop" but had taken
     to politics, which were to bring him into trouble.[80]


3. TO MR. EDWARD RAVEN [EXTRACT]

AUGSBURG Jan. 20 1551

13 Octob. We took a fair barge, with goodly glass windows, with seats of
fir, as close as any house, we knew not whether it went or stood. Rhene
is such a river that now I do not marvail that the poets make rivers
gods. Rhene at Spires having a farther course to rin into the ocean sea
than is the space betwixt Dover and Barwick is broader over a great deal
than is Thames at Greenwich when it is calm weather. The Rhene runs fast
and yet as smooth as the sea water stands in a vessel.

From Colen this day we went to Bonna, the bishop's town, the country
about Rhene here is plain and ioney. We were drawn up Rhene by horses.
Little villages stand by Rhene side, and as the barge came by, six or
seven children, some stonenaked, some in their shirts, of the bigness of
Peter Ailand, would run by use on the sands, singing psalms, and would
rin and sing with us half a mile, whilst they had some money.

We came late to Bonna at eight of the clock: our men were come afore
with our horse: we could not be let into the town, no more than they do
at Calise, after an hour. We stood cold at the gate a whole hour. At
last we were fain, lord and lady, to lie in our barge all night, where I
sat in my lady's side-saddle, leaning my head to a malle, better lodged
than a dozen of my fellows.

14 Octob. We sailed to Brousik: 15 miles afore we come to Bonna begin
the vines and hills keeping in Rhene on both sides for the space of five
or six days journey as we made them almost to Mayence, like the hills
that compass Halifax about, but far branter up, as though the rocks did
cover you like a pentice (pent-house): on the Rhene side all this
journey be pathways where horse and man go commonly a yard broad, so
fair that no weather can make it foul: if you look upwards ye are afraid
the rocks will fall on your head; if you look downwards ye are afraid to
tumble into Rhene, and if your horse founder it is not seven to six that
ye shall miss falling into Rhene, there be many times stairs down into
Rhene that men may come from their boats and walk on his bank, as we did
every day four or five miles at once, plucking grapes not with our hands
but with our mouths if we list.

The grapes grow on the brant rocks so wonderfully that ye will marvel
how men dare climb up to them, and yet so plentifully, that it is not
only a marvel where men be found to labour it, but also almost where men
dwell that drink it. Seven or eight days journey ye cannot cast your
sight over the compass of vines. And surely this wine of Rhene is so
good, so natural, so temperate, so ever like itself, as can be wished
for man's use. I was afraid when I came out of England to miss beer; but
I am more afraid when I shall come into England, that I cannot lack this
wine.

It is wonder to see how many castles stand on the tops of these rocks
unwinable. The three bishops electors, Colen, Trevers and Mayence; be
the princes almost of whole Rhene. The lansgrave hath goodly castles
upon Rhene which the emperor cannot get. The palatine of Rhene is also a
great lord on this river, and hath his name of a castle standing in the
midst of Rhene on a rock. There be also goodly isles in Rhene, so full
of walnut trees that they cannot be spent with eating, but they make
vile of them. In some of these isles stand fair abbeys and nunneries
wonderfully pleasant. The stones that hang so high over Rhene be very
much of that stone that you use to write on in tables; every poor man's
house there is covered with them.


4. TO CECIL [EXTRACT]

BRUSSELS March 24. 1553

If I should write oft, ye might think me too bold: and if I did leave
off, ye might judge me either to forget your gentleness, or to mistrust
your good will, who hath already so bound me unto you, as I shall rather
forget myself, and wish God also to forget me, than not labour with all
diligence and service to apply myself wholly to your will and purpose;
and that ye shall well know how much I assure myself on your goodness, I
will pass a piece of good manners, and be bold to borrow a little of
your small leisure from your weighty affairs in the commonwealth.
Therefore, if my letters shall find you at any leisure, they will
trouble you a little in telling you ate length, as I promised in my last
letters delivered unto you by Mr. Francis Yaxeley, why I am more
desirous to have your help for my stay at Cambridge still than for any
other kind of living elsewhere. I having now some experience of life led
at home and abroad, and knowing what I can do most fitly, and how I
would live most gladly, do well perceive there is no such quietness in
England, nor pleasure in strange countries, as even in St. John's
college, to keep company with the Bible, Plato, Aristotle, Demosthenes,
and Tully. Which my choice of quietness is not purposed to lie in
idleness, nor constrained by a wilful nature, because I will not or can
not serve elsewhere, when I trust I could apply myself to mo kinds of
life than I hope any need shall ever drive me to seek, but only because
in choosing aptly for myself I might bring some profit to many others.
And in this mine opinion I stand the more gladly, because it is grounded
upon the judgment of worthy Mr. Denny. For the summer twelvemonth before
he departed, dinner and supper he had me commonly with him, whose
excellent wisdom, mingled with so pleasant mirth, I can never forget:
emonges many other talks he would say oft unto me, if two duties did not
command him to serve, the one his prince, the other his wife, he would
surely become a student in St. John's, saying, "The Court, Mr. Ascham,
is a place so slippery, that duty never so well done, is not a staff
stiff enough to stand by always very surely, where ye shall many times
reap most unkindness where ye have sown greatest pleasures, and those
also ready to do you most hurt to whom you never intended to think any
harm." Which sentences I heard very gladly then, and felt them soon
after myself to be true. Thus I, first ready by mine own nature, then
moved by good counsel, after driven by ill fortune, lastly called by
quietness, thought it good to couch myself in Cambridge again. And in
very deed, too many be pluckt from thence before they be ripe, though I
myself am withered before I be gathered, and yet not so for that I have
stood too long, but rather because the fruit which I bear is so very
small. Yet seeing the goodly crop of Mr. Cheke is almost clean carried
from thence, and I in a manner alone of that time left a standing
straggler, peradventure though my fruit be very small, yet because the
ground from whence it sprung was so good, I may yet be thought somewhat
fit for seed, when all you the rest are taken up for better store,
wherewith the king and his realm is now so nobly served. And in such a
scarcity both of those, that were worthily called away when they were
fit, and of such as unwisely part from thence, before they be ready, I
dare now bolden myself, when the best be gone, to do some good among the
mean that do tarry, trusting that my diligence shall deal with my
disability, and the rather because the desire of shooting is so well
shot away in me, either ended by time or left off for better purpose.
Yet I do amiss to mislike shooting too much, which hath been hitherto my
best friend, and even now looking back to the pleasure which I found in
it, and perceiving small repentence to follow after it, by Plato's
judgment I may think well of it. No, it never called me to go from my
book, but it made both wit the lustier, and will the readier, to run to
it again, and perchance going back sometimes from learning may serve
even as well as it doth at leaping, to pass some of those which keep
always their standing at their book.

FOOTNOTES:

[80] The allusions to the writer's own _Toxophilus_ at the end require,
it is to be hoped, no annotation.



LADY MARY SIDNEY (?[81]-1586)


     This "old Molly," as she so agreeably calls herself, was
     very unfortunate in her father (that intrusive holder for a
     short time of the title of Northumberland, who was offensive
     in success and abject in adversity) and not too lucky in her
     brother, Leicester. But she must have been far too good for
     her own breed; she had an excellent husband, Sir Henry
     Sidney, Deputy of Ireland and President of Wales, one of
     Elizabeth's best deserving and worst treated servants, and
     she was the mother of "Astrophel" and Astrophel's sister.
     "One has known persons more unfortunate," as a famous phrase
     of a French poem not very long after her own time has it.
     And she must have thoroughly deserved good fortune: for her
     letters show her as one of the best of wives and mothers (if
     not of spellers): though it is quite possible that she might
     not have made a good jurywoman or a good member of
     parliament. As her husband was not merely governor
     (repeatedly and with such success as was possible) of
     Ireland, but "President of Wales," they usually, when in
     England but not at Court or at Penshurst, lived at Ludlow
     Castle and so enjoyed two of the most beautiful homes in the
     country. But Sir Henry in these and other functions had seas
     of trouble, great expenses, and according to "Gloriana's"
     wont, very small thanks for it all. He is said, indeed, to
     have had his life shortened by weariness and worry. But his
     son and daughter[82] may have been a comfort to him: and his
     wife must have been so. The letter itself, as will be seen,
     is not to himself but to his secretary: and there was more
     correspondence on the subject of their lodging and its
     difficulties. Lady Mary was not well, and there must be a
     place to see friends, and the Queen might come in! The
     original letter[83] is better spelt than others of hers, the
     principal curiosity being the form "hit" for "it," which,
     however, is by no means peculiar.


5. TO EDWARD MOLINEUX, ESQ.

You have used the matter very well; but we must do more yet for the good
dear Lord [her husband] than let him be thus dealt withal. Hampton Court
I never yet knew so full as there were not spare rooms in it, when it
has been thrice better filled than at the present it is. But some would
be sorry, perhaps, my Lord should have so sure a footing in the Court.
Well, all may be as well when the good God will. The whilst, I pray let
us do what we may for our Lord's ease and quiet. Whereunto I think if
you go to my Lord Howard, and in my Lord's name also move his Lordship
to shew his brother my Lord, (as they call each other)--to show him a
cast of his office[84] and that it should not be known allege your
former causes, I think he will find out some place to serve that
purpose. And also if you go to Mr Bowyer,[85] the gentleman-Usher, and
tell him his mother requireth him (which is myself) to help my Lord
with some one room, but only for the dispatch of the multitude of Welsh
and Irish people that follow him; and that you will give your word in my
Lord's behalf and mine, it shall not be accounted as a lodging[86] or
known of, I believe he will make what shift he can: you must assure him
it is but for the day-time for his business, as indeed it is.

As for my brother's answer of[87] my stay here for five or six days, he
knows I have ventured far already with so long absence, and am ill
thought of for it,[88] so as that may not be. But when the worst is
known, old Lord Harry and his old Moll will do as well as they can in
parting[89] like good friends the small portion allotted our long
service in Court, which as little as it is, seems something too
much.[90] And this being all I can say to the matter, farewell, Mr. Ned.

In haste this Monday 1578,

your assured loving mistress and friend,

M. SYDNEY.

If all this will not serve, prove[91] Mr Huggins, for I know my Lord
would not for no good be destitute in this time for some convenient
place for his followers and friends to resort to him, which in the case
I am in, is not possible to be in _my_ chamber till after sunset, when
the dear good Lord shall be, as best becomes him, Lord of his own.

FOOTNOTES:

[81] Her birth-date does not seem to be known, but she was married in
1551.

[82] He had another, of the (for an English girl) very unusual name of
"Ambros[z]ia" who died unmarried, at twenty.

[83] Most kindly copied for me by the Rev. W. Hunt from Arthur Collins's
_Sydney Papers_.

[84] An agreeable phrase, not in the least obsolete, though I have known
ignorant persons who thought it so. The "office" was that of Lord
Chamberlain; the holder was Lord Howard of Effingham, afterwards famous
in the Armada fights.

[85] See _Kenilworth_ (chap. xvi.), where Scott brings him in as
experiencing Gloriana's extreme uncertainty of temper.

[86] _I.e._ a permanent one such as Hampton Court affords to some.

[87] "About"?

[88] Either by the Queen herself, whose touchiness is well known, or by
jealous and mischief-making fellow courtiers.

[89] "Sharing."

[90] "Is grudged."

[91] We should say "try."



GEORGE CLIFFORD EARL OF CUMBERLAND
(1558-1605)


     This not very fortunate or wholly blameless but very
     remarkable and representative person was the third holder of
     the earldom and the sixteenth of the famous barony of
     Clifford. He was great-grandson of Wordsworth's "Shepherd
     Lord"; father of Anne Countess of Dorset, Pembroke and
     Montgomery (pupil of Daniel the poet and a typical great
     lady of her time); one of the foremost of Elizabeth's
     privateering courtiers; one of the chief victims of her
     caprice and parsimony; a magnificent noble, but a great
     spendthrift, something of a libertine, never unkindly but
     hardly ever wise. This remarkable deathbed letter (the
     giving of which depended on the kindness of Dr. G. C.
     Williamson of Hampstead, author of the _Life and Voyages of
     G. Clifford, 3rd Earl of Cumberland_, Cambridge University
     Press, 1920, in which it appeared, p. 270-1), pretty well
     explains itself. "Sweet Meg," his wife, was Lady Margaret
     Russell, daughter of the Earl of Bedford. The pair were on
     very affectionate terms for many years: but had latterly
     been estranged by certain infidelities on the Earl's part
     and by money disputes and difficulties, so that when his
     last illness attacked him Lady Cumberland was not with him.
     She was not, however, proof against this repentant appeal:
     but returned with her daughter. Both were present at his
     death in the Savoy soon after he wrote. He had made,
     personally or by deputy, ten if not twelve voyages against
     the Spaniards, and though there was a good deal of
     mismanagement about them he took Porto Rico in one;
     captured, but made little profit out of, an enormously
     valuable prize, the _Madre de Dios_, in another; gave the
     warning which enabled Lord Thomas Howard to escape, but
     which Sir Richard Grenville refused to take "at Flores, in
     the Azores"; and built at his own expense, the largest
     privateer then or perhaps ever constructed, the _Malice
     Scourge_--for the remarkable subsequent history of which,
     see Mr. David Hannay's article, "_The Saga of a Ship_," in
     _Blackwood_, May, 1921.


6.

Sweet and dear Meg,

Bear[92] with, I pray thee, the short and unapt setting together of
these my last lines, a token of true kindness, which I protest cometh
out of an unfeigned heart of love to thee. For whose content, and to
make satisfaction for the wrongs done to thee I have, since I saw thee
more desired to return than for any other earthly cause. But being so
low brought that, without God's miraculous favour, there is no great
likelihood of it I, by this, if so it please God that I shall not, in
earnestness make my last requests, which as ever thou lovest me lying
so, I pray thee perform for me being dead. First, in greedy earnestness
I desire thee not to offend God in grieving too much at His disposing of
me: but let my assured hope that He hath done it for the saving of my
soul rather comfort thee, considering that we ought most to rejoice,
when we see a thing that it is either for the good of our souls or of
our friends. And further I beg of thee that thou wilt take, as I have
meant, in kindness the course I have set down for disposing of my estate
and things left behind. Which truly, if I have not dealt most kindly
with thee in, I am mistaken, and as ever thou lovest, (which I know thou
hast done faithfully and truly) sweet Meg, let neither old conceit, new
opinion, nor false lying tale, make thee fall to hard opinion nor suit
with my brother. For this I protest now, when I tremble to speak that
which upon any just colour may be turned to a lie, thou hast conceived
wrong of him, for his nature is sweet, and though wrong conceit might
well have urged him, yet he hath never to my knowledge said or done
anything to harm thee or mine, but with tears hath often bemoaned
himself to me that he could not devise how to make thee conceive rightly
of him. And lastly, before the presence of God, I command thee, and in
the nearest love of my heart I desire thee, to take great care that
sweet Nan[93] whom God bless, may be carefully brought up in the fear of
God, not to delight in worldly vanities, which I too well know be but
baits to draw her out of the heavenly kingdom. And I pray thee thank thy
kind uncle and aunt for her (?) and their many kindnesses to me. Thus,
out of the bitter and greedy desire of a repentant heart, begging thy
pardon for any wrong that ever in my life I did thee, I commend these my
requests to thy wonted and undeserved kind wifely and lovely
consideration, my body to God's disposing and my love (soul?) to His
merciful commisseration.

Thine as wholly as man was ever woman's,

GEORGE CUMBERLAND.

To my dear wife, the Countess of Cumberland, give this, of whom, from
the bottom of my heart in the presence of God, I ask forgiveness for all
the wrongs I have done her.

FOOTNOTES:

[92] There is, as often, little or no punctuation in the original, of
which Dr. Williamson's beautiful book gives a facsimile. I have ventured
to adjust that of the printed text, here and there, to bring out the
meaning.

[93] Lady Anne was at this time only 15. She seems to have been fond of
her father and proud of him: nor is there any direct evidence that the
fear of God was not in her. But she had no fear of man: and no excessive
respect for her father's will. During the lives of her uncle Francis and
her cousin Henry, 4th and 5th Earls, she fought it hard at law: and at
last, Henry dying without issue, and the title lapsing, came into
possession of the great Clifford estates in the North. She lived to be
86, and was masterful all her days.



JOHN DONNE (1573-1631)


     "The first poet in the world for some things,"--as Ben
     Jonson, who nevertheless did not like his metric, thought he
     would perish for not being understood, and perhaps did not
     understand him--called Donne with justice, might not be
     thought likely to be among the first letter-writers. The
     marvellous lightning-flashes of genius in a dark night of
     context which illuminate his poetry and his sermons, can
     hardly be expected--would indeed be almost out of place--in
     ordinary letter-writing. Moreover, Donne is, perhaps, with
     Browne, the most characteristic exponent of that magnificent
     seventeenth century style which accommodates itself ill to
     merely commonplace matters.

     Browne, a younger man by an entire generation who lived far
     into the age of Dryden, could drop this style when he chose:
     with Donne it was rather the skin--if not even the very
     flesh and bone and all but spirit--than the cloak of his
     thought. Nevertheless there is no exact contemporary of
     his--and certainly none possessing anything like his
     literary power--who deserves selection as a representative
     of his own school and time better than he does; and there is
     something in him which adds distinction to any company in
     which he appears. As mentioned in the Introduction, his
     verse-epistles were even more noteworthy, but in prose he is
     noteworthy enough.

     The batch of letters here chosen was most fortunately
     preserved by Izaak Walton, who published the first of them
     _in_ the life not of Donne but of George Herbert, while the
     rest were "added" to it in 1670.[94] The lady to whom they
     were written, Magdalen Newport by maiden name, was mother
     not only of the pious and poetical George, but of Edward
     Lord Herbert of Cherbury, himself not a very bad poet but by
     no means in the usual sense pious, a very great coxcomb, and
     a hero chiefly by his own report. His mother, however, seems
     to have been one of those "elect ladies" who were among the
     chief glories of England in the sixteenth and seventeenth
     centuries, and were fortunately numerous. After her
     widowhood she lived at Oxford for some time, but seems to
     have moved to London when Donne, about 1607, wrote these
     letters. He was himself living at Mitcham (spelt "Michin" in
     one letter), not yet famous for golf though perhaps already
     for lavender. Later he visited her at Montgomery Castle, the
     famous seat of the Herberts. She is said to have been very
     beautiful, and the subtle touch of not in the least fatuous
     or foppish "devotion" is most agreeable.


7. TO THE LADY MAGDALEN HERBERT

Madam,

Your favours to me are everywhere. I use them, and have them. I enjoy
them at London, and leave them there: and yet find them at Mitcham. Such
riddles as these become things inexpressible: and such is your goodness.
I was almost sorry to find your servant here this day, because I was
loath to have any witness of my not coming home last night, and indeed
of my coming this morning. But my not coming was excusable, because
earnest business detained me; and my coming this day is by example of
your St. Mary Magdalen, who rose early upon Sunday, to seek that which
she loved most; and so did I. And, from her and myself, I return such
thanks as are due to one, to whom we owe all the good opinion that they,
whom we need most, have of us. By this messenger and on this good day, I
commit the enclosed Holy Hymns and Sonnets--which for the matter not the
workmanship have yet escaped the fire,--to your judgment and to your
protection too, if you think them worthy of it; and I have appointed
this enclosed Sonnet to usher them to your happy hand.

      Your unworthiest servant unless your accepting
      him to be so have mended him

JO. DONNE.

(MITCHAM July 11. 1607)

TO THE LADY MAGDALEN HERBERT: OF ST. MARY MAGDALEN

    Her of your name, whose fair inheritance
      Bethina was, and jointure Magdalo,
    An active faith so highly did advance,
      That she once knew, more than the church did know,
    The Resurrection! so much good there is
      Delivered of her, that some Fathers be
    Loath to believe one woman could do this;
      But think these Magdalens were two or three.
    Increase their number, Lady, and their fame:
      To their devotion, add your innocence;
    Take so much of the example as the name
      The latter half--and in some recompense
    That they did harbour Christ Himself--a guest
      Harbour these Hymns, to His dear Name addressed.


8. TO THE LADY MAGDALEN HERBERT

Madam,

Every excuse hath in it somewhat of accusation; and since I am innocent,
and yet must excuse, how shall I do for that part of accusing. By my
troth, as desperate and perplexed men, grow from thence bold; so must I
take the boldness of accusing you, who would draw so dark a Curtain
betwixt me and your purposes, as that I had no glimmering, neither of
your goings, nor the way which my Letters might haunt. Yet, I have given
this Licence to Travel, but I know not whither, nor it. It is therefore
rather a Pinnace to discover; and the entire Colony of Letters, of
Hundreds and Fifties, must follow; whose employment is more honourable,
than that which our State meditates to _Virginia_ because you are
worthier than all that Country, of which that is a wretched inch; for
you have better treasure and a harmlessness. If this sound like a
flattery, tear it out. I am to my Letters as rigid a Puritan as Caesar
was to his Wife. I can as ill endure a suspicious and misinterpretable
word as a fault; and of the grossest flatteries there is this good use,
that they tell us what we should be. But, _Madam_, you are beyond
instruction, and therefore there can belong to you only praise; of
which, though you be no good hearer, yet allow all my Letters leave to
have in them one part of it, which is thankfulness towards you.

_Your unworthiest Servant
Except your accepting
have mended him_

JOHN DONNE.

MITCHAM, July 11, 1607.


9. _To the worthiest Lady, Mrs._ MAGDALEN HERBER(T)

_Madam_,

This is my second Letter, in which though I cannot tell you what is
good, yet this is the worst, that I must be a great part of it; yet to
me, that is recompensed, because you must be mingled. After I knew you
were gone (for I must, little less than accusingly tell you, I knew not
you would go) I sent my first Letter, like a _Bevis of Hampton_, to seek
Adventures. This day I came to Town, and to the best part of it, your
House; for your memory is a State-cloth and Presence; which I reverence,
though you be away; though I need not seek that there which I have about
and within me. There, though I found my accusation, yet anything to
which your hand is, is a pardon; yet I would not burn my first Letter,
because as in great destiny no small passage can be omitted or
frustrated, so in my resolution of writing almost daily to you, I would
have no link of the Chain broke by me, both because my Letters interpret
one another, and because only their number can give them weight. If I
had your Commission and Instructions to do you the service of a Legier
Ambassador here, I could say something of the Countess of _Devon_: of
the States, and such things. But since to you, who are not only a World
alone, but the Monarchy of the World your self, nothing can be added,
especially by me; I will sustain myself with the honour of being

_Your Servant Extraordinary
And without place_

JOHN DONNE.

LONDON
July 23, 1607


10. _To the worthiest Lady, Mrs_. MAGDALEN HERBERT

_Madam_,

As we must die before we can have full glory and happiness, so before I
can have this degree of it, as to see you by a Letter, I must almost
die, that is, come to _London_, to plaguy _London_; a place full of
danger, and vanity, and vice, though the Court be gone. And such it will
be, till your return redeem it: Not that, the greatest virtue in the
World, which is you, can be such a Marshal, as to defeat, or disperse
all the vice of this place; but as higher bodies remove, or contract
themselves, when better come, so at your return we shall have one door
open to innocence. Yet, Madam, you are not such an Ireland, as produceth
neither ill, nor good; no Spiders or Nightingales, which is a rare
degree of perfection: But you have found and practised that experiment,
That even nature, out of her detesting of emptiness, if we will make
that our work to remove bad, will fill us with good things. To abstain
from it, was therefore but the Childhood and Minority of your Soul,
which hath been long exercised since, in your manlier active part, of
doing good. Of which since I have been a witness and subject, not to
tell you some times, that by your influence and example I have attained
to such a step of goodness, as to be thankful, were both to accuse your
power and judgment of impotency and infirmity.

_Your Ladyship's in all Services_,

JOHN DONNE.[95]

August 2d, 1607.

FOOTNOTES:

[94] Mr. Gosse (who has inserted them in his _Life and Letters of
Donne_) is perhaps right in putting letter 7 last. I give no opinion on
this but merely keep the order in which they originally appeared in the
text and in an appendix to the _Life of Herbert_ (1670 edit.). I am not
certain to which "first" the "second" in letter 9 refers. "Bevis of
Hampton" generally for "knight errant"; "Legier," a _resident_
Ambassador; "States" in the plural--always then "the Dutch";
_Snake_lessness is more often assigned to Ireland than spiderlessness.

[95] The first of these letters, with the sonnet, appears, I think, in
all editions of Walton, who has apparently entered the date wrongly. The
other three were copied for me from the 1670 original by Miss Elsie
Hitchcock, I have slightly modernised a few spellings in them.



JAMES HOWELL (1593-1666)


     "The Father" of something is an expression in the history of
     literature which has become, more justly than some other
     traditional expressions, rather odious to the modern mind.
     For in the first place it is an irritatingly conventional
     phrase, and in the second the paternity is usually
     questionable. But "the priggish little clerk of the
     Council," as Thackeray (who nevertheless loved his letters)
     calls Howell, does really seem to deserve the fathership of
     all such as in English write unofficial letters "for
     publication."[96] He wrote a great deal else: and would no
     doubt in more recent times have been a "polygraphic"
     journalist of some distinction. And he had plenty to write
     about. He was an Oxford man; he travelled abroad on
     commercial errands (though by no means as what has been more
     recently called a "commercial traveller"); he was one of Ben
     Jonson's "sons," a Royalist sufferer from the Rebellion, and
     finally Historiographer Royal as well as Clerk to the
     Council. His letters, which are sometimes only titularly
     such[97] but sometimes quite natural, deal with all sorts of
     subjects--from the murder of Buckingham by Felton to the
     story of the Oxenham "White Bird" which Kingsley has
     utilised in _Westward Ho!_ And, to do him justice, there is
     a certain character about the book which is not _merely_ the
     expression of the character of the writer, though no doubt
     connected with it. Now the possession of this is what makes
     a book literature. It has been usual to select from Howell's
     letters of travel, and from historical ones like the
     Buckingham one above mentioned. I have preferred the "White
     Bird"; and before it one of several documents, of the same
     or nearly the same period, which deal with the old English
     life of country houses--between the mediaeval time and the
     degradation of the "servant" class, which came in with the
     eighteenth century or a little earlier. Howell would
     evidently have echoed Isopel Berners--that admirable girl
     whom George Borrow slighted--in saying, "Long Melford for
     ever!" though the house would not with him, as with her,
     have meant a workhouse. Neither letter seems to require
     annotation.


11. TO DAN CALDWELL, ESQ., FROM THE LORD SAVAGE'S HOUSE IN LONG MELFORD

My dear Dan,

Tho' considering my former condition of life, I may now be called a
countryman, yet you cannot call me a rustic (as you would imply in your
letter) as long as I live in so civil and noble a family, as long as I
lodge in so virtuous and regular a house as any, I believe, in the land,
both for economical government and the choice company; for I never saw
yet such a dainty race of children in all my life together. I never saw
yet such an orderly and punctual attendance of servants, nor a great
house so neatly kept; here one shall see no dog, nor a cat, nor cage to
cause any nastiness within the body of the house. The kitchen and
gutters and other offices of noise and drudgery are at the fag-end;
there's a back-gate for the beggars and the meaner sort of swains to
come in at; the stables butt upon the park, which, for a cheerful rising
ground, for groves and browsings for the deer, for rivulets of water,
may compare with any of its bigness in the whole land; it is opposite
to the front of the great house, whence from the gallery one may see
much of the game when they are a-hunting. Now for the gardening and
costly choice flowers, for ponds, for stately large walks green and
gravelly, for orchards and choice fruits of all sorts, there are few the
like in England; here you have your Bon Chrétien pear and Burgamot in
perfection; your Muscadel grapes in such plenty that there are some
bottles of wine sent every year to the King: and one Mr. Daniel, a
worthy gentleman hard by who hath been long abroad, makes good store in
his vintage. Truly this house of Long Melford tho' it be not so great,
yet is so well compacted and contriv'd with such dainty conveniences
every way; that if you saw the landskip of it, you would be mightily
taken with it and it would serve for a choice pattern to build and
contrive a house by. If you come this summer to your Manor of Sheriff in
Essex, you will not be far off hence; if your occasions will permit, it
will be worth your coming hither, tho' it be only to see him, who would
think it a short journey to go from St. David's Head to Dover Cliffs to
see and serve you, were there occasion; if you would know who the same
is, 'tis--

Yours,

J. H.

20. May, 1619.


12. TO MR. E. D.

Sir,

I thank you a thousand times for the noble entertainment you gave me at
Bury; and the pains you took in showing me the antiquities of that
place. In requital, I can tell you of a strange thing I saw lately here,
and I believe 'tis true. As I passed by St. Dunstan's in Fleet Street
the last Saturday, I stepped into a lapidary, or stone-cutter's shop,
to treat with the master for a stone to be put upon my father's tomb;
and casting my eyes up and down, I might spy a huge marble with a large
inscription upon't, which was thus to my best remembrance:

     _Here lies _John Oxenham_, a goodly young man, in whose
     chamber, as he was struggling with the pangs of death, a
     bird with a white breast was seen fluttering about his bed,
     and so vanished._

     _Here lies also _Mary Oxenham_, the sister of the said
     _John_, who died the next day, and the said apparition was
     seen in the room._

Then another sister is spoke of, then,

     _Here lies hard by _James Oxenham_, the son of the said
     _John_, who died a child in his cradle a little after; and
     such a bird was seen fluttering about his head, a little
     before he expired, which vanished afterwards._

At the bottom of the stone there is:

     _Here lies _Elizabeth Oxenham_ the mother of the said
     _John_, who died sixteen years since, when such a bird with
     a white breast was seen about her bed before her death._

To all these there be divers witnesses, both squires and ladies, whose
names are engraven upon the stone. This stone is to be sent to a town
hard by Exeter, where this happened. Were you here, I could raise a
choice discourse with you hereupon. So, hoping to see you the next term,
to requite some of your favours,

I rest--

Your true friend to serve you,

J. H.

WESTMINSTER, 3 July. 1632

FOOTNOTES:

[96] _Epistolae Hoelianae or Familiar Letters_ (1657).

[97] Indeed his correspondents are probably sometimes, if not always,
imaginary: and many of the letters are only what in modern periodicals
are called "middle" articles on this and that subject, headed and tailed
with the usual letter-formulas.



JOHN EVELYN (1620-1706)


     As is naturally the case with writers of "Diaries,"
     "Memoirs," "Autobiographies," and the like, a good deal of
     matter is deflected into Evelyn's famous _Diary_ from
     possible letters: while his numerous and voluminous
     published works may also to some extent abstract from or
     duplicate his correspondence. But there is enough of
     this[98] to make him a noteworthy epistoler. And it is
     interesting, though not perhaps surprising, to find that
     while his Diary is less piquant than his friend Mr. Pepys's,
     his letters are more so. Not surprising--first, because
     official letter-writers (Evelyn did a good deal of public
     work but was never _exactly_ an official) often get into a
     habit of noncommittal; and secondly, because there is, in
     these things as in others, a principle of compensation.
     Evelyn was almost sure to be a good letter-writer[99] for he
     had a ready pen, a rather extraordinary range of interests
     and capacities, plenty of time and means, extensive
     knowledge of the world, and last but not least, a
     tendency--not missed by the aforesaid Mr. Pepys--to bestow
     his information and opinion freely upon less fortunately
     endowed and equipped mortals. If he never quite reaches in
     letters the famous passages of the Diary, describing the
     great Fire, and Whitehall on the eve of Charles the Second's
     mortal seizure, he sometimes comes near to this, and
     diffuses throughout a blend of humanism, and humanity, of
     science and art, which is very agreeable. His wife also was
     no mean letter-writer, but only one of the minor stars of
     that day round the moon, Dorothy Osborne, to whom we come
     next. Of Evelyn's own letters several are specially
     tempting. His curious plan (a particularly favourite craze
     of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries) for a small
     "college" or lay convent of ladies and gentlemen, a sort of
     miniature "Abbey of Thelema" is one. His magnificent eulogy
     of the Duchess of Newcastle (Lamb's "dear Margaret"), which
     puzzled his editor Bray (from this and other notes a rather
     stupid man), is another: and his very interesting letter to
     Pepys on Dreams (Oct. 4, 1689) a third. But on the whole I
     have preferred the following, which may remind some readers
     of Mr. Kipling's charming poem on the wonderful things our
     fathers did and believed, with its invaluable reminder that
     after all it would be lucky for us if we were no worse than
     they. The date is not given: but the letter is printed
     between one of August and one of September, 1668. [Greek:
     kollourion] = Collyrium = "eyewash." "Stillatim" = "drop by
     drop." "Lixivium" (Fr. "lessive") = "lye," "soapwater."
     "Catoptrics" and "otacoustics" (though the "ot" = "ear" has
     gone)--are fairly modern words, "phonocamptics" scarcely so.
     In fact, I do not remember seeing it elsewhere. It does not
     appear to be a classical Greek compound, but should mean
     "the art of guiding and managing the voice."[100] The Tom
     Whittal story shows that Evelyn, though given to
     seriousness, could (God rest his soul) be a merry man
     sometimes. The other proper names, from Mr. Oldenburg to
     Thom. Fazzello, could be expounded without difficulty, but
     with unnecessary expenditure of space.


13. JOHN EVELYN TO DOCTOR BEALE

Sir,

I happened to be with Mr Oldenburg some time since, almost upon the
article of his receiving the notice you sent him of your fortunate and
useful invention; and I remember I did first of all incite him, both to
insert it into his next transactions, and to provoke your further
prosecution of it; which I exceedingly rejoice to find has been so
successful, that you give us hopes of your further thoughts upon that,
and those other subjects which you mention. You may haply call to
remembrance a passage of the Jesuit Honorati Fabri, who speaking of
perspectives, observes, that an object looked on through a small hole
appears magnified; from whence he suggests, the casting of two plates
neatly perforated, and fitted to look through, preferable to glasses,
whose refractions injure the sight. Though I begin to advance in years
(being now on the other side of forty), yet the continuance of the
perfect use of my senses (for which I bless Almighty God) has rendered
me the less solicitous about those artificial aids; which yet I foresee
I must shortly apply myself to, and therefore you can receive but
slender hints from me which will be worthy your acceptance upon that
argument; only, I well remember, that besides Tiberius of old (whom you
seem to instance in), Joseph Scaliger affirms the same happened both to
his father Julius and himself, in their younger years. And sometimes,
methinks, I myself have fancied to have discerned things in a very dark
place, when the curtains about my bed have been drawn, as my hands,
fingers, the sheet, and bedclothes; but since my too intent poring upon
a famous eclipse of the sun, about twelve years since, at which time I
could as familiarly have stared with open eyes upon the glorious planet
in its full lustre, as now upon a glow-worm (comparatively speaking), I
have not only lost the acuteness of sight, but much impaired the vigour
of it for such purposes as it then served me. But besides that, I have
treated mine eyes very ill near these twenty years, during all which
time I have rarely put them together, or composed them to sleep, before
one at night, and sometimes much later: that I may in some sort redeem
my losses by day, in which I am continually importuned with visits from
my neighbours and acquaintance, or taken up by other impertinencies of
my life in this place. I am plainly ashamed to tell you this,
considering how little I have improved myself by it; but I have rarely
been in bed before twelve o'clock as I said, in the space of twenty
years; and yet I read the least print, even in a jolting coach, without
other assistance, save that I now and then used to rub my shut eye-lids
over with a spirit of wine well rectified, in which I distil a few
rosemary flowers much after the process of the Queen of Hungary's water,
which does exceedingly fortify, not only my sight, but the rest of my
senses, especially my hearing and smelling; a drop or two being
distilled into the nose or ears, when they are never so dull; and other
[Greek: kollourion] I never apply. Indeed, in the summer time, I have
found wonderful benefit in bathing my head with a decoction of some hot
and aromatical herbs, in a lixivium made of the ashes of vine branches;
and when my head is well washed with this, I immediately cause abundance
of cold fountain water to be poured upon me _stillatim_, for a good
half-hour together; which for the present is not only one of the most
voluptuous and grateful refreshments imaginable, but an incredible
benefit to me the whole year after: for I never need other powdering to
my hair, to preserve it bright and clean, as the gallants do; but which
does certainly greatly prejudice transpiration by filling up, or lying
heavy upon the pores. Those, therefore, who (since the use of perukes)
accustom to wash their heads, instead of powdering, would doubtless find
the benefit of it; both as to the preventing of aches in their head,
teeth, and ears, if the vicissitude and inconstancy of the weather, and
consequently the use of their monstrous perukes, did not expose them to
the danger of catching colds. When I travelled in Italy, and the
Southern parts, I did sometimes frequent the public baths (as the manner
is), but seldom without peril of my life, till I used this frigid
effusion, or rather profusion of cold water before I put on my garments,
or durst expose myself to the air; and for this method I was obliged to
the old and noble Rantzow, in whose book _De conservandâ valetudine_ I
had read a passage to this purpose; though I might have remembered how
the Dutchmen treated their labouring horses when they are all over in a
froth, which they wash off with several buckets of cold water, as I have
frequently observed it in the Low Countries.

Concerning other aids; besides what the masters of the catoptrics,
phonocamptics, otacoustics, &c., have done, something has been attempted
by the Royal Society; and you know the industrious Kircher has much
laboured. The rest of those artificial helps are summed up by the Jesuit
And. Schottus. I remember that Monsieur Huygens (author of the
pendulum), who brought up the learned father of that incomparable youth
Monsieur de Zulichem, who used to prescribe to me the benefit of his
little wax taper (a type whereof is, with the history of it, in some of
our Registers) for night elucubrations, preferable to all other candle
or lamp light whatsoever. And because it explodes all glaring of the
flame, which by no means ought to dart upon the eyes, it seems very much
to establish your happy invention of tubes instead of spectacles, which
have not those necessary defences.

Touching the sight of cats in the night, I am not well satisfied of the
exquisiteness of that sense in them. I believe their smelling or hearing
does much contribute to their dexterity in catching mice, as to all
those animals who are born with those prolix smelling hairs. Fish will
gather themselves in shoals to any extraordinary light in the dark
night, and many are best caught by that artifice. But whatever may be
said of these, and other senses of fish, you know how much the sagacity
of birds and beasts excel us; how far eagles and vultures, ravens and
other fowls will smell the carcase; _odorumque canum vis_, as Lucretius
expresses it, and we daily find by their drawing after the games. Gesner
affirms that an otter will wind a fish four miles distance in the water,
and my Lord Verulam (cent. 8) speaks of that element's being also a
medium of sounds, as well as air. Eels do manifestly stir at the
cracking of thunder, but that may also be attributed to some other
tremulous motion; yet carps and other fish are known to come at the call
and the sound of a bell, as I have been informed. Notorious is the story
of Arion, and of Lucullus's lampreys which came _ad nomen_; and you have
formerly minded me of Varro's Greek pipe, of which Lucian and Cicero (ad
Atticum) take occasion to speak. Pliny's dolphin is famous, and what is
related of the American Manati: but the most stupendous instance, that
of the xiphia or sword-fish, which the Mamertines can take up by no
other strategem than a song of certain barbarous words, as the thing is
related by Thom. Fazzello. It is certain that we hear more accurately
when we hold our mouths a little open, than when we keep them shut; and
I have heard of a dumb gentleman in England who was taught to speak (and
therefore certainly brought to hear in some degree) by applying the head
of a base viol against his teeth, and striking upon the strings with the
bow. You may remember the late effect of the drum extending the tympanum
of a deaf person to great improvement of his hearing, so long as that
was beaten upon; and I could at present name a friend of mine, who
though he be exceedingly thick of hearing, by applying a straight stick
of what length soever, provided it touch the instrument and his ear,
does perfectly and with great pleasure hear every tune that is played:
all which, with many more, will flow into your excellent work, whilst
the argument puts me in mind of one Tom Whittal, a student of Christ
Church, who would needs maintain, that if a hole could dexterously be
bored through the skull to the brain in the midst of the forehead, a man
might both see and hear and smell without the use of any other organs;
but you are to know, that this learned problematist was brother to him,
who, preaching at St. Mary's, Oxford, took his text out of the history
of Balaam, Numb. xxii., "Am I not thine ass?" Dear Sir, pardon this
rhapsody of,

Sir, your, &c.

FOOTNOTES:

[98] Some 400 pages from and to him in the most compendious edition.

[99] He thought, writing to Lord Spencer about 1690, that we have "few
tolerable letters of our own country" excepting--and that only in a
fashion--those of Bacon, Donne and Howell.

[100] "_Odorumque canum vis_--as Lucretius expresses it"--perhaps
requires a note. Evelyn ought to have known his Lucretius, the first
book of which he translated and which he was only prevented from
completing by some foolish scruples which Jeremy Taylor wisely but
vainly combated. And Lucretius is fond of _vis_ as meaning "quality" or
"faculty." But Evelyn almost certainly was thinking also, more or less,
of Virgil's "odora canum vis," _Aen._ iv. 132.



DOROTHY OSBORNE (1627-1695)


     This very delightful lady--who became the wife of Sir
     William Temple, famous in political and literary history,
     and, by so doing or being, mistress of the household in
     which Swift lived, suffered, but met Stella--was the
     daughter of Sir Peter Osborne, one of the stoutest of
     Royalists who, as Governor of Guernsey, held its Castle
     Cornet for years against the rebels. Whether she was (in
     1627) born there--her father had been made _Lieutenant_
     Governor six years earlier--is not known and has been
     thought unlikely: but the present writer (who has danced,
     and played whist within its walls) hopes she was. When we
     come to know her she was living at Chicksands in
     Bedfordshire and hoping to marry Temple, though the course
     of love ran by no means smooth. Attention was first drawn to
     her letters, and some of them were partly printed, in
     Courtenay's _Life_ of her husband--a book which was reviewed
     by Macaulay in a famous essay, not overlooking Dorothy. But
     as a body, they waited till some half century later, when
     they were published by Judge Parry and received with joy by
     all fit folk. They were written between 1652 and 1654. The
     first passage is in her pleasant mood and touches on a
     subject--aviation--which interested that day and interests
     this. The second strikes some people as one of the most
     charming specimens of the love-letter--written neither in
     the violent delight that has violent end, nor in namby-pamby
     fashion.[101]



14. TO SIR WILLIAM TEMPLE

Sir,--

You say I abuse you; and Jane says you abuse me when you say you are not
melancholy: which is to be believed? Neither, I think; for I could not
have said so positively (as it seems she did) that I should not be in
town till my brother came back: he was not gone when she writ, nor is
not yet; and if my brother Peyton had come before his going, I had
spoiled her prediction. But now it cannot be; he goes on Monday or
Tuesday at farthest. I hope you did truly with me, too, in saying that
you are not melancholy (though she does not believe it). I am thought
so, many times, when I am not at all guilty on't. How often do I sit in
company a whole day, and when they are gone am not able to give an
account of six words that was said, and many times could be so much
better pleased with the entertainment my own thoughts give me, that 'tis
all I can do to be so civil as not to let them see they trouble me. This
may be your disease. However, remember you have promised me to be
careful of yourself, and that if I secure what you have entrusted me
with, you will answer for the rest. Be this our bargain then; and look
that you give me as good an account of one as I shall give you of
t'other. In earnest I was strangely vexed to see myself forced to
disappoint you so, and felt your trouble and my own too. How often I
have wished myself with you, though but for a day, for an hour: I would
have given all the time I am to spend here for it with all my heart.

You could not but have laughed if you had seen me last night. My brother
and Mr. Gibson were talking by the fire; and I sat by, but as no part of
the company. Amongst other things (which I did not at all mind), they
fell into a discourse of flying; and both agreed it was very possible to
find out a way that people might fly like birds, and despatch their
journeys: so I, that had not said a word all night, started up at that,
and desired they would say a little more on't, for I had not marked the
beginning; but instead of that, they both fell into so violent a
laughing, that I should appear so much concerned in such an art; but
they little knew of what use it might have been to me. Yet I saw you
last night, but 'twas in a dream; and before I could say a word to you,
or you to me, the disorder my joy to see you had put me into awakened
me. Just now I was interrupted, too, and called away to entertain two
dumb gentlemen;--you may imagine whether I was pleased to leave my
writing to you for their company;--they have made such a tedious visit,
too; and I am so tired with making of signs and tokens for everything I
had to say. Good God! how do those that live with them always? They are
brothers; and the eldest is a baronet, has a good estate, a wife and
three or four children. He was my servant heretofore, and comes to see
me still for old love's sake; but if he could have made me mistress of
the world I could not have had him; and yet I'll swear he has nothing to
be disliked in him but his want of tongue, which in a woman might have
been a virtue.

I sent you a part of _Cyrus_ last week, where you will meet with one
Doralise in the story of Abradate and Panthée. The whole story is very
good; but the humour makes the best part of it. I am of her opinion in
most things that she says in her character of "L'honnest homme" that she
is in search of, and her resolution of receiving no heart that had been
offered to anybody else. Pray, tell me how you like her, and what fault
you find in my Lady Carlisle's letter? Methinks the hand and the style
both show her a great person, and 'tis writ in the way that's now
affected by all that pretend to wit and good breeding; only, I am a
little scandalized to confess that she uses that word faithful,--she
that never knew how to be so in her life.

I have sent you my picture because you wished for it; but, pray, let it
not presume to disturb my Lady Sunderland's. Put it in some corner where
no eyes may find it out but yours, to whom it is only intended. 'Tis not
a very good one, but the best I shall ever have drawn of me; for, as my
Lady says, my time for pictures is past, and therefore I have always
refused to part with this, because I was sure the next would be a worse.
There is a beauty in youth that every one has once in their lives; and I
remember my mother used to say there was never anybody (that was not
deformed) but were handsome, to some reasonable degree, once between
fourteen and twenty. It must hang with the light on the left hand of it;
and you may keep it if you please till I bring you the original. But
then I must borrow it (for 'tis no more mine, if you like it), because
my brother is often bringing people into my closet where it hangs, to
show them other pictures that are there; and if he miss this long
thence, 'twould trouble his jealous head.


15.

Sir,--

Who would be kind to one that reproaches one so cruelly? Do you think,
in earnest, I could be satisfied the world should think me a dissembler,
full of avarice or ambition? No, you are mistaken; but I'll tell you
what I could suffer, that they should say I married where I had no
inclination, because my friends thought it fit, rather than that I had
run wilfully to my own ruin in pursuit of a fond passion of my own. To
marry for love were no reproachful thing if we did not see that of the
thousand couples that do it, hardly one can be brought for an example
that it may be done and not repented afterwards. Is there anything
thought so indiscreet, or that makes one more contemptible? 'Tis true
that I do firmly believe we should be, as you say, _toujours les
mesmes_; but if (as you confess) 'tis that which hardly happens once in
two ages, we are not to expect the world should discern we were not like
the rest. I'll tell you stories another time, you return them so
handsomely upon me. Well, the next servant I tell you of shall not be
called a whelp, if 'twere not to give you a stick to beat myself with. I
would confess that I looked upon the impudence of this fellow as a
punishment upon me for my over care in avoiding the talk of the world;
yet the case is very different, and no woman shall ever be blamed that
an inconsolable person pretends to her when she gives no allowance to
it, whereas none shall 'scape that owns a passion, though in return of a
person much above her. The little tailor that loved Queen Elizabeth was
suffered to talk out, and none of her Council thought it necessary to
stop his mouth; but the Queen of Sweden's kind letter to the King of
Scots was intercepted by her own ambassador, because he thought it was
not for his mistress's honour (at least that was his pretended reason),
and thought justifiable enough. But to come to my Beagle again. I have
heard no more of him, though I have seen him since; we meet at Wrest
again. I do not doubt but I shall be better able to resist his
importunity than his tutor was; but what do you think it is that gives
him his encouragement? He was told I had thought of marrying a gentleman
that had not above two hundred pound a year, only out of my liking to
his person. And upon that score his vanity allows him to think he may
pretend as far as another. Thus you see 'tis not altogether without
reason that I apprehend the noise of the world, since 'tis so much to my
disadvantage.

Is it in earnest that you say your being there keeps me from the town?
If so, 'tis very unkind. No, if I had gone, it had been to have waited
on my neighbour, who has now altered her resolution and goes not
herself. I have no business there, and am so little taken with the place
that I could sit here seven years without so much as thinking once of
going to it. 'Tis not likely, as you say, that you should much persuade
your father to what you do not desire he should do; but it is hard if
all the testimonies of my kindness are not enough to satisfy without my
publishing to the world that I can forget my friends and all my interest
to follow my passion; though, perhaps, it will admit of a good sense,
'tis that which nobody but you or I will give it, and we that are
concerned in't can only say 'twas an act of great kindness and something
romance, but must confess it had nothing of prudence, discretion, nor
sober counsel in't. 'Tis not that I expect, by all your father's offers,
to bring my friends to approve it. I don't deceive myself thus far, but
I would not give them occasion to say that I hid myself from them in the
doing it; nor of making my action appear more indiscreet than it is. It
will concern me that all the world should know what fortune you have,
and upon what terms I marry you, that both may not be made to appear ten
times worse than they are. 'Tis the general custom of all people to make
those that are rich to have more mines of gold than are in the Indies,
and such as have small fortunes to be beggars. If an action take a
little in the world, it shall be magnified and brought into comparison
with what the heroes or senators of Rome performed; but, on the
contrary, if it be once condemned, nothing can be found ill enough to
compare it with; and people are in pain till they find out some
extravagant expression to represent the folly on't. Only there is this
difference, that as all are more forcibly inclined to ill than good,
they are much apter to exceed in detraction than in praises. Have I not
reason then to desire this from you; and may not my friendship have
deserved it? I know not; 'tis as you think; but if I be denied it, you
will teach me to consider myself. 'Tis well the side ended here. If I
had not had occasion to stop there, I might have gone too far, and
showed that I had more passions than one. Yet 'tis fit you should know
all my faults, lest you should repent your bargain when 'twill not be in
your power to release yourself; besides, I may own my ill-humour to you
that cause it; 'tis the discontent my crosses in this business have
given me makes me thus peevish. Though I say it myself, before I knew
you I was thought as well an humoured young person as most in England;
nothing displeased, nothing troubled me. When I came out of France,
nobody knew me again. I was so altered, from a cheerful humour that was
always alike, never over merry but always pleased, I was grown heavy and
sullen, froward and discomposed; and that country which usually gives
people a jolliness and gaiety that is natural to the climate, had
wrought in me so contrary effects that I was as new a thing to them as
my clothes. If you find all this to be sad truth hereafter, remember
that I gave you fair warning.

Here is a ring: it must not be at all wider than this, which is rather
too big for me than otherwise; but that is a good fault, and counted
lucky by superstitious people. I am not so, though: 'tis indifferent
whether there be any word in't or not; only 'tis as well without, and
will make my wearing it the less observed. You must give Nan leave to
cut a lock of your hair for me, too. Oh, my heart! what a sigh was
there! I will not tell you how many this journey causes; nor the fear
and apprehensions I have for you. No, I long to be rid of you, am afraid
you will not go soon enough: do not you believe this? No, my dearest, I
know you do not, whatever you say, you cannot doubt that I am yours.

FOOTNOTES:

[101] The second passage needs little annotation except that Wrest, in
Bedfordshire, where Dorothy met her importunate lover, was the seat of
Anthony Grey, Earl of Kent. There is said to be a picture there of Sir
William Temple--a copy of Lely's. Wrest Park is only a few miles from
Chicksands. In the first "Lady Carlisle" is Lucy Percy or Hay, a "_great
person_" in many ways--beauty, rank, wit, influence etc.--but hardly a
good one. As for "Doralise" Dorothy is quite right. She is one of the
brightest features of the huge _Grand Cyrus_. Perhaps it may be just
necessary to remind readers that "servant" constantly = "lover"; that
"side" refers to the sheet of paper she is using; and that "abuse" =
"deceive," not "misuse" or "vituperate."



JONATHAN SWIFT (1667-1745)


     The Introduction has dealt rather more fully with Swift than
     with some others: and a further reference to a dominant
     influence or conflict of influences on his letters will be
     found below in the head-note on Thackeray. But a little more
     may be said here. It is rather unfortunate that we have not
     more _early_ letters from him (we have some, if only
     fragments, from Thackeray, and they are no small "light").
     We should like some concerning that curious career at
     Trinity College, Dublin, which was ended _speciali gratia_,
     leaving the usual wranglers to their usual wrangle whether
     the last word meant "grace" or "_dis_grace." Others, written
     in various moods from the time when Sir William Temple
     "spoiled a fine gentleman," and Esther Johnson set running a
     life-long course of _un_-smooth love, would be more welcome
     still. They would no doubt be stumbling-blocks to those apt
     to stumble, just as the existing epistles are: but they
     would be stepping-stones for the wise. As it is, we have to
     do without them and perhaps, like most things that are, it
     is better. For the stumblers are saved the sin of stumbling,
     and the wise men the nuisance of seeing them do it, and
     trying to set them right. And there might have been only
     more painful revelations of the time when, to adjust the
     words of the famous epitaph "fierce indignation still
     _could_ lacerate the heart," that had felt so fondly and so
     bitterly what it had to feel.

     What follows is characteristic enough[102] and intelligible
     enough to those who will give their intelligence fair play,
     asking only for information of _facts_. These latter can be
     supplied at no great length even to those who are
     unacquainted with Swift's biography. "M. D." is the pet name
     for Stella, and her rather mysterious companion Mrs. Dingley
     who lived with her in Dublin and played something like the
     part of the alloys which are used in experimenting with some
     metals.[103] "Presto" is Swift himself. "Prior" is the poet.
     "Sir A. Fountaine" was a Norfolk squire and a great
     collector of artistic things, most of which were sold not
     very long ago. "Sterne" (John) was an Irish clergyman and
     afterwards a bishop, but not of the same family as the
     novelist. "Cousin _Dryden_ Leach" reminds us that Swift was
     also a cousin of Dryden the poet. "Oroonoko" refers to Afra
     Behn's introduction of the "noble savage" to English
     interest. "Patrick" was Swift's very unsatisfactory
     man-servant. "Bernage" a French Huguenot refugee. "George
     Granville," of the family of the hero of the _Revenge_, was
     a great Tory, a peer a little later with the title of
     Lansdowne, and a rather better poet than Johnson thought
     him. "St. John" and "Harley," if not also "Masham," should
     not need annotation. Notice the seven, (literally seven!)
     leagued word at the end. Swift calls their attention to it
     when beginning his next instalment.


16. TO STELLA

LONDON, January 16, 1710-11.

O faith, young women, I have sent my letter N. 13, without one crumb of
an answer to any of MD's; there's for you now; and yet Presto ben't
angry faith, not a bit, only he will begin to be in pain next Irish
post, except he sees MD's little hand-writing in the glass frame at the
bar of St James's Coffeehouse, where Presto would never go but for that
purpose. Presto's at home, God help him, every night from six till bed
time, and has as little enjoyment or pleasure in life at present as any
body in the world, although in full favour with all the ministry. As
hope saved, nothing gives Presto any sort of dream of happiness, but a
letter now and then from his own dearest MD. I love the expectation of
it, and when it does not come, I comfort myself, that I have it yet to
be happy with. Yes, faith, and when I write to MD, I am happy too; it is
just as if methinks you were here, and I prating to you, and telling you
where I have been: Well, says you, Presto, come, where have you been
to-day? come, let 's hear now. And so then I answer; Ford and I were
visiting Mr Lewis, and Mr Prior, and Prior has given me a fine Plautus,
and then Ford would have had me dine at his lodgings, and so I would
not; and so I dined with him at an eating-house; which I have not done
five times since I came here; and so I came home, after visiting Sir
Andrew Fountaine's mother and sister, and Sir Andrew Fountaine is
mending, though slowly.

17. I was making, this morning, some general visits, and at twelve I
called at the coffeehouse for a letter from MD; so the man said he had
given it to Patrick; then I went to the Court of Requests and Treasury
to find Mr Harley, and after some time spent in mutual reproaches, I
promised to dine with him; I staid there till seven, then called at
Sterne's and Leigh's to talk about your box, and to have it sent by
Smyth. Sterne says he has been making inquiries, and will set things
right as soon as possible. I suppose it lies at Chester, at least I hope
so, and only wants a lift over to you. Here has little Harrison been to
complain, that the printer I recommended to him for his Tatler is a
coxcomb; and yet to see how things will happen; for this very printer is
my cousin, his name is Dryden Leach; did you never hear of Dryden Leach,
he that prints the Postman? He acted Oroonoko, he's in love with Miss
Cross.--Well, so I came home to read my letter from Stella, but the dog
Patrick was abroad; at last he came, and I got my letter; I found
another hand had superscribed it; when I opened it, I found it written
all in French, and subscribed Bernage: faith, I was ready to fling it at
Patrick's head. Bernage tells me, had been to desire your recommendation
to me to make him a captain; and your cautious answer, "That he had as
much power with me as you," was a notable one; if you were here, I would
present you to the ministry as a person of ability. Bernage should let
me know where to write to him; this is the second letter I have had
without any direction; however, I beg I may not have a third, but that
you will ask him, and send me how I shall direct to him. In the mean
time, tell him, that if regiments are to be raised here, as he says, I
will speak to George Granville, Secretary at War, to make him a captain;
and use what other interest I conveniently can. I think that is enough,
and so tell him, and don't trouble me with his letters when I expect
them from MD; do you hear, young women, write to Presto.

18. I was this morning with Mr Secretary St John, and we were to dine
at Mr Harley's alone, about some business of importance, but there
were two or three gentlemen there. Mr Secretary and I went together
from his office to Mr Harley's, and thought to have been very wise;
but the deuce a bit: the company staid, and more came, and Harley went
away at seven, and the Secretary and I staid with the rest of the
company till eleven; I would then have had him come away, but he was
in for't; and though he swore he would come away at that flask, there
I left him. I wonder at the civility of these people; when he saw I
would drink no more, he would always pass the bottle by me, and yet I
could not keep the toad from drinking himself, nor he would not let me
go neither, nor Masham, who was with us. When I got home I found a
parcel directed to me, and opening it, I found a pamphlet written
entirely against myself, not by name, but against something I writ: it
is pretty civil, and affects to be so, and I think I will take no
notice of it; 'tis against something written very lately; and indeed I
know not what to say, nor do I care; and so you are a saucy rogue for
losing your money to-day at Stoyte's; to let that bungler beat you, fy
Stella, an't you ashamed? well, I forgive you this once, never do so
again; no, noooo. Kiss and be friends, sirrah.--Come, let me go sleep;
I go earlier to bed than formerly; and have not been out so late these
two months; but the secretary was in a drinking humour. So good night,
myownlittledearsaucyinsolentrogues.

FOOTNOTES:

[102] As such, it has commended itself to other selectors. But
duplication, though it has been sedulously avoided here, is sometimes
almost inevitable.

[103] _I.e._ the part of facilitating the operation, and disappearing in
the results aimed at.



LADY MARY WORTLEY-MONTAGU (1689-1762)


     The ratio of importance between life and letters varies a
     good deal with different writers: and the circumstances of
     the life have seldom been of more importance to the letter
     than in the case of "Lady Mary"--Pierrepont as she was born.
     When she was a girl she held an unusual place in the house
     of her widowed father the Duke of Kingston. Her courtship
     by, or with, or of (one doubts as to the preposition) Edward
     Wortley-Montagu, a descendant of Pepys's Lord Sandwich, had
     peculiarities, and her marriage with him more. She was a
     sort of pet at George the First's court; she went with her
     husband to Constantinople as Ambassadress; she introduced
     inoculation into England; she was, under imperfectly known
     circumstances, first the idol and then the abomination of
     Pope; she lived for more than twenty years in France and
     Italy, having left her husband without, apparently, any
     quarrel between them; and she only came home in 1761 to die
     next year. Like her predecessor as Queen of letter-writers,
     Madame de Sévigné (to whom she was amusingly and rather
     femininely unjust), she had a favourite daughter (who became
     Lady Bute[104]); but, unlike her, she had a most
     objectionable son who was apparently half mad. There was,
     however, not the slightest madness about Lady Mary--in fact,
     most of the objectors (perhaps unjust ones) to her have
     held that her head was very much better than her heart. Her
     most popular letters have usually been the Turkish ones,
     and, at the other end of her life, her Italian descriptions:
     but selections almost invariably pitch on the curious early
     one in which she, so to speak, "proposes" to her future
     husband rather more than, or at least as much as, she
     accepts his proposal. I prefer, both as less popularised and
     as more unique still, the following most business-like[105]
     plan and programme of an elopement. Like Mr. Foker's fight
     with the post-boy it "didn't come off" as first planned; but
     Fortune favoured it later.


17. TO MR. WORTLEY-MONTAGU

Saturday morning (August, 1712)

I writ you a letter last night in some passion. I begin to fear again; I
own myself a coward.--You made no reply to one part of my letter
concerning my fortune. I am afraid you flatter yourself that my F.
[father] may be at length reconciled and brought to reasonable terms. I
am convinced, by what I have often heard him say, speaking of other
cases like this, he never will. The fortune he has engaged to give with
me, was settled on my B. [brother's] marriage, on my sister and on
myself; but in such a manner, that it was left in his power to give it
all to either of us, or divide it as he thought fit. He has given it
all to me. Nothing remains for my sister, but the free bounty of my F.
[father] from what he can save; which, notwithstanding the greatness of
his estate, may be very little. Possibly after I have disobliged him so
much, he may be glad to have her so easily provided for, with money
already raised; especially if he has a design to marry himself, as I
hear. I do not speak this that you should not endeavour to come to terms
with him, if you please; but I am fully persuaded it will be to no
purpose. He will have a very good answer to make:--that I suffered this
match to proceed; that I made him make a very silly figure in it; that I
have let him spend £400 in wedding-cloaths; all which I saw without
saying any thing. When I first pretended to oppose this match, he told
me he was sure I had some other design in my head; I denied it with
truth. But you see how little appearance there is of that truth. He
proceeded with telling me that he never would enter into treaty with
another man, &c., and that I should be sent immediately into the North
to stay there; and, when he died, he would only leave me an annuity of
£400. I had not courage to stand this view, and I submitted to what he
pleased. He will now object against me,--why, since I intended to marry
in this manner, I did not persist in my first resolution; that it would
have been as easy for me to run away from T. [Thoresby] as from hence;
and to what purpose did I put him, and the gentleman I was to marry, to
expences, &c.? He will have a thousand plausible reasons for being
irreconcileable, and 'tis very probable the world will be of his side.
Reflect now for the last time in what manner you must take me. I shall
come to you with only a night-gown and petticoat, and that is all you
will get with me. I told a lady of my friends what I intend to do. You
will think her a very good friend when I tell you she has proffered to
lend us her house if we would come there the first night. I did not
accept of this till I had let you know it. If you think it more
convenient to carry me to your lodgings, make no scruple of it. Let it
be where it will: if I am your wife I shall think no place unfit for me
where you are. I beg we may leave London next morning, wherever you
intend to go. I should wish to go out of England if it suits with your
affairs. You are the best judge of your father's temper. If you think it
would be obliging to him, or necessary for you, I will go with you
immediately to ask his pardon and his blessing. If that is not proper at
first, I think the best scheme is going to the Spa. When you come back,
you may endeavour to make your father admit of seeing me, and treat with
mine (though I persist in thinking it will be to no purpose). But I
cannot think of living in the midst of my relations and acquaintance
after so unjustifiable a step:--unjustifiable to the world,--but I think
I can justify myself to myself. I again beg you to hire a coach to be at
the door early Monday morning, to carry us some part of our way,
wherever you resolve our journey shall be. If you determine to go to
that lady's house, you had better come with a coach and six at seven
o'clock tomorrow. She and I will be in the balcony that looks on the
road: you have nothing to do but to stop under it, and we will come down
to you. Do in this what you like best. After all, think very seriously.
Your letter, which will be waited for, is to determine everything. I
forgive you a coarse expression in your last, which, however, I wish had
not been there. You might have said something like it without expressing
it in that manner; but there was so much complaisance in the rest of it
I ought to be satisfied. You can shew me no goodness I shall not be
sensible of. However, think again, and resolve never to think of me if
you have the least doubt, or that it is likely to make you uneasy in
your fortune. I believe to travel is the most likely way to make a
solitude agreeable, and not tiresome: remember you have promised it.

'Tis something odd for a woman that brings nothing to expect anything;
but after the way of education, I dare not pretend to live but in some
degree suitable to it. I had rather die than return to a dependancy upon
relations I have disobliged. Save me from that fear if you love me. If
you cannot, or think I ought not to expect it, be sincere and tell me
so. 'Tis better I should not be yours at all, than, for a short
happiness, involve myself in ages of misery. I hope there will never be
occasion for this precaution; but, however, 'tis necessary to make it. I
depend entirely on your honour, and I cannot suspect you of any way
doing wrong. Do not imagine I shall be angry at any thing you can tell
me. Let it be sincere; do not impose on a woman that leaves all things
for you.

FOOTNOTES:

[104] The likeness, however, ended with the favouritism: for Madame de
Grignan, in spite of good looks and good wits, was apparently detested
by everybody, except her mother, and deserved it: while nobody has
anything to say against Lady Bute.

[105] It is, of course, not _merely_ business-like--the mixture of
something else makes it rather fascinating. They were curiously fond of
elopements in the eighteenth century, Sheridan's satire in _The Rivals_
having ample justification. Nor was this merely due to the more severe
exercise of paternal authority. For they often preferred (as the
philosophical parent of the celebrated Mrs. Greville remarked when his
daughter ran away with Mr. G.) to "get out of the window when there was
not the slightest objection to their passing through the door."



PHILIP DORMER STANHOPE, EARL OF
CHESTERFIELD (1694-1773)


     As was suggested in the Introduction, where perhaps enough
     has been said of his actual letters, the fourth Earl of
     Chesterfield is too commonly known, or rather _mis_known,
     only by Johnson's refusal of his patronage and condemnation
     of his manners and morals, by Dickens's caricature, and by
     Thackeray's not untrue but merely fragmentary sketch of him
     as a gambler. Therefore, though these preliminary notes are
     not as a rule biographical, this may be one of the
     exceptions; for his life was anything but that of a mere
     idler and _grand Seigneur_. He entered the House of Commons
     before he was of age, and had much to do with political and
     literary as well as Court society before, in 1725, he
     succeeded to the peerage. A year or two afterwards he went
     as ambassador to the Hague, a post which he held, doing some
     important business, for four years. On coming home he became
     a formidable opponent of Walpole, and at one time led the
     opposition in the Upper House. He was a most successful
     Viceroy in Ireland at the difficult period of the "'45," and
     a judicious "Secretary for the North" after it. He conducted
     the reform of the Calendar through Parliament, and only gave
     up active participation in home politics because of his
     increasing deafness. In foreign affairs he was an adroit and
     successful diplomatist, and made an early and remarkably
     clear-sighted anticipation of the French Revolution. It is
     not extravagant to say that, if he had had his fortune and
     position to make, he might have been one of the foremost
     men of his time in politics or letters or both; and that he
     was not far below such rank in either. The following letter
     is one of the most characteristic of those at which it has
     been the fashion to sneer. All one can say of it is, "What a
     blessing it would be if a good many people in the twentieth
     century, and in places varying from the streets to the House
     of Commons, would obey at least some of its precepts!"


18. LORD CHESTERFIELD TO HIS SON

LONDON. Sept. 22, O.S., 1749

Dear Boy,

If I had faith in philters and love potions, I should suspect that you
had given Sir Charles Williams some, by the manner in which he speaks of
you, not only to me, but to everybody else. I will not repeat to you
what he says of the extent and correctness of your knowledge, as it
might either make you vain, or persuade you that you had already enough
of what nobody can have too much. You will easily imagine how many
questions I asked and how narrowly I sifted him upon your subject: he
answered me, and I daresay with truth, just as I could have wished;
till, satisfied entirely with his accounts of your character and
learning, I inquired into other matters, intrinsically indeed of less
consequence, but still of great consequence to every man, and of more to
you than to almost any man; I mean, your address, manners and air. To
these questions, the same truth which he had observed before, obliged
him to give me much less satisfactory answers. And, as he thought
himself in friendship both to you and me, obliged to tell me the
disagreeable as well as the agreeable truths, upon the same principle I
think myself obliged to repeat them to you.

He told me, then, that in company you were frequently most _provokingly_
inattentive, absent, and _distrait_. That you came into a room, and
presented yourself very awkwardly; that at table you constantly threw
down knives, forks, napkins, bread, etc., and that you neglected your
person and dress, to a degree unpardonable at any age, and much more so
at yours.

These things, however immaterial soever they may seem to people who do
not know the world and the nature of mankind, give me, who know them to
be exceedingly material, very great concern. I have long distrusted you,
and therefore frequently admonished you upon these articles; and I tell
you plainly, that I shall not be easy till I hear a very different
account of them. I know of no one thing more offensive to a company,
than that inattention and _distraction_. It is showing them the utmost
contempt; and people never forgive contempt. No man is _distrait_ with
the man he fears, or the woman he loves; which is a proof that every man
can get the better of that _distraction_ when he thinks it worth his
while to do so; and, take my word for it, it is always worth his while.
For my own part, I would rather be in company with a dead man than with
an absent one; for if the dead man gives me no pleasure, at least he
shows me no contempt; whereas the absent man, silently indeed, but very
plainly, tells me that he does not think me worth his attention.
Besides, can an absent man make any observations upon the characters,
customs, and manners of the company? No. He may be in the best companies
of his lifetime (if they will admit him, which, if I were they, I would
not), and never be one jot the wiser. I never will converse with an
absent man; one may as well talk with a deaf one. It is, in truth, a
practical blunder, to address ourselves to a man, who we see plainly
neither hears, minds, nor understands us. Moreover, I aver that no man
is, in any degree, fit for either business or conversation, who cannot,
and does not, direct and command his attention to the present object, be
that what it will.

You know, by experience, that I grudge no expense in your education, but
I will positively not keep you a flapper. You may read, in Dr. Swift,
the description of these flappers, and the use they were of to your
friends the Laputans; whose minds (Gulliver says) are so taken up with
intense speculations, that they neither can speak, nor attend to the
discourses of others, without being roused by some external taction upon
the organs of speech and hearing; for which reason, those people who are
able to afford it, always keep a flapper in their family, as one of
their domestics, nor ever walk about, or make visits, without him. This
flapper is likewise employed diligently to attend his master in his
walks, and, upon occasion, to give a soft flap upon his eyes; because he
is always so wrapt up in cogitation, that he is in manifest danger of
falling down every precipice, and bouncing his head against every post,
and, in the streets, of jostling others, or being jostled into the
kennel himself. If _Christian_ will undertake this province into the
bargain, with all my heart; but I will not allow him any increase of
wages upon that score.

In short, I give you fair warning, that when we meet, if you are absent
in mind, I will soon be absent in body; for it will be impossible for me
to stay in the room; and if at table you throw down your knife, plate,
bread, etc., and hack the wing of a chicken for half an hour, without
being able to cut it off, and your sleeve all the time in another dish,
I must rise from table to escape the fever you would certainly give me.
Good God! How I should be shocked if you came into my room, for the
first time, with two left legs, presenting yourself with all the graces
and dignity of a tailor, and your clothes hanging upon you like those in
Monmouth Street, upon tenter-hooks! Whereas I expect, nay require, to
see you present yourself with the easy and gentle air of a man of
fashion who has kept good company. I expect you not only well dressed,
but very well dressed; I expect a gracefulness in all your motions, and
something particularly engaging in your address. All this I expect, and
all these it is in your power, by care and attention, to make me find;
but, to tell you the plain truth, if I do not find it, we shall not
converse very much together; for I cannot stand inattention and
awkwardness; it would endanger my health.

You have often seen, and I have as often made you observe, L[yttelton]'s
distinguished inattention and awkwardness. Wrapped up like a Laputan in
intense thought, and possibly sometimes in no thought at all--which, I
believe, is very often the case with absent people--he does not know his
most intimate acquaintance at sight, or answers them as if they were at
cross purposes. He leaves his hat in one room, his sword in another, and
would leave his shoes in a third, if his buckles, although awry, did not
save them; his legs and arms, by his awkward management of them, seem to
have undergone the _question extraordinaire_; and his head, always
hanging upon one or other of his shoulders, seems to have received the
first stroke upon a block. I sincerely value and esteem him for his
parts, learning, and virtue; but, for the soul of me, I cannot love him
in company. This will be universally the case, in common life, of every
inattentive awkward man, let his real merit and knowledge be ever so
great.

When I was of your age, I desired to shine, as far as I was able, in
every part of life; and was as attentive, to my manners, my dress, and
my air, in company on evenings, as to my books, and my tutor in the
mornings. A young fellow should be ambitious to shine in everything;
and, of the two, rather overdo than underdo. These things are by no
means trifles; they are of infinite consequence to those who are to be
thrown into the great world, and who would make a figure or a fortune in
it. It is not sufficient to deserve well, one must please well too.
Awkward, disagreeable merit, will never carry anybody far. Wherever you
find a good dancing master, pray let him put you upon your haunches; not
so much for the sake of dancing, as for coming into a room and
presenting yourself genteelly and gracefully. Women, whom you ought to
endeavour to please, cannot forgive a vulgar and awkward air and
gestures; _il leur faut du brillant_. The generality of men are pretty
like them, and are equally taken by the same exterior graces.

I am very glad that you have received the diamond buckles safe: All I
desire in return for them, is, that they may be buckled even upon your
feet, and that your stockings may not hide them. I should be sorry you
were an egregious fop; but I protest that, of the two, I would rather
have you a fop than a sloven. I think negligence in my own dress, even
at my age, when certainly I expect no advantages from my dress, would be
indecent with regard to others. I have done with fine clothes; but I
will have my plain clothes fit me, and made like other people's. In the
evenings I recommend to you the company of women of fashion, who have a
right to attention, and will be paid it. Their company will smooth your
manners, and give you a habit of attention and respect; of which you
will find the advantage among men.

My plan for you, from the beginning, has been to make you shine, equally
in the learned and in the polite world; The former part is almost
completed to my wishes, and will, I am persuaded, in a little time more,
be quite so. The latter part is still in your power to complete; and I
flatter myself that you will do it, or else the former part will avail
you very little; especially in your deportment, where the exterior
address and graces do half the business; they must be harbingers of your
merit, or your merit will be very coldly received: all can, and do judge
of the former, few of the latter.

Mr. Harte tells me that you have grown very much since your illness: if
you get up to five feet ten, or even nine inches, your figure will,
probably, be a good one; and if well dressed and genteel, will probably
please; which is a much greater advantage to a man than people commonly
think. Lord Bacon calls it a letter of recommendation.

I would wish you to be an _omnis homo_, _l'homme universel_. You are
nearer it, if you please, than ever anybody was at your age; and if you
will but, for the course of this next year only, exert your whole
attention to your studies in the morning, and to your address, manners,
air, and _tournure_ in the evenings, you will be the man I wish you, and
the man that is rarely seen.

Our letters go, at best, so irregularly and so often miscarry totally,
that, for greater security, I repeat the same things. So, though, I
acknowledged by last post Mr Harte's letter of the 8th September, N.S.,
I acknowledge it again by this to you. If this should find you still at
Verona, let it inform you, that I wish you to set out soon for Naples;
unless Mr. Harte should think it better for you to stay at Verona, or
any other place on this side Rome, till you go there for the Jubilee.
Nay, if he likes it better, I am very willing that you should go
directly from Verona to Rome; for you cannot have too much of Rome,
whether upon account of the language, the curiosities, or the company.
My only reason for mentioning Naples, is for the sake of the climate,
upon account of your health; but, if Mr. Harte thinks your health is now
so well restored as to be above climate, he may steer your course
wherever he thinks proper; and, for aught I know, your going directly to
Rome, and consequently staying there so much the longer, may be as well
as anything else. I think you and I cannot put our affairs into better
hands than in Mr. Harte's; and I will take his infallibility against the
Pope's, with some odds on his side. _A propos_ of the Pope; remember to
be presented to him before you leave Rome, and go through the necessary
ceremonies for it, whether of kissing his slipper or...; for I would
never deprive myself of anything I wanted to do or see, by refusing to
comply with an established custom. When I was in Catholic countries, I
never declined kneeling in their churches at the elevation, nor
elsewhere, when the Host went by. It is a complaisance due to the custom
of the place, and by no means, as some silly people have imagined, an
implied approbation of their doctrine. Bodily attitudes and situations
are things so very indifferent in themselves, that I would quarrel with
nobody about them. It may indeed be improper for Mr. Harte to pay that
tribute of complaisance, upon account of his character.

This letter is a very long, and possibly a very tedious one; but my
interest for your perfection is so great, and particularly at this
critical and decisive period of your life, that I am only afraid of
omitting, but never of repeating, or dwelling too long upon anything
that I think may be of the least use to you. Have the same anxiety for
yourself that I have for you, and all will do well. Adieu, my dear
child!



GEORGE BALLARD (1706-1755)


     The extreme wickedness of reviewers has been a conviction
     with many authors--who have sometimes, it would seem,
     succumbed to it themselves and retaliated in reviewing
     others. The following letter to Dr. Lyttelton, Dean of
     Exeter, is a very early (1753) and not unamusing example of
     this conviction: and is given as such, though the writer has
     no wide fame. His history is, however, interesting and
     shows, among other things, how entirely erroneous is the
     idea that till recently (and even now to some extent)
     opportunities of showing themselves able to profit by
     education were and are denied to the "lower classes" in
     England. Ballard was apprenticed to a staymaker
     ("habit-maker" as others say) at Chipping-Campden, but
     betook himself in his leisure hours to the study of
     Anglo-Saxon. Hearing of which fact the gentlemen of the
     local hunt (the boozy squire-tyrants of popular tradition)
     subscribed for an annuity of £100 a year to him, but he
     would only accept £60. With this he went up to Oxford to
     enjoy the Bodleian, was made a "clerk" at Magdalen and later
     an esquire-bedell to the University. He did much good work
     of the antiquarian kind, and died a year or two after
     writing this letter, having (one hopes) relieved himself by
     his protest and been consoled by a kind answer from
     Lyttelton.[106]



19. TO DR. LYTTELTON, DEAN OF EXETER

A DEFENCE OF THE HISTORY OF LEARNED LADIES

Revd. and Hond. Sir,

My best acknowledgments are due for the favour of two epistles; the
first of which I received a few minutes after my last set forward for
Exeter. I would have answered it immediately, but that I thought a
little respite might be agreeable, before I gave you the trouble of
another long letter.

The day before I received your first epistle, a Gent. of my acquaintance
brought me the _Monthly Review_ for February, that I might see what the
candid and genteel authors of that work had said of mine. They observe
to the publick, that _I have said_ C. Tishem was so skilled in the Greek
Tongue, that she could read Galen in its original, which very few
Physicians are able to do. Whether this was done maliciously, in order
to bring the wrath of the Æsculapians upon me, or inadvertently, I
cannot say: but I may justly affirm, that they have used me very ill in
that affair; since if they had read with attention, which they ought to
have done before they attempted to give a character of the Book, they
must have known that the whole account of that lady (which is but one
page) is not mine, but borrowed with due acknowledgment from the
_General Dictionary_. They are likewise pleased to inform the world
that I have been rather too industrious in the undertaking, having
introduced several women who hardly deserved a place in the work. I did
not do this for want of materials; neither did I do it rashly, without
advising with others of superior judgment in those affairs, of which
number Mr. Professor Ward was one. But those pragmatical Censors seem to
have but little acquaintance with those studies, or otherwise they might
have observed that all our general Biographers, as Leland, Bale, Pits,
Wood, and Tanner, have trod the very same steps; and have given an
account of all the authors they could meet with, good and bad, just as
they found them: and yet, I have never heard of anyone that had courage
or ill-nature enough, to endeavour to expose them for it. While I was
ruminating on these affairs, three or four letters came to my hands, and
perceiving one of them come from my worthy friend the Dean of Exeter, I
eagerly broke it open, and was perfectly astonished to find myself
charged with _party zeal_ in my book; and that from thence the most
candid reader might conclude the author to be both a Church and State
Tory. But after having thoroughly considered all the passages objected
to, and not finding the least tincture of either Whig or Tory principles
contained in them, I began to cheer up my drooping spirits, in hopes
that I might possibly out-live my supposed crime; but, alas! to my still
greater confusion! when I opened my next letter from a Tory
acquaintance, I was like one thunderstruck at the contents of it. He
discharges his passionate but ill-grounded resentment upon me most
furiously. He tells me, he did not imagine Magdalen College could have
produced such a rank Whig. He reproaches me with want of due esteem for
the Stuart Family, to whom he says I have shewn a deadly hatred, and he
gives me, as he imagines, three flagrant instances of it. 1. That I have
unseasonably and maliciously printed a letter of Queen Elizabeth's, in
order to blacken the memory of Mary Queen of Scots, and that too, at a
time when her character began to shine as bright as the Sun. 2dly. That
I have endeavoured to make her memory odious, by representing her as
wanting natural affection to her only son, in my note at p. 162, where
he says I have printed part of a Will, &c. And 3dly, tho' she was cut
off in such a barbarous and unprecedented manner, yet she has fallen
unlamented by me. I am likewise charged with having an affection to
Puritanism; the reasons for which are, my giving the Life of a Puritan
Bishop's Lady, which it seems need not have been done by me, had I not
had a particular regard for her, since it had been done before by
Goodwin who reprinted her Devotions. And not content with this, I have
blemished my book with the memoirs of a Dissenting teacher's wife, and
have been kind enough to heighten even the character given her by her
indulgent husband: and that I am very fond of quoting Fox and Burnet
upon all occasions. These are thought strong indications of the
above-mentioned charge. It may be thought entirely unnecessary to answer
any of the objections from Exeter, after having given you this Summary
of my kind Friend's Candid Epistle; but to you, Sir, to whom I could
disclose the very secrets of my soul, I will endeavour to say a word or
two upon this subject, and make you my Confessor upon this occasion; and
I will do it with as much sincerity, as if I lay on my death-bed. Before
I was fourteen years old, I read over Fox's Acts and Monuments of the
Church, and several of the best books of Polemical Divinity, which
strongly fortified me in the Protestant Religion; and gave me the
greatest abhorrence to Popery. And soon after I perused Mercurius
Rusticus, The Eleventh Persecution, Lloyd, Walker's Sufferings of the
Clergy, and many others, which gave me almost as bad an opinion of the
Dissenters. But then I learned in my childhood _to live in Charity with
all Men_, and I have used my best endeavours to put this doctrine in
practice all my life long. I never thought ill, or quarrelled with any
man merely because he had been educated in principles different to mine;
and yet I have been acquainted with many papists, dissenters, &c. and if
I found any of them learned, ingenuous, and modest, I always found my
heart well-disposed for contracting a firm friendship with them: and
notwithstanding that, I dare believe that all those people will, with
joint consent, vouch for me, that I have ever been steady in my own
principles.

I can truly affirm that never any one engaged in such a work, with an
honester heart, or executed it with more unbiassed integrity, than I
have done. And indeed, I take the unkind censures passed upon me by the
furious uncharitable zealots of both parties, to be the strongest proof
of it. And after all, I dare challenge any man, whether Protestant,
Papist, or Dissenter, Whig or Tory, (and I have drawn up and published
memoirs of women who professed all those principles) to prove me guilty
of partiality, or to shew that I have made any uncharitable reflections
on any person, and whenever that is done, I will faithfully promise to
make a public recantation. I wish, Sir, you would point out to me any
one unbecoming word or expression which has fell from me on Bishop
Burnet. Had I had the least inclination to have lessened his character,
I did not want proper materials to have done it. I have in my possession
two original letters from Bishop Gibson and Mr Norris of Bemerton, to
Dr Charlett, which, if published, would lessen your too great esteem for
him. And what, I beseech you, Sir, have I said in praise of Mrs Hopton
and her pious and useful labours, which they do not well deserve, and
which can possibly give any just offence to any good man? I dare not
censure or condemn a good thing merely because it borders upon the
Church of Rome. I rather rejoice that she retains any thing I can fairly
approve. Should I attempt to do this, might I not condemn the greater
part of our Liturgy, &c.? and should I not stand self-condemned for so
doing? I cannot for my life perceive that I have said any thing of that
excellent woman, which she does not merit; and I must beg leave to say
that I think her letter to F. Turbeville deserves to be wrote in letters
of gold, and ought to be carefully read and preserved by all
Protestants. Mary Queen of Scots fell under my notice, no otherwise than
as a learned woman. The affairs you mention would by no means suit my
peaceable temper. I was too well acquainted with the warm disputes, and
fierce engagement both of domestic and foreign writers on that head,
once to touch upon the subject. And indeed, unless I had been the happy
discoverer of some secret springs of action which would have given new
information to the public, it would have been excessive folly in me to
intermeddle in an affair of so tender a nature, and of so great
importance.

I have often blamed my dear friend Mr. Brome for destroying his valuable
collections, but I now cease to wonder at it. He spent his leisure hours
pleasantly and inoffensively, and when old age came on, which not only
abates thirst, but oftentimes gives a disrelish to these and almost all
other things, which do not help to make our passage into eternity more
easy, he then destroyed them (I dare believe) in order to prevent the
malicious reflections of an ill-natured world.

I have always been a passionate lover of History and Antiquity,
Biography, and Northern Literature: and as I have ever hated idleness,
so I have in my time filled many hundred sheets with my useless
scribble, the greater part of which I will commit to the flames shortly,
to prevent their giving me any uneasiness in my last moments.[107]

[May 22, 1753.]

FOOTNOTES:

[106] Ballard's _Memoirs of Learned Ladies of Great Britain who have
been celebrated for their writings or skill in the Learned Languages
Arts & Sciences_, appeared at Oxford in 4to (1752) and 8vo (1775). It
contains some sixty lives, the most noteworthy names being those of
Queens Elizabeth and Mary of Scotland, Lady Jane Grey, Margaret Countess
of Richmond (_the_ "Lady Margaret"), the Duchess of Newcastle, Lady
Winchelsea, the two Countesses of Pembroke ("Sidney's sister" and Anne
Clifford), Dame Juliana Barnes or Berners, Dryden's Anne Killigrew,
Dorothy Pakington (the alleged author of _The Whole Duty of Man_), and
"the matchless Orinda."

[107] Perhaps a note should be added on "Mrs. Hopton" and "F.
Turbe(r)ville." The former, born Susanna Harvey (1627-1709), was the
wife of a Welsh judge, and wrote devotional works. The latter, Henry T.
(d. 1678: the "F" of text is of course "Father"), was a writer of
doctrinal and controversial manuals on the Roman side.



THOMAS GRAY (1716-1771)


     The chief thing to add to what has been said of Gray in the
     Introduction is something that may draw attention to a
     curious feature of his letters, not there distinctly
     noticed. Letters, it must be sufficiently seen even from
     this little book, have a curious _variety_ of relation to
     the characters, personal and literary, of their writers.
     Sometimes they show us phases entirely or almost entirely
     concealed in the published works; sometimes again, without
     definitely revealing new aspects, they complete and enforce
     the old; while, in yet a third, though perhaps the smallest,
     class of instances, they are as it were results of the same
     governing formula as that of the published works themselves,
     the difference lying almost wholly in the subjects and in
     the methods and circumstances of treatment. Gray belongs to
     this last division. There is not, of course, in his letters
     the same severity of discipline and restriction of
     utterance, that we find in his poems. But that, in letters,
     was impossible--at least in letters that should supply
     tolerable reading. Yet the same general principle, which was
     somewhat exaggerated in the phrase about his "never speaking
     out," appears in them. There is always a certain restraint
     (at least in all that have been published) and it would
     probably have extended in proportion to others, however
     little their subject might seem compatible with it. In what
     we have it gives a curious _seasoning_--something which
     preserves as well as flavours like salt or vinegar. Of those
     which follow the first is an early one. Mason's apologetic
     note is to the effect that it "may appear whimsical" but it
     gives him an opportunity of remarking that Mr. Gray was
     "extremely skilled in the customs of the ancient Romans,"
     both utterances being characteristic, to some extent of the
     time but to a greater of the writer. The second letter, to
     Gray's most intimate friend Dr. Wharton, and more than a
     quarter of a century later, is a good example of the
     _variety_ of these epistles--scenery, literature, politics,
     science, gossip and what not, being all dealt with.


20. TO RICHARD WEST [EXTRACT]

ROME, May, 1740.

I am to-day just returned from Alba, a good deal fatigued; for you know
the Appian is somewhat tiresome. We dined at Pompey's; he indeed was
gone for a few days to his Tusculan, but, by the care of his Villicus,
we made an admirable meal. We had the dugs of a pregnant sow, a peacock,
a dish of thrushes, a noble scarus just fresh from the Tyrrhene, and
some conchylia of the Lake with garum sauce: For my part I never eat
better at Lucullus's table. We drank half-a-dozen cyathi a-piece of
ancient Alban to Pholoë's health; and after bathing, and playing an hour
at ball, we mounted our essedum again, and proceeded up the mount to the
temple. The priests there entertained us with an account of a wonderful
shower of bird's eggs that had fallen two days before, which had no
sooner touched the ground, but they were converted into gudgeons; as
also that, the night past, a dreadful voice had been heard out of the
Adytum, which spoke Greek during a full half-hour, but nobody understood
it. But quitting my Romanities, to your great joy and mine, let me tell
you in plain English, that we come from Albano. The present town lies
within the inclosure of Pompey's Villa in ruins. The Appian way runs
through it, by the side of which, a little farther, is a large old
tomb, with five pyramids upon it, which the learned suppose to be the
burying-place of the family, because they do not know whose it can be
else. But the vulgar assure you it is the sepulchre of the Curiatii, and
by that name (such is their power) it goes. One drives to Castle
Gandolfo, a house of the Pope's, situated on the top of one of the
Collinette, that forms a brim to the basin, commonly called the Alban
lake. It is seven miles round; and directly opposite to you, on the
other side, rises the Mons Albanus, much taller than the rest, along
whose side are still discoverable (not to common eyes) certain little
ruins of the old Alba Longa. They had need be very little, as having
been nothing but ruins ever since the days of Tullus Hostilius. On its
top is a house of the Constable Colonna's, where stood the temple of
Jupiter Latialis. At the foot of the hill Gandolfo, are the famous
outlets of the lake, built with hewn stone, a mile and a half under
ground. Livy you know, amply informs us of the foolish occasion of this
expence, and gives me this opportunity of displaying all my erudition,
that I may appear considerable in your eyes. This is the prospect from
one window of the palace. From another you have the whole Campagna, the
City, Antium, and the Tyrrhene sea (twelve miles distant) so
distinguishable, that you may see the vessels sailing upon it. All this
is charming. Mr. Walpole says, our memory sees more than our eyes in
this country. Which is extremely true; since, for realities, Windsor or
Richmond Hill is infinitely preferable to Albano or Frescati. I am now
at home, and going to the window to tell you it is the most beautiful of
Italian nights, which, in truth, are but just begun (so backward has the
spring been here, and every where else, they say) There is a moon! there
are stars for you! Do not you hear the fountain? Do not you smell the
orange flowers? That building yonder is the convent of S. Isidore; and
that eminence, with the cypress trees and pines upon it, the top of M.
Quirinal. This is all true, and yet my prospect is not two hundred yards
in length.


21. TO WHARTON

Dear Doctor

Whatever my pen may do, I am sure my thoughts expatiate nowhere oftener
or with more pleasure, than to Old-Park. I hope you have made my peace
with Miss Deborah. it is certain, whether her name were in my letter or
not, she was as present to my memory, as the rest of the little family,
& I desire you would present her with two kisses in my name, & one
a-piece to all the others: for I shall take the liberty to kiss them all
(great & small) as you are to be my proxy.

In spite of the rain, w^ch I think continued with very short intervals
till the beginning of this month, & quite effaced the summer from the
year, I made a shift to pass May & June not disagreeably in Kent. I was
surprised at the beauty of the road to Canterbury, which (I know not
why) had not struck me in the same manner before. The whole country is a
rich and well-cultivated garden, orchards, cherry-grounds, hop-gardens,
intermix'd with corn & frequent villages, gentle risings cover'd with
wood, and everywhere the Thames and Medway breaking in upon the
Landscape with all their navigation. It was indeed owing to the bad
weather, that the whole scene was dress'd in that tender emerald-green,
w^ch one usually sees only for a fortnight in the opening of spring, &
this continued till I left the country. My residence was eight miles
east of Canterbury in a little quiet valley on the skirts of
Barhamdown. In these parts the whole soil is chalk, and whenever it
holds up, in half an hour it is dry enough to walk out. I took the
opportunity of three or four days fine weather to go into the Isle of
Thanet, saw Margate (w^ch is Bartholomew-Fair by the sea side),
Ramsgate, & other places there, and so came by Sandwich, Deal, Dover,
Folkstone, & Hithe, back again. The coast is not like Hartlepool: there
are no rocks, but only chalky cliffs of no great height, till you come
to Dover. There indeed they are noble & picturesque, and the opposite
coasts of France begin to bound your view, w^ch was left before to range
unlimited by anything but the horizon: yet it is by no means a
_shipless_ sea, but everywhere peopled with white sails & vessels of all
sizes in motion. And take notice (except in the Isle, w^ch is all
corn-fields, and has very little inclosure) there are in all places
hedgerows & tall trees even within a few yards of the beach.
Particularly Hithe stands on an eminence cover'd with wood. I shall
confess we had fires of a night (ay, & a day too) several times even in
June: but don't go & take advantage of this, for it was the most
untoward year that ever I remember.

Your Friend Rousseau (I doubt) grows tired of M^r Davenport and
Derbyshire. He has picked a quarrel with David Hume & writes him letters
of 14 pages Folio upbraiding him of all his _noirceurs_. Take one only
as a specimen, he says, that at Calais they chanced to sleep in the same
room together, & that he overheard David talking in his sleep, and
saying, _Ah! Je le tiens, ce Jean-Jacques là._ In short (I fear) for
want of persecution & admiration (for these are real complaints) he will
go back to the Continent.

What shall I say to you about the Ministry? I am as angry as a
Common-council Man of London about my L^d Chatham: but a little more
patient, & will hold my tongue till the end of the year. In the mean
time I do mutter in secret & to you, that to quit the house of Commons,
his natural strength; to sap his own popularity & grandeur (which no one
but himself could have done) by assuming a foolish title; & to hope that
he could win by it and attach to him a Court, that hate him, & will
dismiss him, as soon as ever they dare, was the weakest thing, that ever
was done by so great a Man. Had it not been for this, I should have
rejoiced at the breach between him & L^d Temple, & at the union between
him & the D: of Grafton & M^r Conway: but patience! we shall see!
St:[108] perhaps is in the country (for he hoped for a month's leave of
absence) and if you see him, you will learn more than I can tell you.

Mason is at Aston. He is no longer so anxious about his wife's health,
as he was, tho' I find she still has a cough, & moreover I find she is
not with child: but he made such a bragging, how could one choose but
believe him.

When I was in town, I mark'd in my pocket-book the utmost limits &
divisions of the two columns in your Thermometer, and asked Mr. Ayscough
the Instrument-Maker on Ludgate Hill, what scales they were. He
immediately assured me, that one was Fahrenheit's, & shew'd me one
exactly so divided. The other he took for Reaumur's, but, as he said
there were different scales of his contrivance, he could not exactly
tell, w^ch of them it was. Your Brother told me, you wanted to know,
who wrote Duke Wharton's life in the Biography: I think, it is chiefly
borrowed from a silly book enough call'd _Memoirs of that Duke_: but who
put it together there, no one can inform me. The only person certainly
known to write in that vile collection (I mean these latter volumes) is
D^r Nicholls, who was expell'd here for stealing books.

Have you read the _New Bath-Guide_?[109] it is the only thing in
fashion, & is a new & original kind of humour. Miss Prue's Conversion I
doubt you will paste down, as S^r W: S^t Quintyn did, before he carried
it to his daughter. Yet I remember you all read _Crazy Tales_[110]
without pasting. Buffon's first collection of Monkeys are come out (it
makes the 14^th volume) something, but not much, to my edification: for
he is pretty well acquainted with their persons, but not with their
manners.

I shall be glad to hear, how far M^rs Ettrick has succeeded, & when you
see an end to her troubles. my best respects to Mrs. Wharton, &
compliments to all your family: I will not name them, least I should
affront any body. Adieu, dear S^r,

I am most sincerely yours,

TG:

August 26, 1766, Pembroke College.

Mr. Brown is gone to see his Brother near Margate. When is L^d Str:[111]
to be married? If M^r and M^rs Jonathan are with you, I desire my
compliments.

FOOTNOTES:

[108] "St." is Richard Stonhewer, a Fellow of Peterhouse, secretary to
the Duke of Grafton, and a man of considerable, though not public,
importance in politics.

[109] Anstey's--referred to in the Introduction.

[110] By Sterne's friend, John Hall Stevenson.

[111] Lord Strathmore.



HORACE WALPOLE (1717-1797)

[AND W. M. THACKERAY].


     As much has been already said of Horace Walpole's letters,
     but practically nothing of his other works except his novel
     and his play, something more may be added here to show that
     he was not _merely_ a "trifler." His private press at
     "Strawberry" was mainly a means of amusement to him, like a
     billiard-room or a tennis-court. But it provided some useful
     books--such as editions of Anthony Hamilton's _Memoirs of
     Grammont_, of Lord Herbert of Cherbury's _Life_ and of part
     of Gray's _Poems_. He had neither historic knowledge nor
     historic sense enough to deal satisfactorily with such a
     subject as _Historic Doubts on Richard III._, though the
     subject itself was quite worth dealing with. But his
     _Catalogue of Royal and Noble Authors_, his _Anecdotes of
     Painting in England_, and his _Catalogue of Engravers_ are
     not without value; and he could usefully handle the history
     of his own time, with proper corrections for his prejudices,
     etc. He was weakest of all as a literary critic: and his
     dealings with Chatterton were most unfortunate, though the
     mischief done was not intentional, and might not have been
     serious in any other case. These things have been said with
     a definite purpose--that of showing that Horace's interests,
     if seldom deep, were unusually wide. Now though width of
     interest is not, as Cowper's case shows, indispensable to
     goodness of letter-writing, it is a very great qualification
     for it, as giving to the result variety, colour, and "bite."
     At the same time, unless one had space on a very different
     scale from any possible here, it would be _im_possible to
     illustrate this "extensive curiosity" as they called it
     then: and Horace ought to be shown here in his _most_ native
     element as a chronicler of "society." I have thought it
     worth while to subjoin for comparison Thackeray's wonderful
     _pastiche_ in _The Virginians_, which is almost better
     Horace than Horace himself.[112]


22. TO THE COUNTESS OF OSSORY

ARLINGTON STREET,
April 31. 1773

It is most true, madam, that I did purpose to regale myself with a visit
to Ampthill; but this winter, which has trod hard upon last week's
summer, blunted my intention for a while, though revivable in finer
weather. Oh! but I had another reason for changing my mind; you are
leaving Ampthill, and I do not mean only to write my name in your
park-keeper's book. Yes, in spite of your ladyship's low spirited mood,
you are coming from Ampthill, and you are to be at Strawberry Hill
to-morrow se'nnight. You may not be in the secret, but Lord Ossory and I
have settled it, and you are to be pawned to me while he is at
Newmarket. He told me you certainly would if I asked it, and as they
used to say in ancient writ, I do beg it upon the knees of my heart.
Nay, it is unavoidable; for though a lady's word may be ever so
crackable, you cannot have the conscience to break your husband's word,
so I depend upon it. I have asked Mr. Craufurd to meet you, but begged
he would refuse me, that I might be sure of his coming. Mrs Meynel has
taken another year's lease of her house, so you probably, madam, will
not be tired of me for the livelong day for the whole time you shall
honour my mansion. Your face will be well and your fever gone a week
before to-morrow se'nnight, and you will look as well as ever you did in
your life, that is, as you have done lately, which is better than ever
you did before. You must not, in truth, expect that I your shepherd
should be quite so fit to figure in a fan mount. Besides the gout for
six months, which makes some flaws in the bloom of elderly Arcadians, I
have been so far from keeping sheep for the last ten days, that I have
kept nothing but bad hours; and have been such a rake that I put myself
in mind of a poor old cripple that I saw formerly at Hogarth's auction:
he bid for the Rake's Progress, saying, "I will buy my own progress,"
though he looked as if he had no more title to it than I have, but by
limping and sitting up. In short, I have been at four balls since
yesterday se'nnight, though I had the prudence not to stay supper at
Lord Stanley's. That festival was very expensive, for it is the fashion
now to make romances rather than balls. In the hall was a band of French
horns and clarionets in laced uniforms and feathers. The dome of the
staircase was beautifully illuminated with coloured glass lanthorns; in
the ante-room was a bevy of vestals in white habits, making tea; in the
next, a drapery of sarcenet, that with a very funereal air crossed the
chimney, and depended in vast festoons over the sconces. The third
chamber's doors were heightened with candles in gilt vases, and the
ballroom was formed into an oval with benches above each other, not
unlike pews, and covered with red serge, above which were arbours of
flowers, red and green pilasters, more sarcenet, and Lord March's
glasses, which he had lent, as an upholsterer asked Lord Stanley 300l.
for the loan of some. He had burst open the side of the wall to build an
orchestra, with a pendant mirror to reflect the dancers, à la Guisnes;
and the musicians were in scarlet robes, like the candle-snuffers who
represent the senates of Venice at Drury Lane. There were two more
chambers at which I never arrived for the crowd. The seasons, danced by
himself, the younger Storer, the Duc de Lauzun and another, the youngest
Miss Stanley, Miss Poole, the youngest Wrottesley and another Miss, who
is likewise anonymous in my memory, were in errant shepherdly dresses
without invention, and Storer and Miss Wrottesley in banians with furs,
for winter, cock and hen. In six rooms below were magnificent suppers. I
was not quite so sober last night at Mons. de Guisnes', where the
evening began with a ball of children, from eighteen to four years old.
They danced amazingly well, yet disappointed me, so many of them were
ugly; but Dr. Delawarr's two eldest daughters and the Ancaster infanta
performed a pas de trois as well as Mlle. Heinel, and the two eldest
were pretty; yet I promise you, madam, the next age will be a thousand
degrees below the present in beauty. The most interesting part was to
observe the anxiety of the mothers while their children danced or
supped; they supped at ten in three rooms. I should not omit telling you
that the Vernons, especially the eldest, were not the homeliest part of
the show. The former quadrilles then came again upon the stage, and
Harry Conway the younger was so astonished at the agility of Mrs.
Hobart's bulk, that he said he was sure she must be hollow. The tables
were again spread in five rooms, and at past two in the morning we went
to supper. To excuse _we_, I must plead that both the late and present
chancellor, and the solemn Lord Lyttleton, my predecessors by some
years, stayed as late as I did--and in good sooth the watchman went four
as my chairman knocked at my door.

Such is the result of good resolutions! I determined during my illness
to have my colt's tooth drawn, and lo! I have cut four new in a week.
Well! at least I am as grave as a judge, looked as rosy as Lord
Lyttleton, and much soberer than my Lord Chancellor. To shew some marks
of grace, I shall give up the opera, (indeed it is very bad) and go and
retake my doctor's degrees among the dowagers at Lady Blandford's; and
intending to have no more diversions than I have news to tell your
ladyship, I think you shall not hear from me again till we meet, as I
shall think it, in heaven.


23. (_Thackeray imitating_). TO THE HON. H. S. CONWAY

ARLINGTON STREET, Friday night.

I have come away, child, for a day or two from my devotions to our Lady
of Strawberry. Have I not been on my knees to her these three weeks, and
aren't the poor old joints full of rheumatism? A fit took me that I
would pay London a visit, that I would go to Vauxhall and Ranelagh.
_Quoi!_ May I not have my rattle as well as other elderly babies?
Suppose, after being so long virtuous, I take a fancy to cakes and ale,
shall your reverence say nay to me? George Selwyn and Tony Storer and
your humble servant took boat at Westminster t'other night. Was it
Tuesday?--no, Tuesday I was with their Graces of Norfolk, who are just
from Tunbridge--it was Wednesday. How should I know?

Wasn't I dead drunk with a whole pint of lemonade I took at White's?

The Norfolk folk had been entertaining me on Tuesday with the account of
a young savage Iroquois, Choctaw, or Virginian, who has lately been
making a little noise in our quarter of the globe. He is an offshoot of
that disreputable family of Esmond-Castlewood, of whom all the men are
gamblers and spendthrifts, and all the women--well, I shan't say the
word, lest Lady Ailesbury should be looking over your shoulder. Both the
late lords, my father told me, were in his pay, and the last one, a beau
of Queen Anne's reign, from a viscount advanced to be an earl through
the merits and intercession of his notorious old sister Bernstein, late
Tusher, _nee_ Esmond--a great beauty, too, of her day, a favourite of
the old Pretender. She sold his secrets to my papa, who paid her for
them; and being nowise particular in her love for the Stuarts, came over
to the august Hanoverian house at present reigning over us. "Will Horace
Walpole's tongue never stop scandal?" says your wife over your shoulder.
I kiss your ladyship's hand. I am dumb. The Bernstein is a model of
virtue. She had no good reasons for marrying her father's chaplain. Many
of the nobility omit the marriage altogether. She _wasn't_ ashamed of
being Mrs. Tusher, and didn't take a German _Baroncino_ for a second
husband, whom nobody out of Hanover ever saw. The Yarmouth bears no
malice. Esther and Vashti are very good friends, and have been cheating
each other at Tunbridge at cards all the summer.

"And what has all this to do with the Iroquois?" says your ladyship. The
Iroquois has been at Tunbridge, too--not cheating, perhaps, but winning
vastly. They say he has bled Lord March of thousands--Lord March, by
whom so much blood hath been shed, that he has quarrelled with
everybody, fought with everybody, rode over everybody, been fallen in
love with by everybody's wife except Mr. Conway's, and _not_ excepting
her present Majesty, the Countess of England, Scotland, France and
Ireland, Queen of Walmoden and Yarmouth, whom heaven preserve to us.

You know an offensive little creature _de par le monde_, one Jack
Morris, who skips in and out of all the houses of London. When we were
at Vauxhall, Mr. Jack gave us a nod under the shoulder of a pretty young
fellow enough, on whose arm he was leaning, and who appeared hugely
delighted with the enchantments of the garden. Lord, how he stared at
the fireworks! Gods, how he huzzayed at the singing of a horrible
painted wench who shrieked the ears off my head! A twopenny string of
glass beads and a strip of tawdry cloth are treasures in Iroquois-land,
and our savage valued them accordingly.

A buzz went about the place that this was the fortunate youth. He won
three hundred at White's last night very genteelly from Rockingham and
my precious nephew, and here he was bellowing and huzzaying over the
music so as to do you good to hear. I do not love a puppet-show, but I
love to treat children to one, Miss Conway! I present your ladyship my
compliments, and hope we shall go and see the dolls together.

When the singing-woman came down from her throne, Jack Morris must
introduce my Virginian to her. I saw him blush up to the eyes, and make
her, upon my word, a very fine bow, such as I had no idea was practised
in wigwams. "There is a certain _jenny squaw_ about her, and that's why
the savage likes her," George said--a joke certainly not as brilliant as
a firework. After which it seemed to me that the savage and the savagess
retired together.

Having had a great deal too much to eat and drink three hours before, my
partners must have chicken and rack-punch at Vauxhall, where George fell
asleep straightway, and for my sins I must tell Tony Storer what I knew
about this Virginian's amiable family, especially some of the
Bernstein's antecedents and the history of another elderly beauty of the
family, a certain Lady Maria, who was _au mieux_ with the late Prince of
Wales. What did I say? I protest not half of what I knew, and of course
not a tenth part of what I was going to tell, for who should start out
upon us but my savage, this time quite red in the face; and in his _war
paint_. The wretch had been drinking fire-water in the next box!

He cocked his hat, clapped his hand to his sword, asked which of the
gentlemen was it that was maligning his family? so that I was obliged to
entreat him not to make such a noise, lest he should wake my friend Mr.
George Selwyn. And I added, "I assure you, sir, I had no idea that you
were near me, and I most sincerely apologize for giving you pain."

The Huron took his hand off his tomahawk at this pacific rejoinder, made
a bow not ungraciously, said he could not, of course, ask more than an
apology from a gentleman of my age (_Merci, Monsieur!_) and, hearing the
name of Mr. Selwyn, made another bow to George, and said he had a letter
to him from Lord March, which he had had the ill-fortune to mislay.
George has put him up for the club, it appears, in conjunction with
March, and no doubt these three lambs will fleece each other. Meanwhile,
my pacified savage sat down with us, and _buried the hatchet_ in another
bowl of punch, for which these gentlemen must call. Heaven help us! 'Tis
eleven o'clock, and here comes Bedson with my gruel!

H. W.

FOOTNOTES:

[112] There is an amicable dispute among Thackerayans whether this or
the imitation-_Spectator_ paper in _Esmond_ is the more wonderful of
their joint kind. To facilitate this comparison the letter part (for
there is one) of that paper will be given here under Thackeray's own
name.



TOBIAS GEORGE SMOLLETT (1721-1771)


     Smollett's reputation has been of course always mainly,
     indeed almost wholly, that of a novelist, though his
     miscellaneous work is of no small merit. But that he wrote
     his best novel _in_ letters and that perhaps it is one of
     the best so written, has been mentioned. His _Travels_ are
     also of the letter-kind--especially of the
     ill-tempered-letter-kind. Of his actual correspondence we
     have not much. But the following has always seemed to the
     present writer an admirable and agreeably characteristic
     example. Smollett's outwardly surly but inwardly kindly
     temper, and his command of phrase ("great Cham of
     literature" has, as we say now, "stuck") both appear in it:
     and the matter is interesting. We have, so far as I
     remember, no record of any interview between Johnson and
     Smollett, though they must have met. They were both Tories,
     and Johnson wrote in the _Critical Review_ which Smollett
     edited. But Johnson's gibes at Scotland are not likely to
     have conciliated Smollett: and there was just that
     combination of likeness and difference between the two men
     which (especially as the one was as typically English as the
     other was Scotch) generates incompatibility. How
     victoriously Wilkes got over Johnson's personal dislike to
     him all readers of Boswell know: and it is one of the most
     amusing passages in the book. On this occasion, too, he did
     what was asked of him. "Frank" had not been _pressed_, but
     had joined for some reason of his own. However, he accepted
     his discharge and returned to his master, staying till that
     master's death.


24. TO JOHN WILKES, ESQ.

CHELSEA, 16th March, 1759.

Dear Sir

I am again your petitioner, in behalf of that great CHAM of literature,
Samuel Johnson. His black servant, whose name is Francis Barber, has
been pressed on board the Stag frigate, Captain Angel, and our
lexicographer is in great distress. He says the boy is a sickly lad, of
a delicate frame, and particularly subject to a malady in his throat,
which renders him very unfit for His Majesty's service. You know what
matter of animosity the said Johnson has against you: and I dare say you
desire no other opportunity of resenting it, than that of laying him
under an obligation. He was humble enough to desire my assistance on
this occasion, though he and I were never cater-cousins; and I gave him
to understand that I would make application to my friend Mr. Wilkes,
who, perhaps, by his interest with Dr. Hay and Mr. Elliot, might be able
to procure the discharge of his lacquey. It would be superfluous to say
more on this subject, which I leave to your own consideration; but I
cannot let slip this opportunity of declaring that I am, with the most
inviolable esteem and attachment, dear Sir, your affectionate, obliged,
humble servant,

T. SMOLLETT.



WILLIAM COWPER (1731-1800)


     It was necessary to say a good deal about Cowper's letters
     in the Introduction, but it would hardly do to stint him of
     some further comment. It will be a most unfortunate evidence
     of degradation in English literary taste if he ever loses
     the position there assigned to him, and practically
     acknowledged by all the best judges for the last century.
     For there is certainly no other epistoler who has displayed
     such consummate (if also such unconscious) art in making the
     most out of the least. Of course people who must have noise,
     and bustle, and "importance" of matter, and so forth, may be
     dissatisfied. But their dissatisfaction convicts not Cowper
     but themselves: and the conviction is not for want of Art,
     but for want of appreciation of Art. Now this last is one of
     the most terrible faults to be found in any human creature.
     Not everybody can be an artist: but everybody who is not
     deficient to this or that extent in sense--to use that word
     in its widest and best interpretation, for understanding and
     feeling both--can enjoy an artist's work. Nor is there any
     more important function of the often misused word
     "education" than "bringing out" this sense when it is
     dormant, and training and developing it when it is brought
     out. And few things are more useful for exercise in this way
     than the under-current of artistry in Cowper's "chit-chat."
     His letters are so familiar that it is vain to aim at any
     great originality in selecting them. The following strikes
     me as an excellent example. What more trite than references
     to increased expense of postage (rather notably topical just
     now though!) and remarks on a greenhouse? And what less
     trite--except to tritical tastes and intellects--than this
     letter?


25. TO THE REV. JOHN NEWTON

Sept. 18. 1784.

My dear Friend,

Following your good example, I lay before me a sheet of my largest
paper. It was this moment fair and unblemished but I have begun to blot
it, and having begun, am not likely to cease till I have spoiled it. I
have sent you many a sheet that in my judgment of it has been very
unworthy of your acceptance, but my conscience was in some measure
satisfied by reflecting, that if it were good for nothing, at the same
time it cost you nothing, except the trouble of reading it. But the case
is altered now. You must pay a solid price for frothy matter, and though
I do not absolutely pick your pocket, yet you lose your money, and, as
the saying is, are never the wiser; a saying literally fulfilled to the
reader of my epistles.

My greenhouse is never so pleasant as when we are just upon the point of
being turned out of it. The gentleness of the autumnal suns, and the
calmness of this latter season, make it a much more agreeable retreat
than we ever find it in summer; when, the winds being generally brisk,
we cannot cool it by admitting a sufficient quantity of air, without
being at the same time incommoded by it. But now I sit with all the
windows and the door wide open, and am regaled with the scent of every
flower in a garden as full of flowers as I have known how to make it. We
keep no bees, but if I lived in a hive I should hardly hear more of
their music. All the bees in the neighbourhood resort to a bed of
mignonette, opposite to the window, and pay me for the honey they get
out of it by a hum, which, though rather monotonous, is as agreeable to
my ear as the whistling of my linnets. All the sounds that nature utters
are delightful,--at least in this country. I should not perhaps find the
roaring of lions in Africa, or of bears in Russia, very pleasing; but I
know no beast in England whose voice I do not account musical, save and
except always the braying of an ass. The notes of all our birds and
fowls please me, without one exception. I should not indeed think of
keeping a goose in a cage, that I might hang him up in the parlour for
the sake of his melody, but a goose upon a common, or in a farmyard, is
no bad performer; and as to insects, if the black beetle, and beetles
indeed of all hues, will keep out of my way, I have no objection to any
of the rest; on the contrary, in whatever key they sing, from the gnat's
fine treble to the bass of the humble bee, I admire them all. Seriously
however it strikes me as a very observable instance of providential
kindness to man, that such an exact accord has been contrived between
his ear, and the sounds with which, at least in a rural situation, it is
almost every moment visited. All the world is sensible of the
uncomfortable effect that certain sounds have upon the nerves, and
consequently upon the spirits:--and if a sinful world had been filled
with such as would have curdled the blood, and have made the sense of
hearing a perpetual inconvenience, I do not know that we should have had
a right to complain. But now the fields, the woods, the gardens have
each their concert, and the ear of man is for ever regaled by creatures
who seem only to please themselves. Even the ears that are deaf to the
Gospel, are continually entertained, though without knowing it, by
sounds for which they are solely indebted to its author. There is
somewhere in infinite space a world that does not roll within the
precincts of mercy, and as it is reasonable, and even scriptural, to
suppose that there is music in Heaven, in those dismal regions perhaps
the reverse of it is found; tones so dismal, as to make woe itself more
insupportable, and to acuminate[113] even despair. But my paper
admonishes me in good time to draw the reins, and to check the descent
of my fancy into deeps, with which she is but too familiar.

Our best love attends you both, with yours,

_Sum ut semper, tui studiossimus_,

W. C.

FOOTNOTES:

[113] "Acuminate" = "sharpen," is a perfectly good word in itself, but
perhaps does not so perfectly suit "despair," which crushes rather than
pierces.



SYDNEY SMITH (1771-1845)


     It has been said of Sydney Smith that he was not only a
     humourist, but a "good-humourist," and this is undoubtedly
     true. Politics, indeed, according to their usual custom,
     sometimes rather acidulated his good humour; but anybody
     possessed of the noun, with the least allowance of the
     adjective, should be propitiated by the way in which the
     almost Radical reformer of _Peter Plymley's Letters_ in 1807
     became the almost Tory and wholly conservative maintainer of
     ecclesiastical rights in those to Archdeacon Singleton
     thirty years later.

     Both, however, were "Letters" of the sophisticated kind: but
     we have plenty of perfectly genuine correspondence, also
     agreeable and sometimes extremely amusing. Whether Sydney
     (his friends always abbreviated him thus, and he accepted
     the Christian name) describes the makeshifts of his
     Yorkshire parish or the luxuries of his Somerset one;
     whether he discusses the effect of a diet of geraniums on
     pigs or points out that as Lord Tankerville has given him a
     whole buck "this takes up a great deal of my time"--he is
     always refreshing. He has no great depth, but we do not go
     to him for that: and he is not shallow in the offensive
     sense of the word. His gaiety does not get on one's nerves
     as does that of some--perhaps most--professional jokers:
     neither, as is too frequently the case with them, does it
     bore. His letters are not the easiest to select from: for
     they are usually short and their excellence lies rather in
     still shorter _flashes_ such as those glanced at above; as
     the grave proposition that "the information of very plain
     women is so inconsiderable that I agree with you in setting
     no store by it;" or as this other (resembling a short
     newspaper paragraph) "The Commissioner will have hard work
     with the Scotch atheists: they are said to be numerous this
     season and in great force, from the irregular supply of
     rain." But the following specimens are fairly
     representative. They were written at an interval of about
     ten years: the first from Foston, the second from Combe
     Florey. "Miss Berry," the elder of the famous sisters who
     began by fascinating Horace Walpole and ended by charming
     Thackeray: "Donna Agnes" was the younger. "Lady Rachel," the
     famous wife of the person who suffered for the Rye House
     plot (Lady Rachel Wriothesley, of Rachel Lady Russell, but
     Miss Berry had written a _Life_ of her under her maiden
     name). Sydney's politics show in his allusion to the
     assassination of the Duc de Berri, son of Charles X. of
     France (who had, however, not then come to the throne); in
     his infinitely greater sorrow for the dismissal of the
     mildly Liberal minister Decazes; and in his spleen at the
     supporters of the English Tory government of Lord Liverpool.
     (The "little plot" was Thistlewood's). In the second letter
     the "hotel" is his new parsonage in Somerset: "Bowood," Lord
     Lansdowne's Wiltshire house, a great Whig rallying place. I
     suppose "Sea-shore Calcott" is Sir A. W. Calcott the
     painter. "Luttrell" (Henry), a talker and versifier very
     well known in his own day, but of less enduring reputation
     than some others. "Napier's Book," the brilliant if somewhat
     partisan _History of the Peninsular War_. I am not quite
     certain in which of two senses Sydney uses the word
     _caractère_. As ought to be well known this does not exactly
     correspond to our "character"--but most commonly means
     "temper" or "disposition." It has, however, a peculiar
     technical meaning of "official description" or "estimate"
     which would suit Sir William Napier well. The Napiers were
     "kittle cattle" from the official point of view.


26. TO MISS BERRY

FOSTON, Feb 27th, 1820.

I thank you very much for the entertainment I have received from your
book. I should however have been afraid to marry such a woman as Lady
Rachel; it would have been too awful. There are pieces of china very
fine and beautiful, but never intended for daily use....

I have hardly slept out of Foston since I saw you. God send I may be
still an animal, and not a vegetable! but I am a little uneasy at this
season for sprouting and rural increase, for I fear I should have
undergone the metamorphose so common in country livings. I shall go to
town about the end of March; it will be completely empty, and the drugs
that remain will be entirely occupied about hustings and
returning-officers.

Commerce and manufacturers are still in a frightful state of stagnation.

    No foreign barks in British ports are seen,
    Stuff'd to the water's edge with velveteen,
    Or bursting with big bales of bombazine;
    No distant climes demand our corduroy,
    Unmatch'd habiliment for man and boy;
    No fleets of fustian quit the British shore,
    The cloth-creating engines cease to roar,
    Still is that loom which breech'd the world before.

I am very sorry for the little fat Duke de Berri, but infinitely more so
for the dismissal of De Cases,--a fatal measure.

I must not die without seeing Paris. Figure to yourself what a horrid
death,--to die without seeing Paris! I think I could make something of
this in a tragedy, so as to draw tears from Donna Agnes and yourself.
Where are you going to? When do you return? Why do you go at all? Is
Paris more agreeable than London?

We have had a little plot here in a hay-loft. God forbid anybody should
be murdered! but, if I were to turn assassin, it should not be of five
or six Ministers, who are placed where they are by the folly of the
country gentlemen, but of the hundred thousand squires, to whose
stupidity and folly such an Administration owes its existence.

Ever your friend,

SYDNEY SMITH.


27. TO N. FAZAKERLY, ESQ.

COMBE FLOREY, October, 1829.

Dear Fazakerly,

I don't know anybody who would be less affronted at being called
hare-brained than our friend who has so tardily conveyed my message, and
I am afraid now he has only given you a part of it. The omission appears
to be, that I had set up an hotel on the Western road, that it would be
opened next spring, and I hoped for the favour of yours and Mrs.
Fazakerly's patronage. "Well-aired beds, neat wines, careful drivers,
etc. etc."

I shall have very great pleasure in coming to see you, and I quite agree
in the wisdom of postponing that event till the rural Palladios and
Vitruvii are chased away; I have fourteen of them here every day. The
country is perfectly beautiful, and my parsonage the prettiest place in
it.

I was at Bowood last week: the only persons there were seashore Calcott
and his wife,--two very sensible, agreeable people. Luttrell came over
for the day; he was very agreeable, but spoke too lightly, I thought, of
veal soup. I took him aside, and reasoned the matter with him, but in
vain; to speak the truth, Luttrell is not steady in his judgments on
dishes. Individual failures with him soon degenerate into generic
objections, till, by some fortunate accident, he eats himself into
better opinions. A person of more calm reflection thinks not only of
what he is consuming at the moment, but of the soups of the same kind he
has met with in a long course of dining, and which have gradually and
justly elevated the species. I am perhaps making too much of this; but
the failures of a man of sense are always painful.

I quite agree about Napier's book. I do[114] not think that any[114] man
would venture to write so true, bold, and honest a book; it gave me a
high idea of his understanding, and makes me very anxious about his
_caractère_

Ever yours,

SYDNEY SMITH.

FOOTNOTES:

[114] One would expect either "did" or "other": but the actual
combination is a very likely slip of pen or press.



SIR WALTER SCOTT (1771-1832)


     Since this little book was undertaken it has been announced,
     truly or not, that the bulk of Scott's autograph letters has
     been bought by a fortunate and wise man of letters for the
     sum of £1500. Neither life nor literature can ever be
     expressed in money value: but if one had £1500 to spend on
     something not directly necessary, it is possible to imagine
     a very large number of less satisfactory purchases. For as
     was briefly suggested in the Introduction, Scott's
     letters--while saturated with that singular humanity and
     nobility of character in which he has hardly a rival among
     authors of whom we know much--are distinctly remarkable from
     the purely literary point of view. His published work, both
     in verse and prose, has been accused (with what amount of
     justice we will not here trouble ourselves to discuss)--of
     carelessness in style and art. No such charge could possibly
     be brought against his letters, which hit the happy mean
     between slovenliness and artificial elaboration in a fashion
     that could hardly be bettered. The great variety of his
     correspondents, too, provides an additional attraction: for
     letters indited to the same person are apt to show a certain
     monotony. And Scott is equal to any and every occasion. Here
     as elsewhere the "Diary" drains off a certain proportion of
     matter: but chiefly for the latest period and in
     circumstances scarcely happy enough for letters themselves.

     The following letter was selected because of its admirable
     treatment of a theme--the behaviour, responsibility, and
     general _status_ of Authors as objects of public
     judgment--on which an infinite amount of deplorable and
     disgusting nonsense has been talked and written. It starts,
     as will be seen, with the quarrel between Lord and Lady
     Byron--and then generalises. Not many things show Scott's
     golden equity and fairness better. He is perhaps "a little
     kind" to Campbell, who was, one fears, an extra-irritable
     specimen of the irritable race: but this is venial. And
     probably he did not mean the stigma which might be inferred
     from the conjunction of "Aphra _and_ Orinda." They were
     certainly both of Charles II.'s time: but while poor Aphra
     was, if not wholly vicious, far from virtuous, the
     "matchless Orinda" (Katherine Philips) bears no stain on her
     character.


28. TO JOANNA BAILLIE

(End of April 1816)

My dear friend,

I am glad you are satisfied with my reasons for declining a direct
interference with Lord B[yron]. I have not, however, been quite idle,
and as an old seaman have tried to go by a side wind when I had not the
means of going before it, and this will be so far plain to you when I
say that I have every reason to believe the good intelligence is true
that a separation is signed between Lord and Lady Byron. If I am not as
angry as you have good reason to expect every thinking and feeling man
to be, it is from deep sorrow and regret that a man possessed of such
noble talents should so utterly and irretrievably lose himself. In
short, I believe the thing to be as you state it, and therefore Lord
Byron is the object of anything rather than indignation. It is a cruel
pity that such high talents should have been joined to a mind so wayward
and incapable of seeking control where alone it is to be found, in the
quiet discharge of domestic duties and filling up in peace and affection
his station in society. The idea of his ultimately resisting that which
should be fair and honourable to Lady B. did not come within my view of
his character--at least of his natural character; but I hear that, as
you intimated, he has had execrable advisers. I hardly know a more
painful object of consideration than a man of genius in such a
situation; those of lower minds do not feel the degradation, and become
like pigs, familiarised with the filthy elements in which they grovel;
but it is impossible that a man of Lord Byron's genius should not often
feel the want of that which he has forfeited--the fair esteem of those
by whom genius most naturally desires to be admired and cherished.

I am much obliged to Mrs. Baillie for excluding me in her general
censure of authors; but I should have hoped for a more general spirit of
toleration from my good friend, who had in her own family and under her
own eye such an exception to her general censure--unless, indeed (which
may not be far from the truth), she supposes that female genius is more
gentle and tractable, though as high in tone and spirit as that of the
masculine sex. But the truth is, I believe, we will find a great
equality when the different habits of the sexes and the temptations they
are exposed to are taken into consideration. Men early flattered and
coaxed, and told they are fitted for the higher regions of genius and
unfit for anything else,--that they are a superior kind of automaton and
ought to move by different impulses than others,--indulge their friends
and the public with freaks and caprioles like those of that worthy
knight of La Mancha in the Sierra Morena. And then, if our man of genius
escapes this temptation, how is he to parry the opposition of the
blockheads who join all their hard heads and horns together to butt him
out of the ordinary pasture, goad him back to Parnassus, and "bid him
on the barren mountain starve." It is amazing how far this goes, if a
man will let it go, in turning him out of the ordinary course of life
into the stream of odd bodies, so that authors come to be regarded as
tumblers, who are expected to go to church in a summerset, because they
sometimes throw a Catherine-wheel for the amusement of the public. A man
even told me at an election, thinking I believe he was saying a severe
thing, that I was a poet, and therefore that the subject we were
discussing lay out of my way. I answered as quietly as I could, that I
did not apprehend my having written poetry rendered me incapable of
speaking common sense in prose, and that I requested the audience to
judge of me not by the nonsense I might have written for their
amusement, but by the sober sense I was endeavouring to speak for their
information, and only expected [of] them, in case I had ever happened to
give any of them pleasure, in a way which was supposed to require some
information and talent, [that] they would not, for that sole reason,
suppose me incapable of understanding or explaining a point of the
profession for which I had been educated. So I got a patient and very
favourable hearing. But certainly these great exertions of friends and
enemies have forced many a poor fellow out of the common paths of life,
and obliged him to make a trade of what can only be gracefully executed
as an occasional avocation. When such a man is encouraged in all his
freaks and follies, the bit is taken out of his mouth, and, as he is
turned out upon the common, he is very apt to deem himself exempt from
all the rules incumbent on those who keep the king's highway. And so
they play fantastic tricks before high heaven.

The lady authors are not exempt from these vagaries, being exposed to
the same temptations; and all I can allow Mrs. Baillie in favour of the
fair sex is that since the time of the Aphras and Orindas of Charles
II's time, the authoresses have been ridiculous only, while the authors
have too often been both absurd and vicious. As to our leal friend Tom
Campbell, I have heard stories of his morbid sensibility chiefly from
the Minto family, with whom he lived for some time, and I think they all
turned on little foolish points of capricious affectation, which perhaps
had no better foundation than an ill-imagined mode of exhibiting his
independence. But whatever I saw of him myself--and we were often
together, and sometimes for several days--was quite composed and manly.
Indeed, I never worried him to make him get on his hind legs and spout
poetry when he did not like it. He deserves independence well; and if
the dog which now awakens him to the recollection of his possessing it,
happened formerly to disturb the short sleep that drowned his
recollection of so great a blessing, there is good reason for enduring
the disturbance with more patience than before.

But surely, admitting all our temptations and irregularities there are
men of genius enough living to restrain the mere possession of talent
from the charge of disqualifying the owner for the ordinary occupation
and duties of life. There never were better men, and especially better
husbands, fathers, and real patriots, than Southey and Wordsworth; they
might even be pitched upon as most exemplary characters. I myself, if I
may rank myself in the list, am, as Hamlet says, indifferent honest, and
at least not worse than an infidel in loving those of my own house. And
I think that generally speaking, authors, like actors, being rather
less commonly believed to be eccentric than was the faith fifty years
since, do conduct themselves as amenable to the ordinary rules of
society.

This tirade was begun a long time since, but is destined to be finished
at Abbotsford. Your bower is all planted with its evergreens, but must
for seven years retain its original aspect of a gravel pit.

(Rest lost.)



SAMUEL TAYLOR COLERIDGE (1772-1834)


     It is a strange thing, and could hardly have happened in any
     country but England, that there is to this day no complete
     collection or edition of the works of Coleridge--one of the
     most poetical of our poets, one of the most important of our
     critics, and one of the most influential, if one of the
     least methodical and conclusive, of our philosophers. Indeed
     we never knew what good prose he could write till the
     fragments called _Anima Poetae_ were published, two-thirds
     of a century after his death. But that no collected edition
     of his letters appeared till very shortly before this is
     explicable without any difficulty. Coleridge's temperament
     was not heroic, and his correspondence as well as his
     conduct justified, in regard to much more than his nonage,
     the ingenious phrase of an American lady-essayist that he
     must have been "a very _beatable_ child." To a certain
     extent, however, the correspondence does also justify our
     adoption (see _Introduction_) of the charitable theory that
     enlargement of understanding brings about extension of
     pardon. And putting this aside, the letters sometimes give
     us an idea of what his admittedly marvellous conversation
     (or rather monologue) must have been like. They are not very
     easy to select from, for their author's singular tendency to
     _divagation_ affects them. But they sometimes display that
     humour which he undoubtedly possessed, though his best-known
     published writings seldom admit of it: and the divagation
     itself has its advantages. In the following Coleridge
     appears in curiously different lights. After joking at his
     own Pantheism he becomes amazingly practical, for it _was_,
     as Scott points out somewhere, a fault of Southey's to
     cling to the system of "half-profits," a fault which often
     made his enormous labours altogether unprofitable. "I-rise
     to I-set" = "getting-up to bed-time" seems to have been a
     favourite quip of his. "Stuart," the Editor of the _Morning
     Post_ for which Coleridge was then writing. "The
     Anthology"--an _Annual_ one edited by Southey. As for the
     _Anti-Jacobin_ libel it was, admirable as was the wit that
     accompanied it, utterly indefensible; for it accused
     Coleridge of having _at this time_ "left his poor children
     fatherless and his wife destitute" (the extraordinary thing
     is that he actually did this later!) Of course he never
     executed the Life of Lessing.[115] "The Wedgwoods" had given
     him an annuity. The assault on "Mr. Go_b_win" is one of poor
     Hartley Coleridge's most delightful feats. Had he been a
     little older, he might have pointed out to the author of
     _Political Justice_ that lecturing his mother for his,
     Hartley's, fault was quite unjustifiable: and indeed that
     objecting to it at all was improper. The right way
     (according to that great work itself) would have been to
     discuss with Hartley whether the advantage in physical
     exercise and animal spirits derived by him from wielding the
     nine-pin, outweighed the pain experienced by Go_b_win, and
     so was justifiable on the total scheme of things. ("Moshes,"
     as indeed is obvious, was Hartley's pet-name).


29. TO ROBERT SOUTHEY

Tuesday night, 12 o'clock
(December 24) 1799.

My dear Southey,

My Spinosism (if Spinosism it be, and i' faith 'tis very like it)
disposed me to consider this big city as that part of the supreme One
which the prophet Moses was allowed to see--I should be more disposed
to pull off my shoes, beholding Him in a _Bush_, than while I am forcing
my reason to believe that even in theatres _He_ is, yea! even in the
Opera House. Your "Thalaba" will beyond all doubt bring you two hundred
pounds, if you will sell it at once; but _do_ not print at a venture,
under the notion of selling the edition. I assure you that Longman
regretted the bargain he made with Cottle concerning the second edition
of the "Joan of Arc," and is indisposed to similar negotiations; but
most and very eager to have the property of your works at almost any
price. If you have not heard it from Cottle, why, you may hear it from
me, that is, the arrangement of Cottle's affairs in London. The whole
and total copyright of your "Joan," and the first volume of your poems
(exclusive of what Longman had before given), was taken by him at three
hundred and seventy pounds. You are a strong swimmer, and have borne up
poor Joey with all his leaden weights about him, his own and other
people's! Nothing has answered to him but your works. By me he has lost
somewhat--by Fox, Amos, and himself _very much_. I can sell your
"Thalaba" quite as well in your absence as in your presence. I am
employed from I-rise to I-set (that is, from nine in the morning to
twelve at night), a pure scribbler. My mornings to booksellers'
compilations, after dinner to Stuart, who pays _all_ my expenses here,
let them be what they will; the earnings of the morning go to make up an
hundred and fifty pounds for my year's expenditure; for, supposing _all
clear_, my year's (1800) allowance is anticipated. But this I can do by
the first of April (at which time I leave London). For Stuart I write
often his leading paragraphs on Secession, Peace, Essay on the new
French Constitution, Advice to Friends of Freedom, Critiques on Sir W.
Anderson's Nose, Odes to Georgiana D. of D. (horribly misprinted),
Christmas Carols, etc., etc.--anything not bad in the paper, that is not
yours, is mine. So if any verses there strike you as worthy the
"Anthology," "do me the honour, sir!" However, in the course of a week I
_do mean_ to conduct a series of essays in that paper which may be of
public utility. So much for myself, except that I long to be out of
London; and that my Xstmas Carol is a quaint performance, and, in as
strict a sense as is _possible_, an Impromptu, and, had I done all I had
planned, that "Ode to the Duchess" would have been a better thing than
it is--it being somewhat dullish, etc. I have bought the "Beauties of
the Anti-jacobin," and attorneys and counsellors advise me to prosecute,
and offer to undertake it, so as that I shall have neither trouble or
expense. They say it is a clear case, etc. I will speak to Johnson about
the "Fears in Solitude." If he gives them up they are yours. That dull
ode has been printed often enough, and may now be allowed to "sink with
deep swoop, and to the bottom _go_," to quote an admired author; but the
two others will do with a little trimming.

My dear Southey! I have said nothing concerning that which most
oppresses me. Immediately on my leaving London I fall to the "Life of
Lessing"; till that is done, till I have given the Wedgwoods some proof
that I am _endeavouring_ to do well for my fellow-creatures, I cannot
stir. That being done, I would accompany you, and see no impossibility
of forming a pleasant little colony for a few years in Italy or the
South of France. Peace will come soon. God love you, my dear Southey!
_I_ would write to Stuart, and give up his paper immediately. You should
do nothing that did not absolutely _please_ you. Be idle, be very idle!
The habits of your mind are such that you will necessarily do much; but
be as idle as you can.

Our love to dear Edith. If you see Mary, tell her that we have received
our trunk. Hartley is quite well, and my talkativeness is his, without
diminution on my side. 'Tis strange but certainly many things go in the
blood, beside gout and scrophula. Yesterday I dined at Longman's and met
Pratt, and that honest piece of prolix dullity and nullity, young
Towers, who desired to be remembered to you. To-morrow Sara and I dine
at Mister Gobwin's, as Hartley calls him, who gave the philosopher such
a rap on the shins with a ninepin that Gobwin in huge pain _lectured_
Sara on his boisterousness. I was not at home. _Est modus in rebus._
Moshes is somewhat too rough and noisy, but the cadaverous silence of
Gobwin's children is to me quite catacombish, and, thinking of Mary
Wollstonecraft, I was oppressed by it the day Davy and I dined there.

God love you and

S. T. COLERIDGE.

FOOTNOTES:

[115] I cannot remember whether anybody has ever made a list of the
books that Coleridge did not write. It would be the catalogue of a most
interesting library in Utopia.



ROBERT SOUTHEY (1774-1843)


     One of the strangest things met by the present writer in the
     course of preparing this book was a remark of the late Mr.
     Scoones--an old acquaintance and a man who has deserved most
     excellently on the subject--in reference to Southey's
     letters, that they show the author as "dry and
     unsympathetic." "They contain too much information to be
     good as letters." Well: there certainly is information in
     the specimen that follows: whether it is "dry" or not
     readers must decide. The fact is that Southey, despite
     occasional touches of self-righteousness and of
     over-bookishness, was full of humour, extraordinarily
     affectionate, and extremely natural. There is moreover a
     great deal of interest in this skit on poor Mrs. Coleridge:
     for "lingos" of the kind, though in her case they may have
     helped to disgust her husband with his "pensive Sara," were
     in her time and afterwards by no means uncommon,
     especially--physiologists must say why--with the female sex.
     The present writer, near the middle of the nineteenth
     century, knew a lady of family, position and property who
     was fond of the phrase, "hail-fellow-well-met," but always
     turned it into "Fellowship Wilmot"--a pretty close parallel
     to "horsemangander" for "horse-godmother". Extension--with
     levelling--of education, and such processes as those which
     have turned "Sissiter" into "Syrencesster" and "Kirton" into
     "Credd-itt-on", have made the phenomenon rarer: but have
     also made such a _locus classicus_ of the habit as this all
     the more valuable and amusing. It may be added that Lamb, in
     one of his letters, has a sly if good-natured glance at this
     peculiarity of the elder Sara Coleridge in reference to the
     aptitude of the younger in her "_mother_-tongue." Southey
     has dealt with the matter in several epistles to his friend
     Grosvenor Bedford. The whole would have been rather long but
     the following mosaic will, I think, do very well. Dr.
     Warter, the editor of the supplementary collection of
     Southey's letters from which it comes, was the husband of
     Edith May Southey, the heroine of not a little literature,
     sometimes[116] in connection, not merely as here with Sara
     Coleridge the younger, but with Dora Wordsworth--the three
     daughters of the three Lake Poets. She was, as her father
     says, a very tall girl, while her aunt, Mrs. Coleridge, was
     little (her husband, writing from Hamburg, speaks with
     surprise of some German lady as "smaller than you are").


30. TO GROSVENOR C. BEDFORD ESQ:

KESWICK, Sep. 14, 1821

Dear Stumparumper,

Don't rub your eyes at that word, Bedford, as if you were slopy. The
purport of this letter, which is to be as precious as the Punic scenes
in Plautus, is to give you some account (though but an imperfect one) of
the language spoken in this house by ... and invented by her. I have
carefully composed a vocabulary of it by the help of her daughter and
mine, having my ivory tablets always ready when she is red-raggifying in
full confabulumpatus.


31. TO GROSVENOR C. BEDFORD ESQ:

KESWICK, Oct. 7, 1821.

My dear G,

I very much approve your laudable curiosity to know the precise meaning
of that noble word _horsemangandering_. Before I tell you its
application, you must be informed of its history and origin. Be it
therefore known unto you that ... the whole and sole inventor of the
never-to-be-forgotten _lingo grande_ (in which, by the bye, I purpose
ere long to compose a second epistle), thought proper one day to call my
daughter a great _horsemangander_, thinking, I suppose, that that
appellation contained as much unfeminine meaning as could be put into
any decent compound. From this substantive the verb has been formed to
denote an operation performed by the said daughter upon the said aunt,
of which I was an astonished spectator. The horsemangander--that is to
say, Edith May--being tall and strong, came behind the person to be
horsemangandered (to wit, ...), and took her round the waist, under the
arms, then jumped with her all the way from the kitchen into the middle
of the parlour; the motion of the horsemangandered person at every jump
being something like that of a paviour's rammer, and all resistance
impossible.


32. TO GROSVENOR C. BEDFORD ESQ:

KESWICK, Oct. 8, 1821.

       *       *       *       *       *

P.S. The name of the newly-discovered language (of which I have more to
say hereafter) is the _lingo grande_.


33. TO GROSVENOR C. BEDFORD ESQ:

KESWICK, Dec. 24, 1822

Dear Stumparumper,

So long a time has elapsed since I sent you the commencement of my
remarks upon the peculiar language spoken by ... which I have
denominated the LINGO-GRANDE, that I fear you may suppose that I have
altogether neglected the subject. Yet such a subject, as you must
perceive, requires a great deal of patient observation, as well as of
attentive consideration; and were I to flustercumhurry over it, as if it
were a matter which could be undercumstood in a jiffump (that is to say
in a momper), this would be to do what I have undertaken shabroonily,
and you might shartainly have reason to think me fuffling and
indiscruckt. Upon my vurtz I have not dumdawdled with it, like a
dangleampeter; which being interpreted in the same _lingo_ is an
undecider, or an improvidentur, too idle to explore the hurtch mine
which he has had the fortune to discover. No, I must be a stupossum
indeed to act thus, as well as a slouwdowdekcum, or slowdonothinger; and
these are appellations which she has never bestowed upon me; though,
perhaps, the uncommon richness, and even exuberance of her language has
not been more strikingly displayed in anything than in the variety of
names which it has enabled her to shower upon my devoted person.

       *       *       *       *       *

And so-o-o,
    Dear Miscumter Bedfordiddlededford,
        I subcumscribe myself,
  Your sincumcere friendiddledend and serdiddledeservant,
    ROBCUMBERT SOUTHEY DIDDIEDOUTHEY.

Student in the Lingo-Grande, Graduate in Butlerology, Professor of the
science of Noncumsensediddledense, of sneezing and of vocal music, P.L.
and LL.D. etc etc.

FOOTNOTES:

[116] See Wordsworth's _Triad_.



CHARLES LAMB (1775-1834)


     There are not many people about whom it is more
     difficult--or more unnecessary--to write than it is about
     Lamb. A few very unfortunate people do not enjoy him, and
     probably never could be made to do so. Most of those who
     care for literature at all revel in him: and do not in the
     least need to be told to do so. And, as was said before,
     there is hardly any difference between his published works
     and his letters except that the former stand a little--a
     very little--more "upon ceremony." As to selecting the
     letters one remembers Mr. Matthew Arnold's very agreeable
     confession, when he was asked to select his poems, that he
     wanted to select them all. This being impossible, one has to
     confess that, putting subject, scale etc. aside, any one is
     almost as tempting as any other, and that whatever is chosen
     reminds one, half-regretfully, of the letters that were
     left. When a man can write (to William Wordsworth too), "The
     very head and sum of the girlery were two young girls,"
     there is nothing left to do but to repeat, with the slight
     alteration of "write to" for "ask," Thackeray's ejaculation
     to the supposed host at an unusually satisfactory dinner,
     "Dear Sir! do _ask_ us again." And on almost every page of
     his letters, whether in Talfourd's original issue of them or
     in the more recent and fuller editions of his works, the
     spirit is the same everywhere: the volume only differs. If
     (but you never know exactly when Lamb is speaking seriously)
     at the time he had "an aversion from letter writing," then
     most certainly Mrs. Malaprop was justified in saying that
     there "is nothing like beginning with a little aversion"!
     The letter which follows is, though it may have pleased
     others besides myself, not one of the stock examples. But
     it seems to me to present a rather unusual combination of
     Lamb's attractive qualities, not a little of his rare phrase
     ("divine plain face" especially) and a remarkable expression
     of that yearning for _solitude_ which some people seem to
     think rather shameful, but which to others is a thing no
     more to be accounted for than it is to be got rid of. It
     will be observed that the letter, ostensibly to Mrs. W., is
     really both to her and to her husband. "W. H." is of course
     Hazlitt, and the "lectures" are his famous ones on English
     Poets. As for Lamb's criticisms on lectures generally, they
     would perhaps be endorsed by some who have given, as well as
     by many who have received, this form of instruction. The
     "gentleman at Haydon's" was the hero or victim of a story
     good, but too long to give here. He said some excessively
     foolish things and Lamb, after dinner, behaved to him in a
     fashion possibly not quite undeserved but entirely
     unsanctioned by the conventions of society.


34. TO MRS. WORDSWORTH

East India House.
    February 18, 1818.

My dear Mrs. Wordsworth,

I have repeatedly taken pen in hand to answer your kind letter. My
sister should more properly have done it, but she having failed, I
consider myself answerable for her debts. I am now trying to do it in
the midst of commercial noises, and with a quill which seems more ready
to glide into arithmetical figures and names of gourds, cassia,
cardamoms, aloes, ginger, or tea, than into kindly responses and
friendly recollections. The reason why I cannot write letters at home
is, that I am never alone. Plato's (I write to W. W. now)--Plato's
double animal parted never longed more to be reciprocally re-united in
the system of its first creation than I sometimes do to be but for a
moment single and separate. Except my morning's walk to the office,
which is like treading on sands of gold for that reason, I am never so.
I cannot walk home from office but some officious friend offers his
unwelcome courtesies to accompany me. All the morning I am pestered. I
could sit and gravely cast up sums in great books, or compare sum with
sum, and write "paid" against this, and "unpaid" against t'other, and
yet reserve in some corner of my mind "some darling thoughts all my
own,"--faint memory of some passage in a book, or the tone of an absent
friend's voice--a snatch of Miss Burrell's singing, or a gleam of Fanny
Kelly's divine plain face. The two operations might be going on at the
same time without thwarting, as the sun's two motions (earth's I mean),
or as I sometimes turn round till I am giddy, in my back parlour, while
my sister is walking longitudinally in the front; or as the shoulder of
veal twists round with the spit, while the smoke wreathes up the
chimney. But there are a set of amateurs of the Belles Lettres--the gay
science--who come to me as a sort of rendezvous, putting questions of
criticism, of British Institutions, Lalla Rookhs, etc,--what Coleridge
said at the lecture last night--who have the form of reading men, but,
for any possible use reading can be to them, but to talk of, might as
well have been Ante-Cadmeans born, or have lain sucking out the sense of
an Egyptian hieroglyph as long as the pyramids will last, before they
should find it. These pests worrit me at business, and in all its
intervals, perplexing my accounts, poisoning my little salutary
warming-time at the fire, puzzling my paragraphs if I take a newspaper,
cramming in between my own free thoughts and a column of figures which
had come to an amicable compromise but for them. Their noise ended, one
of them, as I said, accompanies me home, lest I should be solitary for a
moment; he at length takes his welcome leave at the door; up I go,
mutton on table, hungry as hunter, hope to forget my cares, and bury
them in the agreeable abstraction of mastication; knock at the door, in
comes Mr. Hazlitt, or Mr. Martin Burney, or Morgan Demigorgon, or my
brother, or somebody, to prevent my eating alone--a process absolutely
necessary to my poor wretched digestion. O the pleasure of eating
alone!--eating my dinner alone! let me think of it. But in they come,
and make it absolutely necessary that I should open a bottle of orange;
for my meat turns into stone when any one dines with me, if I have not
wine. Wine can mollify stones; then _that_ wine turns into acidity,
acerbity, misanthropy, a hatred of my interrupters--(God bless 'em! I
love some of 'em dearly), and with the hatred, a still greater aversion
to their going away. Bad is the dead sea they bring upon me, choking and
deadening, but worse is the deader dry sand they leave me on, if they go
before bed-time. Come never, I would say to those spoilers of my dinner;
but if you come, never go! The fact is, this interruption does not
happen very often; but every time it comes by surprise, that present
bane of my life, orange wine, with all its dreary stifling consequences,
follows. Evening company I should always like had I any mornings, but I
am saturated with human faces (_divine_ forsooth!) and voices all the
golden morning; and five evenings in a week would be as much as I should
covet to be in company; but I assure you that is a wonderful week in
which I can get two, or one to myself. I am never C. L. but always C. L.
and Co. He who thought it not good for man to be alone, preserve me
from the more prodigious monstrosity of being never by myself! I forget
bed-time, but even there these sociable frogs clamber up to annoy me.
Once a week, generally some singular evening that, being alone, I go to
bed at the hour I ought always to be a-bed; just close to my bedroom
window is the club-room of a public-house, where a set of singers, I
take them to be chorus-singers of the two theatres (it must be both of
them), begin their orgies. They are a set of fellows (as I conceive)
who, being limited by their talents to the burthen of the song at the
play-houses, in revenge have got the common popular airs by Bishop, or
some cheap composer, arranged for choruses; that is, to be sung all in
chorus. At least I never can catch any of the text of the plain song,
nothing but the Babylonish choral howl at the tail on't. "That fury
being quenched"--the howl, I mean--a burden succeeds of shouts and
clapping, and knocking of the table. At length overtasked nature drops
under it, and escapes for a few hours into the society of the sweet
silent creatures of dreams, which go away with mocks and mows at
cockcrow. And then I think of the words Christabel's father used (bless
me, I have dipt in the wrong ink!) to say every morning by way of
variety when he awoke:

    "Every knell, the Baron saith,
     Wakes us up to a world of death"

or something like it. All I mean by this senseless interrupted tale, is,
that by my central situation I am a little over-companied. Not that I
have any animosity against the good creatures that are so anxious to
drive away the harpy solitude from me. I like 'em, and cards, and a
cheerful glass; but I mean merely to give you an idea, between office
confinement and after-office society, how little time I can call my
own. I mean only to draw a picture, not to make an inference. I would
not that I know of have it otherwise. I only wish sometimes I could
exchange some of my faces and voices for the faces and voices which a
late visitation brought most welcome, and carried away, leaving regret,
but more pleasure, even a kind of gratitude, at being so often favoured
with that kind northern visitation. My London faces and noises don't
hear me--I mean no disrespect, or I should explain myself, that instead
of their return 220 times a year, and the return of W. W. etc., seven
times in 104 weeks, some more equal distribution might be found. I have
scarce room to put in Mary's kind love, and my poor name,

C. LAMB.

       *       *       *       *       *

W. H. goes on lecturing against W. W. and making copious use of
quotations from said W. W. to give a zest to said lectures. S. T. C. is
lecturing with success. I have not heard either of him or H., but dined
with S. T. C. at Gillman's a Sunday or two since, and he was well and in
good spirits. I mean to hear some of the course but lectures are not
much to my taste, whatever the lecturer may be. If _read_, they are
dismal flat, and you can't think why you are brought together to hear a
man read his works, which you could read so much better at leisure
yourself. If delivered extempore I am always in pain lest the gift of
utterance should suddenly fail the orator in the middle, as it did me at
the dinner given in honour of me at the London tavern.[117] "Gentlemen,"
said I, and there I stopped; the rest my feelings were under the
necessity of supplying. Mrs. Wordsworth _will_ go on, kindly haunting us
with visions of seeing the lakes once more, which never can be realised.
Between us there is a great gulf, not of inexplicable moral antipathies
and distances, I hope, as there seemed to be between me and that
gentleman concerned in the Stamp Office, that I so strangely recoiled
from at Haydon's. I think I had an instinct that he was the head of an
office. I hate all such people--accountants' deputy-accountants. The
dear abstract notion of the East India Company, as long as she is
unseen, is pretty, rather poetical; but as she makes herself manifest by
the persons of such beasts, I loathe and detest her as the scarlet
what-do-you-call-her of Babylon. I thought, after abridging us of all
our red-letter days, they had done their worst; but I was deceived in
the length to which heads of offices, those true liberty-haters, can go.
They are the tyrants; not Ferdinand, nor Nero. By a decree passed this
week they have abridged us of the immemorially-observed custom of going
at one o'clock of a Saturday, the little shadow of a holiday left us.
Dear W. W., be thankful for liberty.

FOOTNOTES:

[117] Lamb would have enjoyed a recent newspaper paragraph which,
stating that an inquest had been held on some one who, after lecturing
somewhere was taken ill and expired, concluded thus: "Verdict: death
from natural causes."



GEORGE GORDON, LORD BYRON (1788-1824)


     It is one of the commonest of commonplaces that there are
     certain subjects and persons who and which always cause
     difference of opinion: and something like a full century has
     established the fact that Byron is one of them. As far as
     his poetry is concerned we have nothing to do with this
     difference or these differences. They affect his letters
     less, inasmuch as almost everybody admits them to be
     remarkably good of their kind. But when the further
     questions are raised, "What _is_ that kind?" and "Is it the
     best, or even a very good kind?" the old division manifests
     itself again. That they are extraordinarily _clever_ is
     again more or less matter of agreement. That they make some
     people dislike him more than they otherwise might is perhaps
     not a fatal objection: for the people may be wrong. Besides,
     as a matter of fact, they sometimes make other people _like_
     him more than they would have done without these letters: so
     the two things at least cancel each other. The chief
     objection to them, which is hardly removable, is their too
     frequent artificiality. Byron did not play the tricks that
     Pope played: for, he was not, like Pope, an invalid with an
     invalid's weaknesses and excuses. But almost more than in
     his poems, where the "dramatic" excuse is available, (_i.e._
     that the writer is speaking not for himself but for the
     character) the letters provoke the question, "Is this what
     the man thought, felt, did, or what he wished to seem to
     feel, think, do?" In other words, "Is this _persona_ or
     _res_?" The following shows Byron in perhaps as favourable a
     light as any that could be chosen, and with as little of the
     artificiality as is anywhere to be found. It is true that
     even here Moore, his biographer and letter-giver, at first
     included, though he afterwards cut out, some attacks on Sir
     Samuel Romilly, whom Byron thought guilty of causing or
     abetting dissension between Lady Byron and himself. But the
     letter loses nothing by the omission and does not even gain
     unfairly by it. There is nothing _false_ in the contrast of
     comedy and sentiment concerning the cemetery. His impression
     by the epitaphs Byron gave in more letters than one. Nor is
     there any affectation in his remarks about his own burial,
     about his children, or any other subject. They did "pickle
     him and bring him home" (a quotation, not quite literal,
     from Sheridan's _Rivals_), and his funeral procession
     through London is the theme of a memorable passage in
     Borrow's _Lavengro_. "Juan" is of course _Don Juan_.
     "Allegra," his daughter by Jane (or as she re-christened
     herself, Claire) Clairmont--step-daughter of Godwin, through
     his second wife, and so a connection though no relation of
     Mrs. Shelley--died at five years old. "Ada," his and Lady
     Byron's only child, lived to marry Lord Lovelace, and
     continued his blood to the present day. "Electra" works out
     no further than the fact of her being the daughter of his
     "_moral_ Clytemnestra," as he called Lady Byron, from her
     having been almost as fatal to his reputation as the actual
     Clytemnestra to her husband's life.


35. TO MR. MURRAY

Bologna, June 7. 1817.

Tell Mr. Hobhouse that I wrote to him a few days ago from Ferrara. It
will therefore be idle in him or you to wait for any further answers or
returns of proofs from Venice, as I have directed that no English
letters be sent after me. The publication can be proceeded in without,
and I am already sick of your remarks, to which I think not the least
attention ought to be paid.

Tell Mr. Hobhouse that since I wrote to him I had availed myself of my
Ferrara letters, and found the society much younger and better than that
at Venice. I am very much pleased with the little the shortness of my
stay permitted me to see of the Gonfaloniere Count Mosti, and his family
and friends in general.

I have been picture-gazing this morning at the famous Domenichino and
Guido, both of which are superlative. I afterwards went to the beautiful
cemetery of Bologna, beyond the walls and found, besides the superb
burial ground, an original of a Custode, who reminded me of the
gravedigger in _Hamlet_.

He has a collection of capuchins' skulls, labelled on the forehead, and
taking down one of them said "This is Brother Desiderio Birro, who died
at forty--one of my best friends. I begged his head of his brethren
after his decease, and they gave it me. I put it in lime and then boiled
it. Here it is, teeth and all, in excellent preservation. He was the
merriest, cleverest fellow I ever knew. Wherever he went he brought joy,
and whenever anyone was melancholy, the sight of him was enough to make
him cheerful again. He walked so actively, you might have taken him for
a dancer--he joked--he laughed--oh! he was such a Frate as I never saw
before, nor ever shall again!"

He told me that he had himself planted all the cypresses in the
cemetery; that he had the greatest attachment to them and to his dead
people; that since 1801 they had buried fifty-three thousand persons. In
showing some older monuments, there was that of a Roman girl of twenty,
with a bust by Bernini. She was a princess Bartorini, dead two centuries
ago: he said that, on opening her grave, they had found her hair
complete, and "as yellow as gold."[118] Some of the epitaphs at Ferrara
pleased me more than the more splendid monuments at Bologna; for
instance:--

"MARTINI LUIGI
IMPLORA PACE."

"LUCREZIA PICINI
IMPLORA ETERNA QUIETE."

Can anything be more full of pathos? Those few words say all that can be
said or sought, the dead had had enough of life; all they wanted was
rest, and this they _implore_!

There is all the helplessness and humble hope, and deathlike prayer,
that can arise from the grave--'implora pace.' I hope, whoever may
survive me, and shall see me put in the foreigners' burying-ground at
the Lido, within the fortress by the Adriatic, will see those two words,
and no more, put over me. I trust they won't think of "pickling, and
bringing me home to clod or Blunderbuss Hall." I am sure my bones would
not rest in an English grave, or my clay mix with the earth of that
country. I believe the thought would drive me mad on my death-bed, could
I suppose that any of my friends would be base enough to convey my
carcass back to your soil. I would not even feed your worms if I could
help it.

So, as Shakespeare says of Mowbray, the banished Duke of Norfolk, who
died at Venice (see _Richard II._), that he, after fighting

    "Against black Pagans, Turks and Saracens,
     And toiled with works of war, retired himself
     To Italy, and there, at _Venice_, gave
     His body to that _pleasant_ country's earth.
     And his pure soul unto his captain, Christ,
     Under whose colours he had fought so long!"

Before I left Venice, I had returned to you your late, and Mr.
Hobhouse's sheets of Juan. Don't wait for further answers from me, but
address yours to Venice as usual. I know nothing of my own movements; I
may return there in a few days, or not for some time. All this depends
on circumstances. I left Mr. Hoppner very well, as well as his son and
Mrs. Hoppner. My daughter Allegra was well too, and is growing pretty;
her hair is growing darker, and her eyes are blue. Her temper and her
ways, Mrs. H. says, are like mine, as well as her features: she will
make, in that case, a manageable young lady.

I have never heard anything of Ada, the little Electra of my Mycenae.
But there will come a day of reckoning, even if I should not live to see
it. What a long letter I have scribbled.

Yours &c.

P.S. Here, as in Greece, they strew flowers on the tombs. I saw a
quantity of rose-leaves, and entire roses, scattered over the graves at
Ferrara. It has the most pleasing effect you can imagine.

FOOTNOTES:

[118] No one who has seen the Roman girl's hair at York, nearer two
thousand than two hundred years old, will doubt this, though _her_
tresses are not "yellow."



PERCY BYSSHE SHELLEY (1792-1822)


     It may sometimes seem as if there were only two things that
     Shelley lacked--humour and common sense. As a matter of fact
     he possessed both, but allowed them to be perpetually
     stifled by other elements--not in themselves necessarily
     bad--of his character. If either--still better both--had
     been able to constitute themselves monarchs of his
     Brentford, Duumvirs of the rest, his political and religious
     extravagances would have been curbed; his less admirable
     actions would probably--for he would not have married and
     therefore would not have deserted poor Harriet--have been
     obviated; and it is by no means necessary that his poetry,
     though it could not have been much improved, should have
     been in any degree worsened. Shakespeare, one thinks, had
     plenty of both. Nor is this consideration irrelevant to the
     study of his letters. There are glimmerings of the humour
     which shines in _Peter Bell the Third_, and more of the
     common sense which is not needed, but by no means negatived,
     in the sublimer poems. But in the case suggested we should
     certainly have had more of them in a department than which
     they could have found no better home. Shelley wrote
     everything (after his intellectual infancy) that he did
     write, so excellently that he must have excelled here also.
     As it is, we must take him as we find him and be thankful.
     Since he wrote the following, English readers have perhaps
     been satiated with writings about Art. But rather more than
     100 years ago there had been comparatively little of it and
     hardly anything, if anything at all, of this quality. And it
     may not be absurd to draw attention to the differences
     between these descriptions and those in ornate prose that
     we have had since from Mr. Ruskin and others. Most of the
     latter are essentially prose though often very beautiful
     prose: Shelley's, though pure prose in form, are as it were
     scenarios for poetry. Indeed by this time poetry had taken
     almost entire possession of him, and he of her.


36. TO THOMAS LOVE PEACOCK

BOLOGNA,
Monday, Nov[ember] 9, 1818.

My dear Peacock,

I have seen a quantity of things here--churches, palaces, statues,
fountains, and pictures; and my brain is at this moment like a portfolio
of an architect, or a print-shop, or a commonplace-book, I will try to
recollect something of what I have seen; for, indeed, it requires, if it
will obey, an act of volition. First, we went to the cathedral, which
contains nothing remarkable, except a kind of shrine, or rather a marble
canopy, loaded with sculptures, and supported on four marble columns. We
went then to a palace--I am sure I forget the name of it--where we saw a
large gallery of pictures. Of course, in a picture gallery you see three
hundred pictures you forget, for one you remember. I remember, however,
an interesting picture by Guido, of the Rape of Proserpine, in which
Proserpine casts back her languid and half-unwilling eyes, as it were,
to the flowers she had left ungathered in the fields of Enna. There was
an exquisitely executed piece of Correggio, about four saints, one of
whom seemed to have a pet dragon in a leash. I was told that it was the
devil who was bound in that style--but who can make anything of four
saints? For what can they be supposed to be about? There was one
painting, indeed, by this master, Christ beatified, inexpressibly fine.
It is a half figure, seated on a mass of clouds, tinged with an
ethereal, rose-like lustre; the arms are expanded; the whole frame seems
dilated with expression; the countenance is heavy, as it were, with the
weight of the rapture of the spirit; the lips parted, but scarcely
parted, with the breath of intense but regulated passion; the eyes are
calm and benignant; the whole features harmonised in majesty and
sweetness. The hair is parted on the forehead, and falls in heavy locks
on each side. It is motionless, but seems as if the faintest breath
would move it. The colouring, I suppose, must be very good, if I could
remark and understand it. The sky is of pale aërial orange, like the
tints of latest sunset; it does not seem painted around and beyond the
figure, but everything seems to have absorbed, and to have been
penetrated by its hues. I do not think we saw any other of Correggio,
but this specimen gives me a very exalted idea of his powers.

We went to see heaven knows how many more palaces--Ranuzzi,
Marriscalchi, Aldobrandi. If you want Italian names for any purpose,
here they are; I should be glad of them if I was writing a novel. I saw
many more of Guido. One, a Samson drinking water out of an ass's
jaw-bone, in the midst of the slaughtered Philistines. Why he is
supposed to do this, God, who gave him this jaw-bone, alone knows--but
certain it is, that the painting is a very fine one. The figure of
Samson stands in strong relief in the foreground, coloured, as it were,
in the hues of human life, and full of strength and elegance. Round him
lie the Philistines in all the attitudes of death. One prone, with the
slight convulsion of pain just passing from his forehead, whilst on his
lips and chin death lies as heavy as sleep. Another leaning on his arm,
with his hand, white and motionless, hanging out beyond. In the
distance, more dead bodies; and, still further beyond, the blue sea and
the blue mountains, and one white and tranquil sail.

There is a Murder of the Innocents, also, by Guido, finely coloured,
with much fine expression--but the subject is very horrible, and it
seemed deficient in strength--at least, you require the highest ideal
energy, the most poetical and exalted conception of the subject, to
reconcile you to such a contemplation. There was a Jesus Christ
crucified, by the same, very fine. One gets tired, indeed, whatever may
be the conception and execution of it, of seeing that monotonous and
agonised form for ever exhibited in one prescriptive attitude of
torture. But the Magdalen, clinging to the cross with the look of
passive and gentle despair beaming from beneath her bright flaxen hair,
and the figure of St. John, with his looks uplifted in passionate
compassion; his hands clasped, and his fingers twisting themselves
together, as it were, with involuntary anguish; his feet almost writhing
up from the ground with the same sympathy; and the whole of this arrayed
in colours of diviner nature, yet most like nature's self. Of the
contemplation of this one would never weary.

There was a "Fortune," too, of Guido; a piece of mere beauty. There was
the figure of Fortune on a globe, eagerly proceeding onwards, and Love
was trying to catch her back by the hair, and her face was half turned
towards him; her long chestnut hair was floating in the stream of the
wind, and threw its shadow over her fair forehead. Her hazel eyes were
fixed on her pursuer, with a meaning look of playfulness, and a light
smile was hovering on her lips. The colours which arrayed her delicate
limbs were ethereal and warm.

But, perhaps, the most interesting of all the pictures of Guido which I
saw was a Madonna Lattante. She is leaning over her child, and the
maternal feelings with which she is pervaded are shadowed forth on her
soft and gentle countenance, and in her simple and affectionate
gestures--there is what an unfeeling observer would call a dulness in
the expression of her face; her eyes are almost closed; her lip
depressed; there is a serious, and even a heavy relaxation, as it were,
of all the muscles which are called into action by ordinary emotions:
but it is only as if the spirit of love, almost insupportable from its
intensity, were brooding over and weighing down the soul, or whatever it
is, without which the material frame is inanimate and inexpressive.

There is another painter here, called Franceschini, a Bolognese, who,
though certainly very inferior to Guido, is yet a person of excellent
powers. One entire church, that of Santa Catarina, is covered by his
works. I do not know whether any of his pictures have ever been seen in
England. His colouring is less warm than that of Guido, but nothing can
be more clear and delicate; it is as if he could have dipped his pencil
in the hues of some serenest and star-shining twilight. His forms have
the same delicacy and aërial loveliness; their eyes are all bright with
innocence and love; their lips scarce divided by some gentle and sweet
emotion. His winged children are the loveliest ideal beings ever created
by the human mind. These are generally, whether in the capacity of
Cherubim or Cupid, accessories to the rest of the picture; and the
underplot of their lovely and infantine play is something almost
pathetic from the excess of its unpretending beauty. One of the best of
his pieces is an Annunciation of the Virgin:--the Angel is beaming in
beauty; the Virgin, soft, retiring, and simple.

We saw, besides, one picture of Raphael--St. Cecilia: this is in another
and higher style; you forget that it is a picture as you look at it; and
yet it is most unlike any of those things which we call reality. It is
of the inspired and ideal kind, and seems to have been conceived and
executed in a similar state of feeling to that which produced among the
ancients those perfect specimens of poetry and sculpture which are the
baffling models of succeeding generations. There is a unity and a
perfection in it of an incommunicable kind. The central figure, St.
Cecilia, seems rapt in such inspiration as produced her image in the
painter's mind; her deep, dark, eloquent eyes lifted up; her chestnut
hair flung back from her forehead--she holds an organ in her hands--her
countenance, as it were, calmed by the depth of its passion and rapture,
and penetrated throughout with the warm and radiant light of life. She
is listening to the music of heaven, and, as I imagine, has just ceased
to sing, for the four figures that surround her evidently point, by
their attitudes, towards her; particularly St. John, who, with a tender
yet impassioned gesture, bends his countenance towards her, languid with
the depth of his emotion. At her feet lie various instruments of music,
broken and unstrung. Of the colouring I do not speak; it eclipses
nature, yet it has all her truth and softness.



JOHN KEATS (1795-1821)


     A good deal has already been said of Keats in the
     Introduction; but a little more may be pardoned on that most
     remarkable correspondence with his brother and sister-in-law
     which is there mentioned, and which it is hoped may be
     fairly sampled here. There is nothing quite like it: and one
     can only be thankful to the Atlantic (which here at least
     can have "disappointed" nobody worth mentioning) for causing
     the separation that brought it about. The inspirations which
     it shows were happily double. We do not know very much about
     George Keats, but John's family affection was of the
     keenest, and this was the only member of the family who was,
     in all the circumstances, likely to sympathise thoroughly
     with the poet in his poetry as in other things. Georgiana is
     said to have been personally attractive and mentally gifted
     beyond the common: and there is no doubt that this excited
     something more than mere family devotion in such an
     impressionable person as Keats. The combined reagency of
     these relatives has given us what we have from no other
     English poet--for the simple reason that no other English
     poet has had such a chance of giving it to us. The only
     thing to regret is that it could not continue longer: and
     that is only a necessary operation of Fate. The particular
     passage chosen here is one of the best known perhaps, but it
     is also one of the most illuminating: for it gives at once
     Keats's natural and simple interest in ordinary things, with
     no mere trivialities: his _real_ attitude (so different from
     that long attributed to him!) as regards the attacks of
     critics, and his passion for beauty apart from mere
     hedonism. The "Charmian" was at one time supposed to be
     Miss Brawne: but this was an error. She was a Miss Jane Cox,
     and nothing is heard of her afterwards.


37. TO GEORGE AND GEORGIANA KEATS

[October 14 or 15, 1818]

I came by ship from Inverness, and was nine days at Sea without being
sick. A little qualm now and then put me in mind of you; however, as
soon as you touch the shore, all the horrors of sickness are soon
forgotten, as was the case with a lady on board, who could not hold her
head up all the way. We had not been in the Thames an hour before her
tongue began to some tune--paying off, as it was fit she should, all old
scores. I was the only Englishman on board. There was a downright
Scotchman, who, hearing that there had been a bad crop of potatoes in
England, had brought some triumphant specimens from Scotland. These he
exhibited with national pride to all the ignorant lightermen and
watermen from the Nore to the Bridge. I fed upon beef all the way; not
being able to eat the thick porridge which the Ladies managed to manage,
with large, awkward, horn spoons into the bargain. Reynolds has returned
from a six-weeks' enjoyment in Devonshire; he is well, and persuades me
to publish my "Pot of Basil" as an answer to the attacks made on me in
"Blackwood's Magazine" and the "Quarterly Review." There have been two
Letters in my defence in the Chronicle and one in the Examiner, copied
from the Exeter Paper, and written by Reynolds. I do not know who wrote
those in the Chronicle. This is a mere matter of the moment--I think I
shall be among the English Poets after my death. Even as a Matter of
present interest the attempt to crush me in the "Quarterly" has only
brought me more into notice, and it is a common expression among
book-men, "I wonder the Quarterly should cut its own throat." It does me
not the least harm in Society to make me appear little and ridiculous: I
know when a man is superior to me and give him all due respect; he will
be the last to laugh at me; and as for the rest I feel that I make an
impression upon them which insures me personal respect while I am in
sight, whatever they may say when my back is turned.

The Misses ---- are very kind to me, but they have lately displeased me
much, and in this way: Now I am coming the Richardson! On my return, the
first day I called, they were in a sort of taking or bustle about a
Cousin of theirs, who, having fallen out with her Grandpapa in a serious
manner, was invited by Mrs. ---- to take asylum in her house. She is an
East-Indian, and ought to be her grandfather's heir. At the time I
called, Mrs. ---- was in conference with her upstairs, and the young
ladies were warm in her praises downstairs, calling her genteel,
interesting and a thousand other pretty things to which I gave no heed,
not being partial to nine-days' wonders--Now all is completely
changed--they hate her, and from what I hear she is not without faults
of a real kind: but she has others, which are more apt to make women of
inferior charms hate her. She is not a Cleopatra, but is, at least, a
Charmian. She has a rich Eastern look; she has fine eyes and fine
manners. When she comes into the room she makes an impression the same
as the Beauty of a Leopardess. She is too fine and too conscious of
herself to repulse any Man who may address her; from habit she thinks
that nothing _particular_. I always find myself more at ease with such
a woman: the picture before me always gives me a life and animation
which I cannot possibly feel with anything inferior. I am at such times
too much occupied in admiring to be awkward or in a tremble: I forget
myself entirely, because I live in her. You will, by this time, think
that I am in love with her, so, before I go any further, I will tell you
I am not. She kept me awake one night, as a tune of Mozart's might do. I
speak of the thing as a pastime and an amusement, than which I can feel
none deeper than a conversation with an imperial woman, the very "yes"
and "no" of whose life is to me a banquet. I don't cry to take the moon
home with me in my pocket, nor do I fret to leave her behind me. I like
her, and her like, because one has no _sensations_; what we both are is
taken for granted. You will suppose I have by this had much talk with
her--no such thing; there are the Misses ----on the look out. They think
I don't admire her because I don't stare at her; they call her a flirt
to me--what a want of knowledge! She walks across a room in such a
manner that a man is drawn towards her with a magnetic power; this they
call flirting! They do not know things; they do not know what a woman
is. I believe, though, she has faults; the same as Charmian and
Cleopatra might have had. Yet she is a fine thing, speaking in a worldly
way; for there are two distinct tempers of mind in which we judge of
things--the worldly, theatrical and pantomimical; and the unearthly,
spiritual and ethereal. In the former, Buonaparte, Lord Byron and this
Charmian hold the first place in our minds; in the latter, John Howard,
Bishop Hooker rocking his child's cradle, and you, my dear sister, are
the conquering feelings. As a man of the world I love the rich talk of
a Charmian; as an eternal being I love the thought of you. I should
like her to ruin me, and I should like you to save me.

    "I am free from men of pleasure's cares,
     By dint of feelings far more deep than theirs."

This is "Lord Byron," and is one of the finest things he has said.



THE CARLYLES--THOMAS (1795-1881) AND
JANE WELSH (1801-1866)


     A paradoxer, even of a less virulent-frivolous type than
     that with which we have been recently afflicted, might
     sustain, for some little time at any rate, the argument
     against preservation of letters from the case of this
     eminent couple. If Mrs. Carlyle had not written hers, or if
     they had remained unknown, the whole sickening controversy
     about the character and married life of the pair might, as
     was said in the Introduction, never have existed. And if
     Carlyle himself had written none, persons of any
     intelligence would still have had a pretty adequate idea of
     him from his _Works_. On the other hand the addition to
     knowledge in his case is quite welcome: and in hers it
     practically gives us what we could hardly have known
     otherwise--one of the most remarkable of woman-natures, and
     one of the most striking confirmations of the merciless
     adage "Whom the gods curse, to them they grant the desires
     of their hearts." For she wanted above all things to be the
     wife of a man of genius--and she was. So the _pro_ and the
     _con_ in this matter may so far be set against each other.
     But there remains to credit a considerable amount of most
     welcome and (notably in the instance specified in the
     Introduction) almost consummate literature of the epistolary
     kind. This instance itself is perhaps too tragic for our
     little collection: indeed it might help to spread the
     exaggerated idea of the writer's unhappiness which has been
     too prevalent already. There is some "metal more attractive"
     in her letters, which perhaps, taken all round, put her with
     Madame de Sévigné and "Lady Mary" at the head of all
     _published_ women letter-writers. And Carlyle's annotations
     to them, when not too bilious or too penitent, show him
     almost at his best. His own (given below) to FitzGerald (the
     way in which epistolary literature interconnects itself has
     been noted) appears to me one of his most characteristic
     though least volcanic utterances. It was written while he
     was in the depths of what his wife called "the Valley of the
     Shadow of Frederick," (_i.e._ his vast book on that amiable
     monarch) and had retired to _extra_-solitude in consequence.
     "Farlingay" refers to a recent stay in Suffolk with
     FitzGerald. As often with Carlyle, there may be more than
     one interpretation of his inverted commas at "gentleman" as
     regards Voltaire, to whom he certainly would not have
     allotted the word in its best sense. The phrase about Chaos
     and the Evil Genius is Carlyle shut up in narrow space like
     the other genius or genie in the Arabian Nights. The "_awful
     jangle_ of bells" speaks his horror of any invading sound.
     The "Naseby matter" refers to a monument which he and
     FitzGerald had planned, and which (with the precedent
     investigation as to the battle which F. had conducted years
     before for his _Cromwell_), occupies a good deal of
     FitzGerald's own correspondence. Indeed, it is thanks to
     Naseby that we possess this very letter. FitzGerald says
     elsewhere that he kept only these Naseby letters of all
     Carlyle's correspondence with him, destroying the rest, as
     he did Thackeray's and Tennyson's, lest "private personal
     history should fall into some unscrupulous hands." One
     admires the conduct while one feels the loss. As for the
     monument, it never came off: though it was talked about for
     some thirty years. Mrs. Carlyle's--one of the early and,
     despite complaints, cheerful time, the other later and,
     despite its resignation, from "the Valley of the
     Shadow"--require no annotation, save in respect of Carlyle's
     own on _Deerbrook_. He might well call it "poor": it is
     indeed one of the few novels by a writer of any distinction,
     which one tolerably voracious novel-reader has found
     incapable of being read. And this is curious: for she had
     written good stories earlier.


38. TO EDWARD FITZGERALD

ADDISCOMBE FARM, CROYDON.
15th Septr. 1855

Dear Fitzgerald,

I have been here ever since the day you last heard of me; leading the
strangest life of absolute _Latrappism_; and often enough remembering
Farlingay and you. I live perfectly alone, and without speech at
all,--there being in fact nobody to speak to, except one austerely
punctual housemaid, who does her functions, like an eight-day clock,
generally without bidding. My wife comes out now and then to give the
requisite directions; but commonly withdraws again on the morrow,
leaving the monster to himself and his own ways. I have Books; a
complete Edition of _Voltaire_, for one Book, in which I read for _use_,
or for idleness oftenest,--getting into endless reflexions over it,
mostly of a sad and not very utterable nature. I find V. a 'gentleman,'
living in a world partly furnished with such; and that there are now
almost no 'gentlemen' (not quite _none_): this is one great head of my
reflexions, to which there is no visible _tail_ or finish. I have also a
Horse (borrowed from my fat Yeoman friend, who is at sea-bathing in
Sussex); and I go riding, at great lengths daily, over hill and dale;
this I believe is really the main good I am doing,--if in this either
there be much good. But it is a strange way of life to me, for the time;
perhaps not unprofitable; To let _Chaos_ say out its say, then, and
one's Evil Genius give one the very worst language he has, for a while.
It is still to last for a week or more. Today, for the first time, I
ride back to Chelsea, but mean to return hither on Monday. There is a
great circle of yellow light all the way from Shooter's Hill to Primrose
Hill, spread round my horizon every night, I see it while smoking my
pipe before bed (so bright, last night, it cast a visible shadow of me
against the white window-shutters); and this is all I have to do with
London and its _gases_ for a fortnight or more. My wife writes to me,
there was an awful jangle of bells last day she went home from this; a
Quaker asked in the railway, of some porter, 'Can thou tell me what
these bells mean?'--'Well, I suppose something is up. They say
Sebastopol is took, and the Rushans run away.'--_À la bonne heure_; but
won't they come back again, think you?

On the whole I say, when you get your little Suffolk cottage, you must
have in it a 'chamber in the wall' for me, _plus_ a pony that can trot,
and a cow that gives good milk: with these outfits we shall make a
pretty rustication now and then, not wholly _Latrappish_, but only
_half_, on much easier terms than here; and I shall be right willing to
come and try it, I for one party.--Meanwhile, I hope the Naseby matter
is steadily going ahead; sale _completed_; and even the _monument_
concern making way. Tell me a little how that and other matters are. If
you are at home, a line is rapidly conveyed hither, steam all the way:
after the beginning of the next week, I am at Chelsea, and (I dare so)
there is a fire in the evenings now to welcome you there. Shew face in
some way or other.

And so adieu; for my hour of riding is at hand.

Yours ever truly,

T. CARLYLE.


39. TO MRS. WALSH,

CHELSEA: Sept. 5, 1836.

My dear Aunt,

Now that I am fairly settled at home again, and can look back over my
late travels with the coolness of a spectator, it seems to me that I
must have tired out all men, women and children that have had to do with
me by the road. The proverb says 'there is much ado when cadgers ride.'
I do not know precisely what 'cadger' means, but I imagine it to be a
character like me, liable to head-ache, to sea-sickness, to all the
infirmities 'that flesh is heir to,' and a few others besides; the
friends and relations of cadgers should therefore use all soft
persuasions to induce them to remain at home.[119]

I got into that Mail the other night with as much repugnance and
trepidation as if it had been a Phalaris' brazen bull, instead of a
Christian vehicle, invented for purposes of mercy--not of cruelty. There
were three besides myself when we started, but two dropped off at the
end of the first stage, and the rest of the way I had, as usual, half of
the coach to myself. My fellow-passenger had that highest of all
terrestrial qualities, which for me a fellow-passenger can possess--he
was silent. I think his name was Roscoe, and he read sundry long papers
to himself, with the pondering air of a lawyer.

We breakfasted at Lichfield, at five in the morning, on muddy coffee and
scorched toast, which made me once more lyrically recognise in my heart
(not without a sign of regret) the very different coffee and toast with
which you helped me out of my headache. At two there was another stop of
ten minutes, that might be employed in lunching or otherwise. Feeling
myself more fevered than hungry, I determined on spending the time in
combing my hair and washing my face and hands with vinegar. In the midst
of this solacing operation I heard what seemed to be the Mail running
its rapid course, and quick as lightning it flashed on me, 'There it
goes! and my luggage is on the top of it, and my purse is in the pocket
of it, and here am I stranded on an unknown beach, without so much as a
sixpence in my pocket to pay for the vinegar I have already consumed!'
Without my bonnet, my hair hanging down my back, my face half dried, and
the towel, with which I was drying it, firm grasped in my hand, I dashed
out--along, down, opening wrong doors, stumbling over steps, cursing the
day I was born, still more the day on which I took a notion to travel,
and arrived finally at the bar of the Inn, in a state of excitement
bordering on lunacy. The barmaids looked at me 'with wonder and
amazement.' 'Is the coach gone?' I gasped out. 'The coach? Yes!' 'Oh!
and you have let it away without me! Oh! stop it, cannot you stop it?'
and out I rushed into the street, with streaming hair and streaming
towel, and almost brained myself against--the Mail! which was standing
there in all stillness, without so much as a horse in it! What I had
heard was a heavy coach. And now, having descended like a maniac, I
ascended again like a fool, and dried the other half of my face, and put
on my bonnet, and came back 'a sadder and a wiser woman.'

I did not find my husband at the 'Swan with Two Necks'; for we were in a
quarter of an hour before the appointed time. So I had my luggage put
on the backs of two porters, and walked on to Cheapside, where I
presently found a Chelsea omnibus. By and by, however, the omnibus
stopped, and amid cries of 'No room, sir,' 'Can't get in,' Carlyle's
face, beautifully set off by a broad-brimmed white hat, gazed in at the
door, like the Peri, who, 'at the Gate of Heaven, stood disconsolate.'
In hurrying along the Strand, pretty sure of being too late, amidst all
the imaginable and unimaginable phenomena which the immense thoroughfare
of a street presents, his eye (Heaven bless the mark!) had lighted on my
trunk perched on the top of the omnibus, and had recognised it. This
seems to me one of the most indubitable proofs of genius which he ever
manifested. Happily, a passenger went out a little further on, and then
he got in.

My brother-in-law had gone two days before, so my arrival was most
well-timed. I found all at home right and tight; my maid seems to have
conducted herself quite handsomely in my absence; my best room looked
really inviting. A bust of Shelley (a present from Leigh Hunt), and a
fine print of Albert Durer, handsomely framed (also a present) had still
further ornamented it during my absence. I also found (for I wish to
tell you all my satisfaction) every grate in the house furnished with a
supply of coloured clippings, and the holes in the stair-carpet all
darned, so that it looks like new. They gave me tea and fried bacon, and
staved off my headache as well as might be. They were very kind to me,
but, on my life, everybody is kind to me, and to a degree that fills me
with admiration. I feel so strong a wish to make you all convinced how
very deeply I feel your kindness, and just the more I would say, the
less able I am to say anything.

God bless you all. Love to all, from the head of the house down to
Johnny.

Your affectionate,

JANE W. CARLYLE.


40. TO MRS. STIRLING, HILL STREET, EDINBURGH.

5 CHEYNE ROW, CHELSEA: October 21, 1859.

You dear nice woman! there you are! a bright cheering apparition to
surprise one on a foggy October morning, over one's breakfast--that most
trying institution for people who are 'nervous' and 'don't sleep!'

It (the photograph) made our breakfast this morning 'pass off,' like the
better sort of breakfasts in Deerbrook,[120] in which people seemed to
have come into the world chiefly to eat breakfast in every possible
variety of temper!

Blessed be the inventor of photography! I set him above even the
inventor of chloroform! It has given more positive pleasure to poor
suffering humanity than anything that has 'cast[121] up' in my time or
is like to--this art by which even the 'poor' can possess themselves of
tolerable likenesses of their absent dear ones. And mustn't it be acting
favourably on the morality of the country? I assure you I have often
gone into my own room, in the devil's own humour--ready to answer at
'things in general,' and some things in particular--and, my eyes resting
by chance on one of my photographs of long-ago places and people, a
crowd of sad, gentle thoughts has rushed into my heart, and driven the
devil out, as clean as ever so much holy water and priestly exorcism
could have done! I have a photograph of Haddington church tower, and my
father's tombstone in it--of every place I ever lived at as a
home--photographs of old lovers! old friends, old servants, old dogs! In
a day or two, you, dear, will be framed and hung up among the 'friends.'
And that bright, kind, indomitable face of yours will not be the least
efficacious face there for exorcising my devil, when I have him! Thank
you a thousand times for keeping your word! Of course you would--that is
just the beauty of you, that you never deceive nor disappoint.

Oh my dear! my dear! how awfully tired I was with the journey home, and
yet I had taken two days to it, sleeping--that is, attempting to
sleep--at York. What a pity it is that Scotland is so far off! all the
good one has gained there gets shaken off one in the terrific journey
home again, and then the different atmosphere is so trying to one fresh
from the pure air of Fife--so exhausting and depressing. If it hadn't
been that I had a deal of housemaiding to execute during the week I was
here before Mr. C. returned, I must have given occasion for newspaper
paragraphs under the head of 'Melancholy Suicide.' But dusting books,
making chair covers, and 'all that sort of thing,' leads one on
insensibly to live--till the crisis gets safely passed.

My dear! I haven't time nor inclination for much letter-writing--nor
have you, I should suppose, but do let us exchange letters now and then.
A friendship which has lived on air for so many years together is worth
the trouble of giving it a little human sustenance.

Give my kind regards to your husband--I like him--and believe me,

Your ever affectionate,

JANE WELSH CARLYLE.

FOOTNOTES:

[119] Clever as she was, she surely made a mistake here--unless she did
it on purpose, which is quite possible. "Cadger" is of course only
"beggar," and the proverb is the Scotch equivalent of ours about the
"beggar on horseback," pretty frequently illustrated now-a-days.

[120] The Deerbrook breakfasts refer to Miss Martineau's poor novel. (T.
C.)

[121] Turned. (T. C.)



THOMAS BABINGTON MACAULAY (1800-1859)


     There are very few examples in biography where the
     publication of letters has had a happier effect on the
     general idea of the writer than in Macaulay's case. It is
     not here a question of historical trustworthiness, or even
     of literary-style, in both which respects he has come in for
     severe strictures and sometimes for rather half-hearted
     defence. Nor do the letters display any purely literary
     gifts in him (except perhaps a playfulness of humour or at
     least wit) which do not appear in the _History_ and the
     _Essays_. But, as the exception may perhaps partly indicate,
     they extend and improve the notion of his personality in the
     most remarkable fashion. Even those who did not quarrel with
     his views sometimes, before Sir George Trevelyan's book,
     disliked and regretted what have been called his "pistolling
     ways"--the positive, hectoring "hold-your-tongue" sort of
     tone which dominated his productions. With the very rarest
     exceptions, themselves sometimes of a revealing and
     excusable frankness, this tone is, if not quite absent[122]
     from, much seldomer present in, his letters. He jokes
     without difficulty; talks without in the least monopolising
     the conversation; shows himself often willing to live and
     let live; and is on the whole as different a person as
     possible from the Macaulay who is sure that "every
     schoolboy" knows better than the author he is reviewing, and
     who finds Johnson guilty of superstition and Swift of
     apostasy. "Happy thrice and more also" are those whose
     letters thus vindicate them. I have purposely chosen the
     following example (written to his sister) from the most
     _mundane_ class. "Appointment" was to the _Indian_ Council,
     which explains the "Cotton" and "Muslin" and other things.
     "Ellis" (Thomas Flower), a friend of Macaulay's from
     Cambridge days and his literary executor in part.
     "Lushington" (Stephen), a civilian lawyer of great eminence
     as a judge in Admiralty and ecclesiastical matters, but a
     rather violent politician. "Town"--Leeds. "Miss Berry" is
     annotated elsewhere. "Sir Stratford Canning," later Viscount
     Stratford de Redcliffe, George Canning's cousin, and one of
     the most famous diplomatists of the nineteenth century,
     especially during his long tenure of the Embassy at
     Constantinople. _Vivian Grey_--Disraeli's first novel. "Lady
     Holland," the most famous hostess on the Whig side in the
     first half of the nineteenth century, but, by all accounts,
     a person now and then quite intolerable. "Allen" (John), an
     _Edinburgh Reviewer_, was familiarly called her "tame
     atheist" (All the company were of the Holland House "set").
     "Bobus"--Robert Percy Smith, Sydney's elder brother, a great
     wit and scholar. "Cosher," an Irish word, is not always used
     in this sense of "chat."


41. TO HIS SISTER

LONDON: November 1833.

Dear Hannah,

Things stand as they stood; except that the report of my appointment is
every day spreading more widely; and that I am beset by advertising
dealers begging leave to make up a hundred cotton shirts for me, and
fifty muslin gowns for you, and by clerks out of place begging to be my
secretaries. I am not in very high spirits to-day, as I have just
received a letter from poor Ellis, to whom I had not communicated my
intentions till yesterday. He writes so affectionately and so
plaintively that he quite cuts me to the heart. There are few indeed
from whom I shall part with so much pain; and he, poor fellow, says
that, next to his wife, I am the person for whom he feels the most
thorough attachment, and in whom he places the most unlimited
confidence.

On the 11th of this month there is to be a dinner given to Lushington by
the electors of the Tower Hamlets. He has persecuted me with
importunities to attend and make a speech for him; and my father has
joined in the request. It is enough, in these times, Heaven knows, for a
man who represents, as I do, a town of a hundred and twenty thousand
people to keep his own constituents in good humour; and the Spitalfields
weavers and Whitechapel butchers are nothing to me. But, ever since I
succeeded in what everybody allows to have been the most hazardous
attempt of the kind ever made,--I mean in persuading an audience of
manufacturers, all Whigs or Radicals, that the immediate alteration of
the corn-laws was impossible,--I have been considered as a capital
physician for desperate cases in politics. However, to return from that
delightful theme, my own praises, Lushington, who is not very popular
with the rabble of the Tower Hamlets, thinks that an oration from me
would give him a lift. I could not refuse him directly, backed as he was
by my father. I only said that I would attend if I were in London on the
11th, but I added that, situated as I was, I thought it very probable
that I should be out of town.

I shall go to-night to Miss Berry's _soirée_. I do not know whether I
told you that she resented my article on Horace Walpole so much that Sir
Stratford Canning advised me not to go near her. She was Walpole's
greatest favourite. His Reminiscences are addressed to her in terms of
the most gallant eulogy. When he was dying at past eighty, he asked her
to marry him, merely that he might make her a Countess and leave her his
fortune. You know that in _Vivian Grey_ she is called Miss Otranto. I
always expected that my article would put her into a passion, and I was
not mistaken; but she has come round again, and sent me a most pressing
and kind invitation the other day.

I have been racketing lately, having dined twice with Rogers, and once
with Grant. Lady Holland is in a most extraordinary state. She came to
Rogers's, with Allen, in so bad a humour that we were all forced to
rally, and make common cause against her. There was not a person at
table to whom she was not rude; and none of us were inclined to submit.
Rogers sneered; Sydney made merciless sport of her; Tom Moore looked
excessively impertinent; Bobus put her down with simple straightforward
rudeness; and I treated her with what I meant to be the coldest
civility. Allen flew into a rage with us all, and especially with
Sydney, whose guffaws, as the Scotch say, were indeed tremendous. When
she and all the rest were gone, Rogers made Tom Moore and me sit down
with him for half an hour, and we coshered over the events of the
evening. Rogers said that he thought Allen's firing up in defence of his
patroness the best thing that he has seen in him. No sooner had Tom and
I got into the street than he broke forth: "That such an old stager as
Rogers should talk such nonsense, and give Allen credit for attachment
to anything but his dinner! Allen was bursting with envy to see us so
free, while he was conscious of his own slavery."

Her Ladyship has been the better for this discipline. She has
overwhelmed me ever since with attentions and invitations. I have at
last found out the cause of her ill-humour, or at least of that portion
of it of which I was the object. She is in a rage at my article on
Walpole, but at what part of it I cannot tell. I know that she is very
intimate with the Waldegraves, to whom the manuscripts belong, and for
whose benefit the letters were published. But my review was surely not
calculated to injure the sale of the book. Lord Holland told me, in an
aside, that he quite agreed with me, but that we had better not discuss
the subject.

A note; and, by my life, from my Lady Holland: "Dear Mr. Macaulay, pray
wrap yourself very warm, and come to us on Wednesday." No, my good Lady.
I am engaged on Wednesday to dine at the Albion Tavern with the
Directors of the East India Company; now my servants; next week, I hope,
to be my masters.

Ever yours,

T. B. M.

FOOTNOTES:

[122] Indeed it exemplifies Defoe's favourite proverb about "What is
bred in the bone," etc.--as for instance when, while admitting
Chesterfield's high position in some ways, he calls the _Letters_ "for
the most part trash." It is scarcely too much to call such criticism
itself "trashy."



THOMAS LOVELL BEDDOES (1803-1849)


     Beddoes belongs to the small but remarkable company of
     authors who, making little mark in their own time and none
     at all for some time afterwards, before very long come into
     something like their due, though they never can be exactly
     popular. He was certainly very eccentric and possibly quite
     mad: the circumstances of his suicide do more than justify
     the hopes of charity and the convention of coroners' juries,
     as to the latter conclusion. But he was an extremely
     poetical poet and a letter-writer of remarkable
     individuality and zest. Little notice seems to have been
     taken, by any save a very few elect, of the first collected
     publication of his work just after his death: though a
     single piece, _The Bride's Tragedy_, not by any means his
     best, had obtained praise in 1822--a time between the great
     poetical outburst of the early nineteenth century and the
     revival of its middle period. But Mr. Gosse's reissue in
     completer form of the _Poems_ in 1890 and the _Letters_ four
     years later, lodged him at once in the affection of all
     competent critics. With something of the more eccentric
     spirit of the seventeenth century in him, and something of
     the Romantic revival as shown in Coleridge, Shelley and
     Keats, he had much of his own, though he never got it
     thoroughly or sustainedly organised and expressed. His
     mingled passion and humour (especially the latter)
     "escape"--make fitful spurts and explosions--in his
     correspondence. Latterly this reflects his mental breakdown,
     increasingly in the prose; though only a few years before
     the end it contains wonderful verse such as the song, "The
     swallow leaves her nest," which is a link between Blake and
     Canon Dixon. But earlier, as in the following, there is
     nothing beyond oddity. Of this there may seem to be a good
     share, but a few notes will make it intelligible. It clearly
     heralds, though the thing is first definitely indicated in a
     later letter, Beddoes' marvellous tragedy _Death's
     Jest-book_, which he wrote and re-wrote till it became like
     the picture in Balzac's story an "Unknown [and Unknowable]
     Masterpiece." The letter is further remarkable as combining
     intense admiration for the _old_ masterpieces with a quite
     "modern" insistence on "begetting" rather than
     "reviving"--on "giving the literature of the age a spirit of
     its own," etc. For details: "Sulky" (compare the French
     _désobligeante_, celebrated by Sterne)--an obsolete form of
     chaise. "Breaking Priscian's head" is familiar enough for
     "using bad grammar," which the book-keeper very likely did;
     but the explanation may be more remote. "Like a ghost from
     the tomb" though not "quoted" is, of course, his beloved
     Shelley's ("The Cloud"). "_Biped_ knock" = merely
     "double"--the peculiar rat-tat which postmen have mostly
     forgotten or not learnt--perhaps regarding it as a badge of
     slavery like "tips." _The Fatal Dowry_--attributed to (Field
     and) Massinger, and spoilt by Rowe into his nevertheless
     popular _Fair Penitent_,--is one of the finest examples of
     the second stage of Elizabethan drama. _Ultracrepidarian_--a
     term derived from the Latin proverb _ne sutor supra_ (or
     _ultra_) _crepidam_ and specially applied to the unpopular
     critic Gifford who had been a shoemaker--meaning generally
     "some one who _does_ go beyond his last and meddles with
     things he does not understand." "McCready's" (Macready, the
     famous actor and manager) friend Walker was probably Sidney
     Walker the Shakespearian critic.


42. TO THOMAS FORBES KELSALL

26 MALL, CLIFTON.
(Postmark, Jan. 11. 1825)

Dear Kelsall--

Day after day since Christmas I have intended to write or go to London,
and day after day I have deferred both projects; and now I will give you
the adventures and mishaps of this present sunday. Remorse, and
startling conscience, in the form of an old, sulky, and a shying, horse,
hurried me to the 'Regulator' coach-office on Saturday: 'Does the
Regulator and its team conform to the Mosaic decalogue, Mr.
Book-keeper?' He broke Priscian's head, and through the aperture,
assured me that it did not: I was booked for the inside:--"Call at 26
Mall for me."--"Yes, Sir, at 1/2 past five, A.M."--At five I rose like a
ghost from the tomb, and betook me to coffee. No wheels rolled through
the streets but the inaudible ones of that uncreated hour. It struck
six,--a coach was called,--we hurried to the office but _the_ coach was
gone. Here followed a long Brutus-and-Cassius discourse between a
shilling-buttoned-waistcoatteer of a porter and myself, which ended in
my extending mercy to the suppliant coach-owners, and agreeing to accept
a place for Monday. All well thus far. The biped knock of the post
alighted on the door at twelve, and two letters were placed upon my
German dictionary,--your own, which I at first intended to reply to vivâ
voce, had not the second informed me of my brother's arrival in England,
his short leave of absence, and his intention to visit me here next
week. This twisted my strong purpose like a thread, and disposed me to
remain here about ten days longer. On the 21st at latest I go to
London. Be there and I will join you, or, if not, pursue you to
Southampton.

The Fatal Dowry has been cobbled, I see, by some purblind
ultra-crepidarian--McCready's friend, Walker, very likely; but
nevertheless, I maintain 'tis a good play, and might have been rendered
very effective by docking it of the whole fifth act, which is an
excrescence,--re-creating Novall, and making Beaumelle a great deal more
ghost-gaping and moonlightish. The cur-tailor has taken out the most
purple piece in the whole web--the end of the fourth Act--and shouldered
himself into toleration through the prejudices of the pit, when he
should have built his admiration on their necks. Say what you will, I am
convinced the man who is to awaken the drama must be a bold trampling
fellow, no creeper into worm-holes, no reviver even, however good. These
reanimations are vampire-cold. Such ghosts as Marloe, Webster &c. are
better dramatists, better poets, I dare say, than any contemporary of
ours, but they are ghosts; the worm is in their pages; and we want to
see something that our great-grandsires did not know. With the greatest
reverence for all the antiquities of the drama, I still think that we
had better beget than revive; attempt to give the literature of this age
an idiosyncrasy and spirit of its own, and only raise a ghost to gaze
on, not to live with--just now the drama is a haunted ruin.

       *       *       *       *       *



ELIZABETH BARRETT BROWNING (1806-1861)


     Mrs. Browning was in the habit of using rather extravagant
     language herself: and she has certainly been the victim of
     language extravagant enough both in praise (the more
     damaging of the two) and blame from others. FitzGerald's
     unlucky exaggeration (see Introduction) in one way may be
     set off by such opposite assertions as that some of her
     poems are "the best of their kind in the English language."
     But her letters need cause no such alarums and excursions.
     If they are sometimes what is called by youth "Early
     Victorian"--"Early Anything," and "Middle Anything" and
     "Late Anything," are sure to be found sooner or later by all
     wise persons to have their own place in life and history.
     And sentimentalism has, in private prose, an infinitely less
     provocative character than when it is displayed in published
     verse. A distinguished Scotch philosopher of the last
     generation laid it down that, in literature, for
     demonstrative exhibitions of affection and sorrow "the
     occasion should be adequate, and the actuality rare." But
     letter-writing, though it can be eminently literary, is
     always literature with a certain license attached to it:
     arising from the fact that it was not--or ought not to have
     been--intended for publication. And that naturalness of
     which so much has been said is displayed constantly and by
     no means disagreeably in Elizabeth Barrett Browning's
     epistles. In fact, you cannot help liking her the better for
     them--which in one way at least is the supreme test. The
     following, written soon after her marriage--an elopement of
     a kind, but certainly justifiable if ever one was--is a very
     pleasant specimen in more ways than one, as regards taste,
     temper, and descriptive powers. It also contains no
     criticism, which in her case was apt to be extremely
     uncertain.


43. TO MRS. MARTIN

(PISA) November 5, (1846)

It was pleasant to me, my dearest friend, to think while I was reading
your letter yesterday, that almost by that time you had received mine,
and could not even seem to doubt a moment longer whether I admitted your
claim of hearing and of speaking to the uttermost. I recognised you too
entirely as my friend. Because you had put faith in me, so much the more
reason there was that I should justify it as far as I could, and with as
much frankness (which was a part of my gratitude to you) as was possible
from a woman to a woman. Always I have felt that you have believed in me
and loved me, and, for the sake of the past and of the present, your
affection and your esteem are more to me than I could afford to lose,
even in these changed and happy circumstances. So I thank you once more,
my dear kind friends, I thank you both--I never shall forget your
goodness. I feel it, of course, the more deeply, in proportion to the
painful disappointment in other quarters.... Am I bitter? The feeling,
however, passes while I write it out, and my own affection for everybody
will wait patiently to be 'forgiven' in the proper form, when everybody
shall be at leisure properly. Assuredly, in the meanwhile, however, my
case is not to be classed with other cases--what happened to me could
not have happened, perhaps, with any other family in England.... I hate
and loathe everything too which is clandestine--we _both_ do, Robert and
I; and the manner the whole business was carried on in might have
instructed the least acute of the bystanders. The flowers standing
perpetually on my table for the last two years were brought there by one
hand, as everybody knew; and really it would have argued an excess of
benevolence in an unmarried man with quite enough resources in London,
to pay the continued visits he paid to me without some strong motive
indeed. Was it his fault that he did not associate with everybody in the
house as well as with me? He desired it; but no--that was not to be. The
endurance of the pain of the position was not the least proof of his
attachment to me. How I thank you for believing in him--how grateful it
makes me! He will justify to the uttermost that faith. We have been
married two months, and every hour has bound me to him more and more; if
the beginning was well, still better it is now--that is what he says to
me, and I say back again day by day. Then it is an 'advantage' to have
an inexhaustible companion who talks wisdom of all things in heaven and
earth, and shows besides as perpetual a good humour and gaiety as if he
were--a fool, shall I say? or a considerable quantity more, perhaps. As
to our domestic affairs, it is not to _my_ honour and glory that the
'bills' are made up every week and paid more regularly 'than bard
beseems,' while dear Mrs. Jameson laughs outright at our miraculous
prudence and economy, and declares that it is past belief and precedent
that we should not burn the candles at both ends, and the next moment
will have it that we remind her of the children in a poem of Heine's who
set up housekeeping in a tub, and inquired gravely the price of coffee.
Ah, but she has left Pisa at last--left it yesterday. It was a painful
parting to everybody. Seven weeks spent in such close neighbourhood--a
month of it under the same roof and in the same carriages--will fasten
people together, and then travelling _shakes_ them together. A more
affectionate, generous woman never lived than Mrs. Jameson[123] and it
is pleasant to be sure that she loves us both from her heart, and not
only _du bout des lèvres_. Think of her making Robert promise (as he has
told me since) that in the case of my being unwell he would write to her
instantly, and she would come at once if anywhere in Italy. So kind, so
like her. She spends the winter in Rome, but an intermediate, month at
Florence, and we are to keep tryst with her somewhere in the spring,
perhaps at Venice. If not, she says that she will come back here, for
that certainly she will see us. She would have stayed altogether
perhaps, if it had not been for her book upon art which she is engaged
to bring out next year, and the materials for which are to be _sought_.
As to Pisa, she liked it just as we like it. Oh, it is so beautiful and
so full of repose, yet not _desolate_: it is rather the repose of sleep
than of death. Then after the first ten days of rain, which seemed to
refer us fatally to Alfieri's 'piove e ripiove' came as perpetual a
divine sunshine, such cloudless, exquisite weather that we ask whether
it may not be June instead of November. Every day I am out walking while
the golden oranges look at me over the walls, and when I am tired Robert
and I sit down on a stone to watch the lizards. We have been to your
seashore, too, and seen your island, only he insists on it (Robert does)
that it is not Corsica but Gorgona, and that Corsica is not in sight.
_Beautiful_ and blue the island was, however, in any case. It might have
been Romero's instead of either. Also we have driven up to the foot of
the mountains, and seen them reflected down in the little pure lake of
Ascuno, and we have seen the pine woods, and met the camels laden with
faggots all in a line. So now ask me again if I enjoy my liberty as you
expect. My head goes round sometimes, that is all. I never was happy
before in my life. Ah, but, of course, the painful thoughts recur! There
are some whom I love too tenderly to be easy under their displeasure, or
even under their injustice. Only it seems to me that with time and
patience my poor dearest papa will be melted into opening his arms to
us--will be melted into a clear understanding of motives and intentions;
I cannot believe that he will forget me, as he says he will, and go on
thinking me to be dead rather than alive and happy. So I manage to hope
for the best, and all that remains, all my life here, _is_ best already,
could not be better or happier. And willingly tell dear Mr. Martin I
would take him and you for witnesses of it, and in the meanwhile he is
not to send me tantalising messages; no, indeed, unless you really,
really, should let yourselves be wafted our way, and could you do so
much better at Pau? particularly if Fanny Hanford should come here. Will
she really? The climate is described by the inhabitants as a 'pleasant
spring throughout the winter,' and if you were to see Robert and me
threading our path along the shady side everywhere to avoid the
'excessive heat of the sun' in this November (?) it would appear a good
beginning. We are not in the warm orthodox position by the Arno because
we heard with our ears one of the best physicians of the place advise
against it. 'Better,' he said, 'to have cool rooms to live in and warm
walks to go out along.' The rooms we have are rather over-cool perhaps;
we are obliged to have a little fire in the sitting-room, in the
mornings and evenings that is; but I do not fear for the winter, there
is too much difference to my feelings between this November and any
English November I ever knew. We have our dinner from the Trattoria at
two o'clock, and can dine our favourite way on thrushes and Chianti with
a miraculous cheapness, and no trouble, no cook, no kitchen; the prophet
Elijah or the lilies of the field took as little thought for their
dining, which exactly suits us. It is a continental fashion which we
never cease commending. Then at six we have coffee, and rolls of milk,
made of milk, I mean, and at nine our supper (call it supper, if you
please) of roast chestnuts and grapes. So you see how primitive we are,
and how I forget to praise the eggs at breakfast. The worst of Pisa is,
or would be to some persons, that, socially speaking, it has its
dullnesses; it is not lively like Florence, not in that way. But we do
not want society, we shun it rather. We like the Duomo and the Campo
Santo instead. Then we know a little of Professor Ferucci, who gives us
access to the University library, and we subscribe to a modern one, and
we have plenty of writing to do of our own. If we can do anything for
Fanny Hanford, let us know. It would be too happy, I suppose, to have to
do it for yourselves. Think, however, I am quite well, quite well. I can
thank God, too, for being alive and well. Make dear Mr. Martin keep
well, and not forget himself in the Herefordshire cold--draw him into
the sun somewhere. Now write and tell me everything of your plans and of
you both, dearest friends. My husband bids me say that he desires to
have my friends for his own friends, and that he is grateful to you for
not crossing that feeling. Let him send his regards to you. And let me
be throughout all changes,

Your ever faithful and most affectionate,

BA.

FOOTNOTES:

[123] Anna Jameson (1794-1860) was a woman of letters and an art-critic
at one time of immense influence through her illustrated books on
"Sacred and Legendary" (as well as some other) "Art." But, as somehow or
other happens not infrequently, the objects of her "affection and
generosity" did not include her husband.



EDWARD FITZGERALD (1809-1883)


     Not much need be added to what was said in the Introduction
     about this famous translator and almost equally, though less
     uniquely, remarkable letter-writer. His life was entirely
     uneventful and his friendships have been already
     commemorated. The version of Omar Khayyàm appeared in 1859;
     was an utter "drug"--remainder copies going at a few
     pence--for a time; but became one of the most admired books
     of the English nineteenth century before very long. Some of
     his _Letters_ were published at various times from 1889 to
     1901 (those to Fanny Kemble in 1895). It is not perhaps
     merely fanciful to suggest that the "uniqueness" above
     glanced at does supply a sort of connection between the
     _Letters_ and the _Works_. The faculty of at once retaining
     the matter of a subject and transforming it in treatment has
     perhaps never, as regards translation, been exhibited in
     such transcendence as in the English _Rubaiyàt_. But
     something of this same faculty must belong to every good
     letter-writer--and a good deal of it certainly is shown by
     FitzGerald in _his_ letters. Indeed one of the processes of
     letter-and memoir-study (the memoir as has been said is
     practically an "open" letter) is that of comparing the
     treatments of the same subject by different persons--say of
     the Great Fire by Pepys and Evelyn, of the Riots of '80 by
     Walpole and Johnson. He himself, as will be seen, calls the
     letter given below "not very interesting." It seems to me
     very interesting indeed: and likely to be increasingly so as
     time goes on. Few things could be more characteristic of the
     writer than his way of "visiting his sister" by living alone
     in lodgings all _day_ for a month. The "_old_
     age"--forty-five--is hardly less so. The allusions to
     "Alfred" (Tennyson); "old" Thackeray, for whom he constantly
     keeps the affectionate school and college use of the
     adjective; Landor[124] (who unluckily did _not_ die at Bath
     though he might have done so but for one of the last and
     least creditable of his eccentricities); Beckford ("Old
     Vathek"), and a fourth "old," Rogers (who was one of
     FitzGerald's aversions); Oxford (as yet almost unstained by
     any modernities spiritual or material); and Bath[125] (to
     remain still longer a "haunt of ancient peace")--are
     precious. The fifth "old," Spedding, who devoted chiefly to
     Bacon talents worthy of more varied exercise, was one of the
     innermost Tennyson set, as was "Harry" Lushington, who died
     very soon after this letter was written. "Your Book" is F.
     Tennyson's _Days and Hours_, a volume of poetry while
     reading which probably many people have wondered in what
     respect it came short of really great poetry, though they
     felt it did so.


44. TO FREDERIC TENNYSON

BATH May 7/54.

My dear Frederic,

You see to what fashionable places I am reduced in my old Age. The truth
is however I am come here by way of Visit to a sister I have scarce seen
these six years; my visit consisting in this that I live alone in a
lodging of my own by day, and spend two or three hours with her in the
Evening. This has been my way of Life for three weeks, and will be so
for some ten days more: after which I talk of flying back to more native
counties. I was to have gone on to see Alfred in his "Island Home" from
here: but it appears he goes to London about the same time I quit this
place: so I must and shall defer my Visit to him. Perhaps I shall catch
a sight of him in London; as also of old Thackeray who, Donne writes me
word, came suddenly on him in Pall Mall the other day: while all the
while people supposed _The Newcomes_ were being indited at Rome or
Naples.

If ever you live in England you must live here at Bath. It really is a
splendid City in a lovely, even a noble, Country. Did you ever see it?
One beautiful feature in the place is the quantity of Garden and Orchard
it is all through embroidered with. Then the Streets, when you go into
them, are as handsome and gay as London, gayer and handsomer because
cleaner and in a clearer Atmosphere; and if you want the Country you get
into it (and a very fine Country) on all sides and directly. Then there
is such Choice of Houses, Cheap as well as Dear, of all sizes, with good
Markets, Railways etc. I am not sure I shall not come here for part of
the Winter. It is a place you would like, I am sure: though I do not say
but you are better in Florence. Then on the top of the hill is old
Vathek's Tower, which he used to sit and read in daily, and from which
he could see his own Fonthill, while it stood. Old Landor quoted to me
'Nullus in orbe locus, etc.,' apropos of Bath: he, you may know, has
lived here for years, and I should think would die here, though not yet.
He seems so strong that he may rival old Rogers; of whom indeed one
Newspaper gave what is called an 'Alarming Report of Mr. Rogers' Health'
the other day, but another contradicted it directly and indignantly,
and declared the Venerable Poet never was better. Landor has some
hundred and fifty Pictures; each of which he thinks the finest specimen
of the finest Master, and has a long story about, how he got it, when,
etc. I dare say some are very good: but also some very bad. He appeared
to me to judge of them as he does of Books and Men; with a most
uncompromising perversity which the Phrenologists must explain to us
after his Death.

By the bye, about your Book, which of course you wish me to say
something about. Parker sent me down a copy 'from the Author' for which
I hereby thank you. If you believe my word, you already know my
Estimation of so much that is in it: you have already guessed that I
should have made a different selection from the great Volume which is
now in Tatters. As I differ in Taste from the world, however, quite as
much as from you, I do not know but you have done very much better in
choosing as you have; the few people I have seen are very much pleased
with it, the Cowells at Oxford delighted. A Bookseller there sold all
his Copies the first day they came down: and even in Bath a Bookseller
(and not one of the Principal) told me a fortnight ago he had sold some
twenty copies. I have not been in Town since it came out: and have now
so little correspondence with literati I can't tell you about them.
There was a very unfair Review in the _Athenaeum_; which is the only
Literary Paper I see: but I am told there are laudatory ones in
_Examiner_ and _Spectator_.

I was five weeks at Oxford, visiting the Cowells in just the same way
that I am visiting my Sister here. I also liked Oxford greatly: but not
so well I think as Bath: which is so large and busy that one is drowned
in it as much as in London. There are often concerts, etc., for those
who like them; I only go to a shilling affair that comes off every
Saturday at what they call the Pump Room. On these occasions there is
sometimes some Good Music if not excellently played. Last Saturday I
heard a fine Trio of Beethoven. Mendelssohn's things are mostly tiresome
to me. I have brought my old Handel Book here and recreate myself now
and then with pounding one of the old Giant's Overtures on my sister's
Piano, as I used to do on that Spinnet at my Cottage. As to Operas, and
Exeter Halls, I have almost done with them: they give me no pleasure, I
scarce know why.

I suppose there is no chance of your being over in England this year,
and perhaps as little Chance of my being in Italy. All I can say is, the
latter is not impossible, which I suppose I may equally say of the
former. But pray write me. You can always direct to me at Donne's, 12,
St. James' Square, or at Rev. G. Crabbe's, Bredfield, Woodbridge. Either
way the letter will soon reach me. Write soon, Frederic, and let me hear
how you and yours are: and don't wait, as you usually do, for some
inundation of the Arno to set your pen agoing. Write ever so shortly and
whatever-about-ly. I have no news to tell you of Friends. I saw old
Spedding in London; only doubly calm after the death of a Niece he
dearly loved and whose deathbed at Hastings he had just been waiting
upon. Harry Lushington wrote a martial Ode on seeing the Guards march
over Waterloo Bridge towards the East: I did not see it, but it was much
admired and handed about, I believe. And now my paper is out: and I am
going through the rain (it is said to rain very much here) to my
Sister's. So Goodbye, and write to me, as I beg you, in reply to this
long if not very interesting letter.

FOOTNOTES:

[124] "Fitz's" remarks on Landor's judgment of "Pictures, Books and Men"
are very amusing; for they have been often repeated in regard to his own
on all these subjects. In fact the two, though FitzGerald was not so
childish as Landor, had much in common.

[125] The curious eulogy--preferring it to Oxford as being "large and
busy" enough to "drown one as much" as London--is also very
characteristic of FitzGerald. You can be alone in the country _and_ in a
large town--hardly in a small one.



FRANCES ANNE KEMBLE (1809-1893)


     To what has been said before of this remarkably gifted lady
     little need be added. The two letters which follow, derived
     from _Further Records_ (London, 1890), were written rather
     late in her life, but are characteristic, in ways partly
     coinciding, partly divergent, of her strong intellect[126]
     and her powers of expression. The note to the ghost-story
     leaves open the question whether Fanny did or did not know
     the accepted doctrine that the master and mistress of a
     haunted house are exempt from actual haunting. The "whiff of
     grape-shot" (as Carlyle might have called it) on the
     "Bakespearian" absurdity is one of the best things on the
     subject that the present writer, in a long and wide
     experience, has come across.


45. TO H---- [EXTRACT]

YORK FARM, BRANCHTOWN,
PHILADELPHIA, Monday May 18th, 1874.

One evening that my maid was sitting in the room from which she could
see the whole of the staircase and upper landing, she saw the door of my
bedroom open, and an elderly woman in a flannel dressing-gown, with a
bonnet on her head, and a candle in her hand come out, walk the whole
length of the passage, and return again into the bedroom, shutting the
door after her. My maid knew that I was in the drawing-room below in my
usual black velvet evening dress; moreover, the person she had seen bore
no resemblance either in figure or face to me, or to any member of my
household, which consisted of three young servant women besides herself,
and a negro man-servant. My maid was a remarkably courageous and
reasonable person, and, though very much startled (for she went directly
upstairs and found no one in the rooms), she kept her counsel, and
mentioned the circumstance to nobody, though, as she told me afterwards,
she was so afraid lest I should have a similar visitation, that she was
strongly tempted to ask Dr. W----'s advice as to the propriety of
mentioning her experience to me. She refrained from doing so, however,
and some time later, as she was sitting in the dusk in the same room,
the man-servant came in to light the gas and made her start, observing
which, he said, "Why, lors, Miss Ellen, you jump as if you had seen a
ghost." In spite of her late experience, Ellen very gravely replied,
"Nonsense, William, how can you talk such stuff! You don't believe in
such things as ghosts, do you?" "Well," he said, "I don't know just so
sure what to say to that, seeing it's very well known there was a ghost
in this house." "Pshaw!" said Ellen. "Whose ghost?" "Well, poor Mrs.
R----'s ghost, it's very well known, walks about this house, and no
great wonder either, seeing how miserably she lived and died here." To
Ellen's persistent expressions of contemptuous incredulity, he went on,
"Well, Miss Ellen, all I can say is, several girls" (_i.e._
maid-servants) "have left this house on account of it"; and there the
conversation ended. Some days after this, Ellen coming into the
drawing-room to speak to me, stopped abruptly at the door, and stood
there, having suddenly recognized in a portrait immediately opposite to
it, and which was that of the dead mistress of the house, the face of
the person she had seen come out of my bedroom. I think this a very tidy
ghost story; and I am bound to add, as a proper commentary on it, that I
have never inhabited a house which affected me with a sense of such
intolerable melancholy gloominess as this; without any assignable reason
whatever, either in its situation or any of its conditions. My maid, to
the present day, persists in every detail (and without the slightest
variation) of this experience of hers, absolutely rejecting my
explanation of it; that she had heard, without paying any particular
attention to it, some talk among the other servants about the ghost in
the house, which had remained unconsciously to her in her memory, and
reproduced itself in this morbid nervous effect of her imagination.


46. To H---- [EXTRACT]

YORK FARM, Sunday, December 6th, 1874.

My dearest H----,

It is not possible for me to feel the slightest interest in the sort of
literary feat which I consider writing upon "who wrote Shakespeare?" to
be. I was very intimate with Harness, Milman, Dyce, Collier--all
Shakespearian editors, commentators, and scholars--and this absurd
theory about Bacon, which was first broached a good many years ago,
never obtained credit for a moment with them; nor did they ever
entertain for an instant a doubt that the plays attributed to William
Shakespeare of Stratford-on-Avon were really written by him. Now I am
intimately acquainted and in frequent communication with William Donne,
Edward FitzGerald, and James Spedding, all thorough Shakespeare
scholars, and the latter a man who has just published a work upon Bacon,
which has been really the labour of his life; none of these men,
competent judges of the matter, ever mentions the question of "Who wrote
Shakespeare?" except as a ludicrous thing to be laughed at, and I think
they may be trusted to decide whether it is or is not so.

I have a slight feeling of disgust at the attack made thus on the
personality of my greatest mental benefactor; and consider the whole
thing a misapplication, not to say waste, of time and ingenuity that
might be better employed. As I regard the memory of Shakespeare with
love, veneration, and gratitude, and am proud and happy to be his
countrywoman, considering it among the privileges of my English birth, I
resent the endeavour to prove that he deserved none of these feelings,
but was a mere literary impostor. I wonder the question had any interest
for you, for I should not have supposed you imagined Shakespeare had not
written his own plays, Irish though you be. Do you remember the
servant's joke in the farce of "High Life Below Stairs" where the cook
asks, "Who wrote Shakespeare?" and one of the others answers, with, at
any rate, partial plausibility, "Oh! why, Colley Cibber, to be sure!"

FOOTNOTES:

[126] Sometimes one thinks her the wisest woman who ever lived. "Nothing
seems stranger than the delusions of other people _when they have ceased
to be our own_" suggests La Rochefoucauld and comes near to Solomon; but
whosoever may have anticipated or prompted her, he is not at the moment
within my memory. But she is often not wise at all: and even her good
wits are not always left unaffected by her bad temper. It is really
amusing to read Mrs. Carlyle's rather mischievous account of Mrs. Butler
(F. K.'s married name) calling and carrying a whip "to keep her hand
in": and _then_ to come on F. K.'s waspish resentment at these words,
when they were published.



WILLIAM MAKEPEACE THACKERAY
(1811-1863)


     So much has been said of Thackeray's letter-writing powers
     in the Introduction that not much need be added here on the
     general side. But a few words may be allowed on what we may
     call the _conditioning_ circumstances which affected these
     powers, and made the result so peculiar. Except in Swift's
     case--a thing piquant in itself considering the injustice of
     the later writer to the earlier--hardly any body of letters
     exhibits these conditions so obviously and in so varied a
     fashion. In both there was the utmost intellectual satire
     combined with the utmost tenderness of feeling. Thackeray of
     course, partly from nature and partly from the influence of
     time, did not mask his tenderness and double-edge his
     severity with roughness and coarseness. But the combination
     was intrinsically not very different. There has also to be
     taken into account in Thackeray's case domestic
     sorrow--coming quickly and life-long after it began; means
     long restricted (partly by his own folly but not so more
     tolerable); recognition of genius almost as long deferred;
     and yet other "maladies of the soul." The result was a
     constant ferment, of which the letters are in a way the
     relieving valve or tap. That they are often apparently
     light-hearted has nothing surprising in it: for when a man
     habitually "eats his heart" it naturally becomes
     lighter--till there is nothing of it left.

     He is, however, not easy to "sample," there being, as has
     been said, no authorised collection to draw upon and other
     difficulties in the way. What follows may serve for fault
     of a better: and the _Spectator_ letter-pastiche referred to
     above under Walpole, will complete it perhaps more
     appropriately than may at first appear. For while the latter
     is quite Addisonian, not merely in dress but in body, its
     soul is blended of two natures--the model's and the
     artist's--in the rather uncanny fashion which makes _Esmond_
     as a whole so marvellous, except to those stalwarts who hold
     that, as nobody before the twentieth century knew anything
     about anything, Thackeray could not know about the
     eighteenth.


47. TO MISS LUCY BAXTER

WASHINGTON, Saturday
Feb. 19. 1853.

My dear little kind Lucy:

I began to write you a letter in the railroad yesterday, but it bumped
with more than ordinary violence, and I was forced to give up the
endeavour. I did not know how ill Lucy was at that time, only
remembered that I owed her a letter for that pretty one you wrote me
at Philadelphia, when Sarah was sick and you acted as her Secretary.
Is there going to be always Somebody sick at the brown house? If I
were to come there now, I wonder should I be allowed to come and see
you in your night-cap--I wonder even do you wear a night-cap? I should
step up, take your little hand, which I daresay is lying outside the
coverlet, give it a little shake; and then sit down and talk all sorts
of stuff and nonsense to you for half an hour; but very kind and
gentle, not so as to make you laugh too much or your little back ache
any more. Did I not tell you to leave off that beecely jimnayshum? I
am always giving fine advice to girls in brown houses, and they
always keep on never minding. It is not difficult to write lying in
bed--this is written not in bed, but on a sofa. If you write the
upright hand it's quite easy; slanting-dicular is not so pleasant,
though. I have just come back from Baltimore and find your mother's
and sister's melancholy letters. I thought to myself, perhaps I might
see them on this very sofa and pictured to myself their 2 kind faces.
Mr. Crampton was going to ask them to dinner, I had made arrangements
to get Sarah nice partners at the ball--Why did dear little Lucy
tumble down at the Gymnasium? Many a pretty plan in life tumbles down
so, Miss Lucy, and falls on its back. But the good of being ill is to
find how kind one's friends are; of being at a pinch (I do not know
whether I may use the expression--whether "pinch" is an indelicate
word in this country; it is used by our old writers to signify
poverty, narrow circumstances, res angusta)--the good of being poor, I
say, is to find friends to help you, I have been both ill and poor,
and found, thank God, such consolation in those evils; and I daresay
at this moment, now you are laid up, you are the person of the most
importance in the whole house--Sarah is sliding about the room with
cordials in her hands and eyes; Libby is sitting quite disconsolate by
the bed (poor Libby! when one little bird fell off the perch, I wonder
the other did not go up and fall off, too!) the expression of sympathy
in Ben's eyes is perfectly heart-rending; even George is quiet; and
your Father, Mother and Uncle (all 3 so notorious for their violence
of temper and language) have actually forgotten to scold. "Ach, du
lieber Himmel," says Herr Strumpf--isn't his name Herr Strumpf?--the
German master, "die schöne Fräulein ist krank!" and bursts into tears
on the Pianofortyfier's shoulder when they hear the news (through his
sobs) from black John. We have an Ebony femme de chambre here; when I
came from Baltimore just now I found her in the following costume and
attitude standing for her picture to Mr. Crowe. She makes the beds
with that pipe in her mouf and leaves it about in the rooms. Wouldn't
she have been a nice lady's-maid for your mother and Miss Bally
Saxter?

But even if Miss Lucy had not had her fall, I daresay there would have
been no party. Here is a great snow-storm falling, though yesterday
was as bland and bright as May (English May, I mean) and how could we
have lionized Baltimore, and gone to Mount Vernon, and taken our
diversion in the snow? There would have been nothing for it but to
stay in this little closet of a room, where there is scarce room for 6
people, and where it is not near so comfortable as the brown house.
Dear old b.h., shall I see it again soon? I shall not go farther than
Charleston, and Savannah probably, and then I hope I shall get another
look at you all again before I commence farther wanderings--O, stop! I
didn't tell you why I was going to write you--well, I went on Thursday
to dine with Governor and Mrs. Fish, a dinner in honor of me--and
before I went I arrayed myself in a certain white garment of which the
collar-button-holes had been altered, and I thought of the kind,
friendly little hand that had done that deed for me; and when the
Fisheses told me how they lived in the Second Avenue (I had forgotten
all about 'em)--their house and the house opposite came back to my
mind, and I liked them 50 times better for living near some friends of
mine. She is a nice woman, Madam Fish, besides; and didn't I abuse you
all to her? Good bye, dear little Lucy--I wish the paper wasn't full.
But I have been sitting half an hour by the poor young lady's sofa,
and talking stuff and nonsense, haven't I? And now I get up, and shake
your hand with a God bless you! and walk down stairs, and please to
give everybody my kindest regards, and remember that I am truly your
friend.

W. M. T.


48.

THE "TRUMPET" COFFEE-HOUSE,
WHITEHALL.

'Mr Spectator--

'I am a gentleman but little acquainted with the town, though I have had
a university education, and passed some years serving my country abroad,
where my name is better known than in the coffee-houses and St. James's.

'Two years since my uncle died, leaving me a pretty estate in the county
of Kent; and being at Tunbridge Wells last summer, after my mourning was
over, and on the look-out, if truth must be told, for some young lady
who would share with me the solitude of my great Kentish house, and be
kind to my tenantry (for whom a woman can do a great deal more good than
the best-intentioned man can), I was greatly fascinated by a young lady
of London, who was the toast of all the company at the Wells. Everyone
knows Saccharissa's beauty; and I think, Mr. Spectator, no one better
than herself.

'My table-book informs me that I danced no less than seven-and-twenty
sets with her at the assembly. I treated her to the fiddles twice. I was
admitted on several days to her lodging, and received by her with a
great deal of distinction, and, for a time, was entirely her slave. It
was only when I found, from common talk of the company at the Wells, and
from narrowly watching one, who I once thought of asking the most
sacred question a man can put to a woman, that I became aware how unfit
she was to be a country gentleman's wife; and that this fair creature
was but a heartless worldly jilt, playing with affections that she never
meant to return, and, indeed, incapable of returning them. 'Tis
admiration such women want, not love that touches them; and I can
conceive, in her old age, no more wretched creature than this lady will
be, when her beauty hath deserted her, when her admirers have left her,
and she hath neither friendship nor religion to console her.

'Business calling me to London, I went to St. James's Church last
Sunday, and there opposite me sat my beauty of the Wells. Her behaviour
during the whole service was so pert, languishing and absurd; she
flirted her fan, and ogled and eyed me in a manner so indecent, that I
was obliged to shut my eyes, so as actually not to see her, and whenever
I opened them beheld hers (and very bright they are) still staring at
me. I fell in with her afterwards at Court, and at the playhouse; and
here nothing would satisfy her but she must elbow through the crowd and
speak to me, and invite me to the assembly, which she holds at her
house, nor very far from Ch--r--ng Cr--ss.

'Having made her a promise to attend, of course I kept my promise; and
found the young widow in the midst of a half-dozen of card-tables, and a
crowd of wits and admirers. I made the best bow I could, and advanced
towards her; and saw by a peculiar puzzled look in her face, though she
tried to hide her perplexity, that she had forgotten even my name.

'Her talk, artful as it was, convinced me that I had guessed aright. She
turned the conversation most ridiculously upon the spelling of names and
words; and I replied with as ridiculous, fulsome compliments as I could
pay her; indeed, one in which I compared her to an angel visiting the
sick-wells, went a little too far; nor should I have employed it, but
that the allusion came from the Second Lesson last Sunday, which we both
had heard, and I was pressed to answer her.

'Then she came to the question, which I knew was awaiting me, and asked
how I _spelt_ my name? "Madam," says I, turning on my heel, "I spell it
with the y." And so I left her, wondering at the light-heartedness of
the town-people, who forget and make friends so easily, and resolved to
look elsewhere for a partner for your constant reader.

'CYMON WYLDOATS.

'You know my real name, Mr. Spectator, in which there is no such a
letter as _hupsilon_. But if the lady, whom I have called Saccharissa,
wonders that I appear no more at the tea-tables, she is hereby
respectfully informed the reason y.'



CHARLES DICKENS (1812-1870)


     There are few better examples by converse of the saying
     (familiar in various forms and sometimes specially applied
     to writing and answering letters) that it is only idle
     people who have no time to do anything, than Dickens. He was
     by no means long-lived: and for the last
     three-fifths--practically the whole busy time--of his life,
     he was one of the busiest of men. He wrote many universally
     known books, and not a few, in some cases not so well known,
     articles. He travelled a great deal; edited periodicals for
     many years, taking that duty by no means in the spirit of
     Olympian aloofness which some popular opinion connects with
     editorship; only sometimes shirked society; and had all
     sorts of miscellaneous occupations and avocations. His very
     fancy for long walks might seem one of the least compatible
     with letter-writing; yet a very large bulk of his letters
     (by no means mainly composed of editorial ones) has been
     published, and there are no doubt many unpublished. There
     have been different opinions as to their comparative rank as
     letters, but there can be no difference as to the curious
     full-bloodedness and plenitude of life which, in this as in
     all other divisions of his writing, characterises Dickens's
     expression of his thoughts and feelings. Perhaps, as might
     be generally though not universally expected, the comic ones
     are the more delightful: at any rate they seem best worth
     giving here. The first--to a schoolboy who had written to
     him about _Nicholas Nickleby_--is quite charming; the
     second, to the famous actor-manager who after being a
     Londoner by birth and residence for half a century had just
     retired, is almost Charles Lamb-like; and the third
     deserved to have been put in the original mouth of Mrs.
     Gamp![127]


49. TO MASTER HASTINGS HUGHES

DOUGHTY STREET, LONDON.
Dec. 12th. 1838.

Respected Sir,

I have given Squeers one cut on the neck and two on the head, at which
he appeared much surprised and began to cry, which, being a cowardly
thing, is just what I should have expected from him--wouldn't you?

I have carefully done what you told me in your letter about the lamb and
the two "sheeps" for the little boys. They have also had some good ale
and porter, and some wine. I am sorry you didn't say _what_ wine you
would like them to have. I gave them some sherry, which they liked very
much, except one boy, who was a little sick and choked a good deal. He
was rather greedy, and that's the truth, and I believe it went the wrong
way, which I say served him right, and I hope you will say so too.

Nicholas had his roast lamb, as you said he was to, but he could not eat
it all, and says if you do not mind his doing so he should like to have
the rest hashed to-morrow with some greens, which he is very fond of,
and so am I. He said he did not like to have his porter hot, for he
thought it spoilt the flavour, so I let him have it cold. You should
have seen him drink it. I thought he never would have left off. I also
gave him three pounds of money, all in sixpences, to make it seem more,
and he said directly that he should give more than half to his mamma and
sister, and divide the rest with poor Smike. And I say he is a good
fellow for saying so; and if anybody says he isn't I am ready to fight
him whenever they like--there!

Fanny Squeers shall be attended to, depend upon it. Your drawing of her
is very like, except that I don't think the hair is quite curly enough.
The nose is particularly like hers, and so are the legs. She is a nasty
disagreeable thing, and I know it will make her very cross when she sees
it; and what I say is that I hope it may. You will say the same I
know--at least I think you will.

I meant to have written you a long letter, but I cannot write very fast
when I like the person I am writing to, because that makes me think
about them, and I like you, and so I tell you. Besides, it is just eight
o'clock at night, and I always go to bed at eight o'clock, except when
it is my birthday, and then I sit up to supper. So I will not say
anything more besides this--and that is my love to you and Neptune; and
if you will drink my health every Christmas Day I will drink
yours--come.

I am,

Respected Sir,

Your affectionate Friend.

P.S. I don't write my name very plain,[128] but you know what it is you
know, so never mind.


50. TO MR. W. C. MACREADY

Saturday, May 24th, 1851.

My dear Macready,

We are getting in a good heap of money for the Guild. The comedy has
been very much improved, in many respects, since you read it. The scene
to which you refer is certainly one of the most telling in the play. And
there _is_ a farce to be produced on Tuesday next, wherein a
distinguished amateur will sustain a variety of assumption-parts, and in
particular, Samuel Weller and Mrs. Gamp, of which I say no more. I am
pining for Broadstairs, where the children are at present. I lurk from
the sun, during the best part of the day, in a villainous compound of
darkness, canvas, sawdust, general dust, stale gas (involving a vague
smell of pepper), and disenchanted properties. But I hope to get down on
Wednesday or Thursday.

Ah! you country gentlemen, who live at home at ease, how little do you
think of us among the London fleas! But they tell me you are coming in
for Dorsetshire. You must be very careful, when you come to town to
attend to your parliamentary duties, never to ask your way of people in
the streets. They will misdirect you for what the vulgar call "a lark,"
meaning, in this connection, a jest at your expense. Always go into some
respectable shop or apply to a policeman. You will know him by his being
dressed in blue, with very dull silver buttons, and by the top of his
hat being made of sticking-plaster. You may perhaps see in some odd
place an intelligent-looking man, with a curious little wooden table
before him and three thimbles on it. He will want you to bet, but don't
do it. He really desires to cheat you. And don't buy at auctions where
the best plated goods are being knocked down for next to nothing. These,
too, are delusions. If you wish to go to the play to see real good
acting (though a little more subdued than perfect tragedy should be), I
would recommend you to see ---- at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane.
Anybody will show it to you. It is near the Strand, and you may know it
by seeing no company whatever at any of the doors. Cab fares are
eightpence a mile. A mile London measure is half a Dorsetshire mile,
recollect. Porter is twopence per pint; what is called stout is
fourpence. The Zoological Gardens are in the Regent's Park, and the
price of admission is one shilling. Of the streets, I would recommend
you to see Regent Street and the Quadrant, Bond Street, Piccadilly,
Oxford Street, and Cheapside. I think these will please you after a
time, though the tumult and bustle will at first bewilder you. If I can
serve you in any way, pray command me. And with my best regards to your
happy family, so remote from this Babel.

Believe me, my dear Friend,

Ever affectionately yours.

[CHARLES DICKENS]

P.S. I forgot to mention just now that the black equestrian figure you
will see at Charing Cross, as you go down to the House, is a statue of
_King Charles the First_.[129]


51. TO MR. EDMUND YATES

TAVISTOCK HOUSE,
Tuesday, Feb. 2nd. 1858.

My dear Yates,

Your quotation is, as I supposed, all wrong. The text _is not_ "Which
his 'owls was organs." When Mr. Harris went into an empty dog-kennel, to
spare his sensitive nature the anguish of overhearing Mrs. Harris's
exclamations on the occasion of the birth of her first child (the
Princess Royal of the Harris family), "he never took his hands away from
his ears, or came out once, till he was showed the baby." On
encountering that spectacle, he was (being of a weakly constitution)
"took with fits." For this distressing complaint he was medically
treated; the doctor "collared him, and laid him on his back upon the
airy stones"--please to observe what follows--"and she was told, to ease
her mind, his 'owls was organs."

That is to say, Mrs. Harris, lying exhausted on her bed, in the first
sweet relief of freedom from pain, merely covered with the counterpane,
and not yet "put comfortable," hears a noise apparently proceeding from
the backyard, and says, in a flushed and hysterical manner: "What 'owls
are those? Who is a-'owling? Not my ugebond?" Upon which the doctor,
looking round one of the bottom posts of the bed, and taking Mrs.
Harris's pulse in a reassuring manner, says, with much admirable
presence of mind: "Howls, my dear madam?--no, no, no! What are we
thinking of? Howls, my dear Mrs. Harris? Ha, ha, ha! Organs, ma'am,
organs. Organs in the streets, Mrs. Harris; no howls."

Yours faithfully, [C. D.]

FOOTNOTES:

[127] One of the pleasantest, _to me_, of Dickens's letters is that in
which, extravagant anti-Tory as he was, he refuses to let a contributor
echo the too common grudges at Lockhart (see _inf._ under Stevenson).
But it is very short, and perhaps of no general interest.

[128] Referring, I suppose, to the well-known and "inimitable" (but by
no means indispensable) flourish of his signature.

[129] "The comedy" is Bulwer-Lytton's _Not so Bad as we Seem_, acted by
Dickens and other amateurs for charity at Devonshire House seventy years
ago, and about to be reproduced _in loco_ as these proofs are being
revised.



CHARLES KINGSLEY (1819-1875)


     There are some people who, while thinking that the author of
     _Westward Ho!_ has not, at least recently, been given his
     due rank in critical estimation, admit certain explanations
     of this. As a historian and in almost all his writings
     Kingsley was inaccurate,--almost (as his friend and
     brother-in-law Froude was once said to be) "congenitally
     inaccurate"; in his novels and elsewhere he went out of his
     way to tread on the corns of all sorts of people; he
     constantly ventured out of his depth in such subjects as
     philosophy and theology; and he suffered a terrible defeat
     by rashly engaging, and by tactical ineptitude, in his
     contest with Newman. His politics, in which matter at one
     time he engaged hotly, were those of a busier and more
     educated Colonel Newcome. His poems, which were his least
     unequal work, seem never to have attracted due notice.

     But none of his foibles--not even corn-treading--is a fatal
     defect in familiar letter-writing: consequently he has good
     chance here, and his _Letters and Memoirs_ have been
     deservedly often reprinted. It is true that letters cannot
     show in full the really exceptional versatility which
     enabled the same man to write _Yeast_ and _Westward Ho!_,
     _Andromeda_ and _The Water Babies_, the best of the Essays
     and the best of the Sermons, _Alton Locke_ and _At Last_.
     But they can and they do show it in part: and it gives them
     the interest which has been noticed in other cases. Indeed
     in one respect--as a writer--Kingsley is perhaps better in
     his letters than in his _Essays_, where he too often affects
     a Macaulayesque positiveness on rather inadequate grounds.
     The following specimen should show him in pleasantly varied
     character--as a thoroughly human person, a good sportsman,
     and what Matthew Arnold (by no means himself very liberal of
     praise to his literary contemporaries) thought him--"the
     most generous man [he had] ever known; the most forward to
     praise, the most willing to admire, the most free from all
     thought of himself in praising and admiring and the most
     incapable of being made ill-natured by having to support
     ill-natured attacks upon himself." It is to be feared that
     Mr. Arnold did not go far wrong when he declared, "Among men
     of letters I know nothing so rare as this."

     It is true that the author of _Tom Brown's Schooldays_ was
     an intimate personal friend, and in politics and other
     things a close comrade of Kingsley's; but he was as generous
     to others, and while the scars of the battle with Newman
     were almost fresh, he writes that he has read _The Dream of
     Gerontius_ "with admiration and awe." [Greek: thymos], in
     this sense = "spirit." "Jaques" = "Jack" = "Pike," while on
     the other side we get, through him of _As You Like It_, an
     explanation of "melancholies." And in fact the pike is not a
     cheerful-looking fish. Even two whom the present writer once
     saw tugging at the two ends of one dead trout in a shallow,
     did it sulkily.


52. TO TOM HUGHES, ESQ.

Jan. 12. 1857.

I have often been minded to write to you about 'Tom Brown.' I have
puffed it everywhere I went, but I soon found how true the adage is that
good wine needs no bush, for every one had read it already, and from
every one, from the fine lady on her throne to the red-coat on his
cock-horse and the school-boy on his forrum (as our Irish brethren call
it), I have heard but one word, and that is, that it is the jolliest
book they ever read. Among a knot of red-coats at the cover-side, some
very fast fellow said, 'If I had had such a book in my boyhood, I should
have been a better man now!' and more than one capped his sentiment
frankly. Now isn't it a comfort to your old bones to have written such a
book, and a comfort to see that fellows are in a humour to take it in?
So far from finding men of our rank in a bad vein, or sighing over the
times and prospects of the rising generation, I can't help thinking they
are very teachable, humble, honest fellows, who want to know what's
right, and if they don't go and do it, still think the worst of
themselves therefor. I remark now, that with hounds and in fast company,
I never hear an oath, and that, too, is a sign of self-restraint.
Moreover, drinking is gone out, and, good God, what a blessing! I have
good hopes, of our class, and better than of the class below. They are
effeminate, and that makes them sensual. Pietists of all ages (George
Fox, my dear friend, among the worst) never made a greater mistake than
in fancying that by keeping down manly [Greek: thymos], which Plato
saith is the root of all virtue, they could keep down sensuality. They
were dear good old fools. However, the day of 'Pietism' is gone, and
'Tom Brown' is a heavy stone on its grave. 'Him no get up again after
that,' as the niggers say of a buried obi-man. I am trying to polish the
poems: but Maurice's holidays make me idle; he has come home healthier
and jollier than ever he was in all his life, and is truly a noble boy.
Sell your last coat and buy a spoon. I have a spoon of huge size (Farlow
his make). I killed forty pounds weight of pike, &c., on it the other
day, at Strathfieldsaye, to the astonishment and delight of ----, who
cut small jokes on 'a spoon at each end,' &c., but altered his tone when
he saw the melancholies coming ashore, one every ten minutes, and would
try his own hand. I have killed heaps of big pike round with it. I tried
it in Lord Eversley's lakes on Monday, when the fish wouldn't have even
his fly. Capricious party is Jaques. Next day killed a seven pounder at
Hurst.... We had a pretty thing on Friday with Garth's, the first run
I've seen this year. Out of the Clay Vale below Tilney Hall, pace as
good as could be, fields three acres each, fences awful, then over
Hazeley Heath to Bramshill, shoved him through a false cast, and a
streamer over Hartford Bridge flat, into an unlucky earth. Time
fifty-five minutes, falls plentiful, started thirty, and came in eight,
and didn't the old mare go? Oh, Tom, she is a comfort; even when a bank
broke into a lane, and we tumbled down, she hops up again before I'd
time to fall off, and away like a four-year old. And if you can get a
horse through that clay vale, why then you can get him 'mostwards';
leastwise so I find, for a black region it is, and if you ain't in the
same field with the hounds, you don't know whether you are in the same
parish, what with hedges, and trees, and woods, and all supernumerary
vegetations. Actually I was pounded in a 'taty-garden,' so awful is the
amount of green stuff in these parts. Come and see me, and take the old
mare out, and if you don't break her neck, she won't break yours.



JOHN RUSKIN (1819-1900)


     The peculiar wilfulness--the unkind called it
     wrong-headedness--which flecked and veined Mr. Ruskin's
     genius, had, owing to his wealth and to his entire
     indifference to any but his own opinion, opportunities of
     displaying itself in all his work, public as well as
     private, which are not common. Naturally, it showed itself
     nowhere more than in letters, and perhaps not unnaturally he
     often adopted the epistolary form in books which, had he
     chosen, might as well have taken another--while he might
     have chosen this in some which do not actually _call_
     themselves "letters." There is, however, little difference,
     except "fuller dress" of expression, between any of the
     classes of his work, whether it range from the first volume
     of _Modern Painters_ to _Verona_ in time, or from _The Seven
     Lamps of Architecture_ to _Unto This Last_ in subject. If
     anybody ever could "write beautifully about a broomstick" he
     could: though perhaps it is a pity that he so often did. But
     this faculty, and the entire absence of bashfulness which
     accompanied it, are no doubt grand accommodations for
     letter-writing; and the reader of Mr. Ruskin's letters gets
     the benefit of both very often--of a curious study of high
     character and great powers uncontrolled by logical
     self-criticism almost always. The following--part of a still
     longer letter which he addressed to the _Daily Telegraph_,
     Sep. 11, 1865, on the eternal Servant Question--was of
     course written for publication, but so, practically, was
     everything that ever came from its author. It so happens too
     that, putting aside his usual King Charles's Head of Demand
     and Supply, there is little in it of his more mischievous
     crotchets, nothing of the petulance (amounting occasionally
     to rudeness) of language in which he sometimes indulged, but
     much of his nobler idealism, while it is a capital example
     of his less florid style. "Launce," "Grumio" and "Old Adam"
     are of course Shakespeare's: "Fairservice" (of whom,
     tormenting and selfish as he was, Mr. Ruskin perhaps thought
     a little too harshly) and "Mattie," Scott's. "Latinity
     enough"--the unfortunate man had written, and the newspaper
     had printed, _hoc_ instead of _hac_. "A book of Scripture,"
     Colenso's work had just been finished. "Charlotte Winsor" a
     baby-farmer of the day.


53. From "THE DAILY TELEGRAPH"

September 18, 1865.

DOMESTIC SERVANTS: SONSHIP AND SLAVERY.

To the Editor of "The Daily Telegraph."

Sir,

I have been watching the domestic correspondence in your columns with
much interest, and thought of offering you a short analysis of it when
you saw good to bring it to a close, and perhaps a note or two of my own
experience, being somewhat conceited on the subject just now, because I
have a gardener who lets me keep old-fashioned plants in the greenhouse,
understands that my cherries are grown for the blackbirds, and sees me
gather a bunch of my own grapes without making a wry face. But your
admirable article of yesterday causes me to abandon my purpose; the more
willingly, because among all the letters you have hitherto published
there is not one from any head of a household which contains a complaint
worth notice. All the masters or mistresses whose letters are thoughtful
or well written say they get on well enough with their servants; no
part has yet been taken in the discussion by the heads of old families.
The servants' letters, hitherto, furnish the best data; but the better
class of servants are also silent, and must remain so. Launce, Grumio,
or Fairservice may have something to say for themselves; but you will
hear nothing from Old Adam nor from Carefu' Mattie. One proverb from
Sancho, if we could get it, would settle the whole business for us; but
his master and he are indeed "no more." I would have walked down to
Dulwich to hear what Sam Weller had to say; but the high-level railway
went through Mr. Pickwick's parlour two months ago, and it is of no use
writing to Sam, for, as you are well aware, he is no penman. And,
indeed, Sir, little good will come of any writing on the matter. "The
cat will mew, the dog will have its day." You yourself, excellent as is
the greater part of what you have said, and to the point, speak but
vainly when you talk of "probing the evil to the bottom." This is no
sore that can be probed, no sword nor bullet wound. This is a plague
spot. Small or great, it is in the significance of it, not in the depth,
that you have to measure it. It is essentially bottomless, cancerous; a
putrescence through the constitution of the people is indicated by this
galled place. Because I know this thoroughly, I say so little, and that
little, as your correspondents think, who know nothing of me, and as you
say, who might have known more of me, unpractically. Pardon me, I am no
seller of plasters, nor of ounces of civet. The patient's sickness is
his own fault, and only years of discipline will work it out of him.
That is the only really "practical" saying that can be uttered to him.

The relation of master and servant involves every other--touches every
condition of moral health through the State. Put that right, and you
put all right; but you will find that it can only come ultimately, not
primarily, right; you cannot begin with it. Some of the evidence you
have got together is valuable, many pieces of partial advice very good.
You need hardly, I think, unless you wanted a type of British logic,
have printed a letter in which the writer accused (or would have
accused, if he had possessed Latinity enough) all London servants of
being thieves because he had known one robbery to have been committed by
a nice-looking girl. But on the whole there is much common sense in the
letters; the singular point in them all, to my mind, being the
inapprehension of the breadth and connection of the question, and the
general resistance to, and stubborn rejection of, the abstract ideas of
sonship and slavery, which include whatever is possible in wise
treatment of servants. It is very strange to see that, while everybody
shrinks at abstract suggestions of there being possible error in a book
of Scripture, your sensible English housewife fearlessly rejects
Solomon's opinion when it runs slightly counter to her own, and that not
one of your many correspondents seems ever to have read the Epistle to
Philemon. It is no less strange that while most English boys of ordinary
position hammer through their Horace at one time or other time of their
school life, no word of his wit or his teaching seems to remain by them:
for all the good they get out of them, the Satires need never have been
written. The Roman gentleman's account of his childhood and of his
domestic life possesses no charm for them; and even men of education
would sometimes start to be reminded that his "_noctes coenaeque Deum!_"
meant supping with his merry slaves on beans and bacon. Will you allow
me, on this general question of liberty and slavery, to refer your
correspondents to a paper of mine touching closely upon it, the leader
in the _Art-Journal_ for July last? and to ask them also to meditate a
little over the two beautiful epitaphs on Epictetus and Zosima, quoted
in the last paper of the _Idler_?

     "I, Epictetus, was a slave; and sick in body, and wretched
     in poverty; and beloved by the gods."

     "Zosima, who while she lived was a slave only in her body,
     has now found deliverance for that also."

How might we, over many an "independent" Englishman, reverse this last
legend, and write--

     "This man, who while he lived was free only in his body, has
     now found captivity for that also."

I will not pass without notice--for it bears also on wide
interests--your correspondent's question, how my principles differ from
the ordinary economist's view of supply and demand. Simply in that the
economy I have taught, in opposition to the popular view, is the science
which not merely ascertains the relations of existing demand and supply,
but determines what _ought_ to be demanded and what _can_ be supplied. A
child demands the moon, and, the supply not being in this case equal to
the demand, is wisely accommodated with a rattle; a footpad demands your
purse, and is supplied according to the less or more rational economy of
the State, with that or a halter; a foolish nation, not able to get into
its head that free trade does indeed mean the removal of taxation from
its imports, but not of supervision from them, demands unlimited foreign
beef, and is supplied with the cattle murrain and the like. There may be
all manner of demands, all manner of supplies. The true political
economist regulates these; the false political economist leaves them to
be regulated by (not Divine) Providence. For, indeed, the largest final
demand anywhere reported of, is that of hell; and the supply of it (by
the broad gauge line) would be very nearly equal to the demand at this
day, unless there were here and there a swineherd or two who could keep
his pigs out of sight of the lake.

Thus in this business of servants everything depends on what sort of
servant you at heart wish for or "demand." If for nurses you want
Charlotte Winsors, they are to be had for money; but by no means for
money, such as that German girl who, the other day, on her own
scarce-floating fragment of wreck, saved the abandoned child of another
woman, keeping it alive by the moisture from her lips. What kind of
servant do you want? It is a momentous question for you yourself--for
the nation itself. Are we to be a nation of shopkeepers, wanting only
shop-boys: or of manufacturers, wanting only hands: or are there to be
knights among us, who will need squires--captains among us, needing
crews? Will you have clansmen for your candlesticks, or silver plate?
Myrmidons at your tents, ant-born, or only a mob on the Gillies' Hill?
Are you resolved that you will never have any but your inferiors to
serve you, or shall Enid ever lay your trencher with tender little
thumb, and Cinderella sweep your hearth, and be cherished there? It
_might_ come to that in time, and plate and hearth be the brighter; but
if your servants are to be held your inferiors, at least be sure they
_are_ so, and that you are indeed wiser, and better-tempered, and more
useful than they. Determine what their education ought to be, and
organize proper servants' schools, and there give it them. So they will
be fit for their position, and will do honour to it, and stay in it: let
the masters be as sure they do honour to theirs, and are as willing to
stay in that. Remember that every people which gives itself to the
pursuit of riches, invariably, and of necessity, gets the scum uppermost
in time, and is set by the genii, like the ugly bridegroom in the
Arabian Nights, at its own door with its heels in the air, showing its
shoe-soles instead of a Face. And the reversal is a serious matter, if
reversal be even possible, and it comes right end uppermost again,
instead of to conclusive Wrong-end.



ROBERT LOUIS BALFOUR STEVENSON
(1850-1894)


     The author of _Treasure Island_ (invariably known to his
     friends simply as "Louis," the "Robert" being reserved in
     the form of "Bob" for his less famous but very admirable
     cousin the art-critic) will perhaps offer to some Matthew
     Arnold of posterity the opportunity of a paradox like that
     of our Matthew on Shelley. For a short time some of these
     friends--not perhaps the wisest of them--were inclined to
     regard him as, and to urge him to continue to be, a writer
     of criticisms and miscellaneous articles--a sort of new
     Hazlitt. Others no sooner saw the _New Arabian Nights_ than
     they recognised a tale-teller such as had not been seen for
     a long time--such as, in respect of anything imitable, had
     never been seen before. And he fortunately fell in with
     these views and hopes. But all his tales are pure Romance,
     and Romance has her eclipses with the vulgar. On the other
     hand his letters are almost as good as his fiction, and not
     in the least open to the charges of a certain
     non-naturalness of style--even of thought--which could,
     justly or not, be brought against his other writings. And it
     is perhaps worth noting here that letters have held their
     popularity with all fit judges almost better than any other
     division of literature. Whether this is the effect of their
     "touches of nature" (using the famous phrase without the
     blunder so common in regard to it but not without reference
     to its context) need not be discussed.

     As, by the kindness of Mr. Lloyd Osbourne, I am enabled to
     give here an unpublished letter of Stevenson's to myself, it
     may require some explanation, not only of the commentatory
     and commendatory kind but of fact. Stevenson, coming to dine
     with me, had brought with him, and showed with much pride, a
     new umbrella (a seven-and-sixpenny one) which, to my
     surprise, he had bought. But when he went away that night he
     forgot it; and when I met him next day at the Savile and
     suggested that I should send it to him, there or somewhere,
     he said he was going abroad almost immediately and begged me
     to keep it for him. By this or that accident, but chiefly
     owing to his constant expatriations, no opportunity of
     restitution ever occurred: though I used to remind him of it
     as a standing joke, and treasured it religiously, stored and
     unused. This letter is partly in answer to a last reminder
     in which I said that I was going to present it to the
     nation, that it might be kept with King Koffee Kalcalli's,
     but as a memory of a "victor in romance" not of a vanquished
     enemy.

     I of course told Mr. Kipling of the contents which concerned
     him: and he, equally of course, demanded delivery of the
     goods at once. But, half in joke, I demurred, saying that I
     was a bailee, and the gift was not formal enough, being
     undated and only a "suggestion"; he should have it without
     fail at my death, or Stevenson's.[130]

     When alas! this latter came, I prepared to act up to my
     promise; but, alas! again, the umbrella had vanished! Some
     prated of mislaying in house-removal, of illicit use by
     servants, etc.; but for my part I had and have no doubt that
     the thing had been enskyed and constellated--like Ariadne's
     Crown, Berenice's Locks, Cassiopeia's Chair, and a whole
     galaxy of other now celestial objects--to afford a special
     place to my dead friend then, and to my live one when (may
     the time still be far distant) he is ready for it.

     As for the more serious subject of the letter, I must refer
     curious readers to an essay of mine on Lockhart, originally
     published in 1884 and reprinted in _Essays in English
     Literature_ some years later. To this reprint I subjoined,
     _before_ I got this letter from R. L. S., a reasoned defence
     of Lockhart from the charge of cowardice and "caddishness":
     but it is evident that Stevenson had not yet seen it. When
     he did see it, he wrote me another letter chiefly about my
     book itself, and so of no interest to the public, but
     touching again on this Lockhart question. He avowed himself
     still dissatisfied: but said he was sorry for his original
     remark which was "ungracious and unhandsome" if not untrue,
     adding, "for to whom do I owe more pleasure than to
     Lockhart?"


54.

My dear Saintsbury,

Thanks for yours. Why did I call Lockhart a cad? That calls for an
answer, and I give it. "Scorpion"[131] literature seems at the best no
very fit employment for a man of genius, which Lockhart was--and none at
all for a gentleman. But if a man goes in for such a trade, he must be
ready for the consequences; and I do not conceive a gentleman as a
coward; the white feather is not his crest, it _almost_ excludes--and I
put the "almost" with reluctance. Well, now about the duel? Even
Bel-Ami[132] turned up on the _terrain_. But Lockhart? _Et responsum est
ab omnibus, Non est inventus._[133] I have often wondered how Scott took
that episode.[134] I do not know how this view will strike you;[135] it
seems to me the "good old honest" fashion of our fathers, though I own
it does not agree with the New Morality. "Cad" may be perhaps an
expression too vivacious and not well chosen; it is, at least upon my
view, substantially just.

Now if you mean to comb my wig, comb it from the right parting--I know
you will comb it well.

An infinitely small jest occurs to me in connection with the historic
umbrella: and perhaps its infinite smallness attracts me. Would you mind
handing it to Rudyard Kipling with the enclosed note?[136] It seems to
me fitly to consecrate and commemorate this most absurd episode.

Yours very sincerely,

ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON.

[_Enclosure_]

                        This Umbrella
                purchased in the year 1878 by
                  Robert Louis Stevenson
(and faithfully stabled for more than twelve years in the
                halls of George Saintsbury)
  is now handed on at the suggestion of the first and
            by the loyal hands of the second,
                            to
                    Rudyard Kipling.

PRINTED IN GREAT BRITAIN BY ROBERT MACLEHOSE AND CO. LTD.
THE UNIVERSITY PRESS, GLASGOW.

FOOTNOTES:

[130] Of this _moratorium_ I believe I duly advised R. L. S. and I don't
think he objected. There was, if I remember rightly, a further reason
for it--that I was living in two places at the time and the subject was
not immediately at hand.

[131] Lockhart's (self-given) name in the "_Chaldee MS._" was "the
Scorpion that delighteth to sting the faces of men."

[132] Maupassant's ineffable hero and title-giver.

[133] Hardly any school-boy of my or Stevenson's generation would have
needed a reference to the _Essay on Murder_. But I am told that De
Quincey has gone out of fashion, with school-boys and others.

[134] We know now: also what "The Duke" said when consulted. They did
not agree with Stevenson, but then they knew all the facts and he did
not.

[135] I should have held it myself, if the facts had been what R. L. S.
thought them.

[136] Which of course is Mr. Kipling's property, not mine. But he has
most kindly joined in, authorising its publication, and that of the rest
of the letter as far as he is concerned.



BY THE SAME AUTHOR

The Peace
of the Augustans

A Survey of Eighteenth Century Literature
as a Place of Rest and Refreshment

_Demy 8vo. 10s. 6d. net_

     "No one living," according to the _Times_, "knows English
     eighteenth century literature as well as Mr. Saintsbury
     knows it.... If you do not know and like your eighteenth
     century, then he will make you; and if you do, he will show
     you that even what you thought the dullest parts are full of
     rest and refreshment."

     In the opinion of the _Spectator_, "Mr. Saintsbury in his
     new book has given to the world a singularly delightful
     gift. _The Peace of the Augustans_ is in no sense written
     down. Yet every page is so subtly seasoned with amusing
     comment, and the whole book is so charmingly garnished that
     none but a dullard could fail to find delight in its
     perusal, however little he knew of the spirit which animated
     the eighteenth century. One can hardly imagine better
     reading after a day of hard or uncongenial work."

     "No bush is necessary to proclaim where good wine may be
     had," says the _Glasgow Herald_, "and no author's name was
     required to indicate the source of this always fresh and in
     some respects original treatment of the Augustan
     literature.... In literature there are many mansions, and
     Mr. Saintsbury is at home in them all.... A book it has been
     very pleasant and very profitable to read."

LONDON: G. BELL AND SONS, LTD.
YORK HOUSE, PORTUGAL STREET, W.C. 2



Handbooks of
English Literature

Edited by the late J. W. HALES, M.A.

Professor of English Literature, King's College, London

_Small Crown 8vo. 5s. net each_


     =THE AGE OF ALFRED= (664-1154). By F. J. SNELL, M.A.

     =THE AGE OF CHAUCER= (1346-1400). By F. J. SNELL, M.A., with
     an Introduction by PROFESSOR HALES. _Third edition._

     =THE AGE OF TRANSITION= (1400-1580). By F. J. SNELL, M.A. In
     2 vols. With Introduction by PROFESSOR HALES, Vol.
     I.--Poetry. Vol. II.--Prose and Drama. _Third edition._

     =THE AGE OF SHAKESPEARE= (1579-1631). By THOMAS SECCOMBE and
     J. W. ALLEN. In 2 vols. Vol. I.--Poetry and Prose, with an
     Introduction by PROFESSOR HALES. Vol. II.--Drama. _Seventh
     edition._

     =THE AGE OF MILTON= (1632-1660). By Rev. Canon J. H. B.
     MASTERMAN, M.A., with an Introduction, &c., by J. BASS
     MULLINGER, M.A. _Eighth edition._

     =THE AGE OF DRYDEN= (1660-1700). By the late RICHARD
     GARNETT, C.B., LL.D. _Eighth edition._

     =THE AGE OF POPE= (1700-1744). By JOHN DENNIS. _Tenth
     edition._

     =THE AGE OF JOHNSON= (1744-1798). By THOMAS SECCOMBE.
     _Seventh edition._

     =THE AGE OF WORDSWORTH= (1798-1832). By PROFESSOR C. H.
     HERFORD, Litt.D. _Twelfth edition._

     =THE AGE OF TENNYSON= (1830-1870). By PROFESSOR HUGH WALKER,
     M.A. _Ninth edition._

LONDON: G. BELL AND SONS, LTD.
YORK HOUSE, PORTUGAL STREET, W.C. 2


  +--------------------------------------------------------------+
  | Transcriber's Notes                                          |
  |                                                              |
  | Page 108: full stop inserted after "Duke of Burgundy"        |
  | Page 125: Second opening parenthesis from before "Cambridge  |
  | University Press" removed                                    |
  | Page 245: Removed closing parenthesis following "the Valley  |
  | of the Shadow of Frederick"                                  |
  | Page 260: "sunday" _sic_                                     |
  |                                                              |
  | Generally spelling, capitalization and punctuation in        |
  | letters has been retained as per the book, with the          |
  | following exceptions:                                        |
  |                                                              |
  | Page 305: Removed closing quote marks following "terrain"    |
  | (Letter 54)                                                  |
  +--------------------------------------------------------------+





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "A Letter Book - Selected with an Introduction on the History and Art of Letter-Writing" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



Home