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respect as having a basis of sound sense, and expressive of a just feeling-that honourable spirit which is, I believe, an element in the character of our race. It was so formerly, more so than now; for that "modest judgment," which the biographer of Cowley spoke of as restraining the publication of private correspondence, has grown to be old-fashioned; and the barriers of reserve have been broken down by the cupidity of booksellers, the vanity of authors, and the vicious curiosity of readers. If this department of English literature has, in late years, received many and valuable additions, it has not been all clear gain: the sanctities of domestic life and the proprieties of official life have been violated; the world has intruded where it had no title to enter, and often learned what it had far better remained ignorant of; the happy confidence of social communion has been startled in its security; and the author can scarce write a familiar note without misgiving of future publication.
When Pope's correspondence was surreptitiously published by an unscrupulous bookseller, Dr. Arbuthnot wittily spoke of Curll, the publisher, as a new terror of death.* When the letters of Robert Burns were first
*Dr. Johnson once remarked that the practice of publishing the letters of literary men had grown so common, that he made it a point to put as little as possible in his own. There will be found in the London Quarterly Review, a few years back, an excellent essay on this subject in its relation to official life, on the subject of the posthumous publication of Lord Malmesbury's journals and letters. Our American diplomatic subordinates have, of late years, committed the grosser scandal of scribbling for home newspapers. A greater indecorum, and one more detrimental to public interests, can hardly be conceived. W. B. R.
given to the world, disclosing the deplorable frailties of his life-not as a wise and feeling biographer might have done, but in the dark colours of the frenzy of genius, conscious of guilt and never wholly divorced from a soul of goodness-a fellow-poet, strong in the might of a life of irreproachable purity, and yet compassionate of his frail brother, protested in earnest prose against the world's right to penetrate into the privacy of an author's life. I refer to a pamphlet of Wordsworth's, in which, among other remarks, he observed that "The Life of Johnson by Boswell had broken through many pre-existing delicacies, and afforded the British public an opportunity of acquiring experience, which before it had happily wanted." A younger poet, Mr. Tennyson, has also made his protest against the growing evil, in some vigorous stanzas adaressed to a friend, and entitled "The Age of Irreve
"You might have won the poet's name,
If such be worth the winning now,
But you have made the wiser choice;
And you have missed the irreverent doom
For now the poet cannot die,
Nor leave his music as of old,
But round him, ere he scarce be cold,
'Give out the faults he would not show!
Ah, shameless! for he did but sing
A song that pleased us from its worth:
He gave the people of his best:
His worst he kept, his best he gave.
Who makes it sweeter seem to be,
Than he that warbles long and loud,
The volume which is, I believe, the earliest collection of letters, is a singular exception to that old-fashioned English reserve which I have spoken of-the volume
On a kindred subject, that of the rash, posthumous publication of private diaries, or rather of the faithful performance of duty to the dead in their suppression, the reader is referred to the conduct of Lady Bute, the daughter of Lady Mary Wortley Montague, in the introductory anecdotes prefixed to Lord Wharncliffe's edition, p. 21. I may here observe that nothing more clearly shows the popular and cursory character of these lectures, (and this was my brother's view of them,) than that among the poets he does not mention Thomson or Collins, or, among the letter-writers, Lady Mary Wortley Montague. W. B. R.
entitled "Familiar Letters, domestic and foreign, partly historical, political, and philosophical, by James Howell," in the times of Charles the First, and published during the Protectorate. It is the case of a writer setting such esteem upon his own letters as to collect and give them to the world; and although the volume is now a neglected and rather rare one, the welcome it had is proved by the fact that it went through eleven editions in a century. Howell was a traveller, on the continent and in England was in intercourse with men of various celebrity: while his letters show much curious matter, one cannot help thinking how high a value such a correspondence might have had, if it had given the thoughts of a stronger mind in that momentous period. The Paston Letters, though of much earlier date, were not published until the latter part of the eighteenth century, about three hundred years after they were written. It is the correspondence of the Paston family during the era of the wars of York and Lancaster, comprehending a curious variety of epistles, from the note of an Eton scholar, with thanks for a box of raisins and figs, to letters following the sad fortunes of that simple and saintly sovereign, Henry the Sixth, and his heroic queen. When these letters were brought to light, after their long sleep, they had a congenial welcome from Horace Walpole, who said, "The letters of Henry the Sixth's reign are come out, and to me make all other letters not worth reading. I have gone through above one volume, and cannot bear to be writing when I am so eager to be reading.'
A very pathetic interest attaches to the collection of
*Letters to Lady Ossory, vol, ii. p. 297.
the Letters of Lady Russel, the memory of her husband's tragic death on the scaffold casting a solemn light over the whole correspondence during a widowhood protracted to extreme old age, and distinguished no less by profound affection to her departed husband than by a widowed mother's untiring duty to her children. Her's was a life of genuine womanly heroism, a life with one awful sorrow in its centre, sustained, if not cheered, by thoughtful Christian piety. The correspondence is the unconscious portraiture of such a character, in which were combined the spirit of submission to affliction and an energetic fortitude that shrank from no duty. There is, perhaps, no more touching incident in British annals than that one so well-known on the trial of her husband for treason, when Lord Russel asked, "May I have somebody to write to help my memory?" The attorney-general answered, "Yes, a servant." The noble prisoner said, "My wife is here." The harshness of the chief justice (Pemberton) was softened, when, recognising Lady Russel's presence, he added, "If my lady please to give herself the trouble."
It is a transition from letters of the most intense and serious reality to a correspondence the most superficial in feeling and the most artificial in expression, to pass to the letters of Pope; another instance, like Howell's, of the letter-writer making of his letters to his intimates a book for everybody. They were modelled after the French epistolary school of Balzac and Voiture, (before the talent of Madame de Sevigné had given an attractive gracefulness to French letters,) and vitiated by the ambition, bad enough in any use of speech or writing, but odious, in a familiar letter—the ambition of fine thoughts in fine words.