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'BlEst be the man ! his memory at least,
Who found the art thus to unfold his breast ;
And taught succeeding times an easy way
Their secret thoughts by letters to convey ;
To baffle absence, and secure delight,
Which till that time was limited to sight.
The parting farewell spoke, the last adieu,
The lessening distance past, then loss of view,
The friend was gone which some kind moments gave,
And absence separated, like the grave.

When for a wife the youthful patriarch sent,
The camel, jewels, and the steward went,
And wealthy equipage, though grave and slow;
But not a line that might the lover show.
The ring and bracelets wooed her hands and arms,
But had she known of melting words and charms
That under secret seals in ambush lie
To catch the soul, when drawn into the eye !
The fair Assyrian had not took his guide,
Nor her soft heart in chains of pearl been tied.'

The Guardian, No. 172.


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N ancient times, the practice of letter

writing, in our modern sense of the term, was altogether unknown. To

say nothing of the scarcity and cumbrous character of the materials em

ployed for writing, the state of society was such that correspondence' was not considered necessary. Formal, stately, and even elegant epistles were, no doubt, frequently indited-usually with the view of conveying instruction ; but these old-world productions do not bear the remotest resemblance to that rapid, off-hand, genial effusion, the letter of later times.

Scriptural and Roman Letters. In the Old Testament Scriptures we find occasional allusions to what are termed 'letters,'



Scriptural Letters.


of which the earliest occurs in the eleventh chapter of the Second Book of Samuel, where we have the following record of a letter written upwards of a thousand years before the birth of Christ :- And it came to pass in the morning, that David wrote a letter to Joab, and sent it by the hand of Uriah. And he wrote in the letter, saying, Set ye Uriah in the fore-front of the hottest battle, and retire ye from him, that he may be smitten, and die. Again, in the second chapter of Second Chronicles, reference is made to the written answer of Hiram, King of Tyre, to Solomon's message respecting the building of the Temple ; and a few hundred years later, there are several interesting allusions to letters, and the mode of their despatch, in the Books of Ezra, Esther, and Nehemiah.

In striking contrast to our modern and less dignified style of closing with the writer's signature, the Romans began their letters with a præloquium, or address, which embraced the name of the writer as well as that of the person to whom the letter was written. Thus,

1 ' Even the way in which a Roman begins his letter, heading it with his name at full length, is significant. Whereas we skulk with ours into a corner, and often pare it down to initials.' -Guesses at Truth, ist series, p. 198.

Roman Letters.




'L. Catilina, Q. Catulo, S.;' that is, Lucius Catiline greets, or wishes health to, Quintus Catulus,—the letter 'S' being intended to indicate the words Salutem dicit. When the person addressed happened to be an intimate friend, the epithets 'humanissimus,''optimus,' suavissimus,

' and ‘suus,' were frequently added. Sometimes the præloquium was conceived in the following terms 'Si vales, gaudeo ; ego valeo; or, ‘Si vales, bene est, ego valeo'the initials of these words being often only given. The letter frequently ended with the word Vale, Ave,' or 'Salve,' to which, in

“ some instances, ‘Mi anime' was added, as an expression of endearment. Unless previously communicated, the place where the letter was written was subjoined ; and the date always expressed the day, frequently the year, and sometimes the hour. The Romans used no signature or subscription, except when writing to an emperor. There was rarely any address or inscription on the outside, the letter being usually intrusted to a letter-carrier (tabellarius), who was made acquainted with the person for whom it was intended. It was tied round with a string, of which the knot was

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