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Official Letters.


criticised, and most of us have, no doubt, been amused by the description of 'Barnacles' and the Circumlocution Office,' in the graphic pages of Dickens. Delay' and 'Evasion' are. hard words to hurl against the officers of any public department with reference to their procedure, although, in some instances, it is to be feared that such a charge may be fully justified. 'Red-tape' is another favourite watchword of an ungrateful public. My judgment in the matter will naturally be regarded with suspicion, but I must take leave to say that I believe the evils complained of have been grossly exaggerated, and that the correspondence of most of our public offices has long been conducted in a very creditable manner. I make this statement after fifteen years' experience of official life, during which I have been in pretty frequent communication with most of the principal public departments. As to Delay, an extra pressure of business must sometimes, of course, necessitate the suspension of a reply, but I feel satisfied that promptitude and punctuality are the ordinary characteristics of most of the departments in question. Still less can I admit the more serious charge of

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Evasion. Certain formalities of style are, of course, unavoidable; but where a plain and legitimate question is put, a direct and exhaustive answer is usually given, and the convenient services of red-tape' are only resorted to in the case of unreasonable and impertinent correspondents.

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From business and official communications to love-letters is a somewhat violent, but withal a pleasant transition. Speaking of love-letters generally, Moore remarks, in his Life of Byron, that such effusions are but little suited to the public eye. It is the tendency,' he continues, 'of all strong feeling, from dwelling constantly on the same idea, to be monotonous; and those often-repeated vows and verbal endearments which make the charm of true love-letters to the parties concerned in them, must for ever render even the best of them cloying to others.' This is probably a very accurate description of the large majority of love-letters; but there is a higher class of these productions, in which true affection is touchingly portrayed, and

Doree v. Dean.

which the most indifferent


outsider' regards

with some degree of interest. The genuine love-letter, however, in which the heart really speaks, is rarely exposed to the public gaze, and hence the difficulty of producing favourable examples. On the other hand, unfortunately, whole volumes might be filled with those screeds of sickly sentimentalism which so frequently appear in the columns of the newspaper-greatly to the satisfaction of all 'sensational' readers. Witness the published correspondence in the celebrated trial of Madeleine Smith, and in the still more recent case of Longworth v. Yelverton.

In the reported actions for breach of promise of marriage, these miserable effusions occupy a very prominent place. It appears to be an established rule that no courtship can be properly conducted without the intervention of love-letters, even where the parties concerned happen to live within a gunshot of each other. This was amusingly illustrated a few years ago in the case of Samuel Dean and Ann Doreethe scene of courtship being Bethnal Green in the great metropolis. The fair plaintiff lived in Wellington Row, and her faithless admirer



A Scottish case of

in Pott Street-both residences being situated within the same postal district. Samuel usually spent five evenings in the week at the house of his prospective father-in-law; and on Sundays the happy pair occupied the same pew in the Independent Chapel of the district. Notwithstanding these favourable circumstances, a steady correspondence was kept up between the two ardent lovers; but, alas! Samuel's promises proved to be 'pie-crusts,' and his cold-hearted desertion resulted in a verdict of £75 damages.

Although in that cold and cautious portion of her Majesty's dominions called Scotland, actions for breach of promise are of comparatively rare occurrence, such cases do occasionally find their way into the Court of Session. So recently, for example, as the summer of 1866, our daily newspapers contained a most elaborate report of one of these unfortunate misunderstandings, embracing several very extraordinary letters from the pen of the faithless suitor, who happened to be a widowed draper, with four children, and a singularly impulsive disposition. The object of his tender feelings was a respectable woman of thirty, the daughter

Breach of Promise.


of a denizen of Modern Athens, but residing in Liverpool when the correspondence commenced. In his first epistle, dated 1st December 1865, the ardent widower modestly, if not very truthfully, refers to the paucity of his words:'Nature,' he says, 'has been very sparing to me in her gifts, and more particularly in the organ of language she has been uncommonly scrimp.' The object of his communication is then stated in the most business-like manner:- Well, then,' he proceeds, my question is, viz., Have you at ' the present time an engagement with any man, whereby you have bound yourself for the future to him? My abrupt note may startle you, but believe me when I say that this is no new idea to me, but has been floating in my hazy brain for a pretty long time.' Five days later, after the receipt of a favourable reply, the loving draper thus touchingly expatiates :- My DEAR ——,—A thousand thanks, and yet another thousand, for your dear, kind, welcome letter. Upon first reading it, I thought of hieing me off to Liverpool in propriâ persond; but when I had swallowed it twice, its musical and honest ring began to steal sweetly on my ear, like some beautiful lyric, heard for the first time

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