« PreviousContinue »
in the island, that I have all my peats brought home carriage free.'
This is my story,-now to the prayer of my petition. I never before envied you the possession of the Orkneys, which I now do only to provide for this eloquent innocent apostle. The sun has refused your barren isles his kindly influence, do not deprive them of so pleasant a preacher ; let not so great a treasure be for ever lost to that damned inhospitable country; for, I assure you, were the Archbishop of Canterbury to hear him, or hear of him, he would not do less than make him an archdeacon. The man has but one weakness, that of preferring the Orkneys to all the earth.
This way, and no other, you have a chance for salvation. Do this man good, and he will pray for you. This will be a better purchase than your Irish estate, or the Orkneys. I think it will help me forward too, since I am the man who told you of the man so worthy and deserving ; so pious, so eloquent, and whose prayers may do so much good. Till I hear from you on this head, yours, in all meekness, love, and benevolence, H. D.
P.S.-Think what an unspeakable pleasure it will be, to look down from heaven, and see Rigby, Masterton, all the Campbells and Nabobs, swimming in fire and brimstone, while you are sitting with Whitefield and his old women, looking beautiful, frisking and singing; all which you may have by settling this man, after the death of the present incumbent.
Some of the more highly flavoured expressions in the preceding communication will probably remind the reader that even as late as the beginning of the present century the practice of swearing-now happily confined to a very
An Indignant Epistle.
limited section of the community—was by no means rare in the society of gentlemen. I have in my possession an irate letter, written in 1792, by a young military relative of my own, then residing in London, to his uncle in Scotland, wherein he gives the result of a court-martial at which he and two brother officers were most unjustly accused of various fraudulent transactions, by no less a personage than William Cobbett, who had formerly filled the office of sergeant-major in the regiment to which the three culprits' belonged. He thus proceeds :
'I can only now annex a copy of Sir Charles Gould's letter to me of the 2d inst., from which you will see that the three culprits have been most honourably acquitted, and which has since been approved by his Majesty. In my letter to P- of the 27th ult., I desired her to inform you that the villain who had exhibited the charges against us thought proper to disappear, though not till after he had put us to all the trouble and expense in his power. Report says he has gone to France, and I shall only add that I wish he was in hell, as he fully deserves a warm berth. He only gave in the names of forty-seven non-commissioned officers and privates of the regiment to Sir Charles Gould as his evidence to support him in the business, all of whom appeared at the Horse-Guards and before the court, not one of them having a word to say, nor did they know what brought them there. We were also obliged to have all or the greatest part of the officers here who came home with us, with upwards of
twenty non-commissioned officers and privates; so you can easily judge what trouble the scoundrel has put us to on the occasion, for which I hope he will be damned.'
It must be acknowledged that the somewhat strong language of the indignant subaltern was, to a certain extent, justified by the utter falsity of the extraordinary charges-the motive for which I have been unable to discover.
Published Correspondence of Eminent
The published correspondence of eminent individuals holds a prominent place in modern literature.
Thus, in France, during the seventeenth century, we have the letters of Balzac, Voiture, and Madame de Sévigné; while in the following century in England, we can point to the correspondence of Pope, Swift, Addison, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, Gray, Cowper, and Horace Walpole. To each of these distinguished letterwriters I propose to devote a few remarks.
Jean Louis Guez de Balzac (b. 1594, d. 1655) in his youth filled the office of secretary to Cardinal la Valette at Rome, where he sedulously cultivated his natural taste for elegant compo
Jean L. G. de Balzac.
sition. On his return to France he became a member of the Academy, and a special favourite of Cardinal Richelieu; and his successful devotion to the refinement of his native language ultimately secured for him a permanent place in the literature of his country. He is usually considered to have formed his style on the magnificent rhetoric of Pliny and Seneca; and his more elaborate productions are strikingly characterized by the stateliness of his language and the harmonious cadence of his periods. Although somewhat stiff in point of diction, and frequently exhibiting a tendency to hyperbole, his Letters,' which extend from 1620 to 1653, have been most generally admired, and are still frequently read. 'He passed all his life,' says Vigneul Marville, 'in writing letters, without ever catching the right characteristics of that style; and even those addressed to his sister are so laboured and artificial, that they are well described by Hallam as 'smelling too much of the lamp.' A good edition of Balzac's Letters, in three volumes, was published in Paris in the year 1806.
Vincent Voiture was born a few years after Balzac (1598), and died at the age of fifty.
Remarkable for his brilliant wit and fluency of expression, his society was courted by all the most influential personages in France. After his death, his writings, which are full of vigour and bel-esprit, were collected and published by his nephew, and have been frequently reprinted. His 'Letters' have been translated into English by various authors, including Dryden, whose edition appeared in 1736. They begin about the year 1627, and are addressed to the widow of the Marquis de Rambouillet-the associate of Richelieu, Condé, and Corneille-and to various other persons of both sexes. Although not always so correct, Voiture's letters are considered more natural in point of style than those of Balzac, which, however, are more remarkable for their meaning and good sense. They are full of gaiety and compliment to the person addressed, and are frequently imitated by Pope in his correspondence with ladies. Those written from Spain are sometimes truly witty, and always brilliant and lively.
The characteristics of Balzac and Voiture are thus contrasted by Olivet: The one inclined always to the sublime, the other always to the elegant (au délicat). The one had a lofty ima