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Rousseau, Madame de Maintenon, Madame de Villars, Madame du Deffand, Fontenelle, La Harpe, and Racine. The special characteristics of Fontenelle are liveliness and imagination; of La Harpe, vanity and egotism; and of Racine, goodness of both head and heart.
Not many years ago, my attention was called to the letters of a remarkable Frenchman, whose name is certainly not famous in his own country, while it is almost unknown among ourselves—I refer to Joseph Joubert, who died in the twentyfourth year of the present century, at the age of seventy, and of whose character and writings Matthew Arnold gives a most interesting résumé in one of his recent Essays.' Characterized throughout his life by ‘a changeless preference of being to seeming, knowing to showing, and studying to publishing,' the ex-Professor of Poetry further describes him as an unwearied note-taker, a charming letter-writer, above all, an excellent and delightful talker.' 'In spite of his infirmities, in spite of his sufferings, in spite of his obscurity, he was the happiest man alive. ... He loved and sought light till he became so habituated to it, so accustomed to the joyful testimony of a good conscience, that, to use his
own words, "he could no longer exist without this, and was obliged to live without reproach if he would live without misery." In 1838 (fourteen years after Joubert's death), Chateaubriand edited a volume of his fragments, of which an admirable notice appeared in the Revue des Deux Mondes, from the pen of M. Sainte-Beuve; and so much curiosity was excited about the author that the collection has been thrice reprinted, enlarged by many interesting additions.1
Unlike their French neighbours, the Germans do not appear to have particularly distinguished themselves in the department of correspondence. Towards the end of last century, the familiar epistles of Winckelmann were translated into French, and published at Amsterdam in two volumes; and within the last forty years, the letters of Zimmermann to his friends in Switzerland (Aarau, 1830), the correspondence of Goethe and Madame Bettina von Arnim (Paris, 1843), Schiller's correspondence with
1 The admirable letters of another distinguished Frenchman of the present century, who died at an early age, have lately been given to the public-Correspondance de Victor Jacquemont avec sa famille et ses amis pendant son voyage dans l'Inde, published at Paris in 1867.
Körner (London, 1849), and the letters of the two Humboldts (Leipzig and Strasburg, 185660), have been given to the world. Still more recently, the correspondence of three eminent German musicians-Mozart, Beethoven, and Mendelssohn-has been presented to the English public by means of Lady Wallace's successful translations.
Upwards of three hundred years ago (1564), a very interesting collection of Italian letters was published at Venice, in three pretty little volumes, under the joint editorship of Paul and Antonio Manuce and the younger Aldus. Among the writers which it embraces are Boccaccio, Petrarch, Michael Angelo, the Cardinal de Medici, Margaret Queen of Navarre, Pope Clement VII., and other eminent personages. In 1744, a series of letters of distinguished Italians of the seventeenth century was also published at Venice-the anonymous editor being Jacopo Maria Paitoni; and about a hundred years later (1841), a similar collection was published at Reggio, pertaining to the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, which occupies no fewer than ten volumes.
As already indicated, the eighteenth century produced the most celebrated English letterwriters whose correspondence has been given to the world. It must be candidly acknowledged that the intrinsic value of a large proportion of these epistles is comparatively slight, their chief interest being, of course, a derivative one, from their intimate relation to persons of eminent talent. ' Pope's literary correspondence,' says De Quincey, with the wits, courtiers, and men of fashion of his day, is interesting as a model of what once passed for fine letter-writing. Every nerve was strained to outdo each other in carving all thoughts into a filigree work of rhetoric; and the amoebean contest was like that between two village cocks from neighbouring farms endeavouring to overcrow each other. To us, in this age of purer and more masculine taste, the whole scene takes the ludicrous air of old and young fops dancing a minuet with each other, practising the most elaborate grimaces, sinkings and risings the most awful, bows the most overshadowing, until plain walking, running, or the motions of natural dancing, are
thought too insipid for endurance.' In 1737 -a few years before his death-Pope published a volume of his literary correspondence, abounding with pleasant gossip and shrewd observation; but it appears to have been ascertained that, like the letters of Miss Seward at a later period, it was manufactured with a view to publication, and not composed of actual epistles addressed to the different persons whose names are given. Many of Pope's letters, however, contain exquisite passages of description, humour, and sentiment; and as literary productions they have probably been undervalued by some recent critics. In his later years, he abandoned the gay rhetoric which is so conspicuously displayed in his earlier letters, but it is believed that he never ceased to look with favour on his youthful style. In the case of Pope—and indeed of nearly all the celebrated letter-writers to whom I intend to refer the selection of one or two letters from a large correspondence as suitable specimens of the writer's style, is, of course, a very difficult, if not an impossible task -and in some instances, I fear, an erroneous impression may be formed from the examples introduced. At the same time, however, I may