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Recent Letter-Writers.


families, given by a Duke of Norfolk to the Heralds' Office, where they have lain for a century neglected, buried under dust and unknown, till discovered by a Mr. Lodge, a genealogist, who, to gratify his passion, procured to be made a pursuivant. Oh! how curious they are! Henry seizes an alderman who refused to contribute to a benevolence; sends him to the army on the borders; orders him to be exposed in the front line; and if that does not do, to be treated with the utmost rigour of military discipline. His daughter Bess is not less a Tudor. The mean, unworthy treatment of the Queen of Scots is striking; . . . but the most amusing passage is one in a private letter, as it paints the awe of children for their parents a little differently from modern habitudes. Mr. Talbot, second son of the Earl of Shrewsbury, was a member of the House of Commons, and was married. He writes to the Earl, his father, and tells him that a young woman of a very good character has been recommended to him for chambermaid to his wife, and if his Lordship does not disapprove of it, he will hire her. There are many letters of news that are very entertaining too; but it is nine o'clock, and I must go to Lady Cecilia's.

As other distinguished letter-writers I may mention Oliver Goldsmith, Laurence Sterne, David Hume, Benjamin Franklin, David Garrick, Edward Gibbon, Robert Burns, and, nearer our own times, Henry Kirke White, Lord Byron, George Crabbe, Charles Lamb, Robert Southey, Sydney Smith, and Lord. Jeffrey; while the gentler sex is well represented by Mrs. Godwin (Mary Wolstoncroft),


Lady Duff-Gordon.

Hannah More, Mrs. Tonna (Charlotte Elizabeth' Browne), Jane and Anna-Maria Porter, Mrs. Maclean ('L. E. L.'), Felicia Hemans, Mrs. Fletcher (better known as Miss Jewsbury), Lady Eastlake (Elizabeth Rigby), Miss Mitford, Mrs. Bray, Miss Pardoe, and Lady Duff-Gordon.

The great charm of Lady Duff-Gordon's Letters from Egypt, consists in their faithful reflection of her daily thoughts. 'I regret,' she says, 'that so many of my letters have been lost; but I can't replace them. I tried, but it felt like committing a forgery.' Easy, pleasing, graphic, and unaffected in her style, she says nothing she does not feel, and only what is passing through her mind at the moment. A less ingenuous writer once said :

The freedom I shall use of thinking aloud or talking upon paper may indeed prove me a fool, but it will prove me one of the best sort of fools, the honest ones.' Lady Duff-Gordon's letters have been contrasted with those of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu. We can hardly imagine, however, that any honest critic would hesitate to apply to the more recent penwoman the epithet which Leigh Hunt withheld from Lady Mary; and although some of her senti

Gibbon and Goldsmith.


ments may appear to savour of optimism-a quality now rarely encountered-the coldest of her readers cannot fail to admire her catholicity of spirit and her largeness of heart.

Like the letters of Dr. Johnson, those of Gibbon are, as a general rule, short, when compared with the correspondence of other literary men. As one of many good examples, I may refer to an admirable letter which the historian. addressed to Mrs. Porten, from Lausanne, in the year 1756. Poor Goldsmith, on the other hand, is not particularly laconic. I do not venture to introduce one of his humorous letters to his friend Bob Bryanton of Ballymahon, dated Edinburgh, 26th September 1753, in which he is not very complimentary to the natives of this 'dismal' and 'unfruitful' portion of the United Kingdom; but as an effusion full of character, I make no apology for giving the following laughable description of the poeterrant's second sally in quest of adventures, in a letter to his affectionate mother :-

My dear mother, If you will sit down and calmly listen to what I say, you shall be fully resolved in every one of those many questions you have asked me. I went to Cork and converted my horse, which you prize so much higher than Fiddle-back, into cash, took my pas


Oliver Goldsmith

sage in a ship bound for America, and, at the same time, paid the captain for my freight and all the other expenses of my voyage. But it so happened that the wind did not answer for three weeks; and you know, mother, that I could not command the elements. My misfortune was, that, when the wind served, I happened to be with a party in the country, and my friend the captain never inquired after me, but set sail with as much indifference as if I had been on board. The remainder of my time I employed in the city and its environs, viewing everything curious, and you know no one can starve while he has money in his pocket.

Reduced, however, to my last two guineas, I began to think of my dear mother and friends whom I had left behind me, and so bought that generous beast Fiddleback, and bade adieu to Cork with only five shillings in my pocket. This, to be sure, was but a scanty allowance for man and horse towards a journey of above a hundred miles; but I did not despair, for I knew I must find friends on the road.

I recollected particularly an old and faithful acquaintance I made at college, who had often and earnestly pressed me to spend a summer with him, and he lived but eight miles from Cork. This circumstance of vicinity he would expatiate on to me with peculiar emphasis. 'We shall,' says he, 'enjoy the delights of both city and country, and you shall command my stable and my purse.'

However, upon the way I met a poor woman all in tears, who told me her husband had been arrested for a debt he was not able to pay, and that his eight children must now starve, bereaved as they were of his industry, which had been their only support. I thought myself at home, being not far from my good friend's house, and therefore parted with a moiety of all my store; and pray, mother, ought I not to have given her the other half

to his Mother.


crown, for what she got would be of little use to her? However, I soon arrived at the mansion of my affectionate friend, guarded by the vigilance of a huge mastiff, who flew at me and would have torn me to pieces but for the assistance of a woman, whose countenance was not less grim than that of the dog; yet she with great humanity relieved me from the jaws of this Cerberus, and was prevailed on to carry up my name to her master.

Without suffering me to wait long, my old friend, who was then recovering from a severe fit of sickness, came down in his nightcap, nightgown, and slippers, and embraced me with the most cordial welcome, showed me in, and, after giving me a history of his indisposition, assured me that he considered himself peculiarly fortunate in having under his roof the man he most loved on earth, and whose stay with him must, above all things, contribute to perfect his recovery. I now repented sorely I had not given the poor woman the other half-crown, as I thought all my bills of humanity would be punctually answered by this worthy man. I revealed to him my whole soul; I opened to him all my distresses; and freely owned that I had but one half-crown in my pocket; but that now, like a ship after weathering out the storm, I considered myself secure in a safe and hospitable harbour. He made no answer, but walked about the room, rubbing his hands as one in deep study. This I imputed to the sympathetic feelings of a tender heart, which increased my esteem for him, and, as that increased, I gave the most favourable interpretation to his silence. I construed it into delicacy of sentiment, as if he dreaded to wound my pride by expressing his commiseration in words, leaving his generous conduct to speak for itself.

It now approached six o'clock in the evening; and as I had eaten no breakfast, and as my spirits were


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