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hundreds of thousands. The Cecil correspondence preserved at Hatfield, and which extends from the accession of Edward the Sixth to the end of the reign of Queen Elizabeth, is a fathomless ocean of letters. We are told that during all those fifty years over which the Cecil correspondence extends scarcely a day passes which does not produce one or more letters connected with passing events. The Cecil correspondence is said to contain upwards of 30,000 documents, only a portion of which is bound up in 210 huge volumes. Yet it is remarkable that in all this prodigious assemblage of letters which the sixteenth century could produce, the really hearty, friendly letters are rarities. The men are all dressed in buckram, the women are all playing a part; there is no free, unrestrained intercourse.
When James the First came to the throne English society seemed to recover from the constraint which had oppressed it so long, and then everybody began to write letters—their name is legion. Everybody began to write letters then, and everybody regarded letter-writing as a graceful accomplishment by which he might hope to gain friends or improve his prospects, or even make money; it was like playing the violin. Who could tell whether a career might not be open to the professional ? For the newsletters of the seventeenth century did the work of the newspapers now, and the quidnuncs of the time bought and sold the last piece of intelligence, which straightway was committed to paper and circulated sometimes widely, sometimes among the privileged few. And this, too, produced its effect upon the familiar intercourse which was carried on by correspondence. The letter-writers were writing for an outside public, and how large that public might grow to be no one could say. When the Commonwealth comes, and everybody is suspicious of his nextdoor neighbour, as he had been in the century before, it is noticeable that there is a great dearth of such letters as we should most desire to meet withso great a dearth, indeed, that we are very imperfectly acquainted with the general tone of sentiment among even the middle and upper classes, and their real opinions and secret hopes and fears and wishes under the Protectorate. It is extremely significant that in those periods of our history, when Englishmen were most held down by the tyranny of their rulers, when their lives and liberties were most insecure, when the nation was cowering in the most abject panic-I mean under the terror of Henry the Eighth, under the oligarchy which ruled in the name of Edward the Sixth, and under the iron heel of Cromwell—we have almost nothing that can be called familiar and friendly letters. In times of horror and fear and suspicion, and when no man can trust his neighbour or kinsman, men and women dare not put pen to paper; then the least said the soonest mended.
It had Vthat English letter-writing revived. Pope and Boling broke wrote
for fame, Grey and Horace Walpole wrote for love. I think only one man that ever put pen to paper has surpassed Horace Walpole as a letter-writer. Grey and he were at Cambridge together, and through life they were always friends and correspondents. It is impossible now to do much more than mention the names of these accomplished men. Grey's own letters are very finished compositions—not because he laboured at them, they never smell of the lamp; I should be surprised to hear that he had ever re-written a letter in his life—but Grey had all the fastidiousness and precision of style which come of severe scholarly training and correct scholarly taste, and it is conceivable that if his education had been other than it was, he might have proved only an ordinary correspondent. I sometimes think that if Cowper had been sent to the University, instead of to an attorney's office, he might have been, and would have been, more like Grey than any one else. But Horace Walpole would have been Horace Walpole whatever his training had been. His letters came from him by a spontaneity that can never be attained. He was born a writer of letters, and if he had been shut up in a desert island like Robinson Crusoe he would have written letters all the same, and kept them till some ship arrived which should carry them to their destination. The good-humour, the gaiety, the delicate satire, the exquisitely felicitous turns of expression, the sly bits here and the shrewd comments there, the inimitable way in which he tells a story, the absence of that scowling detraction and venomous spite which make some of Pope's letters so distasteful—all this and a great deal more make those nine volumes of Horace Walpole's correspondence the delightful treasure-house they are. I never take down a volume of Horace Walpole's letters without reading more than I intended, without thinking and sometimes saying to myself, Why will people write any more books ? Surely we have enough already!
I have ventured to say that one letter-writer has surpassed even Horace Walpole, but I feel inclined to withdraw my words. Could any one surpass him ? Well, if any one could or did, that one was Charles Lamb. And if he did it was because in Walpole's large correspondence there is sometimes silver mixed with the gold, and sometimes the writer's heart is not quite free from guile, nor his hands always clean. But Charles Lamb's letters are all gold, all pure gold. When he dipped his pen in the inkhorn all the gall evaporated. That unique genius seemed to be unassailable by the baser passions and meaner motives which trouble common men; that gentle spirit did not seem to know what the feeling of jealousy or hatred or spite or envy meant. Only once that I remember was he known to be angry, but then more grievously hurt and troubled than wroth. It was when Southey had quite unintentionally laid bare an old and dreadful wound.
No man can be the worse for reading Walpole's letters, but any man or woman or boy or girl will be the better--yes, very greatly the better-for reading Charles Lamb's letters, every word of them!
Take the following specimen. It is one of that incomparable collection of letters addressed to his friend Manning, and I give it as an instance of the same kind of literary composition of which I have already instanced the ghost story in Pliny's correspondence, when I said that only in a letter could such a story be told; for as there are some subjects which are best dealt with by a poet, and some by a mathematician, and some by an historian, and some by a philosopher, so there are some which only admit of being handled by a letterwriter who has no higher aim than to delight or amuse or interest his friend, and to carry on a genial and light-hearted talk with him on paper when he can no longer talk with him by word of mouth. His aim is to provoke him to laughter or playful retort, to engage with him in a game of skill and repartee, when neither side desires to be too sombre, where both are playing for love, and each is the merrier for all the surprises and tricks and passages with the foils that occur as the game goes on. Take, I say, the following as a specimen :
DEAR MANNING, I wish you had made London in your way. There is an exhibition quite uncommon in Europe, which could not have escaped your genius ---a live rattlesnake, ten feet in length, and the thickness of a big leg. I went to see it last night by candlelight. We were ushered into a room very little bigger than ours at Pentonville. A man and woman and four boys live in this room, joint tenants with nine snakes, most of them such as no remedy has been discovered for their bite. We walked into the middle, which is formed by a balf-moon cf wired boxes, all mansions of snakce—whip-snakes, thunder-snakes, pig-nose snakes, American vipers, and this monster. He lies curled up in folds; and immediately a stranger enters (for he is used to the family, and sees them play at cards) he set up a rattle like a watchman's in London, or near as loud, and reared up a head from the midst of these folds like a toad, and shook bis head, and showed every sign a snake can show of irritation. I had the foolish curiosity to strike the wires with my finger, and the devil flew at me with his toad-mouth wide open: tho inside of his mouth is quite white. I bad got my finger away, nor could he well hare bit me with his big mouth, which would have been certain death in fire minutes. But it frightened me so much that I did not recover my voice for a minute's space. I forgot, in my fear, that he was secured. You would have forgot too, for 'tis incredible how such a monster can be confined in small gauzylooking wires. I dreamed of snakes in the night. I wish to hearen you could see it. Ile absolutely swelled with passion to the bigness of a large thigh. I could not retreat without infringing on another box, and just behind a little devil, not an inch from my back, had got his nose out, with some difficulty and pain, quite through the bars! He was soon taught better manners. All the snakes were curious, and objects of terror; but this monster, like Aaron's serpent, swallowed up the impression of the rest. He opened his cursed mouth, when he made at me, as wide as his head was broad. I ballooed out quite loud, and felt pains all over my body with the fright.
Pallo-SNAKE, C. L. I have been told that when I was a child Charles Lamb once patted me on the head. (Surely the hair will never cease to grow
on that particular spot!) But what a reserve of joy he would have bestowed upon me if he had ever written me a letter! A man with a letter of Charles Lamb's in his breast coat-pocket addressed to his very self would be as rich as one who owns a genuine Hobbema.
We have come to our own time at last, after skimming on the surface of the centuries. We have got back to the PostmasterGeneral from whom we started. Bless the good man and all that belong to him! We could not do without him now, and we owe him more than we know. But is it true that with the increase of quantity there is coming a deterioration in the quality of our letters ? Never believe it! First-rate quality in any commodity-material or mental, moral or spiritual—is not to be had for the asking. But pleasant, cheery, happy letters, such letters as-like the quality of mercy—are twice blest ; courteous, graceful letters, such as win young people friends, and go far to keep such friends in good humour; hearty, affectionate letters, such as strike the chords of love and awaken mysterious tremors in response ; letters that tend to keep us at our best and to protect us from sinking down to our worst-these any one may write who is not too indolent to take trouble and not possessed by the delusion that accomplishments come by nature as spots do upon the leopard's hide.
Young men and maidens! When I began to write this paper I started with the most audacious purpose in my mind. I actually intended to offer you some valuable advice on the subject of letterwriting, beginning with "Firstly’and ending with ‘Forty-ninthly.' Happily for my reputation, the gifted editor of this Review decidedly objected to this excessive display of practical wisdom, and even Mr. Cadaverous outdid himself by remarking, “Sir, I am surprised at your imprudence; no Doctor, not even a Doctor of Divinity, should give advice gratis ; did it never occur to you that a handsome fortune might be realised by setting up as a Professor of Epistolopathy and charging the usual fee?'
The suggestion is receiving my most earnest attention, and I am not without hopes that a house in Savile Row may be vacant before next season.
A STUDY FROM THE LIFE.
When, last October, the mayors met at the Freemasons' Tavern to celebrate the jubilee of municipal reform in England, Lord Granville told them he had often thought it would be an interesting task to trace the similarities and dissimilarities between the corporations of our great centres of industry and the old historical municipalities of Italy ;' and then he proceeded to institute a comparison, the general correctness of which will be admitted. The English municipalities, he said, were superior to the famous cities of Italy in their respect for justice, for order, for the 'general well-being of their inhabitants. But his observations on the subject of culture seemed to imply a misconception. The English cities, he observed,
can only for the present humbly follow in the encouragement of art and literature.' Doubtless Lord Granville meant what the Archbishop of Canterbury meant when his Grace spoke, some weeks later, on this very subject of municipalities, in the town of Birmingham, and before the famous Institute of which, in succession to James Russell Lowell, he is honorary president for the current year. The artistic achievements of the Italian cities were, he said, 'the love and despair of the ages.' If, in speaking of the encouragement of art and literature,' Lord Granville was thinking of its fruits in individual masterpieces, then, indeed, it is to be feared that we are not only humble followers of the Italians for the present,' but also for a more indefinite period than one likes to think of. But if, in speaking of the encouragement, we mean the combined effort of the community, for the sake of every member of it, then the English cities are, or will be, ahead of their superb prototypes of mediæval Italy.
I am not attempting the task suggested in Lord Granville's speech, but only intend to select a representative English town, to make a study of it from the life, and to show how this life is an expression of the social tendencies of the day. I have therefore chosen the great city which claims to be the most open and hospitable to ideas, to be regarded as the most fully developed example of the English city of the future-in a word, as the city wherein the spirit of the new time is most widely, variously, energetically assuming visible form and shape. What is the social