A Letter Book - Selected with an Introduction on the History and Art of Letter-Writing
23 Pages

A Letter Book - Selected with an Introduction on the History and Art of Letter-Writing


Downloading requires you to have access to the YouScribe library
Learn all about the services we offer


The Project Gutenberg EBook of A Letter Book, by George Saintsbury This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.org Title: A Letter Book Selected with an Introduction on the History and Art of Letter-Writing Author: George Saintsbury Release Date: January 25, 2010 [EBook #31072] Language: English Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1 *** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK A LETTER BOOK *** Produced by Susan Skinner and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at http://www.pgdp.net Transcriber's Note Obvious typographical errors have been corrected in this text. For a complete list, please see the bottom of this document. A LETTER BOOK A LETTER BOOK SELECTED WITH AN INTRODUCTION ON THE HISTORY AND ART OF LETTER-WRITING BY GEORGE SAINTSBURY LONDON G. BELL AND SONS, LTD. NEW YORK: HARCOURT, BRACE AND CO. 1922 [v] PREFACE When my publishers were good enough to propose that I should undertake this book, they were also good enough to suggest that the Introduction should be of a character somewhat different from that of a school-anthology, and should attempt to deal with the Art of Letter-writing, and the nature of the Letter, as such.



Published by
Published 08 December 2010
Reads 0
Language English
The Project Gutenberg EBook of A Letter Book, by George Saintsbury This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.org Title: A Letter Book  Selected with an Introduction on the History and Art of Letter-Writing Author: George Saintsbury Release Date: January 25, 2010 [EBook #31072] Language: English Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1 *** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK A LETTER BOOK *** Produced by Susan Skinner and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at http://www.pgdp.net
Transcriber's Note Obvious typographical errors have been corrected in this tex.t For a completeil s ,tplease see the bottom of this documen . t A LETTER BOOK A LETTER BOOK SELECTED WITH AN INTRODUCTION ON THE HISTORY AND ART OF LETTER-WRITING BY GEORGE SAINTSBURY LONDON G. BELL AND SONS, LTD. NEW YORK: HARCOURT, BRACE AND CO. 1922 PREFACE When my pubilshers were good enough to propose that  Ishould undertake this book ,they were also good enough to sugges ttha tthe Introduciton should be of a character somewha tdifferent from that o fa school-anthology ,and should attemp tto deal with the Art o fLetter-wiritng ,and the nature of the Letter, as such. I formed a plan accordingly, by which the letters, and their separate Prefatory Notes ,migh tbe as it were illustrations to the Introduction ,which was intended in turn to be a guide to them. Having done this with a proper Pourvu que Dieu lui prête vie  referirng to both book and author , Ithough tit well to look up nex twha thad been done int he way before me, at least to the exten tof what the London Library could provide me in circumstances of enforced abstinence from the Museum and from "Bodley." From its catalogue I selected a curious eighteenth-century Art of Letter Writing  ,and four nineteenth and ealriest tweniteth century booksRoberts's History o fLetter Wirting  (1843) with Pickering's ever-beloved title-page and his beauitful clear print ;the Littérature Epistolaire  of Barbey d'Aurevillya critic never to be neglected though always to be consulted with eyes wide open and brain alert; ifnally, two Essays in Dr. Jessopp's Studies by a Recluse and in the Men and Letters  of M.r Herber tPaul, once a very frequen tassociate of mine .The itlte o fthe ifrs tmentioned book speaks i tpretty thoroughly ."The Ar to fLetter Wriitng: Divided into Two Parts. The Firs :tContaining Rules and Directions for wiritng letters on all sorts of subjects [ this line as well as several others is Rubircked ] with a variety of examples equally elegant and instrucitve .The Second: a Colleciton of Letters on the Mos tinteresitng occasions of ilfe in which are insertedThe proper method of Addressing Persons of all ranks ;some necessary orthographical directions ,the rightf orms o fmessagef or cards; and thoughts upon a multipilcity o fsubjects ;the whole composed upon an entirely new planchielfy calculated for the instruction of youth, but may be [ sic ] of singular service to Gentlemen, Ladies and all others who are desirous to attain the true style and manner of a poilte epistolary intercourse." May our own litlte book have no worse fortune! M.r Roberts's avowedly restricts itselt fot heif fth century as a terminus ad quem , though i tprofesses to start "from the earilest times," and its seven hundred pages deal very honeslty and fully with their subjects .The essays of D.r Jessopp and Mr. Paul are of course merely Essays, of a score or two of pages: though the first is pretty wide in its scope. There would be nothing but good to be said of either, if both had not been, not perhaps blasphemous but parsimonious of praise ,towards "Our Lady of the Rocks." tI canno tbe too often or too solemnly laid down that an adoration of Madame de Sévigné as a letter-writer is not crotche tor fashion or affectaitonis no result of merely taking authoirty on trus .tThe more one reads her ,and the more one reads others, the more convinced should one be of her absolute non-pareility in almost every kind of genuine letter (as apart from letters that are really pamphlets or speeches or sermons) except pure love-letters, of which we have none from her. As for Littérature Epistolaire , it is a collection of some two dozen reviews of vairous modern repirnts of letters by distinguished writersmostly but not all French. The author has throughout used the letters he is considering almost wholly as tell-tales of character, no tas examples of ar:t and therefore he does no ,texcept in possible glances ,require further attention, though the booki s full of interesting things. Its judgment of one of our greatest, and one of the greatest of all ,letter-writersHorace Walpoleis too severe ,bu tno ,tlike Macaulay's, superifcially insisten ton superficial defects ,and ought no tto be neglected by anyone who studies the subject. If ,howevert ,here was no need to rely on any oft hese books, they did nothing to hinder in the peculiar way in which I had feared some hindrance. For it is a nuisance to ifnd tha tsomebody else has done something in the precise wayi n which you have planned doing it. I have not yet encountered that nuisance here. D.r Jessopp's general plani s mostl ike mineindeed some simliairty was unavoidable: but the two are not identical, and I had planned mine before I knew anything about his. So witht his prelude le tus go to business ,only premising furthert hat the object, unlike that of the anonymous Augustan, is not to "give rules and instructions for wirting good letters," except in the way (which far excels all rules and instrucitons) o fshowing how good letters have been written .Let us also modestly trus ttha tthe collection may deal with some "interesitng occasions of ilfe" and contain "thoughts on a [fair] multiplicity of subjects." Having been ,as above observed ,unable duirng the composition o fthis book to visi tLondon or Oxford , Ihave had to rely occasionally on firendly assistance. I owe paritcular thanks (as indeed I have owed them at almost any time these forty years) to the Rev. William Hunt ,D.Litt,. Honorary Fellow o fTrinity College ,Oxford: and  Iam also indebted to Miss Elsie Hitchcock for some kind aid at the Museum given me through the intermediation of Professor Ker. Besides the thanks given to Mr. Lloyd Osbourne, M.r Kipling and Dr. Williamsoni n the texti n reference to certain new or almost newl etters, we owe very sincere graittude for permissiont o repirntt he following importan tmatters: His Honour Judge Parry. Two letters from "Letters from Dorothy Osborne to Sir William Temple." Messrs. Douglas & Foulis  . A letter to Joanna Balilie ,from "Familiar Letters of Sir Walter Scot.t" Messrs. Longmans, Green & Co  . Two letters from Mrs .Calryle's "Letters and Memoirals," and one letter from Sir G .O. Trevelyan's "Life and Letters of Lord Macaulay." Messrs .Macmillan & Co,. Ltd  . Three letters from "The Letters of Charles Dickens" ;onel etter by FitzGerald and one by Thomas Carlyle, from "Letters and Literary Remains of Edward FitzGerald"; one letter from "Charles Kingsley: his Letters and Memories of his Life" ;and two extracts from "Further Records, 1848-1883," by Frances Anne Kemble. Mr. John Murray.  One letter from "The Letters o fElizabeth Barrett Browning." GEORGE SAINTSBURY. 1 Royal Crescen ,tBath,       October, 1921 . CONTENTS page Preface v Introduction ont he History and Ar to fLetter-Wriitng 1 I .Ancien tHistory .II .Letters in Englishbefore 1700II .I .The Eighteenth Century. IV. Nineteenth Century Letters—Early. V. Nineteenth Century LettersLater .VI .Some Special Kinds of Letter. VII .Conclusion. Appendix to Introduction: Greek LettersSynesius 100 i() To his BrotherPreparaitons to mee tRaiders. (ii) To HypatiaLonging bu tunablet o comet o her. Latin Letters—Pliny 102 Accepts a Bireff or a Lady. Letters ot fhe "Dark" AgesSidonius Apolilnairs 105 The exploits of Ecdicius. Early Mediaeval (Tweltfh Century) Letter 108 Duchess of Burgundyt o King Louis VI.IMatchmaking. ENGLISH LETTERS The "Paston" Letters 111 1. A Channel Fight. 2 .Margeryi s Willing. Roger Ascham 116 3. "Up the Rhine." 4. Nostalgia for Cambirdge. Lady Mary Sidney 122 5. Have you no room at Court? George Cilfford ,Earl of Cumberland 125 6. A Death-bed letter. John Donne 129 7-10 .Letters to Magdalen Lady Herber.t James Howell 135 11. "Long Melford for Ever." 12. The White Bird. John Evelyn 139 13. How to take care of ears, eyes and brains. Dorothy Osborne 146 14. A discourse of Flying, and several other things. 15. Some testimonies of kindness. Jonathan Switf 154 16 .Letter-hunger. Lady Mary Worltey-Montagu 159 17 .Direcitonsf or running away with her. Phiilp Dormer Stanhope, Ealr o fChesterifeld 164 18. Some manners that make a genlteman. George Ballard 173 19. The wickedness of Reviewers. Thomas Gray 180 20 .Romanities and Plain Engilsh. 21. Ken ,tRousseau, Lord Chatham ,etc. Horace Walpole (and W. M. Thackeray) 187 22. What Horace wrote. 23. What Horace might have written. Tobias George Smollett 195 24. Of Johnson, and Johnson's Frank—To Wilkes. William Cowper 197 25. About a Greenhouse. Sydney Smith 201 26 .Vegetaiton ,stagnaiton ,and assassinaiton. 27. His "hotel." Hasty judgments deprecated. Sir Walter Scott 206 28. Authors and Morals. Samuel Taylor Coleirdge 212 29. From Spinosa to Go b win through things in general. Robert Southey 217 30-33. The Lingo Grande . Chalres Lamb 221 34 .A Sigh for Soiltude. George Gordon, Lord Byron 228 35. Of Pictures, and Sepulture, and his Daughters. Percy Bysshe Shelley 233 36. Of Pictures only. John Keats 239 37. A Voyage, and the Quartelry and Charmian. The Calryles 244 38. Thomas on Latrappism . 39. Jane Welsh on her Travels. 40. Jane Welsh on the blessings of Photography. Thomas Babington Macaulay 253 41 .Ouftits, and Election Dinners. Miss Berry and Lady Holland. Thomas Lovell Beddoes 258 42 .Stage-coach tircks ,and stage-play ghosts. Elizabeth Barrett Browning 263 43. An extended Honey-moon. Edward FitzGerald 270 44. Of Bath, and Oxford, and some Immortals. Francis Anne Kemble 275 45. A Ghost in Flannel. 46 .Bakespeairsm. William Makepeace Thackeray 279 47. As himself. 48. In character. Charles Dickens 286 49 .Straigh tdeailng witht he personages of Nicholas Nickleby . 50. Advice to an Innocent in London. 51. Mr. and Mrs. Harirs. Chalres Kingsley 292 52. Tom Brown's Schooldays  ;Pike fishing; and a pretty thing with Garth's. John Ruskin 296 53. The Servant question. Robert Louis Balfour Stevenson 303 54. John Gibson Lockhart, and an Umbrella. INTRODUCTION THE HISTORY AND ART OF LETTER WRITING I ANCIENT HISTORY On letter-writing, as on mos tthings that can themselves be written and talked about, there are current many clichés —stock and banal sayings that express, or have at some time expressed ,a certain amoun tof truth .The most famiilar of these for a good many years past has been that the penny post has killed it. Whether revival of the twopenny has caused it to exhibit any kind of corresponding resurrecitonary symptoms is a matter which cannot yet be pronounced upon. But it may be possible to avoid these clichés , or at any rate to make no more than necessary glances at themi ,n composing this little paper, which aims at being a discussion of the Letter as a branch of Literature, no less than ani ntroduction tot he specimens oft he kind which follow. I ,faccording to a famous dictum ,"Everything has been said," it follows that every deifniiton must have been already made .Therefore, no doub ,tsomebody has ,or many bodies have ,before now deifned or a tleast described the Letter as that kind of communicaiton of thought or fact to another person which most immediately succeeds the oral ,and suppiles the claims of absence .You want to tell somebody something ;bu the or she is not, as they used to say "by," or perhaps there are circumstances (and circum standers ) which or who make speech undesirable; so you "wirte." A tifrst no doubt ,you used signs or symbols like the feather with which Wildrake let Cromwel'ls adven tbe known in Woodstock —a most ingenious device for which, by the way, the recipients were scantly grateful. But when reading and writing came by nature, you availed yourself of these Nature's gifts, not always, it is to be feared, regarding the interconneciton o fthe two sufficiently. There is probably more than one person ilving who has received a reply beginning "Dear So-and-So ,Thanks for youri nteresitng and paritally legible  epistle," or words tot ha teffec .tBu tthat is a par tot fhe matter which lies outside our range. On the probable general fac,t howeve,r some observaitons may be less firvolously based. fI this were a sentimental age, as some agesi n the past have been ,one migh tassume that, as the ifrs tportrait is supposed to have been a slihouette o fthe present beloved, drawn on her shadow with a charcoaled sitck, so the same ,or another implemen tmay have served (on wha tsubsittute for paper anybody pleases) to communicate with her when absent. But the slliiness of this agethough far be it from us to dispute its possession o fso prevaiilng a qualitydoes not taket hef ormat leas t this form—of sentiment. There is, moreover ,nothing silly or senitmental, though of THE BEGINNINGS course there is something that may be controverted, in saying that except for purely "business" purposes (which are as such alien from Art and have nothing to do with any but a part ,and a rather sophisitcated par ,to fNature) thel ess the letter-writer forgets that he is merely substituting pen for tongue the bette.r Of courset ,hei nstruments andt he circumstances being different ,the methods and canons o fthe proceedings wlil be differen ttoo .In the letter there is no intelrocutor ;and there is no possibility o fwha twe may call accompanying it with personalli lustraitons [1]  and demonstraitons,i  fnecessary or agreeable. But stlil it may be laid down, with some conifdence, that the more the spoken word is heard in al etter the bette ,rand thel ess tha twordi s heardthe more i tgives way to "book"-talk—the worse. Indeed this is not likely to be denied, though there remain as usual almos tinifnite possibiilties o fdifferences in personal opinion as to wha tconstitutes the desirable mixture o fvairation and similarity between a conversaiton and a letter. Let us ,before discussin this or sain
v[ ]
anything more abou tthe pirnciples, say something about the history o fthis, at bes tso deilghftul ,at worst so undelightful ar.t For i fHistory ,in the transferred sense of paritcular books called "histoires," is rather apt to be false: nothing but History in the wider and higher sense wlli ever lead us to truth. The Future is unknown and unknowable. The Present is turning to Past even as we are trying to know it .Onlyt he Pasi ttsel fabides our knowledge. Of the oldest exis it ng examples of epistolary BIBLICAL EXAMPLES correspondence, except those contained in the Bible, the presen twirter knows little or nothing .Fo,r except a vanished smatteirng o fHebrew ,he "has" no Oriental tongue ;he has never been much addicted to reading translaitons, and eveni  fhe had been so has hadl itlte occasion to draw him to such studies ,and much to draw him away from them. There certainly appear to be some beautiful specimens o fthe more passionate letter wriitng in ancient if not exaclty pre-Chirsitan Chinese, and probably in other tonguesbut it is ill talking o fwhat one does not know .In the Scirptures themselves letters do not come ealry ,and the "token" peirod probably lastedl ong. Isaac does not even send a token with Jacob to validate his suit for a daughter of Laban. But one would have enjoyed a letter from Ishmael to his half-brother, when his daughter was married to Esau, who was so much more like a son of Ishmael himself than of the amiable husband of Rebekah. She, by the way, had herself been fetched in an equally unlettered transaction. It would of course be impossible ,and might be regarded as imprope ,rto devote much space here to the sacred epistolographers .But one may wonder whether many people have appreciated the humour of the two episltes of the great King Ahasuerus-Artaxerxes ,the first commanding and the second countermanding the massacre of the Jews—epistles contained in the Septuagint "Rest of the Book of Esther" (see our Apocrypha), instead of the mere dry summaries which had sufifced for "the Hebrew and the Chaldee." The exact authenticity of these fuller texts is a matter o fno importance ,bu ttheir substance, whetheri t was the work o fa Persian civli servan tor of a Greek-Jew rhetorician, is most curious. Whosoever it was, he knew King's Speeches and communicaitonsf rom "My lords" and such liket hings, very welli ndeed; and the contras tof the meniton in the first letter o f"Aman who excelled in wisdom among us and was approved for his constan tgood will and steadfast fidelity" with "the wicked wretch Aman—a stranger received of us ... his falsehood and cunning"the whole of both letters being carefully attuned to the respecitve key-notes—is worthy of any one of the best ironists from Aristophanes to the late Mr .Traill. Between these two extremes of the Pentateuch and the Apocrypha there is, as has been remarked by divers commentators, no tmuch abou tletters in the Bible. tI is no tauspicious that among the excepitons come David's letter commanding the betrayal o fUirah, and a ilttle later Jezebe'ls simliar prescripiton for the judicial murder of Naboth. There is, however ,some hint of that curious attractiveness which some have seen in "the King's daughter all gloirous within" and withou t(as the Higher Criitcismi nterprets the Forty-Fifth Psalm) in the bland way with which she hersel fsitpulates that the false witnesses shall be "sons of Belial." There is a book (once much uitilsed as a school pirze) entitled The History of Invenitons  . Ido no tknow whether therei s a "Dicitonary of Attributed Inventors."  fIthere were it would contain some queer examples. One of the queeres tis fathered (for we only have it at second hand) on Hellanicus, a Greek writer of respectable antiquity—the Peloponnesian war-time—and respectable repute for book-making in history, chronology, etc. It attributes the invention of letters i.e  . "epistolary correspondence"to Atossanot M.r Matthew Arnold's Persian cat but—the Persian Queen, daughter of Cyrus, wife of Cambyses and Darius, mother of Xerxes, and in more than her queenly status a sister to Jezebel. Atossa had not a wholly amiable reputation, but she was assuredly no fool: and if, to borrow a famous phrase, it had been necessary to invent letters, there is no known reason why she might not have done i.t Bu tit is perfeclty certain that she did not, and no one who combines, as all true scholars should endeavour to combine, an unquenchable cuirosity to know wha tcan be known and is worth knowing with a placid resignaiton to ignorance of wha tcanno tbe known and would not be worth knowing—need in the least regret the fact that we do not know who did. There are said to be Egypitan letters o fimmense anitquity and high development; but once more, I do not profess direct knowledge of them, and once more I hold that of what a man does not possess direct knowledge, of that he should no twirte .Besides ,for practical purposes ,all our ilterature begins with Greek: so to Greek le tus turn. We have a fair bulk o fletters in that language .Herche'rs Epistolographi Graeci is a big volume, and would not be a small one, if you cut out the Latin translations. But it is unfortunate that nearly the whole ,ilke the majority o flater Greek literature, is the work o ftha tspecial class called rhetoricians—a class for which, though our term "book-makers" may be a little too derogatory ,"men o fletters" is rarely i( tis someitmes) applicable, as we use it when we mean to be complimentary. These letters are sitll closet o "speech,"t hus meeting in a fashion our initial requiremen ,tbu tthey are close to the speech of the "orator"o fthe sophisitcated speaker to the pubilcno tto tha to fgenuine conversation. In fac tin some cases it would require only the very slightest change to make those exercitations of the rhetors which are no tcalled "epistles" definite letters in form, while some o fthe best known and characteristic ot fheir works are so enitlted. It was unfortunate for the Greeks, as it would seem, and for THE RHETORICIANS us more certainly ,tha tletter-wirting was so much affected by these "rhetoircians." This curious class o fpersons has perhaps been too much abused :and there is no doubt tha tvery great wirters came out of themto meniton one only in each divisionLucian among the extremely profane ,and S .tAugustine among the greatest and most intellectual o