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sured continent of hay.' Given sufficient time, opportunity, and inclination, and most men may explore this vast continent; but it is doubtful whether any single traveller would be fortunate enough to pick up all the needles. I am sensible of comparative failure after a long journey of research, and I know that many a gem must still lurk in dark corners; but I must be content to depend on 'the magic of patience,' and to the kindly assistance of all who may take an interest in this design, to bring many more fine specimens to light.

Most of the letters, it will be observed, are introduced by a critical or explanatory head-note, worded in as condensed a form as possible. As many readers may consider these notes somewhat dogmatic, and even entirely superfluous, it is necessary to state that their introduction, as a prominent and essential feature of the plan, is prompted by the hope that the volume as a whole may commend itself to the young and unenlightened equally with their more cultured elders; especially as, I venture to hope, there will nowhere be found a page to offend the most fastidious reader.

I am not aware of the existence of any comprehensive and well-considered collection of English letters suitable alike for the purposes of instruction and recreation, in spite of the repeated pitiful complaints that the art of letterwriting, so graceful an adornment of our older literature, has dwindled down to the proverbial 'hurried scrawl' of the present hour. And yet the study of this art has not been abandoned for want of, but in spite of, the urgent advocacy of many English classical writers. John Locke, in his essay on Education, remarks: When they understand how to write English with due connexion, propriety, and order, and are pretty well masters of a tolerable narrative style, they may be advanced to writing of letters; wherein they should not be put upon any strains of wit or compliment, but taught to express their own plain easy sense without any incoherence,

confusion, or roughness. . . . The writing of letters has so much to do in all the occurrences of human life, that no gentleman can avoid showing himself in this kind of writing: occasions will daily force him to make use of his pen, which, besides the consequences that, in his affairs, his well- or illmanaging of it often draws after it, always lays him open to a severer examination of his breeding, sense, and abilities than oral discourses, whose transient faults, dying for the most part with the sound that gives them life, and so not subject to a strict review, more easily escape observation and censure.'

Political letters, except in very few instances, will be conspicuous by their absence. The chief obstacle to their introduction here has been the want of sufficient interest in any one or two such letters taken by themselves. The correspondence of politicians is a branch of literature in itself; and though political letters are very often most interesting in their bearing on questions of domestic and foreign policy when read in a collective form, they will be found dull and meaningless in fragments. A reference to such works as Stanhope's Life of Pitt,' The Bedford Letters,' The Correspondence of the Duchess of Marlborough,' Grimblot's Letters of William III. and Louis XIV.,' The Correspondence of George III. with Lord North,' or of William IV. with Earl Grey, and many other such collections, will help to establish my assertion on this point.

In regard to the arrangement of the different epistles, it was decided, after careful consideration, not to publish them in groups according to the subject-matter, but chronologically according to the date of each author's birth. With these few observations I will leave it to others to expatiate on letter-writing as an art and on the varied beauties of our own epistolary literature in particular; and will conclude with an expression of thanks to those gentlemen who have

kindly granted me permission to reprint extracts from recently published works.

To my friend Mr. Edmund Gosse I am very grateful for the interest he has taken in the progress of this volume, as well as for the benefit I have derived from his scholarly criticism, and for several important contributions.



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