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FOUR CENTURIES

OF

ENGLISH LETTERS

SELECTIONS FROM
THE CORRESPONDENCE OF ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY WRITERS
FROM THE PERIOD OF THE PASTON LETTERS

TO THE PRESENT DAY

Ect. Thantons

Fely 1851.

EDITED AND ARRANGED BY

W: BAPTISTE SCOONES

NEW YORK
HARPER & BROTHERS, FRANKLIN SQUARE

1880

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PREFACE.

THE QUALITY of English epistolary correspondence is not surpassed by that of any other European nation. In quantity and variety France is our only successful rival.

So extensive and various are our own collections that he who has not made a diligent hole-and-corner search for himself can have no idea of their scope and character. In putting forth this volume I need scarcely say that it is not, and cannot be, a complete treasury of English letters from the Lancastrian to the Victorian era. I have simply endeavoured, after a careful survey of nearly five hundred volumes, to make my scanty plot of ground' rich with some of the best and brightest flowers of epistolary literature. The preservation of an uniform measure of literary excellence, after the manner of the Golden Treasury of Poetry, was the object which at first was attempted in the process of selection; but as the field of choice, thus limited, proved to be so very narrow, and the authors so few, the addition of letters combining decided literary merit with features of special interest seemed requisite to save the volume from overmuch severity of tone.

Mr. Carlyle somewhere defines good letters as 'an uncounted handful of needles to be collected from an unmea

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