« EdellinenJatka »
a letter from your pocket or cabinet, is encouraged to that vile practice. If the quantity falls short of a volume, any thing else shall be joined with it (more especially scandal) which the collector can think for his interest, all recommended under your Name: you have not only Theft to fear, but Forgery. Any Bookseller, though conscious in what manner they were obtained, not caring what may be the consequence to your Fame or Quiet, will sell and disperse them in town and country. The better your Reputation is, the more your name will cause them to be demanded, and consequently the more you will be injured. The injury is of such a nature, as the Law (which does not punish for Intentions) cannot prevent; and when done, may punish, but not redress. You are therefore reduced, either to enter into a personal treaty with such a man (which though the readiest, is the meanest of all methods), or to take such other measures to suppress them, as are contrary to your Inclination, or to publish them, as are contrary to your Modesty. Otherwise your Fame and your Property suffer alike; you are at once exposed and plundered. As an Author, you are deprived of that Power, which above all others constitutes a good one, the power of rejecting, and the right of judging for yourself, what pieces it may be most useful, entertaining, or reputable, to publish, at the time and in the manner you think best. As a Man, you are deprived of the right even over your own Sentiments, of the privilege of every human creature to divulge or conceal them; of the advantage of your second thoughts; and of all the benefit of your Prudence, your Can
dour, or your Modesty. As a Member of Society, you are yet more injured; your private conduct, your domestic concerns, your family secrets, your passions, your tendernesses, your weaknesses, are exposed to the Misconstruction or Resentment of some, to the Censure or Impertinence of the whole world. The printing private letters in such a manner, is the worst sort of betraying Conversation, as it has evidently the most extensive, and the most lasting, ill consequences. It is the highest Offence against Society, as it renders the most dear and intimate intercourse of friend with friend, and the most necessary commerce of man with man, unsafe, and to be dreaded. To open letters is esteemed the greatest breach of honour: even to look into them already opened or accidentally dropt, is held an ungenerous, if not an immoral act. What then can be thought of procuring them merely by fraud, and the printing them merely for lucre? We cannot but conclude every honest man will wish, that, if the Laws have as yet provided no adequate remedy, one at least may be found, to prevent so great and growing an evil.
SEVERAL OF HIS FRIENDS.
Quo Desiderio veteres revocamus Amores,
Atque olim amissas flemus Amicitias !-Catull.
In the Bodleian Library, among Rawlinson's books and papers, is a large Quarto of these Letters, the original copies, with the post-mark on most of them, which Mrs. Thomas delivered to Curl, and which Rawlinson procured from Curl. On a comparison, which has been carefully made, it appears that Curl has omitted some, mutilated others, and blended two together.
With respect to this Collection of Letters, it may be observed in general, that those are best which are written by the persons that have been most conversant in the world, and knew most of life. Those of our Author seem evidently designed for the public eye, and are sometimes inconsistent with the facility and unreservedness that ought to take place, and be predominant in a friendly and familiar correspondence. Of which kind the Letters of three celebrated Ladies, Madame de Sevigné, Madame Maintenon, and Lady Mary Wortley Montague, are masterpieces. So indeed is the correspondence betwixt Boileau and Racine, published by his son. But beyond all comparison, the eighteen volumes of the Letters of Voltaire, published in the last edition of his Works, contain a variety of literary history and criticism, written also to the most celebrated persons of the age, hardly to be equalled or excelled. It is much to be lamented that Sprat did not publish a large collection of his friend Cowley's Letters, which he had in his possession, especially, as he himself says, “ it was a way of writing in which Cowley particularly excelled, as in these he always expressed the native tenderness and innocent gaiety of his heart.” By the truly valuable collection given us by Mr. Mason, it appears that Gray was a much better writer of Letters than Pope.