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trivial, and Dunciad, which belittles the great; Byron's vigorous English Bards and Scotch Reviewers. Thackeray, in all his novels, lashes the hollowness and insincerity of modern society. Shams (in the United States) are the central theme of Dickens' Martin Chuzzlewit. The character of Pecksniff, for instance, who regards piety as needful coin, and names his daughters Mercy and Charity, is thus drawn:

Perhaps there never was a more moral man than Mr. Pecksniff, especially in his conversation and correspondence. It was once said of him by a homely admirer, that he had a Fortunatus' purse of good sentiments in his inside. In this particular he was like the girl in the fairy tale, except that if they were not actual diamonds which fell from his lips, they were the very brightest paste, and shone prodigiously. He was a most exemplary man; fuller of virtuous precept than a copy-book. Some people likened him to a direction-post, which is always telling the way to a place, and never goes there, but these were his enemies, the shadows cast by his brightness; that was all. His very throat was moral. You saw a good deal of it. You looked over a very low fence of white cravat (whereof no man had ever beheld the tie, for he fastened it behind), and there it lay, a valley between two jutting heights of collar, serene and whiskerless before you. It seemed to say, on the part of Mr. Pecksniff, 'There is no deception, ladies and gentlemen, all is peace; a holy calm pervades me.' So did his hair, just grizzled with an iron-gray, which was all brushed off his forehead, and stood bolt upright, or slightly drooped in kindred action with his heavy eyelids. So did his person, which was sleek though free from corpulency. So did his manner, which was soft and oily. In a word, even his plain black suit, and state of widower, and dangling double eye-glass, all tended to the same purpose, and cried aloud, 'Behold the moral Pecksniff!'

Irony is disguised ridicule, and in controversy, as it gives an opponent no handle, becomes an embarrassing instrument of vituperation. Among Englishmen, Swift was the great master of the art. See his Tale of a Tub, which ridicules the Romanists and Presbyterians with a view to exalting the Church of England; and his Gulliver,

which, under the cloak of a voyager's journal, teaches the insignificance, vanity and falseness of human pursuits, ambitions, and hopes. A mocking goblin sits at his elbow to chill enthusiasm, to give imagination the lie, and to explode the bubbles of the ideal.

For keeping in check the follies and vices of those who are governed by no higher principle than the world's dread laugh,' for correcting the lighter foibles and inconsistencies of even good men, for removing abuses in philosophy, religion, and politics, ridicule has often proved the most effective weapon. Men and institutions can endure odium more easily than laughter.

In argument, ridicule puts an adversary hors de combat. A grave reply can never wound it. Says the elder Disraeli: Witty calumny and licentious raillery are airy. nothings that float about us, invulnerable from their very nature, like those chimeras of hell which the sword of Eneas could not pierce-yet these shadows of truth, these false images, these fictitious realities, have made heroism tremble, turned the eloquence of wisdom into folly, and bowed down the spirit of honor itself.' When it is directed against goodness and purity, when it withers genius, and gibbets what ought to be enshrined, ridicule becomes the greatest of evils. The sneer and the malignant sarcasm are the appropriate language of devils, like Goethe's Mephistopheles and Byron's Lucifer.



Nothing gives so just an idea of an age as genuine letters; nay, history waits for its last seal from them.-HORACE WALPOLE.


EXT to the essay, which we are to consider presently, the letter is the most agreeable as well as the most instructive form of the minor literature. On the one hand, it is the most familiar species of writing, and approaches the nearest to ordinary conversation; on the other, its written disclosures help us to a knowledge of individual character and of the movements of mankind, affording interesting pictures of the times, and materials for literary and political history. Of no slight historical value, for instance, are the earliest English specimens, the. correspondence of the Paston family during the era of the wars of York and Lancaster. Treating, in plain and artless language, of private affairs, they explain and illuminate incidentally much of the national, domestic, and social condition and the course of public events.

As the English became a literary people, familiar letters served as a vehicle for the feelings, opinions, and reflections of our authors. Bishop Hall, in a dedication to the son of James I, claims the honor of introducing 'this new fashion of discourse by epistles, new to our language, usual to others; and as novelty is never without plea of use, more free, more familiar.' James Howell gave us his own times, as well as his own history, in 'Familiar letters, domestic and foreign, historical, political, and philosophical, upon emergent occasions.' Perhaps our most famous

contribution of letters is that of Pope, who, though ever mindful of the public regard, reveals to us his personal qualities his refinement, his delicacy of judgment, his critical taste, his wit, his generous sensibility, his conceit, his affectation, his passion for intrigue and stratagem. When the letter-writer casts his eye toward the public, while appearing to write only for his friends, the product, according to the well-known phrase, is apt to smell too much of the lamp. The censure of artificiality falls less heavily on Swift; very lightly, or not at all, on Gray, Cowper, and Burns. I once thought Swift's letters,' said Cowper, 'the best that could be written, but I like Gray's better. His humor, or his wit, or whatever it is to be called, is never ill-natured or offensive, and yet, I think, equally poignant with the Dean's.' Perhaps no long collection of letters can be continuously read with the same sustained interest as Cowper's own. They are so manifestly sincere and unstudied that there could be no need of his assurance: 'Now upon the faith of a poor creature, I have said all that I have said without the least intention to say one word of it when I began; but it is thus with my thoughts: when you shake a crab-tree, the fruit falls: good for nothing indeed when you have got it, but still the best that is to be expected of a crab-tree.' The slack correspondent who complains that he has nothing to write about, should learn from Cowper how much may be made out of how little. No one has told more completely, in these 'fragments of the human mind,' the story of his life, including its deplorable frailties, than Robert Burns, whose letters possess an imperishable charm. The following, to an old Irvine friend, may not be out of place here:

EDINBURGH, 30th Dec., 1787.

MY DEAR SIR,-I have met with few things in life which have given me more pleasure than Fortune's kindness to you since those days in which we met in the vale of misery; as I can honestly say

that I never knew a man who more truly deserved it, or to whom my heart more truly wished it. I have been much indebted since that time to your story and sentiments, for steeling my mind against evils, of which I have had a pretty decent share. My Will-o'-wisp fate you know: do you recollect a Sunday we spent together in Eglinton Woods? You told me, on my repeating some verses to you, that you wondered I could resist the temptation of sending verses of such merit to a magazine. It was from this remark I derived that idea of my own pieces which encouraged me to endeavour at the character of a poet. I am happy to hear that you will be two or three months at home. As soon as a bruised limb will permit me, I shall return to Ayrshire, and we shall meet; 'and faith I hope we'll not sit dumb, nor yet cast out!'

I have much to tell you of men, their manners, and their ways'; perhaps a little of the other sex. Apropos, I beg to be remembered to Mrs. Brown. There, I doubt not, my dear friend, but you have found substantial happiness. I expect to find you something of an altered, but not a different, man: the wild, bold, generous young fellow composed into the steady, affectionate husband, and the fond, careful parent. For me, I am just the same Will-o'-wisp being I used to be. About the first and fourth quarters of the moon, I generally set in for the trade wind of wisdom; but about the full and change, I am the luckless victim of mad tornadoes, which blow me into chaos. Almighty love still reigns and revels in my bosom; and I am at this moment ready to hang myself for a young Edinburgh widow, who has wit and wisdom more murderously fatal than the assassinating stiletto of the Sicilian bandit, or the poisoned arrow of a savage African. My Highland dirk, that used to hang beside my crutches, I have gravely removed into a neighbouring closet, the key of which I cannot command, in case of spring-tide paroxysms. You may guess of her wit by the following verses, which she has sent me the other day.

My best compliments to our friend Allan. Adieu!

R. B.

The letters of Lord Byron evince, even better than his poems, his command of vigorous English, while they also display his perplexing mixture of good and evil, his glory and his condemnation. The following is characteristic:

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