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VOL. I.-Part I.
A Collection of Letters from the Original Manuscripts of many
Princes, Great Personages, and Statesmen, together with some curious and scarce Tracts and Pieces of Antiquity, Religious, Political, and Moral. By L[eonard] Howard, D.D. Rector of St. George's, Southwark, and Chaplain to her Royal Highness the Princess Dowager of Wales. London, printed for the Author, MDCCLIU.-4to.
In commencing with this volume the series of critical notices which we purpose laying before ur readers, of Collections of Letters illustrative of English History, we have been influenced much more by its being comparatively unknown, even by those whose studies would render them the most likely to be acquainted with it, than by any particular claim which it possesses to attention. But, besides this circumstance, the extraordinary way in which its contents are thrown together, and the cause that produced its publication, combine to render the work a sort of literary curiosity which would alone entitle it to a place in the “ Retrospective Review." But, notwithstanding the trash which fills a large portion of its pages, several articles of a redeeming character will be found ; and a few of them do not yield in interest to many which occur in far more popular “ Collections." These it will of course be our duty to extract; and though the space which can be appropriated to the purpose is very limited, we shall, we believe, present our readers with the entire kernel, leaving little but husk and shell behind.
It may perhaps be expected, on expressing our intention of noticing a “ Collection of Letters and Papers illustrative of
VOL. 1.- PART I.
English History” in each number, that something should be said in explanation of our motive and our plan.
A few sentences will convey all that is necessary on both. Of the deep interest, as illustrations of the domestic manners, the customs, and state of society in past ages, as well as of the historical importance of such “ letters ;” and of the lively and faithful picture which they exhibit of all which is interesting respecting our ancestors, it would be a waste both of our own and our readers' time to dilate. They are highly estimated by all who understand their value: but they are so numerous, and, generally speaking, embrace such various periods of English history, that we flatter ourselves we shall perform an acceptable service by bringing each “ Collection” to the notice of the public; and, by explaining the nature of the documents they contain, the time to which they relate, and their particular merits, render these works more extensively known and more justly appreciated. Nor will these attempts merely be useful; for, by extracting the most valuable or amusing letters, we trust to render our articles on the subject both of varied and general interest, not only to the historian or the antiquary, whose memories we can only expect to refresh, but to numerous individuals who, from the want of time, or other pursuits, have been prevented from perusing the volumes themselves.
Thus much for our motive, in the explanation of which we have also said nearly all that is necessary with respect to our plan. Indeed, nothing more need be remarked on the subject, than that we shall be guided by convenience only, in the works which we may from time to time select; that we shall dwell longest on those which are the least known and most deserving of attention; and that we hope to present a minute bibliographical account of this most important branch of historical and antiquarian literature.
It appears that Dr. Howard's “ Collection” was formed with the sole object of fulfilling an engagement to publish a work of a similar kind, the materials for which were destroyed by fire; and that the necessary delay in providing sufficient matter to replace them, exposed him to much obloquy and reproach, he having received money from his subscribers. He says,
“ I should be wanting to myself in not giving the true reasons for their being so long postponed, and clearing myself from the cruel, I was going to say, unchristian accusations of my enemies, viz. that this Work never would, never was designed to come out. I shall not trouble the public with many apologies for the unhappy and unforeseen delay ; it shall suffice, and I am sure it will satisfy those of the least good nature, and charitable reflection, that some years ago, when I was preparing the work for the press with all expedition, a sudden and disastrous accident of fire consumed the greatest part of the manuscripts and papers I had collected; upon which I advertised my willingness to return their subscription money who would call for it, and did not chuse to wait till I could get up another collection ; and by one only amongst them all, the same was demanded and paid. I have now been enabled by the goodness of some great friends and learned antiquaries, to present this collection to the public, and hope they will be found both useful and entertaining.”—Preface. And it is also necessary to cite his excuse for his neglect of a chronological, or indeed any other arrangement:
“ I may be charg'd with inaccuracy, in not preserving order of time in the following collection, but my desire to come out as soon as possible, and clear a reputation very freely and familiarly dealt with, made me send a letter to the press as soon as I received it, and which was often follow'd with another prior to the other in its date and period, but I have endeavour'd to set this right in the contents." ‘Ibid.
The Doctor's reference, at the end of his preface, to his long and ill repaid services in the ministry; to the difficulties which he struggled against, from having a very confined income ; and to the ill offices and unkindness which he experienced, relate more to his personal history than to his book, though it would be unfair to notice his allusion to them without also speaking of his candid confession, that his life was not altogether “ sans reproche.”
So varied are the articles in this “ book-making” volume, and so wretchedly are they arranged, that it is absolutely impossible, without enumerating every article, a task that would be equally irksome to our readers and to ourselves, to convey even an idea of its contents, excepting what may be gleaned from the following slight account of the principal subjects. With the exception of an “ Epistle from Eleutherius Bishop of Rome, to King Luccus, anno 169," the earliest letter in the series is from Lord Scrope to Henry the Fourth, in 1401. Then, in point of time, follow, one from the magistrates of Nurenberg to the same monarch, in 1412; a warrant from the Earl of Warwick, temp. Henry VI.; a letter from Lord Hastings in recommendation of a servant, temp. Edward IV.; letters, from Margaret mother of Henry VII. to the King her son; and from Katherine Queen of Henry VIII.; several letters from statesmen and private individuals during that reign; Henry the Eighth's declaration relative to Anne of Cleves; a few letters, chiefly official, temp. Edward VI. and Queen Mary; a large correspondence between almost all the eminent characters of the reign of Elizabeth; six letters from Sir Thomas Lake, written about 1617, relating to public affairs; a few from Mr. Secretary Calvert; some letters from Elizabeth, James the First, Oliver Cromwell, and Charles the Second ; royal speeches ; charges to juries ; account of audiences of ambassadors; an account of Venable's and Penn's expedition, which, the recent editor erroneously says, was never before printed; Lord Howard's speeches in parliament from 1660 to 1673; papers relating to baronies, &c. &c.; and, as if nothing might be wanting to add to the confusion, a few letters, which a MS. note informs us were written by Dr. Howard himself, and printed in a weekly paper in 1738,“ but which he had been desired to publish in this collection.” Nor is the horrible want of arrangement all that puzzles the reader; the very pages partake of the disorder which characterizes every other part: thus, according to our copy, and the fault does not seem to rest with the binder, p. 473 follows p. 378* ; p. 502 is succeeded by p. 553; p. 568 by p. 595; p. 430 by p. 513, and p. 536 by p. 441; and after p. 464 is the appendix, which is paged 379 : thence the pages are regular to p. 422, where we again meet with p. *521, and the volume ends at p. *535! At the back of the last page is the following account of the second volume, but which never appeared.
“ The second volume contains some curious antiquities, letters, &c. in this period, and through the succeeding reigns to the present times: With some originals of Queen Ann, Dutchess of Marl. borough, Lord Bolingbroke, Sir Robert Walpole, &c. To which are added several remarkable originals and scarce pieces, poetry, &c. religious, political, and moral."
It would thus seem that the worthy Doctor, finding it necessary to form a volume of a certain bulk, or to refund divers sums of money, adopted the former expedient; and, trusting to chance, sent to the printer every thing which the charity of his literary friends induced them to give him; that when the book was completed, or, in other words, when he thought that charity exhausted, it was deemed finished; but that, as it did not assume an appearance sufficiently bulky, patches were added until the necessary corpulency was attained; and hence the incongruous mass which we have introduced to our readers. Not a note of the least value is to be found throughout the work, whilst of those which occur the only merit they possess is, that not a dozen exist, and which altogether would not fill a page. Nor does the compiler-for the term editor would be misappliedalways tell us whence the articles were taken; and, with the exception of a few which were copied from the Cottonian Collection and the State Paper Office, we have but two securities against their being forgeries—the compiler's undoubted incapacity, and the internal evidence they contain of being authentic. Abundant as this wilderness is in weeds, it undoubtedly possesses some flowers. These we shall carefully select; though, if we presented them as we found them, few would