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Andrew Lang
Letters to Dead Authors

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<p></p><br />

<p>Preface.</p><br />


Sixteen of these Letters, which were written at the suggestion of the editor


of the 'St. James's Gazette,' appeared in that journal, from which they are


now reprinted, by the editor's kind permission. They have been somewhat


emended, and a few additions have been made. The Letters to Horace, Byron,


Isaak Walton, Chapelain, Ronsard, and Theocritus have not been published


before.



The gem published for the first time on the title-page is a red cornelian in


the British Museum, probably Graeco-Roman, and treated in an archaistic style.


It represents Hermes Psychogogos, with a Soul, and has some likeness to the


Baptism of Our Lord, as usually shown in art. Perhaps it may be post-


Christian. The gem was selected by Mr. A. S. Murray.



It is, perhaps, superfluous to add that some of the Letters are written rather


to suit the Correspondent than to express the writer's own taste or opinions.


The Epistle to Lord Byron, especially, is 'writ in a manner which is my


aversion.'



<p></p><br />

<p>I. To W. M. Thackeray.</p><br />


Sir,--There are many things that stand in the way of the critic when he has a


mind to praise the living. He may dread the charge of writing rather to vex a


rival than to exalt the subject of his applause. He shuns the appearance of


seeking the favour of the famous, and would not willingly be regarded as one


of the many parasites who now advertise each movement and action of


contemporary genius. 'Such and such men of letters are passing their summer


holidays in the Val d'Aosta,' or the Mountains of the Moon, or the Suliman


Range, as it may happen. So reports our literary 'Court Circular,' and all our


_Pre'cieuses_ read the tidings with enthusiasm. Lastly, if the critic be quite


new to the world of letters, he may superfluously fear to vex a poet or a


novelist by the abundance of his eulogy. No such doubts perplex us when, with


all our hearts, we would commend the departed; for they have passed almost


beyond the reach even of envy; and to those pale cheeks of theirs no


commendation can bring the red.



You, above all others, were and remain without a rival in your many-sided


excellence, and praise of you strikes at none of those who have survived your


day. The increase of time only mellows your renown, and each year that passes


and brings you no successor does but sharpen the keenness of our sense of


loss. In what other novelist, since Scott was worn down by the burden of a


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