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Andrew Lang
Letters to Dead Authors


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<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


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


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<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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