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
I. To W. M. Thackeray.
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