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• An old man concludeth from his knowing mankind that they know him too, and that maketh him very wary.
*He that leaveth nothing to chance will do few things ill, but he will do very few things.' An allusion in these aphorisms to the Bank of England proves that Halifax went on writing till nearly the hour of his death in 1695. Of his other writings, the most remarkable is the Advice to a Dissenter (1687), a masterly dissuasive against abetting the illegalities of James.
Possibly, when Halifax penned the last-quoted aphorism, he was thinking of Sir William Temple, well known to him at the council-board, of whom Macaulay says, 'It was his constitution to dread failure more than he desired success.' This elegant writer, whom we have already met as an historian and as a speculator upon government, for once did a rash thing when he entered into the controversy respecting the comparative merits of the ancient and modern writers, knowing little of either. Macaulay has done full justice to the ignorance and carelessness of this well-worded composition ; but Macaulay has said nothing of its extraordinary want of insight. Temple need not be blamed for having been unable to make up his mind whether the blood circulated, and whether the earth went round the sun (the Grand Duke Cosmo found Cambridge disputing against the latter proposition in 1669); what is really astonishing is that he should have been utterly blind to the stupendous consequences which Giordano Bruno had pointed out a century before. If they are
* true,' he says, ' yet these two great discoveries have made no change in the conclusions of astronomy, nor in the practice of physic, and so have been of little use to the world, though perhaps of much honour to the authors.' After this, Temple’s essays are not likely to be referred to in quest of intellectual wisdom, and their chief value, apart
from the purity and elegance of their style, consists in their illustrations of contemporary opinions and practices. This is especially the case with the essay on Health and Long Life. Temple enumerates with suppressed amusement the various sanatory fads he has known, among which he seems to reckon tea and coffee. Unconsciously confirming an anecdote of Charles II. and his physicians, related by Evelyn, he tells us that Peruvian bark was at first received with prejudice and suspicion, but was becoming rehabilitated in his day, and fairly confounds us by his faith in that little insect called millepedes; the powder whereof, made up into little balls with fresh butter, I never knew fail of curing any sore throat.'
The letter-writers of the age who have any claim to a place in literature as such are but few, and none of their epistles were intended for publication. Dryden, as elsewhere, takes the lead, and his letters, though scanty and occasional, occupy a pleasant chamber in the edifice of his prose writings. The first, dated 1655, and addressed to a female cousin in language of complimentary gallantry, is of especial interest as showing how early his prose style was formed. Notwithstanding the strain of high-flown sentiment enforced by the occasion, it is far less fanciful and involved than similar compositions of the early Caroline period, and is in all essential respects an example of the sound, clear prose of the Restoration. The letters to the two Rochesters, the man of letters and the man of office, are models of ingenious flattery in different styles ; those to his publisher, Jacob Tonson, apart from their personal interest, are important for the light they throw upon the relations between publishers and authors at a period when publishers were as yet mere tradesmen, and the most popular author could hardly subsist by authorship. The latest of all, addressed to his Northamptonshire kindred, are mellow as with the light of a setting sun, and afford pleasant glimpses of the occasional ruralizings of the most urban of poets. Sir William Temple is so thoroughly identified with
the Restoration period, that although the Lady Temple's charming letters of his betrothed, Dorothy letters
Osborne, were written in 1652-54, and not (1652-1654).
published until 1888, they may be regarded as belonging to it. The young lady was well known from Macaulay's account of her in his essay upon her husband, and many of her letters had been published in Courtenay's life of her husband, ere the whole, so far as preserved, recently became accessible in the edition of Mr. Edward Abbott Parry. Intended for no other eyes than her lover's, these letters have given Lady Temple high rank among English epistolographers. Though they are exceedingly well written, their charm is personal rather than literary. No biographer or novelist has painted a truer picture of the English maiden, high-minded and high-spirited, heroically constant and at the same time full of engaging frailties and arch teasing ways, than is depicted in these artless self-revelations. Temple seems to have behaved perfectly well throughout their protracted engagement; and his fulfilment of it after Dorothy's beauty had been destroyed by the smallpox may be reasonably believed to have been the effect of inclination, no less than of honour and duty. The very slight glimpse we obtain of their married life reveals Lady Temple’s interest in his political career; had this been guided by her his life would probably have been less comfortable, and his memory more glorious.
The letters of Humphrey Prideaux, Dean of Norwich, to John Ellis, Secretary of the Treasury, edited for the Camden Society by Sir Edward Maunde Thompson,
though ordinary familiar correspondence, are too curious
a repertory of gossip to be passed over Dean Prideaux's without notice. They are mostly written letters
from Oxford, and retail the scandal of the (1674-1710).
university in a lively fashion, although the writer, a middling classical and oriental scholar, known by his edition of the Arundel Marbles and his Life of Mahomet, seems rather a matter-of-fact personage. His relish for scandal, however, occasionally makes him humorous, as when he describes the deportment of his predecessor in the Norwich deanery: His whole life is the pot and the pipe, and, go to him when you will, you will find him walking about his room with a pipe in his mouth and a bottle of claret and a bottle of old strong beer (which in this country they call nog) upon the table, and every other turn he takes a glass of one or the other of them.' The book is rich in such vignettes; its more serious interest consists in its illustration of the practical refutation of the theory of divine right previously held by the majority of the clergy by James II.'s misgovernment. The beginning and the end of the correspondence are in violent political contrast; and the metamorphosis is entirely effected during the last two years of James's reign.
Literary history is necessarily among the latest developments of literature. The nearest approach to it in the England of the seventeenth century was the younger Gerard Langbaine's (1656-92) Account of the English Dramatic Poets, Oxford, 1691. Langbaine laid himself out particularly to discover the sources from which dramatists had borrowed their plots, and is styled by Dr. Johnson the great detector of plagiarism.' He has been accused of having read poetry for no other purpose, but is vindicated by Mr. Sidney Lee. The value of his work is much increased by the manuscript notes and additions of