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were undoubtedly several individuals perfectly able to fabricate a fictitious series of sensible, and animated Epistles.
Among the works of the sophists, who bore the name Philostratus, there is a curious Letter, in which the author delivers his opinion of epistolary writers.
In enumerating those, who appear to him after the ansients, (such is his expression) to have best understood the proper character of epistolary language, he mentions Apollonius and Dion, among the philosophers ; of commanders, Brutus, or his secretary; of the emperors, Marcus Aurelius ; of the orators, Herodes Atticus :-he censures however the latter for an affectation of attic elegance; and very justly observes, that perspicuity should be the primary quality in all works of literature, and especially in a Letter.
Of all the later Pagan epistolary writers in Greek, whose productions have been preserved, Libanius is one of the most voluminous, and he has been celebrated for excellence in this species of composition. Gibbon speaks too contemptuously perhaps on the whole of his extensive correspondence, near two thousand Letters ! In some of them the high-spirited friend and correspondent of Julian, is far from deserving the title of a dreaming pedant. If he was vain in the display of his own literary powers, he was liberal in commending the eloquence of a rival. In one of his Letters to Themistius, (printed in the Bibliotheca Græca of Fabricius) Libanius bestows on the philosopher this singular eulogy~" Telemachus did not so much resemble his father in person, as you resemble Demosthenes in your orations.” Themistius was not only distinguished by his eloquence, but regarded for the benevolent mildness of his character. He seems to have enjoyed the rare felicity of being equally esteemed by a christian bishop, and by an apostate emperor, Some Letters of Julian are addressed to him, which leads me to observe that Julian is entitled to some praise for his epistolary talents, particularly for a manly expression, contained in one of his short Letters to a painter" Such as you have seen me, such represent me !" Happy if he had discovered the same attachment to simplicity and trụih, in the more important concerns of religion. Some Christian fathers of the church, in the age of Julian, are eminent for epistolary elegance, especially the poețical Gregory Nazianzen-the bishop to whom I alluded, as the friend of the philosopher Themistius.
But to descend to the Letter-writers of the modern world. On the multitudes in different nations, whose Epistles are printed, in Latin, I will only say, that the Eloisa who inspired Pope, stands at the head of this innumerable host, for the eloquence of the heart. The use of Latin retarded the advances of epistolary improvement in the slowly formed languages of modern Europe, particularly in French, English, and German: Italian vivacity, and Spanish gravity, seem to have employed themselves in making collections of private Letters, before any such publication appeared in the languages of England, or France. I have already mentioned the Letters of the elder Tasso. Italian Letters still more remarkable, were printed at Venice, in 1551, the Letters of ladies, princes, and various eminent persons, addressed to that strange example of extensive, but
short-lived celebrity, the satirist Aretine, whose own Letters amount to six volumes. Aretine prides himself on being the first publisher of familiar Letters; a distinction that some writers had endeavoured to take from him. But to this distinction, his very learned and judicious biographer, Mazzuchelli, though by no means partial to Aretine, has candidly vindicated his title. Montaigne represents the Italians as the chief publishers of Letters; and says, he possessed in his own library, a hundred volumes of such publications; and that he esteemed the Letters of Annibal Caro as the best of all.
The literature of Italy has been enriched with many excellent collections of Letters since the days of Montaigne : and with one peculiarly interesting to those, who delight in anecdotes relating to painting and sculpture : a collection, in seven quarto volumes, of Letters written by the most eminent artists, and relating to works of art.
In the Spanish language, there is a copious volume of Letters by Don Antonio de Guevara, a prelate, who held the office of historiographer to the emperor Charles the Fifth ; and a prelate of so nice a conscience, that he directed by his will a part of his salary to be restored to his majesty, for a year, in which he had added nothing to his chronicle. His style, as an historian, has been generally censured; but if we may judge of his personal character from his Letters, he appears to have been an amiable man. In one he reproves a female relation, with good-nature, for intemperate sorrow on the death of a little dog; and in another he draws the character of a true friend, with great energy of sentiment, and expression,
The scholars of Spain wrote and printed Letters in their own language, before the polished age of the emperor Charles the Fifth, There is a collection of Spanish Letters by Fernan Go. mez de Ciudareal, the first edition of which is said to have been printed in 1499. The author was physician to John the Second, king of Castile-they contain some entertaining particulars relating to the history, and manners of that time. It appears from one of them, that the king amused himself in improving a Spanish couplet of his poet and historiographer, Juan de Mena, who seems to have been very highly esteemed, as a friend, by the author of these Letters.
The last of the collection, dated July 1454, contains an account of the king's death-he said to his physician, three hours before he expired :-“ I wish I had been born the son of a mechanic, and not king of Castile."
The physician seems to have had a personal regard for his sovereign, as he intimates, in the close of his Letter, that he might be retained in the court of his successor, but that he felt too old to attach himself to a new master.
The French have undoubtedly many collections of Letters, that deserve high commendation ; but their two celebrated Letter-writers, who were for some time the favorites of Europe, Voiture and Balzac, lost much of their celebrity, when taste grew more refined, and learned to value ease and simplicity, as graces essential to a good epistolary style. They had however the merit of giving an early polish to the language of their country :--They introduced into French prose, a degree of fluency, and force, which it had not before, but which subsequent wri. ters have carried to much greater perfection. Every modern nation might exhibit a collection of interesting Letters, so ju. diciously formed, as to display, in a very agreeable manner, the rise and gradual progress of improvement in its language. In France the writers of printed Letters are so numerous, that the difficulty of selection would arise from their multitude. Lord Orrery, the translator of Pliny, bestows singular commendation on the epistolary language of Pelisson, and Dr. Warton has justly said, in a remark prefixed to the Letters of Pope, that the Letters of Voltaire, amounting to eighteen volumes; “ contain a variety of literary history and criticism, written also to the most celebrated persons of the age, hardly to be equalled or excelled.”