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I will conclude with a prophecy, that if the proposed experiment of a tripartite division of the Chancellorship should be tried, it will fail, and that there never will be Seven Volumes filled with “ the Lives of the Ministers of Justice.” '-vol. vii. p. 724.
The reception of this work ought to encourage Lord Campbell to further experiments in the same department of literature, for which he has many qualifications, and which evidently affords him a congenial solace in hours of leisure. The Lives and Adventures of the Attorney-Generals who have not been Chancellors, might afford, we fancy, an edifying and amusing theme. If we might venture on a hint of advice at making our bow on the present occasion, we should suggest that he might easily have introduced more variety in his construction and arrangement—and that if he had now and then done so, it would have had a more artistic look. Now, there comes to be something of the impression that the author has dealt largely with Blue Books, and imbibed of their genius, and had drawn up queries and skeleton schedules for his own desk, just as if he had been directing a set of barristers of seven years' standing to prepare a report on the Marble Chair. Where and of what parents was
-- born? Education (if any), what and where? How did he conduct himself as a Templar? How soon did he marry? Did he commit - ? What was his first success ? Silk gown, through what influencepolitical or petticoat? Largest fee what? And so on to the Attorneyship. In what Causes Célèbres was he concerned ? What crim. cons. came before him in any shape? What, if any, were his law reforms? Then, in very formal order, as to the distribution of legal patronage-ecclesiastical ditto. Then what sort of dinners did he give to the profession ?-to laymen ditto? Was he a scholar?-a wit? What scholars and wits did he cultivate ? Whom that he ought to have nourished did he eschew? Finally what his religion ?-his fortune?-his epitaph?— his arms ?was not his son a dunce?—what manner of women were his daughters? The marginal notule of these heads are moreover staring us in the face in such disciplined succession that it seems as if Mr. Spottiswoode might as well have had them stereotyped at the beginning, and stored ready for call in a peculiar row of pigeon-holes. All this, however, is trifling criticism in relation to a work of such sterling merits-one of very great labour, of richly diversified interest, and, we are satisfied, of lasting value and estimation. There are many who can pick holes and point out patches—but we doubt if there be half a dozen living men who could produce a Biographical Series on such a scale, at all likely to command so much applause from the candid among the learned as well as from the curious of the laity.
Art. III.-Memoirs of Viscountess Sundon, Mistress of the Robes
to Queen Caroline, Consort of George II. ; including Letters from the most celebrated Persons of her Time. Now first published from the originals, by Mrs. Thomson, author of The Lise of the Duchess of Marlborough,' Memoirs of the Court
of Henry VIII.,' &c. 2 vols. London. 8vo. 1847. HERE is, we think, one of the most flagrant specimens of mere
bookmaking that even this manufacturing age has produced :-the original materials are very scanty-almost worthless—and the artifices by which they have been bloated out into two volumes, are monstrous. However humble the task of editing such originals' may be, it requires at least some slight acquaintance with the persons and matters treated of—some power of discriminating between two old pieces of paper according to the value of what may be written upon them-sagacity enough in arranging undated letters, to know that one which talks of *Caroline, Princess of Wales' was probably penned before another that mentions · Queen Caroline;' and, in short, a moderate share of that essential requisite for executing any affair whatsoevercommon sense. of none of these does the responsible person seem on this occasion to have employed a particle; and yet we can hardly address to her the old reproach ne sutor ultra crepidam—for in good truth she has plied very diligently the natural implements of her sex, and with a stout pair of scissars, a clumsy needle, and some coarse thread, she has cut Horace Walpolethe Peerage–Biographical Dictionaries, and the like, into shreds, and then stitched them together with as little taste or consistency as if she were making a patchwork quilt, of which the original materials—the Sundon Letters—are in position and value no better than a lining. This strange manufacture is thus announced :
It has been judged expedient by the Editor of these Letters to depart from the usual course pursued in similar collections, and to substitute for the elaborate but often unread notes generally appended to each epistle, a brief memoir of the persons who happen to be either mainly concerned in the correspondence, or of the individuals to whom allusion is made.'-- Preface, p. vi.
We know not why the editor should talk of 'the usual course pursued in similar collections,' of appending elaborate notes to each epistle. We know of no such instance. In most works of the class explanatory notes are appended—not to each epistle, but here and there, as such information seemed requisite; and why this lady should sneer at such occasional and very useful illustrations as · elaborate, but unread,' does not at first sight appear; but it soon becomes evident that the real object of this repudiation of the ordinary practice, is to palliate the novelty of her own. The materials are so meagre that they would not fill above one-third, we believe, of the space over which they are here stretched; and the notes necessary to elucidate them would have been of proportionably small dimensions. So that to swell the publication to anything like two volumes, it became necessary to envelop the thin substance with a great accession of adventitious matter, like stuffing out Matthews, or some such skeleton of a player, to the bulk of Falstaff.
diation The extent to which this is carried seemed so enormous, that we desired one of our printer's devils might attempt to measure it accurately; he accordingly examined the first 300 pages of the work, which, as he reports, might contain 9300 lines of the type in which the letters are printed, while the space actually occupied by the letters is only 2384, being about one fourth of the space.
And such stuffing !—The recipe is this; seize on any name however trivial or accidentally mentioned-glean from all the commonest books any anecdotes about it, or with which it can be in any way connected, and then print the motley compilation as the main text of the work in larger characters than the Correspondence itself.*
For instance; Mrs. Clayton, who in the last years of her life became Lady Sundon, had a frequent correspondent, Dr. Alured Clarke. In one of the Doctor's letters from a country-house he happens to mention that he had been reading a new book, by Eustace Budgell, called Memoirs of the Boyles,' on which he makes a few slight observations. Upon this the editor takes occasion to spread over five pages a borrowed biography of Eustace Budgell-in which, though put together with great pomp of detail and emphasis of expression, the most remarkable point of his life and death-the forgery of Dr. Tindal's will, which occasioned his suicide-is entirely suppressed. This is in every sense of the word) extravagant enough; but—would the reader believe it ?-because Budgell wrote certain Lives of certain Boyles, this editor proceeds to employ a whole chapter (the XIIth) of no less than forty-one pages of the 'Memoirs of Viscountess Sundon,' with a history of the whole House of Boyle-having from beginning to end no more relation, or pretence of relation, to Lady Sundon or her affairs than to Nebuchadnezzar !
Again; a certain Earl of Mar had been a leader in the rebellion of 1715, and was living abroad, but with hopes and prospects of a pardon—and en attendant had some thoughts of passing the winter for cheapness somewhere in the south of France or at Boulogne, but not knowing whether those places might be approved of by the government at home, he desired his brother, James Erskine, to beg Sir Robert Walpole and Lord Townshend would direct him where to reside.' The brother writes to Mrs. Clayton—who was, in some way that does not appear, interested for Lord Mar—to acquaint her with his mission, and to ask her advice whether he should write to Lord Townshend in the country or wait till he could see him in town. The result of this short question is not stated; but it serves to introduce a long history of a very different kind. James Erskine happened to be a Scotch judge, and was called, in courtesy to that office, Lord Grange. He happened also to be married to a crazy wife, from whom—some years after his letter to Mrs. Clayton-he was separated; and whose subsequent confinement in the Hebrides was mentioned in Boswell's Johnson, and afterwards told by Sir Walter Scott; and since then more diffusely by half-a-dozen writers—from whom our editor takes the opportunity of compiling one entire chapter (the XIVth) of thirty-four pages, of the history of Lady Grange, which has just as much to do with Mrs. Clayton as an account of Josephine Buonaparte's divorce and retirement to Malmaison would have had.
It is not, of course, every name that can afford such a peg for hanging old clothes on as the editor has discovered in Eustace Budgell and Lord Grange; but hardly one occurs which is not introduced or commented upon in a similar style, though variously limited in extent by the materials afforded by the Biographies and Magazines. A Governor of New England sends Mrs. Clayton a young beaver as a curiosity, which he doubts may die on the voyage, and therefore also sends the skin of another. This event is judiciously described as the first introduction of the beaver into England.' But this Governor of New England' happened to be Mr. William Burnet, eldest son of old Bishop Burnet; and on this hint follows a history in sis or seven pages of Bishop Burnet and his three sons, their dispositions, manners, tempers, and professions. And all this apropos of a beaver!
Archbishop Wake writes, in 1718, to hint to Mrs. Clayton that the Princess of Wales should make poor Mr. Echard some return for a finely-bound copy of his book, which he had presented to her Royal Highness; whereupon the editor-after expressing a very absurd doubt whether the Echard meant was Echard the Historian, and making several other blunders about him-seizes that favourable occasion to give us ten pages of the Archbishop's life copied from the Biographia.
Henrietta Duchess of Marlborough sends some petition which the Queen is to be solicited to look at. This produces five pages of the hacknied history of the said Duchess, her friendship for Congreve, his legacy to her, and so forth.
Three insignificant notes of Sir Richard Steele—not altogether filling two pages—are swelled out into thirteen pages of the most commonplace circumstances of his life and death.
In the Life of Bishop Hoadly by his son, there are certain extracts from his letters to Mrs. Clayton. This enables the editor to reprint some of those extracts, and to expend, moreover, several pages on the biography of Bishop Hoadly.
A short note of Judge Wainwright's apprises the Bedchamberwoman that his 'friend Dean Berkeley will wait on her Majesty this evening.' This serves to introduce an account of Berkeley's life and writings, of which the following is the editor's own summary at the head of her seventh chapter:
Berkeley's work on Immaterialism-His philosophical opinions Proceeds to Italy as Chaplain to the Earl of Peterborough-His alarm at Leghorn-Visits Père Malebranche-Returns to Ireland with the Duke of Grafton—Vanessa's bequest to him—Proceeds to Bermuda on a mission to convert the heathen-Its failure—Returns to EnglandHis work, “The Minute Philosopher"-Attracts the notice of Queen Caroline—Is promoted to the Bishopric of Cloyne-His conscientious scruples—His last days-His amiable character.'--vol. ii. p. 163. All this spread over eleven pages of the Memoirs of Viscountess Sundon !'
By such arts as these a most meagre stock of materials is puffed out to the bulk of eight or nine hundred pages. But this is not the worst. Unfair as we cannot but consider such a system of compilation, the awkwardness, inaccuracy, confusion, and bad taste with which it is carried out are still more intolerable.
We are not disposed to attach much importance (particularly in these gossiping works) to occasional errors either in dates or persons, which the dryest chroniclers and the most careful annotators have found it difficult to escape--and we should have willingly excused the accidental slips of a lady's pen; but what we have here is a solid substantial ignorance obtruded upon us with a pertness and dogmatism which are positively offensive. We have not far to go for a sample. Let us take one of the earliest and most prominent paragraphs of the whole work—the introductory notice of Mrs. Clayton herself. An editor so profuse of gratuitous attentions to ihe Boyles and the Erskines- the Burnets and the Berkeleys—will naturally take care of Viscountess Sundon :
* The family from which Charlotte Clayton, afterwards Lady Sundon, sprang, appears to have been obscure, and her condition in life humble, until after her marriage with Robert Clayton, Esq., a clerk in the Treasury. Her maiden name was Dyves.'-- vol. i. p. 4. In this summary there is not, we believe, a syllable of truth,
VOL. LXXXII. NO. CLXIII.