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Of Suppressors And Dilapidators Of Manuscripts
by [?]

The same hostility to manuscripts, as may be easily imagined, has occurred, perhaps more frequently, on the continent. I shall furnish one considerable fact. A French canon, Claude Joly, a bold and learned writer, had finished an ample life of Erasmus, which included a history of the restoration of literature at the close of the fifteenth and the beginning of the sixteenth century. Colomies tells us, that the author had read over the works of Erasmus seven times; we have positive evidence that the MS. was finished for the press: the Cardinal do Noailles would examine the work himself; this important history was not only suppressed, but the hope entertained, of finding it among the cardinal’s papers, was never realised.

These are instances of the annihilation of history; but there is a partial suppression, or castration of passages, equally fatal to the cause of truth; a practice too prevalent among the first editors of memoirs. By such deprivations of the text we have lost important truths, while, in some cases, by interpolations, we have been loaded with the fictions of a party. Original memoirs, when published, should now be deposited at that great institution, consecrated to our national history–the British Museum, to be verified at all times. In Lord Herbert’s history of Henry the Eighth, I find, by a manuscript note, that several things were not permitted to be printed, and that the original MS. was supposed to be in Mr. Sheldon’s custody, in 1687. Camden told Sir Robert Filmore that he was not suffered to print all his annals of Elizabeth; but he providently sent these expurgated passages to De Thou, who printed them faithfully; and it is remarkable that De Thou himself used the same precaution in the continuation of his own history. We like remote truths, but truths too near us never fail to alarm ourselves, our connexions, and our party. Milton, in composing his History of England, introduced, in the third book, a very remarkable digression, on the characters of the Long Parliament; a most animated description of a class of political adventurers with whom modern history has presented many parallels. From tenderness to a party then imagined to be subdued, it was struck out by command, nor do I find it restituted in Kennett’s Collection of English Histories. This admirable and exquisite delineation has been preserved in a pamphlet printed in 1681, which has fortunately exhibited one of the warmest pictures in design and colouring by a master’s hand. One of our most important volumes of secret history, “Whitelocke’s Memorials,” was published by Arthur, Earl of Anglesea, in 1682, who took considerable liberties with the manuscript; another edition appeared in 1732, which restored the many important passages through which the earl appears to have struck his castrating pen. The restitution of the castrated passages has not much increased the magnitude of this folio volume; for the omissions usually consisted of a characteristic stroke, or short critical opinion, which did not harmonise with the private feelings of the Earl of Anglesea. In consequence of the volume not being much enlarged to the eye, and being unaccompanied by a single line of preface to inform us of the value of this more complete edition, the booksellers imagine that there can be no material difference between the two editions, and wonder at the bibliopolical mystery that they can afford to sell the edition of 1682 at ten shillings, and have five guineas for the edition of 1732! Hume who, I have been told, wrote his history usually on a sofa, with the epicurean indolence of his fine genius, always refers to the old truncated and faithless edition of Whitelocke–so little in his day did the critical history of books enter into the studies of authors, or such was the carelessness of our historian! There is more philosophy in editions than some philosophers are aware of. Perhaps most “Memoirs” have been unfaithfully published, “curtailed of their fair proportions;” and not a few might be noticed which subsequent editors have restored to their original state, by uniting their dislocated limbs. Unquestionably Passion has sometimes annihilated manuscripts, and tamely revenged itself on the papers of hated writers! Louis the Fourteenth, with his own hands, after the death of Fenelon, burnt all the manuscripts which the Duke of Burgundy had preserved of his preceptor.