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Of Suppressors And Dilapidators Of Manuscripts
by [?]

As an example of the suppressors and dilapidators of manuscripts, I shall give an extraordinary fact concerning Louis the Fourteenth, more in his favour. His character appears, like some other historical personages, equally disguised by adulation and calumny. That monarch was not the Nero which his revocation of the edict of Nantes made him seem to the French protestants. He was far from approving of the violent measures of his catholic clergy. This opinion of that sovereign was, however, carefully suppressed, when his “Instructions to the Dauphin” were first published. It is now ascertained that Louis the Fourteenth was for many years equally zealous and industrious; and, among other useful attempts, composed an elaborate “Discours” for the dauphin for his future conduct. The king gave his manuscript to Pelisson to revise; but after the revision our royal writer frequently inserted additional paragraphs. The work first appeared in an anonymous “Recueil d’Opuscules Litteraires, Amsterdam, 1767,” which Barbier, in his “Anonymes,” tells us was “redige par Pelisson; le tout publie par l’Abbe Olivet.” When at length the printed work was collated with the manuscript original, several suppressions of the royal sentiments appeared; and the editors, too catholic, had, with more particular caution, thrown aside what clearly showed Louis the Fourteenth was far from approving of the violences used against the protestants. The following passage was entirely omitted: “It seems to me, my son, that those who employ extreme and violent remedies do not know the nature of the evil, occasioned in part by heated minds, which, left to themselves, would insensibly be extinguished, rather than rekindle them afresh by the force of contradiction; above all, when the corruption is not confined to a small number, but diffused through all parts of the state; besides, the Reformers said many true things! The best method to have reduced little by little the Huguenots of my kingdom, was not to have pursued them by any direct severity pointed at them.”

Lady Mary Wortley Montague is a remarkable instance of an author nearly lost to the nation; she is only known to posterity by a chance publication; for such were her famous Turkish letters, the manuscript of which her family once purchased with an intention to suppress, but they were frustrated by a transcript. The more recent letters were reluctantly extracted out of the family trunks, and surrendered in exchange for certain family documents, which had fallen into the hands of a bookseller. Had it depended on her relatives, the name of Lady Mary had only reached us in the satires of Pope. The greater part of her epistolary correspondence was destroyed by her mother; and what that good and Gothic lady spared, was suppressed by the hereditary austerity of rank, of which her family was too susceptible. The entire correspondence of this admirable writer and studious woman (for once, in perusing some unpublished letters of Lady Mary’s, I discovered that “she had been in the habit of reading seven hours a day for many years”) would undoubtedly have exhibited a fine statue, instead of the torso we now possess; and we might have lived with her ladyship, as we do with Madame de Sevigne. This I have mentioned elsewhere; but I have since discovered that a considerable correspondence of Lady Mary’s, for more than twenty years, with the widow of Colonel Forrester, who had retired to Rome, has been stifled in the birth. These letters, with other MSS. of Lady Mary’s, were given by Mrs. Forrester to Philip Thicknesse, with a discretionary power to publish. They were held as a great acquisition by Thicknesse, and his bookseller; but when they had printed off the first thousand sheets, there were parts which they considered might give pain to some of the family. Thicknesse says, “Lady Mary had in many places been uncommonly severe upon her husband, for all her letters were loaded with a scrap or two of poetry at him.”[2] A negotiation took place with an agent of Lord Bute’s; after some time Miss Forrester put in her claims for the MSS.; and the whole terminated, as Thicknesse tells us, in her obtaining a pension, and Lord Bute all the MSS.