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Recovery Of Manuscripts
by [?]

A valuable secret history by Sir George Mackenzie, the king’s advocate in Scotland, was rescued from a mass of waste paper sold to a grocer, who had the good sense to discriminate it, and communicated this curious memorial to Dr. M’Crie. The original, in the handwriting of its author, has been deposited in the Advocate’s Library. There is an hiatus, which contained the history of six years. This work excited inquiry after the rest of the MSS., which were found to be nothing more than the sweepings of an attorney’s office.

Montaigne’s Journal of his Travels into Italy has been but recently published. A prebendary of Perigord, travelling through this province to make researches relative to its history, arrived at the ancient chateau of Montaigne, in possession of a descendant of this great man. He inquired for the archives, if there had been any. He was shown an old worm-eaten coffer, which had long held papers untouched by the incurious generations of Montaigne. Stifled in clouds of dust, he drew out the original manuscript of the travels of Montaigne. Two-thirds of the work are in the handwriting of Montaigne, and the rest is written by a servant, who always speaks of his master in the third person. But he must have written what Montaigne dictated, as the expressions and the egotisms are all Montaigne’s. The bad writing and orthography made it almost unintelligible. They confirmed Montaigne’s own observation, that he was very negligent in the correction of his works.

Our ancestors were great hiders of manuscripts: Dr. Dee’s singular MSS. were found in the secret drawer of a chest, which had passed through many hands undiscovered; and that vast collection of state-papers of Thurloe’s, the secretary of Cromwell, which formed about seventy volumes in the original manuscripts, accidentally fell out of the false ceiling of some chambers in Lincoln’s-Inn.

A considerable portion of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu’s Letters I discovered in the hands of an attorney: family-papers are often consigned to offices of lawyers, where many valuable manuscripts are buried. Posthumous publications of this kind are too frequently made from sordid motives: discernment and taste would only be detrimental to the views of bulky publishers.[17]


[Footnote 13: This important political treatise was discovered in the year 1823, by Angelo Maii, in the library of the Vatican. A treatise on the Psalms covered it. This second treatise was written in the clear, minute character of the middle ages, but beneath it Maii saw distinct traces of the larger letters of the work of Cicero; and to the infinite joy of the learned succeeded in restoring to the world one of the most important works of the great orator.]

[Footnote 14: “Many bishops and abbots began to consider learning as pernicious to true piety, and confounded illiberal ignorance with Christian simplicity,” says Warton. The study of Pagan authors was declared to inculcate Paganism; the same sort of reasoning led others to say that the reading of the Scriptures would infallibly change the readers to Jews; it is amusing to look back on these vain efforts to stop the effect of the printing-press.]

[Footnote 15: Agobard was Archbishop of Lyons, and one of the most learned men of the ninth century. He was born in 779; raised to the prelacy in 816, from which he was expelled by Louis le Debonnaire for espousing the cause of his son Lothaire; he fled to Italy, but was restored to his see in 838, dying in 840, when the Church canonized him. He was a strenuous Churchman, but with enlightened views; and his style as an author is remarkable alike for its clearness and perfect simplicity. His works were unknown until discovered in the manner narrated above, and were published by the discoverer at Paris in 1603, the originals being bequeathed to the Royal Library at his death. On examination, several errors were found in this edition, and a new one was published in 1662, to which another treatise by Agobard was added.]

[Footnote 16: The celebrated minister of Philip II.]

[Footnote 17: One of the most curious modern discoveries was that of the Fairfax papers and correspondence by the late J. N. Hughes, of Winchester, who purchased at a sale at Leeds Castle, Kent, a box apparently filled with old coloured paving-tiles; on removing the upper layers he found a large mass of manuscripts of the time of the Civil wars, evidently thus packed for concealment; they have since been published, and add most valuable information to this interesting period of English history.]