MAKING OF AMERICA: autographs of Pope, Swift, Hogarth, Mozart, etc.
The Cornell version of MOA includes an article by William Young on a collection of "autograph epistles" belonging to a person identified as "John Old". This pseudonym is said to be transparent, but the only detail given on this collector is that he then lived in a house by Sir John Vanbrugh. The article - "A Morning Among Autographs" - is published across several issues of Putnam's monthly magazine of American literature, science and art: Volume 11, Issue 6, June 1868 and Volume 12, Issue 8, Aug 1868. Young only copied out some letters, and then sometimes only fragments. Among those whose letters he did NOT copy were:
John Evelyn, Jeremy Taylor, Abraham Cowley, Edmond Wailer, Lady Dorothy Sunderland, known as Waller's "Sacharissa", John Dryden, John Locke, Sir Isaac Newton, Matthew Prior, Joseph Addison, Sir Richard Steele, Henry Fielding, Lawrence Sterne, Samuel Johnson, James Bosweil, Oliver Goldsmith, Sir Joshua Reynolds, David Hume, Edward Gibbon, Thomas Gray, William Cowper, William Wordsworth, [and] Samuel Taylor Coleridge.
If, as frequently happens, this collection was sold off individually, it may be that these or some he did copy are now lost or buried in private collections. Others may be well known to scholars of the individuals concerned. I've mainly included the transcribed letters here, though sometimes Young's notes are of interest, as when he says of a letter from Fox in 1800, "Envelopes had not then come into use".
Here is the end of a letter from Alexander Pope to Dr. Oliver, dated 28th August, 1743, the year before his death:
Pray make my compliments to Dr. Hartley, as I shall yours to Dr. Mead. I have had such obligations to the best of your Faculty during my whole life, that I wish all others, both my Friends and my Enemies, were their Patients, in which I show that I wish well to my Friends, and not ill to my Enemies. That every Physical and moral Evil may be far from you is the Philosophical prayer of; Dear Sir, Your very obliged and very affectionate servant, A. Pope"
(Volume 12, Issue 8 (227)
How about a letter of recommendation for Jonathan Swift? This, dated March 29, 1690, is from Sir William Temple to Sir Robert Southwell:
Hee has lived in my house, read to me, writt for me, and kept all accounts, as far as my small occasions required. Hee has Latine and Greek, writes a very good and current hand, is very honest and diligent, and has good friends, though they have for the present lost their fortune in Ireland; and his whole family having been long known to me, obliged mee thus farr to take care of him. If you please to accept him into your service, either as a Gentleman to wait on you, or as Clerk to write under you; and either to use him so, if you like his service, or upon any Establishment of the Colledge to recommend him to a Fellow ship there, which he has a just pretence to, I shall acknowledge it as a great obligation.
(Volume 12, Issue 8 (227) )
Hogarth's satirical "The No Dedication:" was undated, but said to be in his handwriting:
Not dedicated to any Prince in Christendom, for fear it should be thought an idle piece of arrogance. Not dedicated to any man of quality, for fear it might be thought too assuming. Not dedicated to any learned body of men, as either of the Universities, or the Royal Society, for fear it might be thought an uncommon piece of vanity. Not dedicated to any one particular friend, for fear of offending another. Therefore dedicated to Nobody. But if; for once, we may suppose Nobody to be Everybody, as Everybody is often said to be Nobody, then is this work dedicated to everybody, by their most humble and devoted.
(Volume 12, Issue 8 (227) )
Young presents the following as proof of the reality of the mysterious patron said to have commissioned Mozart's Requiem:
Most honored Sir, I would follow your advice, but know not how. My head is troubled, and I can scarcely compose; yet I cannot rid my sight of the figure of this unknown person. I see him perpetually; he requests, solicits, importunes me for the work. I continue, because composing fatigues me less than repose. Besides, I have no longer any thingto fear. I know by my own feelings that the hour approaches, and that I must shortly breathe my last. I have finished before I have enjoyed the fruits of my talent. Yet life has been so sweet, and my career opened before me under such fortunate auspices. But we cannot change our destiny. No one measures his own days; we must therefore be resigned. Whatever Providence ordains wilt be accomplished, and now I conclude; this is my funeral dirge, I ought not to leave it unfinished. Vienna 7bre 1791 MOZART
(Volume 12, Issue 8 (280) )
This (very long) letter from Horatio Nelson (Vol. 11, 690) - then captain of the Agamemnon in the Mediterranean - was addressed to his maternal uncle, "Commissioner Suckling, Custom House, London", and is notable for its resentful tone:
Agamemnon St: Fiorenzo feby 7th 1795
My dear Sir
This day Twelve Months saw the British Troops land at this place for the purpose of turning the French out of the Island and the more I see of its produce & convenient ports for our Fleets the more I am satisfied of Lord Hood's great Wisdom in getting possession of it, for had his Lordship not come forward with a bold plan all our trade & Political consequence would have been lost in Italy for after the evacuation of Toulon to what place where We to look for Shelter for our fleet & the numerous attendants of Victuallers Storeships & Transports. Genoa was inimical to us & by treaty only five Sail of the Line could enter their Ports at the same time-if we look at Tuscany She was little better forced to declare for us, and ever since wishing to get her Neutrality again, even the French Consul although not officially receiv'd has not left Leghorn. All our trade and of our allies to Italy must all pass close to Corsica, the Enemy would have had the Ports of this Island full of Row Gallies & from the great Calms near the land our Ships of War could not have protected the Trade, they can always be taken under your Eye, therefore from this sect: only, every Man of Common Sense must see the necessity of our possessing this Island. - The Spanish Ports & Neapolitan are so improper (& except Minorca which is now only a fishing town with a few Slips for Ship buildin,, every thing being destroy'd) & the distance from the Scene of War so distant, that they could not have been used even would the Dons have made us welcome which I much doubt. The loss to the French has been great indeed - all the ships built at Toulon have their sides, Beams, decks & Strait Timber from this Island, the Pine of this Island is of the finest texture I ever saw, and the Tar Pitch & hemp although I believe the former not equal to Norway yet was very much used in the Yard at Toulon - so much for the benefit of it to us during the War, and in Peace I see no reason but it may be as beneficial to England as any other part of the King's dominions every article of this Island was suppress'd, as it interfered with the produce of the So: of France. The Large woods of olives must produce great quantities of fine oil & the Wine is much preferable to the Wines of Italy - our Naval Yards will be supplied with excellent wood & I daresay the expense of keeping the Island will be very trifling, & its importance to us very great-other powers will certainly envy us, & the Inhabitants will grow rich & I hope happy under our mild Government, the difference is already visible, before every Corsican carried his gun for every district was at enmity with the other, many parts at War with the French & none friendly with them. No Single French Man could travel in this Island his death was certain - Now not one Man in fifty carries Arms - their Swords are really turn'd into Plough Shares, & We travel every where with only a Stick - this day I have walk'd over 300 acres of fine wheat which last year only served to feed a few Goats, & if these great alterations are to be seen in the least fertile part of the Island, what must be the change in the more fruitful - and when I reflect that I was the cause of reattacking Bastia, after our Wise Generals gave it over from not knowing the force, fancying it 2000 Men, that it was I who landing joining the Corsicans with only my Ships party of Marines drove the French under the walls of Bastia, that it was I who knowing the force in Bastia to be upwards of 4000 Men, as I have now only ventur'd to tell Lord Hood landed with only 1200 Men & kept the Secret 'till within a Week past - what I must have felt during the whole Seige may be easily conceived. Yet I am scarcely mention'd. I freely forgive but cannot forget - this and much more ought to have been mentioned - it is known that for two months I blockaded Bastia with a Squadron; only 50 Sacks of flour got into the Town - at Fioreuzo & Calvi for two months before nothing got in & 4 French frigates could not get out & are now ours.Yet my diligence is not mentioned - & others for keeping succours out of Calvi for a few summer months are handsomely mentioned - such things are. I am got in a subject near my heart which is full when I think of the treatment I have receiv'd every Man who had any considerable share in the Reduction has got some place or other - I only I, am without reward the taking of Corsica like the taking St: Juans, has cost me money St: Juans cost near 500 [pounds] Corsica has cost mc 300 [pounds], an eye & Cut across my back and my money I find cannot be repaid me, nothing but my anxious endeavour to serve my Country makes me bear up against it, but I sometimes am ready to give all up. We are just going to Sea & I hope to God we shall meet the French fleet which may give us all Gold chains who knows. Remember me most kindly to Mrs Suckling & Miss Suckling and Believe in every situation I feel myself Your much oblig'd & affectionate Horatio Nelson Best Respects to Mr: Rumsey & family & to Mr: Wrents. forgive this letter I have said a great deal too much of myself but in deed it is all too true.
Here, says Young, are "two ... letters from Sheridan to Mr. Charles Ward, the Treasurer of Drury Lane Theatre. They are addressed to him at the Secretary's office of that establishment, and are post-marked "Biggleswade . . . 1814." The former of the two has the signature "R B Sheridan," in the usual corner, outside.... 'Southill Friday Dr Ward Beg borrow steal forge 10 [pounds] for me & send by return of Post then I am with you Yours truly JIBS What do you think of Kean I am glad He is to play Richard & not of Post. How is Brinsley?' The word "Post,' in the above postscript, is probably a slip of the pen for "Poet," meaning that Kean was not to play Shakspeare's Richard, but Garrick's. The main subject is amusingly renewed in this second communication:
Private Southill Thursday Dr Ward, Thou art a trusty man, & when I write to you I get an answer & the thing done if it can be and you don' write or want to receive long Lettcrs - which are my horror. I have been very ill with a violent attack of bile - kept my bed three days - but don't say this to a soul it always does harm in my situation. I am now quite well, & the better for it, pray let two or three Theatre chaps or their connexions put up a little scaffolding in my Hall that may serve to wash the walls & whitewash the ceiling as soon as you receive this. I will explain my motives when I arrive on Sunday as I suppose I have replaced the last 10 [pounds] you stole for me, I trust you may reputably renew the Theft when I arrive should it be again wanted as I greatly fear it will I have had a very civil Letter from Hudson, from whom I have great resource coming. There are political events (home) brewing. - One letter more will catch me here Ever yours R. B. S.'
(Vol. 11, 692)
Speaking of David Garrick, here is what appears to be an excerpt from a letter to his brother, George Garrick, on April 12, 1776: "Last night I played Drugger for the last time. The Morning Post will tell you the whole of that night. I thought the audience were mad, and they almost turned my brain." (Volume 12, Issue 8 (227) ).
Finally, three items relative to Napoleon. The first is only a mention:
From and after the time when Napoleon Buonaparte became First Consul, infinite pains were taken, in all departments of the state and through many agencies, to destroy or obliterate every document that bore the great man's name, spelled as it is here printed. The u was obnoxious, because it testified to his Italian origin, of which it was considered desirable to leave no record. Mr. Old, however, showed me a letter from Napoleon to the citizen Berlier, dated "Antibes, Prairial, l'an 2," with the extremely rare signature Buonaparte.
He then offers, as proof that Josephine actively courted her future husband, this letter from the 'Widow Beauharnais' to 'General Bonaparte' dated 1st Ventose (year not specified; original in French):
You no longer come to see a friend who loves you. You have completely dropped her. You are very wrong, because she is tenderly attached to you. Come tomorrow seven to breakfast with me, I need to see you, and to chat with you about your interests. Good evening, my friend, I kiss you.
WIDOW BEAUHARNAIS to General Bonaparte.
Volume 12, Issue 8 (279-280) )
And, last, this admiring evaluation from a surprising quarter: "Fox's admiration of the First Consul," says Young, "was indeed notorious; but his manner of expressing it herein is remarkable for its comprehensiveness no less than for its fervor. The letter is addressed to Dennis O'Bryen, Esq., Craven street, Strand; is franked by Fox, from "Chertsey July sixteen 1800;" and post-marked "Free" "Staines." Envelopes had not then come into use
Dear O'Bryen, I am much obliged to you for your letter I think exactly as you seem to do of Bonaparte, and though I never could like his manner of sacrificing Venice &c and still less his entry into the Council of 500 at St. Cloud (by the way I am not sure I am right about the Place) I have entirely forgiven him and am willing to think him one of the best as I am sure he is the greatest of Men; and as to what you say about myself, his reputation is not only so much above what I could in any case look to, but of so different a genus that there is no merit in not being envious of him. He certainly has surpassed, in my judgment, Alexander & Caesar, not to mention the great advantage he has over them in the cause he fights in - Caesar's military exploits in Gaul are those upon which his reputation chiefly rests, his conquest of Italy was nothing Saguntum is certainly not the place you mean for I do not think there was a place of that name in Italy, I think both Cerfinium & Brundusium were defended, but I am not sure, & not Tarentum. I quite agree with you about Pitt's Silence upon Sheridan's Panegyrick, and like Windham's far better as I do the Man. We have had one or two very pleasant water jaunts. I go to Woburn Saturday for about a week. Mrs. A. desires to be kindly remembered to you - yours affly, C. J. Fox St. Anne's Hill Wednesday'
(Vol. 11, 692)