Page images
PDF
EPUB

Adieu, my dear, I have preached long enough; I shall tire you with religion, and Tom with philosophy; but you are both free to silence me when you will. Buffon spends several pages in proving that stags' horns are really wood, as called in French; I want somebody to desire him to make jelly of an old broom-stick. Such is the wisdom of philosophers, which the experience of a cook-maid would often confute, if consulted.”

. “ Kelston, Sept. 17th, 1776. “ DEAR JACK, “ I was greatly obliged by your letter, for indeed I was very impatient to have some account of poor Mrs. Brett, whose affliction must be very great; for my own part, though so far removed from my old friend, I considered him in the light one does family jewels, which, though one can make no use of them when one is old, are a treasure at hand in case of distress. Such would he, I dare say, have been to me; I know not any one that in every respect could supply his place. He had good sense, good humour, integrity, and capacity for business beyond most men; and a kind of universal knowledge that made him useful to every body: I do not wonder, therefore, that he is so universally lamented. What are, in fact, your great heroes, great philosophers, &c. to a man who, in private life, devotes his whole time and thoughts to the performance of his duty towards God and his neighbour? The scene of action may seem inconsiderable, but could every parish in England be sure of such a man as Mr. Brett, what a change would soon appear in this island! What an increase of happiness to all ranks of people! If you wanted a spur to do what is right, I think you would now have it, for, I dare say, you are so much beloved by the two young men, that your advice and example will go a great way towards settling them in a virtuous course for life. Your friend Cobb’s behaviour gives me great pleasure; but I wanted not that to have a good opinion of him."

“ I send this letter, my dear friend, to be disgraced, for as much a philosopher as you are, it is impossible you can look at any thing but your pretty present: you will trace the kind thoughts that accompanied every stitch, you will see her gentle mind in the soft colour of the ground, her elegant taste in the mixture of the colours, her neatness and attention to propriety in the whole of the performance; and, in some sort, her humility in laying down the pencil

for the needle, when she can handle the one as well as the , other. - If you see any of the L.s, tell them Dawson

rides triumphant, but rather wants confidence. La fortune, comme les dames, méprise les nigauds. The way to succeed in most things is to suppose one shall do so; and then application, vigilance, and industry, will almost always succeed. Why do you say, it may seem vain to show Mr. R.'s letter ? Un peu de simplicité, s'il vous plait ; c'est une si belle vertu, qu'elle vous enseigne à dire et à faire tout ce qui peut faire plaisir, sans penser à ce que l'on dira, à ce que l'on peut penser de vous : on pense toujours bien de ce qu'on aime, et un esprit droit prend toujours les choses du bon côté. Ne privez donc pas vos amis des plaisirs qu'ils ont droits d'attendre de vous : c'est faire tort à l'amitié que de croire qu'elle puisse manquer de confiance et d'indulgence. Voilà un petit faisceau de maximes impromptues faites en votre profit. Adieu, cher ami. Je suis. à vous de tout mon coeur."

“ Bath, ce 24 Sept. 1777.

“ Bath, July 26th... “ I am much obliged to you, my love, for taking an. opportunity to write, and for sending me the words of ch. 39. of Magna Charta. You seem to suppose that I wanted you to answer all my questions, and plead for excuse your ignorance on the subject; whereas your ignorance is the very reason why I put the questions; for I want to make you the cat's-pay. The questions are none of them such as concern the law as now studied, but are chiefly concerning matters of fact, which those you mention them to will know to be out of your way of study, and yet to be what you might very properly want to know; and, therefore, I took this time to put you upon making such an enquiry for me; especially as you are to see Mr. Brett, who is the person most likely to answer my queries, but to whom I wish you to put them from yourself, not from me. If he has a book, called “ D’Achery's Spicilegium,” or if it is in Whiston's shop, you will there find the French copy which I mentioned to you of King John's Magna Charta, which was published from the records of France, and is, I believe, only there to be found. The want of this French copy seems to me the cause, that the Latin of Magna Charta in King Charles the First's time was shamefully misinterpreted, as to the article now before us: and has, I doubt, been misunderstood ever since. They could make nothing of sending upon, and going upon, super eum mittimus, and, therefore, concluded, that the words in carcere must be understood, which was your wise Lord Coke's interpretation, but was, in fact very absurd; for the word imprisonetur had been used before: and yet, for want of the French copy, that interpretation passed, and has been looked upon as law ever since. The article, as you see it compared in the three languages in my letter, plainly refers to the unjust

destroy th: the lands of

Possession of in

practice common in those days, for the king, as soon as he was offended, to enter with armed force upon the lands of the offenders, take their cattle, destroy their corn, &c.; sometimes take possession of their castles, seize their lands, force them to fly, put them in prison, or keep them attending near his own person as prisoners at large: all which circumstances are described by the different words of art. 39; and the king promises that he will neither go himself, nor send any, to proceed in such illegal ways; but will punish offenders no other way, than by judgment of their peers, if barons, or by legal process, if only freemen, that is, landholders. The French words nous n'irons, ny n'enveyrons, make the sense very plain; for want of which, the disputants in King Charles the First's time went to work to find out what was the legal way of committing a man to prison; whereas the words legem terræ had as much to do with every other circumstance mentioned in the article, as with that of imprisoning. I know King John's and King Henry's charters differ, though Mat. Paris says they were the same; but they both differ essentially in this and other articles from the English translation, and from what historians give for the meaning."

This letter appears to have led to others upon the same subject. It occupied Mrs. Bowdler's attention from time to time, and at a very late period in her life she writes thus:

« My dear, ::“ You think it a wonder that in my 79th year I should be able to write, or wish to know, about Magna Charta. You and — make no account of an old French copy; but I, who understand old French (better perhaps than

most people in England) look upon it in an historical view, as an original (though I never called it so), because it gives the meaning of several passages, which in our copies, French, English, and I may say Latin, have no distinct sense. I well know that Magna Charta in French must be found in many histories, but these are copies from the Latin, which this does not appear to be. Therefore, old as I am, I wish to leave my notions, which otherwise must die with me, to those who may think them interesting. We have been lately reading Warton's History of Poetry, who says, p. 213, “ George Ferrers, a man of superior rank was—in A. D. 1542, imprisoned by Henry VIII.- about the same time, in his juridical capacity, he translated Magna Charta from French, into Latin and English.” He says, also, 6 One Redman printed Magna Charta in French, 1529, 12m0., oblong.” In King William's time, Bishop Burnet printed a manuscript (found, I believe, at Salisbury), which was the Magna Charta in old French. Your father had it, I read it, and thought it very curious. Now what should induce a translator or printer, to concern themselves to work from a French Magna Charta, unless the copy had something curious in it? It is well known that the nobility and gentry, at the time it was framed, were exceedingly ignorant; and that French, from the time of the conquest, and long after King John's days, was the language most in use amongst them; for which reason, it is probable that a French copy would be drawn up to be considered by all, and might be afterwards translated into Latin, by the clergy concerned in that affair. *— When you and I did not think

* The late Mr. Luders, in his Tract on the use of the French language, &c. says,

“Our famous great Charter of King John is the most ancient of our publick acts in the French language. Yet the capitula,

« PreviousContinue »