1829 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

John Wilson Croker

Isaac D'Israeli to John Wilson Croker, 6 July 1829; The Croker Papers, ed. Louis J. Jennings (1884) 1:439-41.



Bloomsbury-square, January 28th, 1829.

MY DEAR SIR,

It is with pleasure I recognise your handwriting. Your awaiting my making "a sign" implies on your part a degree of watchfulness which is very flattering. Your correspondence is too agreeable an incident for me ever wilfully to occasion its extinction — and in future I shall know how to awaken its dormant energies by answering my own letter.

I now forever bid "a farewell sweet" to that phantom, the Conway papers! I, who live more in the age of Charles the First than in my own, considered them of more importance than your account makes them. In the course of my researches I have traced several extraordinary documents, which, if not destroyed, ought to be in those collections — such as Lord Conway's journal concerning the Duke of Buckingham — Sir Henry Wotton's Diary of his Venetian Embassy — besides many papers of secret history, which rightly should have been deposited at the State-paper Office. One of the Lords Conway was a very eager collector of the fugitive pieces of the time, many of which floated in manuscripts. There must also be a copious assemblage of letters. I once read by your kindness the letters of Katharine, the Duke of Buckingham's wife, which led me to form another idea of the man. What an odd fate have these Collections met with! They were made with great care, by very careless persons, since better means were not taken to preserve them. And now having in part escaped the fury of cooks, the critical nibblings of mice, and the mould of time, they have found, as it was presumed, an Editor, so skilful and spirited as yourself — a publisher so active as Mr. Murray, and a possessor so liberal as Lord Hertford — all to no purpose! With such unexpected good fortune the Conway papers will probably never be seen by the world, and, what is more important, never be consulted by the historian.

I congratulate you, my dear sir, on having struck out a literary labour which will prove to be a most variable recreation — the editing of Boswell. You there have touched a vein which will flow, and I am all alive. It was one of the earliest books which fed my taste for literature and literary men. On its publication it raised a great disturbance, of which I could afford you many ludicrous instances. It was an act of juvenile heroism on my part, to have declared that it would outlast the delightful "Menagiana" (Monnoye's edition), but people knew little of such ana in that day. So many were displeased at themselves in those volumes; so many secrets were published; so many of the malcontents found themselves unnoticed — that nothing but abuse and reading the book was heard. My old friend Caleb Whiteford, who lived above me in my chambers at the Adelphi, assured me the conversations were not correct, some of his puns had not been immortalized. Peter Pindar once called Boswell in a letter to me, "Johnson's spitting-pot;" and the critical reviewer of my "Dissertation on Anecdotes," who proved to be Dr. George Gregory, after due commendation of the young author, anathematised him for his eulogy on Boswell; the anathema, being rather voluminous, probably will exhibit the condensed protests of all the Oppositionists. I can afford you one striking evidence of the fidelity of Boswell's circumstantiality.

My edition is the second — the author's own — I possess none of the modern editions, though Malone and the author's son edited them. Malone's notes are always useful, but dry. As the work itself is a heap of notes, will you not find some difficulty in contriving space to add your new ones? You will sometimes perhaps have to add, what in the present day we call illustrations, notes like essays. I have no marginal notes to send you, but I imagine I could Boswellise with you through a long summer's day. Whenever you consult me, I shall rejoice to aid you; but at present I have contracted a debt of honour with the public which I must satisfy. It is in vain I attempt to quit my Charles I., since he will not quit me. Believe me, with great regards,

My dear sir, much yours,

I. D'ISRAELI.