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DURING the later years of his residence in England, Landor prepared a Collection of his Writings to which he had given careful revision, and in which the Imaginary Conversations were classified and arranged in the order he had most desired to see them printed in. This Collection he placed in my hands on going abroad for the last time; with instruction that if it should be published in any form after his death, the subjoined letter should accompany it by way of Dedication :
• My dear Friend, Temperance Societies rose up soon after the construction of Gin-Palaces. Our literature may take perhaps a similar turn; for it is accus* tomed to take rapid and opposite ones. In that case ' you may live to superintend such Edition or Selection * from my Writings as may be called for after my death. · I place them in your hands with the more pleasure, * since you have thought them not unworthy of your * notice, and even your study, among the labours of our • Greatest Authors, our Patriots in the best times. The world is indebted to you for a knowledge of their characters and their works: I shall be contented to be
as long forgotten, if I arise with the same advantages at last.
Yours very affectionately,
WALTER SAVAGE LANDOR.
Acting on this permission, it was proposed to print a Selection only; and by the plan of carefully abridging each dialogue rather than wholly omitting any, the number and variety in the subjects would have remained to show the greatest marvel of Landor's remarkable achievement. But after much progress in this, its profoundly unsatisfactory result compelled me to lay it aside. When the necessary reductions had been made, stores of wisdom and of wit undoubtedly were left; everywhere there were striking aphorisms, concise and penetrating observations, exquisite criticism, surpassing strength as well as loveliness of language; but what had most given life to each Conversation was gone. The proper setting for its jewels of speech or thought, the vividness of character, the subtlety of imagination, seemed to be no longer there.
A remark made in my Life was thus put to the proof. In this it was said that though Landor's fiveact dramas were only dialogues in verse, his prose dialogues were one-act dramas; and that, however freely his talkers might borrow their opinions from himself, the dramatic conditions incident to their talk were never in any case lost sight of. Applicable to nearly all the Imaginary Conversations, the remark applies yet more forcibly to those other prose works overflowing most with beauties apparently isolated; and which