My Dear Sir,--How kind hath Fortune been to you, and, in a secondary degree, to myself. Your letter must dispel the unreasoning and I fear envious scepticism of MacCribb, who has put forth a plaunflet (I love that old spelling) in which he derides the history of Aldobrand Oldenbuck as a fable. The Ballad shall, indeed, have an honoured place in my poor Collection whenever the public taste calls for a new edition. But the original, what would I not give to have it in my hands, to touch the very parchment which came from the press of my revered ancestor, and, gloating on the crabbed letters, confute MacCribb to his face ipso visu et tactu of so inestimable a rarity. Exchanges--or "swaps," as the vulgar call them--are not unknown among our fraternity. Ask what you will for this treasure, to the half of my kingdom: my gold Aurelius (found at Bermuckety, on the very limits of Roman Caledonia), my "Complaynte of Scotland" (the only perfect copy known),
My copperplate, with almanacks Engrav'd upon't, and other knacks; My moon-dial, with Napier's bones And several constellation stones.
Make your choice, in fact, of all my Gabions, as honest old George Ruthven called them.
Nay, excuse the covetousness of an Antiquary, my dear sir; I well know that nothing I could offer were worth a tithe of your priceless discovery, the oldest printed Scots Ballad extant. It shall suffice for me to look on it, under the roof of Mainsforth, when next I make a raid across the Border. I have conquered my passions, and can obey the last of the Commandments. Haud equiden invideo, minor magis. I need not bid you be watchful of your booty.--Yours most faithfully,
From Robert Surtees, Esq., to Jonathan Oldbuck, Esq.
My Dear Sir,--Alas, your warning comes too late. An accursed example of womankind, fit descendant of that unhappy Betty Barnes, cook to Mr. Warburton, who destroyed his ancient manuscript plays, hath invaded my sanctum, and the original black-letter text of the ballad has gone to join Shakspeare's "Stephen" and "Henry II." She hath lit with it my study fire, and it is fortunate indeed that I had made the copy of the ballad for you. But the volume of Coquillart is alive to testify to the authenticity of the poem; which, after all, is needless evidence, as not even Ritson could suspect of either the skill or the malice of such a forgery, Yours most faithfully,
LETTER: From Nicholas to the Editor of the St. James's Gazette,
It is only too probable that a later generation has forgotten "Nicholas," the sporting Prophet of "Fun," in the reign of Mr. Hood the younger. The little work, "Nicholas's Notes," in which Mr. W. J. Prowse collected the papers of the old Prophet, is, indeed, not an "edition de looks," as the aged Seer says, with his simple humour. From the Paradise of Fiction, however (and the Paradise of Touts), Nicholas has communicated, perhaps to the Psychical Society, the following Epistle. His friendly mention of a brother journalist speaks well for the Old Man's head and heart.