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tion I received, was from the gentleman who has married the widow of George Keats, and who placed at my disposal, with the consent of the family, the letters George received from his brother after he emigrated to America. I have taken the liberty of omitting some few unimportant passages which referred exclusively to individuals or transitory circumstances, regarding this part of the correspondence as of a more private character than any other that has fallen into my hands.

I am not indeed unprepared for the charge, that I have published in this volume much that might well have been omitted, both for its own irrelevancy, and from the decent reverence that should always veil, more or less, the intimate family concerns and the deep internal life of those that are no more. Never has such remonstrance been more ably expressed than in the following passage from Mr. Wordsworth's "Letter to a friend of Robert Burns,"* and which, on account of the rarity of the pamphlet, I here transcribe :

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Biography, though differing in some essentials from works of fiction, is nevertheless like them an art-an art, the laws of which are determined by the imperfections of our nature and the constitution of society. Truth is not here, as in the sciences and in natural philosophy, to be sought without scruple, and promulgated for its own sake upon the mere chance of its being serviceable, but only for obviously justifying purposes, moral or intellectual. Silence is a privilege of the grave, a right of the departed; let him, therefore, who infringes that right by speaking publicly of, for, or against those who cannot speak for themselves, take heed that he open not his mouth without a sufficient sanction. * * * * The general obligation upon which I have insisted is especially binding upon those who undertake the biography of authors. Assuredly there is no cause why the lives of that class of men should be pried into with diligent curiosity, and laid open with the same disregard of reserve which may sometimes be expedient in composing the history of men who have borne an active part in the world. Such thorough knowledge of the good and bad qualities of

Published 1816.

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