[ James Spedding, editor of Sir Francis Bacon. ] Two Autograph Letters Signed to 'Mrs. Pollock' [ later Lady Juliet Pollock ], one listing the twenty-two 'greatest' English authors, the other concerning the 'Swedish nightingale' Jenny Lind.

James Spedding (1808-1881), editor of Sir Francis Bacon, literary critic and Cambridge Apostle [ Lady Juliet Pollock [ née Creed ] (1819-1899), wife of Sir William Frederick Pollock (1815-1888) ]
Publication details: 
Both letters from '60 L. I. F.' [ i.e. 60 Lincoln's Inn Fields, London ]. 3 June 1847 and 24 April 1854.
SKU: 17629

Learned and witty, Spedding was a popular figure within the literary scene of Victorian London. As he lay dying following an accident, Tennyson rushed to the hospital and begged admission to his bedside. When approached by Delia Bacon, he dismissed the Baconian theory with contempt, and was the first to realise that the play 'Henry VIII' was a collaboration between Shakespeare and John Fletcher. Both of the present letters are signed 'Jas Spedding' and addressed to 'My dear Mrs. Pollock', and both in good condition, on lightly aged and worn paper, with minor traces of glue from mount. ONE: 3 June 1847. 2pp., 12mo. The letter begins: 'I am glad to hear that Jenny Lind has produced the proper effect on you - Indeed how could she help it?' He explains why he thinks Lind is to be 'seen to the greatest advantage' in Bellini's 'La Somnambula', and why her 'Norma is too beautiful for the rest of the opera'. He ends by explaining that he had a ticket to see Lind for a third time that night, but 'sent it to Lawrence; which makes me feel more like Sir Philip Sidney than I dare express. His need was yet greater than mine - for he had not seen her at all.' TWO: 24 April 1854. 4pp., 12mo. On bifolium with mourning border. Closely and neatly written: 59 lines of text, and list of the twenty-two authors. Begins: 'So you really want to know the 12 English authors whom I "feel to be the greatest"! But how if there are not 12 concerning whom I have any such feeling? - However, let us see.' He begins by ruling out Scottish writers (Scott and Burns) and Irish ones (Burke, Swift, Goldsmith). As she has said that 'living people were not to compete' he is 'released from the claims of the authors of the Phonetic alphabet'. He proceeds to discuss the claims of scientific writers (Newton, Napier and Gilbert), before stating his assumption that she is interested in the works of the 'authors of books of which the pretensions are what we call "literary"' His list of twenty-two names, from Chaucer to Wordsworth, follows, including among more obvious names (Shakespeare, Bacon, and 'Miss Austen') those of Hooker, Raleigh, Jeremy Taylor, 'Butler. the Poet', and Bentley. 'Bishop Butler' is present, despite his Irish origins. 'There are twenty two. Now which shall we cut out? I really must wait for a hot afternoon, when I am enjoying idleness, to decide.' He discusses the 'altogether great' and those he could 'best spare'. 'Chaucer, Hooker, & Bunyan, I do not much frequent; but I could not at all spare the ideas which I owe them. For Raleigh, I do not know that I owe him many ideas, but then I cannot deny that he is one of our greatest writers. Bentley I feel to be our greatest English scholar and one of our greatest writers too. Others (as Lamb, Miss Austen, & Fielding) whom I might hesitate to class among our greatest writers, I positively could not spare. - So what is to be done?' In a postscript he mentions 'the new Macbeth' and an article in the Examiner by 'T. S.', who is his brother.