|Notices to Correspondents
OUR SEVENTH VOLUME.
We might, without any offence against truth or modesty, begin our Seventh Volume by congratulating ourselves and our Readers on the continued success and increasing circulation of our work. As to Truth, our Readers can only judge in part, and must take our word for the rest; but they may see enough in our pages to lead them to do so. Let them but look at the signatures which from time to time appear in our columns, and they will see enough to prove that we have the sanction of a list of names, high in literary reputation, such as it might seem ostentatious to parade in our columns on an occasion like the present. We abstain the more readily, because we have felt it our duty to do the thing so frequently and fully in our prospectuses. And as to Modesty, can there be any want of it in saying that with such—or perhaps we should say by such—contributors we have produced a work which the public has found acceptable? With such contributors, and others whom we should be proud to name with them, if they had given names which we cannot but know, but do not feel authorised to decypher—with such help, what sort of animal must an editor be who could fail to make a work worth reading? In fact, if not our highest praise, it is the plainest proof of the value of our publication, that we have done little or nothing except to give the reader the greatest possible quantity of matter in a legible form, wholly unassisted by graphic ornament or artistic decoration of any kind—without even the attraction of politics, scandal, or polemics.
Our pride is that we are useful; and that fact is proved by another to which it has given rise, namely, that we are favoured with many more contributions than we can possibly find room for; and therefore, instead of employing the occasion which offers for a few words with our Readers, by way of introduction to a new Volume, in any protracted remarks on what we have done, we would rather confer with them on the ways and means of doing more.
In the first place, let us say explicitly that we do not mean by the most obvious method of increasing the bulk of our publication. It is quite clear that we
could print twice as much on twice as many pages; but this is not what we mean. Those who refer to our earliest Numbers will see "how we are grown," and we are perfectly convinced that we are now quite grown up—that our quantity (to change the figure) is quite as much as our company wish to see set on the table at once, and our price quite as agreeable as if it were larger; for to enlarge the work without enlarging the price would be quite out of the question.
But, in the course of what we may now call considerable experience, during which we have seen the work grow up into the form which it now wears, we have been led to think, that if our friends will allow us to offer a few suggestions (on which some of them may perhaps improve), we may be able, with the same space and cost, to oblige more Correspondents; and not only by that means, but by rendering our information more select and valuable, increase the gratification of our Readers.
Our name suggests the idea of a work consisting of two parts; and, with regard to the first, we can only offer such obvious remarks as, that the more a writer condenses what he has to say, the less room his communication will occupy in print—and the less room he occupies, the more he will leave for others, &c. These are weighty and important truths, but such as we need not insist on.
But when we look at the other part, passing under the single name of "Queries," it becomes obvious that our work, instead of having, as its title would import, what Sir Thomas Browne calls a "bicapitous conformation," does in fact consist of three parts, which must be ranged under three different heads, and dealt with in three different ways. A little, modest, demure-looking Query slips into print, and by the time it has been in print a fortnight, we find that it has a large family of Replies, who all come about it, and claim a settlement on the ground of their parentage.
Now, it is on this matter that we think some improvement may be made. We would not on any account diminish our number of Queries, and would wish even our Notes to be notes of interrogation as well as information. But between Queries and Replies, notwithstanding their family connexion, there is an essential difference. In every case the Query, in order to its answering the end for which it is proposed, must be public; but in a great many cases the Reply need not be so. The Query may be a very proper and curious one, and interesting in a high degree to the proposer and several other persons, but the Reply to it may involve details not generally interesting. We shall not be thought to discourage such inquiries (while we consider the opportunity which we afford for making them one of the most valuable features of our work) if we illustrate this by suggesting that A. wishes for genealogical or family history; B. wants to know what the author of such or such a book which he is editing means by such or such a reference; C., who is editing another, wants a collation of this or that edition; D., who is writing a third book, in order to correct and enrich it, wants as many things (and heartily glad should we be to help him to get them) as would occupy half-a-dozen of our Numbers; and so we might go on, were it not quite unnecessary to pursue in detail the illustration of what is so plain. Now it has occurred to us, that if Correspondents who wish to make inquiries, the answers to which would obviously be of no general interest, would, with their Query, enclose a stamped envelope, directed in any way which they may think proper, it would often be in our power not only to transmit to them answers to their inquiries, but to put them in direct communication with those who could give them further information; and who would in many cases communicate with individuals of whose respectability and capacity they were satisfied, more freely than they would through a public channel. We shall be glad to know how far such a plan would be approved of. We must add, that it would enable us to make use of many Replies which it is impossible, under present circumstances, to insert; and we believe that many Answerers would not only be as well pleased to learn that their Replies had been transmitted to the Querist, but that, with a knowledge that they would be so transmitted, they would write with more freedom and fulness than if they expected the Reply to be published. One thing only we should bargain for—and, having cut ourselves off from all hope of gain by desiring to have the envelopes directed, we think we have a right to ask it—it is, that if in this correspondence, of which we are the medium, they come to any curious