MEM. This forcible, and pathetic letter, says a great writer, is rendered obscure, in places, by that which is incident to all letters, the quick glancing of the mind to, and from circumstances, familiar to the writer, and to the receiver, and therefore noticed in a cursory manner only. But it has been considered, as so pathetic, and so forcible, that Blackwood inserted it in his MS. history of Mary’s sufferings, even before 1585, and actually published it, in his history, so early as 1587. Camden, also, formed an abridgement of it, and placed it in his annals [Origin. i. 332-7; Translat. 276-80.] Dr. Stuart too, has equally interrupted the course of his narrative with it, after he had spoken of it in these terms:
“When the intelligence of the captivity of her son,” he says, “and of the bold proceedings of the conspirators reached Mary, her care, agitation, and anguish, were driven to the most affecting extremity; And giving vent to her sensibility, she addressed a letter to Elizabeth, in which she maintains her dignity, while she yields to her resentments; and in which she has intermingled, in an admirable manner, the most fervent protestations of innocence, and the boldest language of expostulation, and reproach. Its ability, and vigour, are uncommon,and give it a title to survive, in the history of the Scotish nation.” [ii. 164.]
And Mademoiselle de Keralio has published it, a fourth time, in her appendix, v. 349. But Camden’s abridgement, which I admired much, continues Mr. Whitaker, before I discovered the original, has lost many of the beauties, in the letter, and has ventured to make some additions of his own. Dr. Steuart, also, has formed his copy of the letter, by abridging the abridgement of Camden, by copying his additions, as parts of the original, and by licentiously paraphrasing all. And Mad. de Keralio, not attending to this conduct, and not knowing of the French original, has turned Dr. Steuart’s letter into French, and given it to her readers, as the true original. [The French original is in the Cotton lib. Calig. c. vii. 51.] In this manner is history, unintentionally, falsified; and thus has the French letter been translated back into French again. I have given the original itself. I have added to it a translation. I thus, says the vindicator of Mary, take leave of my reader, even in my appendix, with a genuine letter of Mary’s; which recapitulates the conduct of Elizabeth to her, in all its principal outlines; which shows Elizabeth to us, as we have seen her before, but with an addition of evidence, mean, tyrannical, insidious, and savage: and also shows he soul of Mary to us, at the seeming approaches of death, recollected in its sentiments, earnest in its feelings, maintaining her innocence with awful solemnity, and appealing to that God, before whom she thought she was going to appear,for the vindication of her honour, and the avenging of her wrongs.
From the interesting nature of distress, the elevating force of innocence, and the ennobling dignity of religion; the sick, and dying Mary here appears, with a majesty, before which the low souled Elizabeth shrinks abashed, and confounded. Every honest, and generous feeling of our hearts comes forward to the aid of the oppressed Queen. And we think of her oppression, with disgust, with disdain, and with detestation. [The letter of Mary thus published, in English, is from the translation of her very able vindicator, iii. App. xvii.]