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their ignorance Las placed them: to such, no argument can be necessary to convince them that it is their own interest they promote, when they endeavour to become acquainted with a branch of knowledge so likely to prove extremely useful, beneficial, and pleasant. Letter-writing is also still more agreeable, because it enables us to hear from our friends, and to communicate to them our affairs and wishes, however distant we may be, and this, too, under the bond of secrecy; at least it is so in this country, where freedom reigns to bless us.
Had the invention of written characters been known at the commencement of the world, epistolary writing would have been coevalwith love and friendship; for, as soon as writing began to flourish, the verbal message was discarded, as poor and inadequate, and the affectionate language of the heart committed to a medium which faithfully preserved it. Secrecy was ensured, and the social intercourse of life rendered easier and infinitely more agreeable.
Many of the most ancient compositions were written in this manner, and even the holy Gospels were delivered by the Evangelists in an epistolary form.
The Romans attained perfection in this art; as a proof of which, we need only produce the elegant letters of Cicero; nor are the moderns less aware of its importance and its beauties. Amongst the French, many of their first writers have built their fame upon epistolary correspondence; and our own countrymen, of the present age, seem to be fully sensible of its merits and utility. Indeed, epistolary writings appear, in some degree, to have triumphed over every other species of composition: the historian has sometimes adopted it; poets have also resorted to it; and travellers feel it to be their greatest consolation during the lingering period of absence from their friends.
Letters are the very foundation of trade, the food of love, the pleasure of friendship, the means of knowledge to the politician, and a source of general entertainment to all mankind; without their pleasing medium, we should find ourselves miserably curtailed in many comforts and amusements; because, next to speaking to those we love, an epistolary correspondence with them is one of the greatest blessings we can possibly enjoy.
The importance of a confidential means of communicating our thoughts to others at a distance, can scarcely be appreciated by those who are fully qualified to enjoy its advantages : custom and practice so habituate us to its use, that we lose sight of the inestimable value of the privilege, and regard it in the light of an accomplishment only. But were we placed in a position where those about us were totally ignorant of writing, we should then feel sensibly the vast superiority which such a knowledge cunfers upon the possessor. Let an anecdote recorded in one of our Missionary journals, confirm this.
A Missionary had penetrated far into the interior of Africa, where oral tradition was the only means of perpetuating their legends, or of transmitting their deeds from father to
An incident happened, shortly after his arrival among them, which greatly increased his estimation in the eyes of the ignorant natives, and materially assisted him in his endeavours to civilize and convert them.
The king, or chief, was ill of a fever, and his life was in danger. Anxious to make the most of an opportunity so favourable to his views, the Missionary proposed to send to a distant station, for a brother Missionary, skilled in the healing art. The offer was thankfully accepted: but here a difficulty presented itself; no one of the sable attendants could speak any other than his own language, and of this language the Missionary about to be sent to, was equally uninformed.
Writing solved the difficulty: & note, urging the immediate attendance of the Missionary, was written; and the proper instructions given to the messenger, where and how to find him.
The African successfully accomplished his errand; the Missionary returned with him ; and the life of the chief was saved. But grateful as he felt to both Missionaries for his restoration to health, it was long before he could be made to comprehend the manner in which the communication was made from the one to the other, for he knew not how it could be possible for a few marks on a piece of paper, to convey intelligence so important to a third person, especially when the bearer of the communication was even unable to speak to the party sent to, or to make him understand one word that he might utter.