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These Letters were originally published in the Independent of New York.  The idea of writing them occurred to the author after he had produced “Letters to Dead Authors.”  That kind of Epistle was open to the objection that nobody would write so frankly to a correspondent about his own work, and yet it seemed that the form of Letters might be attempted again.  The Lettres a Emilie sur la Mythologie are a well-known model, but Emilie was not an imaginary correspondent.  The persons addressed here, on the other hand, are all people of fancy ­the name of Lady Violet Lebas is an invention of Mr. Thackeray’s:  gifted Hopkins is the minor poet in Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes’s “Guardian Angel.”  The author’s object has been to discuss a few literary topics with more freedom and personal bias than might be permitted in a graver kind of essay.  The Letter on Samuel Richardson is by a lady more frequently the author’s critic than his collaborator.