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The following this moment occurs to me as a possible motto for the Messiah, if you do not think it too sharp :

Nunquam inducunt animum cantare, rogati ;
Injussi, nunquam desistunt.-

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Olney, Dec. 24, 1785. My dear Friend—You would have found a letter from me at Mr. 's, according to your assignation, had not the post, setting out two hours sooner than the usual time, prevented me. The Odyssey that you

sent has but one fault, at least but one that I have discovered, which is that I cannot read it. The very attempt, if persevered in, would soon make me as blind as Homer was himself. I am now in the last book of the Iliad, shall be obliged to you therefore for a more legible one by the first opportunity.

I wrote to Johnson lately, desiring him to give me advice and information on the subject of proposals for a subscription, and he desired me in his answer not to use that mode of publication, but to treat with him, adding that he could make me such offers as (he believed) I should approve. I have replied to his letter, but abide by my first

purpose. Having occasion to write to Mr. ing his princely benevolence, extended this year also


* John Thornton, Esq.



to the poor of Olney, I put in a good word for my poor self likewise, and have received a very obliging and encouraging answer. He promises me six names in particular, that (he says) will do me no discredit, and expresses a wish to be served with papers as soon as they shall be printed.

I meet with encouragement from all quarters, such as I find need of indeed in an enterprise of such length and moment, but such as at the same time I find effectual. Homer is not a poet to be translated under the disadvantage of doubts and dejection.

Let me sing the praises of the desk which has sent me. In general, it is as elegant as possible. In particular, it is of cedar beautifully lacquered. When put together, it assumes the form of a handsome small chest, and contains all sorts of accommodations; it is inlaid with ivory, and serves the purpose of a reading desk.*

Your affectionate

W. C


Olney, Dec. 24, 1785. My dear Friend — Till I had made such a progress in my present undertaking as to put it out of all doubt that, if I lived, I should proceed in and finish it, I kept the matter to myself. It would have done me little honour to have told



* This interesting relic was bequeathed to Dr. Jobnson, and is now in the possession of his family. It was presented to Cowper by Lady Hesketh.

that I had an arduous enterprise in hand, if afterwards I must have told them that I had dropped it. Knowing it to have been universally the opinion of the literati, ever since they have allowed themselves to consider the matter coolly, that a translation, properly so called, of Homer is, notwithstanding what Pope has done, a desideratum in the English language; it struck me that an attempt to supply the deficiency would be an honourable one, and having made myself, in former years, somewhat critically a master of the original, I was by this double consideration induced to make the attempt myself. I am now translating into blank verse the last book of the Iliad, and mean to publish by subscription.

W. C.


Olney, Dec. 31, 1785. My dear William — You have learned from my last that I am now conducting myself upon the plan that you recommended to me in the summer. But since I wrote it, I have made still farther advances in my negociation with Johnson. The proposals are adjusted. The proof-sheet has been printed off, corrected, and returned. They will be sent abroad as soon as I make up a complete list of the personages and persons to whom I would have them sent, which in a few days I hope to be able to accomplish. Johnson behaves very well, at least according to my conception of the matter, and seems sensible that I dealt liberally with him. He wishes me to be a gainer by my labours, in his own words, “ to put something handsome into my pocket," and recommends two large quartos for the whole. He would not, he says, by any means advise an extravagant price, and has fixed it at three guineas, the half, as usual to be paid at the time of subscribing, the remainder on delivery. Five hundred names, he adds, at this price will put above a thousand pounds into my purse. I am doing my best to obtain them. Mr. Newton is warm in my service, and can do not a little. I have of course written to Mr. Bagot, who, when he was here, with much earnestness and affection intreated me so to do as soon as I could have settled the conditions. If I could get Sir Richard Sutton's address, I would write to him also, though I have been but once in his company since I left Westminster, where he and I read the Iliad and Odyssey through together. I enclose Lord Dartmouth's answer to my application, which I will get you to show to Lady Hesketh, because it will please her. I shall be glad if you can make an opportunity to call on her during your present stay in town. You observe therefore that I am not wanting to myself. He that is so has no just claim on the assistance of others, neither shall myself have cause to complain of me in other respects. I thank you for your friendly hints and precautions, and shall not fail to give them the guidance of my pen. I respect the public and I respect myself, and had rather want bread than expose myself wantonly to the condemnation of either. I hate the affectation, so frequently found in authors, of negligence and slovenly slightness, and in the present case am sensible how necessary

it is to shun them, when I undertake the vast and invidious labour of doing better than 1 ope has done before me. I thank


for all that you have said and done in my cause, and beforehand for all that you shall say and do hereafter. I am sure that there will be no deficiency on your part. In particular, I thank you for taking such jealous care of my honour and respectability, when the man you mention applied for samples of my translation. When I deal in wine, cloth, or cheese, I will give samples, but of verse never. No consideration would have induced me to comply with the gentleman's demand, unless he could have assured me that his wife had longed.

I have frequently thought with pleasure of the summer that you have had in your heart, while you have been employed in softening the severity of winter in behalf of so many who must otherwise have been exposed to it. I wish that you

could make a general gaol-delivery, leaving only those behind who cannot elsewhere be so properly disposed of.

You never said a better thing in your life than when you assured Mr. dience of a gift of bedding to the poor of Olney. There is no one article of this world's comforts with which, as Falstaff says, they are so heinously unprovided. When a poor woman, and an honest one, whom we know well, carried home two pair of blankets, a pair for herself and husband, and a pair for her six children; as soon as the children saw

of the expe

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