Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

them, they jumped out of their straw, caught them in their arms, kissed them, blessed them, and danced for joy. An old woman, a very old one, the first night that she found herself so comfortably covered, could not sleep a wink, being kept awake by the contrary emotions of transport on the one hand, and the fear of not being thankful enough on the other.

It just occurs to me to say that this manuscript of mine will be ready for the press, as I hope, by the end of February. I shall have finished the Iliad in about ten days, and shall proceed immediately to the revisal of the whole. You must if possible come down to Olney, if it be only that

you may take charge of its safe delivery to Johnson. For, if by any accident it should be lost, I am undone—the first copy being but a lean counterpart of the second.

Your mother joins with me in love and good wishes of every kind to you

Adieu,

W. C.

and all yours.

TO LADY HESKETH.

Olney, Jan. 10, 1786. It gave me great pleasure that

you
found

my friend Unwin, what I was sure you would find him, a most agreeable man. I did not usher him in with the marrow-bones and cleavers of high-sounding panegyric, both because I was certain that, whatsoever merit he had, your discernment would mark

my volume.

it, and because it is possible to do a man material injury by making his praise his harbinger. It is easy to raise expectation to such a pitch that the reality, be it ever so excellent, must necessarily fall below it.

I hold myself much indebted to Mr. — of whom I have the first information from yourself, both for his friendly disposition towards me, and for the manner in which he marks the defects in

An author must be tender indeed to wince on being touched so gently. It is undoubtedly as he says, and as you and my uncle say, you cannot be all mistaken, neither is it at all probable that any

of
you

should be so. I take it for granted, therefore, that there are inequalities in the composition, and I do assure you, my dear, most faithfully, that, if it should reach a second edition, I will spare no pains to improve it. It may serve me for an agreeable amusement perhaps when Homer shall be gone, and done with. The first edition of poems has generally been susceptible of improvement. Pope I believe never published one in his life that did not undergo variations, and his longest pieces many. I will only observe that inequalities there must be always, and in every work of length. There are level parts of every subject, parts which we cannot with propriety attempt to elevate. They are by nature humble, and can only be made to assume an awkward and uncouth appearance by being mounted. But again I take it for granted that this remark does not apply to the matter of your objection.

You were sufficiently aware of it before, and have no need that I should suggest it as an apology, could it have served that office, but would have made it for me yourself. In truth, my dear, had you known in what anguish of mind I wrote the whole of that poem, and under what perpetual interruptions from a cause that has since been removed, so that sometimes I had not an opportunity of writing more than three lines at a sitting, you would long since have wondered as much as I do myself that it turned out any thing better than Grub-street.

My Cousin, give yourself no trouble to find out any of the magi to scrutinize my Homer. I can do without them; and, if I were not conscious that I have no need of their help, I would be the first to call for it. Assure yourself that I intend to be careful to the utmost line of all possible caution, both with respect to language and versification. I will not send a verse to the press that shall not have undergone the strictest examination.

A subscription is surely on every account the most eligible mode of publication. When I shall have emptied the purses of my friends and of their friends into my own, I am still free to levy contributions upon the world at large, and I shall then have a fund to defray the expenses of a new edition. I have ordered Johnson to print the proposals immediately, and hope that they will kiss your hands before the week is expired.

I have had the kindest letter from Josephus that I ever had. He mentioned my purpose to one of the masters of Eton, who replied, that “such a work is much wanted.” Affectionately yours,

W. C.

TO THE REV. WILLIAM UNWIN.

Olney, Jan. 14, 1786. My dear William-I am glad that you have seen Lady Hesketh. I knew that you would find her every thing that is amiable and elegant. Else, being my relation, I would never have shown her to you. She also was delighted with her visitor, and expects the greatest pleasure in seeing you again; but is under some apprehensions that a tender regard for the drum of your ear may keep you from her. Never mind! You have two drums, and if she should crack both, I will buy you a trumpet.

General Cowper having much pressed me to accompany my proposals with a specimen, I have sent

It is taken from the twenty-fourth book of the Iliad, and is part of the interview between Priam and Achilles. Tell me, if it be possible for any man to tell me-why did Homer leave off at the burial of Hector? Is it possible, that he could be determined to it by a conceit so little worthy of him as that, having made the number of his books completely the alphabetical number, he would not for the joke's sake proceed any further? Why did he not give us the death of Achilles, and the destruction of Troy? Tell me also if the critics, with Aristotle at their head, have not found that he left off

him one.

exactly where he should, and that every epic poem to all generations is bound to conclude with the burial of Hector ? I do not in the least doubt it. Therefore if I live to write a dozen epic poems I will always take care to bury Hector, and to bring all matters at that point to an immediate conclusion.

I had a truly kind letter from Mr. written immediately on his recovery from the fever. I am bound to honour James's powder, not only for the services it has often rendered to myself, but still more for having been the means of preserving a life ten times more valuable to society than mine is ever likely to be.

You say, “Why should I trouble you with my troubles ?" I answer, “Why not? What is a friend good for, if we may not lay one end of the sack upon his shoulders, while we ourselves carry the other ?”

You see your duty to God, and your duty to your neighbour ; and you practise both with your best ability. Yet a certain person accounts you blind. I would, that all the world were so blind even as

But there are some in it who, like the Chinese, say,

“We have two eyes; and other nations. have but one !” I am glad however that in your one eye you have sight enough to discover that such censures are not worth minding.

I thank you heartily for every step you take in the advancement of my present purpose.

Contrive to pay Lady H. a long visit, for she has a thousand things to say. Yours, my dear William,

W. C.

you are.

VOL. III.

I

« ZurückWeiter »