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TO THE REV. JOHN NEWTON.*
Olney, Jan. 14, 1786. My dear friend - My proposals are already printed. I ought rather to say that they are ready for printing ; having near ten days ago returned the correction of the proof. But a cousin of mine, and one who will I dare
active in my literary cause, (I mean General Cowper, having earnestly recommended it to me to annex a specimen, I have accordingly sent him one, extracted from the latter part of the last book of the Iliad, and consisting of a hundred and seven lines. I chose to extract it from that part of the poem, because if the reader should happen to find himself content with it, he will naturally be encouraged by it to hope well of the part preceding. Every man who can do any thing in the translating way is pretty sure to set off with spirit; but in works of such a length, there is always danger of flagging near the close.
My subscription I hope will be more powerfully promoted than subscriptions generally are. I have a warm and affectionate friend in Lady Hesketh ; and one equally disposed, and even still more able to serve me, in the General above mentioned. The Bagot family all undertake my cause with ardour ; and I have several others, of whose ability and good-will I could not doubt without doing them injustice. It will however be necessary to bestow yet much time on the revisal of this work, for many reasons; and especially, because he who contends with Pope upon Homer's ground can of all writers least afford to be negligent.
* Private Correspondence,
Mr. Scott brought me as much as he could remember of a kind message from Lord Dartmouth; but it was rather imperfectly delivered. Enough of it however came to hand to convince me that his lordship takes a friendly interest in my success. When his lordship and I sat side by side, on the sixth form at Westminster, we little thought that in process of time one of us was ordained to give a new translation of Homer. Yet at that very time it seems I was laying the foundation of this superstructure. Much love upon all accounts to you
and Adieu, my friend,
TO THE REV. WALTER BAGOT.
Olney, Jan. 15, 1786. My dear Friend—I have just time to give you a hasty line to explain to you the delay that the publication of my proposals has unexpectedly encountered, and at which I suppose that you have been somewhat surprised.
I have a near relation in London, and a warm friend in General Cowper; he is also a person as able as willing to render me material service. I lately made him acquainted with my design of sending into the world a new Translation of Homer, and
told him that my papers would soon attend him. He soon after desired that I would apnex to them a specimen of the work. To this I at first objected, for reasons that need not be enumerated here, but at last acceded to his advice; and accordingly the day before yesterday I sent him a specimen. It consists of one hundred and seven lines, and is taken from the interview between Priam and Achilles in the last book. I chose to extract from the latter end of the poem, and as near to the close of it as possible, that I might encourage a hope in the readers of it, that if they found it in some degree worthy of their approbation, they would find the former parts of the work not less so. For if a writer flags any where, it must be when he is near the end.
My subscribers will have an option given them in the proposals respecting the price. My predecessor in the same business was not quite so moderate. You may say, perhaps, (at least if your kindness for me did not prevent it, you would be ready to say,) “ It is well—but do you place yourself on a level with Pope ?” I answer, or rather should answer, “ By no means-not as a poet ; but as a translator of Homer, if I did not expect and believe that I should even surpass him why have I meddled with this matter at all? If I confess inferiority, I reprobate my own undertaking."
When I can hear of the rest of the bishops that they preach and live as your brother does, I will think more respectfully of them than I feel inclined to do at present. They may be learned, and I know that some of them are; but your brother, learned
as he is, has other more powerful recommendations. Persuade him to publish his poetry, and I promise you that he shall find as warm and sincere an admirer in me as in any man that lives. Yours, my dear friend, Very affectionately,
TO THE REV. WALTER BAGOT.
Olney, Jan, 23, 1786. My dear and faithful Friend~
The paragraph that I am now beginning will contain information of a kind that I am not very fond of communicating, and on a subject that I am not very fond of writing about. Only to you I will open my budget without any reserve, because I know that in what concerns my authorship you take an interest that demands my confidence, and will be pleased with every occurrence that is at all propitious to my endeavours. Lady Hesketh, who, had she as many mouths as Virgil's Fame, with a tongue in each, would employ them all in my service, writes me word that Dr. Maty of the Museum has
“ Task.” I cannot, even to you, relate what he says of it, though, when I began this story, I thought I had courage enough to tell it boldly. He designs however to give his opinion of it in his next Monthly Review, and, being informed that I was about to finish a translation of Homer, asked
her ladyship’s leave to mention the circumstance on that occasion. This incident pleases me the more, because I have authentic intelligence of his being a critical character, in all its forms, acute, sour, and blunt, and so incorruptible withal, and so unsusceptible of bias from undue motives, that, as my correspondent informs me, he would not praise his own mother, did he not think she deserved it.
The said “Task” is likewise gone to Oxford, conveyed thither by an intimate friend of Dr. with a purpose of putting it into his hands. My friend, what will they do with me at Oxford ? Will they burn me at Carfax, or will they anathematize me with bell, book, and candle ? I can say with more truth than Ovid did Parve, nec invideo.
The said Dr. has been heard to say, and I give you his own words, (stop both your ears while I utter them,) “ that Homer has never been translated, and that Pope was a fool.” Very irreverend language, to be sure, but, in consideration of the subject on which he used them, we will pardon it, even in a dean.* One of the masters of Eton told a friend of mine lately that a translation of Homer is much wanted. So now you have all my news. Yours, my dear friend, cordially,
* The person here alluded to is Dr. Cyril Jackson, dean of Christ Church, Oxford, a man of profound acquirements and of great classical taste. He was formerly preceptor to the Prince of Wales, afterwards George IV.