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TO LADY HESKETH.
Olney, Jan. 31, 1786. It is very pleasant, my dearest Cousin, to receive a present so delicately conveyed as that which I received so lately from Anonymous; but it is also very painful to have nobody to thank for it. I find myself therefore driven by stress of necessity to the following resolutions, viz. that I will constitute you my Thanks-receiver-general, for whatsoever gift I shall receive hereafter, as well as for those that I have already received from a nameless benefactor. I therefore thank you, my Cousin, for a most elegant present, including the most elegant compliment that ever poet was honoured with ; for a snuffbox of tortoiseshell, with a beautiful landscape on the lid of it, glazed with crystal, having the figures of three hares in the fore-ground, and inscribed above with these words, The Peasant's Nestand below with these, Tiney, Puss, and Bess. For all and every of these I thank you, and also for standing proxy on this occasion. Nor must I forget to thank you that so soon after I had sent you the first letter of Anonymous, I received another in the same hand. There! Now I am a little easier.
I have almost conceived a design to send up half a dozen stout country-fellows to tie by the leg to their respective bed-posts the company that so abridges your opportunity of writing to me. Your letters are the joy of my heart, and I cannot endure to be robbed, by I know not whom, of half my treasure. But there is no comfort without a drawback, and therefore it is that I who have unknown friends have unknown enemies also. Ever since I wrote last, I find myself in better health, and my nocturnal spasms and fever considerably abated. I intend to write to Dr. Kerr on Thursday, that I may gratify him with an account of my amendment: for to him I know that it will be a gratification. Were he not a physician, I should regret that he lives so distant, for he is a most agreeable man ;* but, being what he is, it would be impossible to have his company, even if he were a neighbour, unless in time of sickness, at which time, whatever charms he might have himself, my own must necessarily lose much of their effect on him.
When I write to you, my dear, what I have already related to the General, I am always fearful lest I should tell you that for news with which you are well acquainted. For once, however, I will venture. On Wednesday last I received from Johnson the MS.copy of a specimen that I had sent to the General, and inclosed in the same cover Notes upon it by an unknown critic. Johnson, in a short letter, recommended him to me as a man of unquestionable learning and ability. On perusal and consideration of his remarks, I found him such, and, having nothing so much at heart as to give all possible security to yourself and the General that my work shall not come forth unfinished, I answered Johnson
• Dr. Kerr was an eminent physician, in great practice, and resident at Northampton.
that I would gladly submit my MS. to his friend. He is in truth a very clever fellow, perfectly a stranger to me, and one who, I promise you, will not spare for severity of animadversion, where he shall find occasion. It is impossible for you, my dearest Cousin, to express a wish that I do not equally feel a wish to gratify. You are desirous that Maty should see a book of my Homer, and for that reason, if Maty will see a book of it, he shall be welcome, although time is likely to be precious, and consequently any delay that is not absolutely necessary as much as possible to be avoided. I am now revising the “ Iliad.” It is a business that will cost me four months, perhaps five; for I compare the very words as I go, and, if much alteration should occur, must transcribe the whole. The first book I have almost transcribed already. To these five months Johnson says that nine more must be added for printing, and upon my own experience, I will venture to assure you that the tardiness of printers will make those nine months twelve. There is danger therefore that my subscribers
think that I make them wait too long, and that they who know me not may suspect a bubble How glad shall I be to read it over in an evening, book by book, as fast as I settle the copy, to you and to Mrs. Unwin! She has been
touchstone always, and without reference to her taste and judgment I have printed nothing. With one of you at each elbow, I should think myself the happiest of all poets.
The General and I, having broken the ice, are
upon the most comfortable terms of correspondence. He writes very affectionately to me, and I say every thing that comes uppermost. I could not write frequently to any creature living upon any other terms than those. He tells me of infirmities that he has, which make him less active than he was. I am sorry to hear that he has any such. Alas ! alas ! he was young when I saw him, only twenty years ago.
I have the most affectionate letter imaginable from Colman, who writes to me like a brother. The Chancellor is yet dumb.
May God have you in his keeping, my beloved Cousin.
Lady Hesketh having announced her intention of paying a visit to Cowper, the following letters abound in all that delightful anticipation, which the prospect of renewing so endeared an intercourse naturally suggested.
TO LADY HESKETH.
Olney, Feb. 9, 1786. My dearest Cousin- I have been impatient to tell you that I am impatient to see you again. Mrs. Unwin partakes with me in all my feelings upon this subject, and longs also to see you. I should have told you so by the last post, but have been so completely occupied by this tormenting specimen, that it was impossible to do it. I sent the General a letter on Monday that would distress and alarm him ; I sent him another yesterday, that will, I hope, quiet him again. Johnson has apologized very civilly for the multitude of his friend's strictures;
and his friend has promised to confine himself in future to a comparison with the original, so that (I doubt not) we shall jog on merrily together. And now, my dear, let me tell you once more that your kindness in promising us a visit has charmed us both. I shall see you again. I shall hear your voice. We shall take walks together. I will show you my prospects, the hovel, the alcove, the Ouse, and its banks, every thing that I have described. I anticipate the pleasure of those days not very far distant, and feel a part of it at this moment. Talk not of an inn! Mention it not for your
life! We have never had so many visitors but we could easily accommodate them all, though we have received Unwin, and his wife, and his sister, and his son, all at once. My dear, I will not let you come till the end of May, or beginning of June, because, before that time my green-house will not be ready to receive us, and it is the only pleasant room belonging to us. When the plants go out, we go in. I line it with mats, and spread the floor with mats; and there you shall sit, with a bed of mignonette at your side, and a hedge of honeysuckles, roses, and jasmine; and I will make you a bouquet of myrtle every day. Sooner than the time I mention the country will not be in complete beauty. And I