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tion is that it is licentious. To publish therefore a translation now, that should be at all chargeable with the same fault, that were not indeed as close and as faithful as possible, would be only actum agere, and had therefore better be left undone. Whatever be said of mine when it shall appear, it shall never be said that it is not faithful.
I thank you heartily, both for your wishes and prayers that, should a disappointment occur, I may not be too much hurt by it. Strange as it
may seem to say it, and unwilling as I should be to say it to any person less candid than yourself, I will nevertheless say
that I have not entered on this work, unconnected as it must needs appear with the interests of the cause of God, without the direction of his providence, nor altogether unassisted by him in the performance of it. Time will show to what it ultimately tends.
I am inclined to believe that it has a tendency to which I myself am at present perfectly a stranger. Be that as it
my frame, and will consider that I am but dust; dust, into the bargain, that has been so trampled under foot and beaten, that a storm, less violent than an unsuccessful issue of such a business might occasion, would be sufficient to blow me quite away. But I will tell you honestly, I have no fears upon the subject. My predecessor has given me every advantage.
As I know not to what end this my present occupation may finally lead, so neither did I know, when I wrote it, or at all suspect one valuable end at least that was to be answered by “ The Task.” It has pleased God to prosper it; and, being composed
in blank verse, it is likely to prove as seasonable an introduction to a blank verse Homer by the same hand as any that could have been devised; yet, when I wrote the last line of “ The Task," I as little sus. pected that I should ever engage in a version of the old Asiatic tale as you do now. I should choose for your general motto :
Carmina tum melius, cùm venerit ipse, canemus.
For Vol. I.
Unum pro multis dabitur caput.
For Vol. II.
Aspice, venturo lætentur ut omnia sæclo.
It seems to me that you cannot have better than these. Yours, my dear friend,
TO LADY HESKETH.
Olney, Feb. 19, 1786. My dearest Cousin—Since so it must be, so it shall be. If you will not sleep under the roof of a friend, may you never sleep under the roof of an enemy! An enemy, however, you will not presently find Mrs. Unwin bids me mention her affectionately, and tell you that she willingly gives up a part, for the sake of the rest—willingly, at least as far as
willingly may consist with some reluctance: I feel my reluctance too. Our design was that you
should have slept in the room that serves me for a study, and its having been occupied by you would have been an additional recommendation of it to me. But all reluctances are superseded by the thought of seeing you; and because we have nothing so much at heart as the wish to see you happy and comfortable, we are desirous therefore to accommodate you to your own mind, and not to ours. Mrs. Unwin has already secured for you an apartment, or rather two, just such as we could wish. The house in which you will find them is within thirty yards of our own, and opposite to it. The whole affair is thus commodiously adjusted; and now I have nothing to do but to wish for June; and June, my Cousin, was never so wished for since June was made. I shall have a thousand things to hear, and a thousand to say, and they will all rush into my mind together, till it will be so crowded with things impatient to be said, that for some time I shall say nothing. But no matter -sooner or later they will all come out; and since we shall have you the longer for not having you under our own roof, (a circumstance that more than any thing reconciles us to that measure,) they will stand the better chance. After so long a separation, a separation that of late seemed likely to last for life, we shall meet each other as alive from the dead; and for my own part I can truly say, that I have not a friend in the other world whose resurrection would give me greater pleasure. I am truly happy, my dear, in having pleased you with what you have seen of my
Homer. I wish that all English readers had your unsophisticated, or rather unadulterated taste, and could relish simplicity like you. But I am well aware that in this respect I am under a disadvantage, and that many, especially many ladies, missing many turns and prettinesses of expression, that they have admired in Pope, will account my translation in those particulars defective. But I comfort myself with the thought, that in reality it is no defect, on the contrary, that the want of all such embellishments as do not belong to the original will be one of its principal merits with persons indeed capable of relishing Homer. He is the best poet that ever lived for many reasons, but for none more than for that majestic plainness that distinguishes him from all others. As an accomplished person moves gracefully without thinking of it, in like manner the dignity of Homer seems to cost him no labour. It was natural to him to say great things, and to say them well, and little ornaments were beneath his notice. If Maty, my dearest Cousin, should return to you my copy, with any such strictures
make it necessary for me to see it again, before it goes to Johnson, in that case you shall send it to me, otherwise to Johnson immediately; for he writes me word he wishes his friend to go to work upon it as soon as possible. When you come, my dear, we will hang all these critics together; for they have worried me without remorse or conscience. At least one of them has. I had actually murdered more than a few of the best lines in the specimen, in compliance with his requisitions, but plucked up my courage at last, and, in the very last opportunity that I had, recovered them to life again by restoring the original reading. At the same time I readily confess that the specimen is the better for all this discipline its author has undergone, but then it has been more indebted for its improvement to that pointed accuracy of examination to which I was myself excited, than to any proposed amendments from Mr. Critic; for, as sure as you are my Cousin, whom I long to see at Olney, so surely would he have done me irreparable mischief, if I would have given him leave.
My friend Bagot writes to me in a most friendly strain, and calls loudly upon me for original poetry. When I shall have done with Homer, probably he will not call in vain. Having found the prime feather of a swan on the banks of the smug and silver Trent, he keeps it for me.
Adieu, dear Cousin,
I am sorry that the General has such indifferent health. He must not die. I can by no means spare a person so kind to me.
TO THE REV. WALTER BAGOT.
Olney, Feb. 27, 1786. Alas! alas ! my dear, dear friend, may God himself comfort you! I will not be so absurd as to attempt it.* By the close of your letter, it should
* Mr. Bagot had recently sustained the loss of his wife.