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seem that in this hour of great trial he withholds not his consolations from you. I know, by experience, that they are neither few nor small ; and though I feel for you as I never felt for man before, yet do I sincerely rejoice in this, that, whereas there is but one true comforter in the universe, under afflictions such as yours, you both know Him and know where to seek Him. I thought you a man the most happily mated that I had ever seen, and had great pleasure in your felicity. Pardon me, if now I feel a wish that, short as my acquaintance with her was, I had never seen her. I should have mourned with you, but not as I do now. Mrs. Unwin sympathizes with you
also most sincerely, and you neither are nor will be soon forgotten in such prayers as we can make at Olney. I will not detain you longer now, my poor afflicted friend, than to commit you to the tender mercy of God, and to bid you a sorrowful adieu!
Adieu! Ever yours,
TO LADY HESKETH.
Olney, March 6, 1786. My dearest Cousin-Your opinion has more weight with me than that of all the critics in the world; and, to give you a proof of it, I make you a concession that I would hardly have made to them all united. I do not indeed absolutely covenant, promise, and agree, that I will discard all my elisions, but I hereby bind myself to dismiss as many of them as, without sacrificing energy to sound, I can. It is incumbent upon me in the mean time to say something in justification of the few that I shall retain, that I seem a poet mounted rather on a mule than on Pegasus. In the first place, The is a barbarism. We are indebted for it to the Celts, or the Goths, or to the Saxons, or perhaps to them all. In the two best languages that ever were spoken, the Greek and the Latin, there is no similar incumbrance of expression to be found. Secondly, the perpetual use of it in our language is, to us miserable poets, attended with two great inconveniences. Our verse consisting only of ten syllables, it not unfrequently happens that the fifth part of a line is to be engrossed, and necessarily too, unless elision prevents it, by this abominable intruder, and which is worse in my account, open vowels are continually the consequence- The element— The air, &c. Thirdly, the French, who are equally with the English chargeable with barbarism in this particular, dispose of their Le and their La without ceremony, and always take care that they shall be absorbed, both in verse and in prose, in the vowel that immediately follows them. Fourthly, and I believe lastly, (and for your sake I wish it may prove so,) the practice of cutting short The is warranted by Milton, who of all English poets that ever lived, had certainly the finest ear. Dr. Warton indeed has dared to say that he had a bad one, for which he deserves, as far as critical demerit can deserve it, to lose his own. I thought I had done, but there is still a fifthly behind; and
it is this, that the custom of abbreviating The, belongs to the style in which, in my advertisement annexed to the specimen, I profess to write. The use of that style would have warranted me in the practice of much greater liberty of this sort than I ever intended to take. In perfect consistence with that style, I might say, I'th' tempest, I'th' doorway, &c. which, however, I would not allow myself to do, because I was aware that it would be objected to, and with reason. But it seems to me, for the causes above said, that when I shorten The, before a vowel, or before wh, as in the line you mention,
“ Than th’ whole broad Hellespont in all its parts,"
my licence is not equally exceptionable, because W, though he rank as a consonant, in the word whole, is not allowed to announce himself to the ear; and H is an aspirate. But as I said in the beginning, so say I still, I am most willing to conform myself to your very sensible observation, that it is necessary, if we would please, to consult the taste of our own day; neither would I have pelted you, my dearest Cousin, with any part of this volley of good reasons, had I not designed them as an answer to those objections, which you say you have heard from others. But I only mention them. Though satisfactory to myself, I wave them, and will allow to The his whole dimensions, whensoever it can be done.
Thou only critic of my verse that is to be found in all the earth, whom I love, what shall I say in anto your own
to that passage ?
Softly he placed his hand On th' old man's hand, and pushed it gently away.” I can say neither more nor less than this, that when our dear friend, the General, sent me his opinion on the specimen, quoting those very words from it, he added—“ With this part I was particularly pleased: there is nothing in poetry more descriptive." Such
Taste, my dear, is various ; there is nothing so various ; and even between persons of the best taste there are diversities of opinion on the same subject, for which it is not possible to account. So much for these matters.
You advise me to consult the General and to confide in him. I follow your advice, and have done both. By the last post I asked his permission to send him the books of my Homer, as fast as I should finish them off. I shall be glad of his remarks, and more glad, than of any thing, to do that which I hope may be agreeable to him. They will of course pass into your hands before they are sent to Johnson. The quire that I sent is now in the hands of Johnson's friend. I intended to have told
in forgot it, that Johnson behaves very handsomely in the affair of my two volumes. He acts with a liberality not often found in persons of his occupation, and to mention it when occasion calls me to it is a justice due to him.
I am very much pleased with Mr. Stanley's letter -several compliments were paid me on the subject of that first volume by my own friends, but I do not recollect that I ever knew the opinion of a stranger about it before, whether favourable or otherwise; I
my last, but
only heard by a side wind that it was very much read in Scotland, and more than here. Farewell, my
dearest Cousin, whom we expect, of whom we talk continually, and whom we continually
P.S. Your anxious wishes for my success delight
you may rest assured, my dear, that I have all the ambition on the subject that you can wish me to feel. I more than admire my author. I often stand astonished at his beauties : I am for ever amused with the translation of him, and I have received a thousand encouragements. These are all
so many happy omens that I hope shall be verified • by the event.
TO THE REV. WILLIAM UNWIN.
Olney, March 13, 1786. My dear Friend—I seem to be about to write to you, but I foresee that it will not be a letter, but a scrap that I shall send you. I could tell you things, that, knowing how much you interest yourself in my success, I am sure would please you, but every moment of my leisure is necessarily spent at Troy. I am revising my translation, and bestowing on it more labour than at first. At the repeated solicitation of General Cowper, who had doubtless irrefragable reason on his side, I have put my book into the hands of the most extraordinary critic that I