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have ever heard of. He is a Swiss ; has an accurate knowledge of English, and, for his knowledge of Homer, has I verily believe no fellow. Johnson recommended him to me. I am to send him the quires as fast as I finish them off, and the first is now in his hands. I have the comfort to be able to tell
you that he is very much pleased with what he has seen : Johnson wrote to me lately on purpose to tell me so. Things having taken this turn, I fear that I must beg a release from my engagement to put the MS. into
hands. I am bound to print as soon as three hundred shall have subscribed, and consequently have not an hour to spare.
People generally love to go where they are admired, yet Lady Hesketh complains of not having
TO THE REV. JOHN NEWTON.*
Olney, April 1, 1786. My dear Friend—I have made you wait long for an answer, and am now obliged to write in a hurry. But, lest my longer silence should alarm you, hurried as I am, still I write. I told you, if I mistake not, that the circle of my correspondence has lately been enlarged, and it seems still increasing ; which, together with my poetical business, makes an hour a momentous affair. Pardon an unintentional pun. You need not fear for my health : it suffers nothing by my employment.
* Private Correspondence.
We who in general see no company are at present in expectation of a great deal, at least, if three different visits may be called so. Mr. and Mrs. Powley, in the first place, are preparing for a journey southward. She is far from well, but thinks herself well enough to travel, and feels an affectionate impatience for another sight of Olney.
In the next place, we expect, as soon as the season shall turn up bright and warm, General Cowper and his son. I have not seen him these twenty years and upwards, but our intercourse, having been lately revived, is likely to become closer, warmer, and more intimate than ever.
Lady Hesketh also comes down in June, and if she can be accommodated with any thing in the shape of a dwelling at Olney, talks of making it always,
in part, her summer residence. It has pleased God that I should, like Joseph, be put into a well, and, because there are no Midianites in the way to deliver me, therefore my friends are coming down into the well to see me.
I wish you, we both wish you, all happiness in your new habitation : at least you will be sure to find the situation more commodious. I thank you for all your hints concerning my work, which shall be duly attended to. You may assure all whom it may concern, that all offensive elisions will be done away. With Mrs. Unwin's love to yourself and Mrs. Newton, I remain, my dear friend, affectionately yours,
W. C. * Mrs. Unwin's daughter.
The friends of Cowper were not without alarm at his engaging in so lengthened and perilous an undertaking as a new version of the Iliad, when the popular translation of Pope seemed to render such an attempt superfluous. To one of his correspondents, who urged this objection, he makes the following reply.
TO JOSEPH HILL, ESQ.
Olney, April 5, 1786. I did, as you suppose, bestow all possible consideration on the subject of an apology for my Homerican undertaking. I turned the matter about in my
mind a hundred different ways, and, in every way in which it would present itself, found it an impracticable business. It is impossible for me, with what delicacy soever I may manage it, to state the objections that lie against Pope's translation, without incurring odium and the imputation of arrogance ; foreseeing this danger, I choose to say nothing.
P. S. You
well wonder at my courage, who have undertaken a work of such enormous length. You would wonder more if you knew that I translated the whole Iliad with no other help than a Clavis. But I have since equipped myself better for this immense journey, and am revising the work in
company with a good commentator. The motives which induced Cowper to engage in
a new version of the Iliad originated in the conviction, that, however Pope's translation might be embellished with harmonious numbers, and all the charm and grace of poetic diction, it failed in being a correct and faithful representation of that immortal production. Its character is supposed to be justly designated by its title of “ Pope's Homer.” It is not the Homer of the heroic ages; it does not express his majesty—his unadorned, yet sublime simplicity. It is Homer in modern costume, decked in a court dress, and in the trappings of refined taste and fashion. His sententious brevity, which possesses the art of conveying much compressed in a short space, is also expanded and dilated, till it resembles a paraphrase, and an imitation, rather than a just and accurate version of its expressive, and speaking original. We believe this to be the general estimate of the merits of Pope's translation. Profound scholars, and one especially, whose discriminating taste and judgment conferred authority on his decision, Dr. Cyril Jackson, (formerly the wellknown Dean of Christ Church, Oxford,) concur in this opinion. But notwithstanding this redundance of artificial ornament, and the “ laboured elegance of polished version,” the translation of Pope will perhaps always retain its pre-eminence, and be considered what Johnson calls it, “ the noblest version of poetry which the world has ever seen,” and “its publication one of the greatest events in the annals of learning."*
* See Johnson's Life of Pope. The original manuscript copy of Pope's translation is deposited in the British Museum.
Of the merits of Cowper's translation, we shall have occasion hereafter to speak. But it is due to the cause of sound criticism, and to the merited claims of his laborious undertaking, to declare that he who would wish to know and understand Homer must seek for him in the expressive and unadorned version of Cowper.
In the course of the following letters we shall discover many interesting particulars of the progress of this undertaking.
Cowper was now looking forward with great anxiety, to the promised visit of Lady Hesketh. The following letter adverts to the preparations making at the vicarage at Olney for her reception; and to her delicate mode of administering to his personal comforts and enjoyments.
TO LADY HESKETH.
Olney, April 17, 1786. My dearest Cousin—If you will not quote Solomon, my dearest Cousin, I will. He says, and as beautifully as truly-“ Hope deferred maketh the heart sick, but when the desire cometh, it is tree of life !" I feel how much reason he had on his side when he made this observation, and am myself sick of your fortnight's delay.
The vicarage was built by Lord Dartmouth, and was not finished till some time after we arrived at