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and mourn over your retarded volume, when you find a dearth of more important tragedies !
You postpone certain topics of conference to our next meeting. When shall it take place? I do not wish for you just now, because the garden is a wilderness, and so is all the country around us. In May we shall have 'sparagus, and weather in which we may stroll to Weston ; at least we may hope for it; therefore come in May; you will find us happy to receive you and as much of your fair household as you can bring with you.
We are very sorry for your uncle's indisposition. The approach of summer seems however to be in his favour, that season being of all remedies for the rheumatism, I believe, the most effectual.
I thank you for your intelligence concerning the celebrity of John Gilpin. You may be sure that it was agreeable; but your own feelings, on occasion of that article, pleased me most of all. Well, my friend, be comforted! You had not an opportunity of saying publicly, “I know the author.” But the author himself will say as much for you soon, and perhaps will feel in doing so a gratification equal to
In the affair of face-painting, I am precisely of your opinion.
* He alludes to the poem of “ Tirocinium,” which was in. scribed to Mr. Unwin.
TO THE REV. JOHN NEWTON.*
Olney, April 9, 1785. My dear Friend—In a letter to the printer of the Northampton Mercury, we have the following history :--An ecclesiastic of the name of Zichen, German superintendent or Lutheran bishop of Zetterfeldt, in the year 1779 delivered to the courts of Hanover and Brunswick a prediction to the following purport: that an earthquake is at hand, the greatest and most destructive ever known ; that it will originate in the Alps and in their neighbourhood, especially at Mount St. Gothard; at the foot of which mountain it seems four rivers have their source, of which the Rhine is one t—the names of the rest I have forgotten they are all to be swallowed up; that the earth will open into an immense fissure, which will divide all Europe, reaching from the aforesaid mountain to the states of Holland; that the Zuyder Sea will be absorbed in the gulf; that the Bristol Channel will be no more; in short, that the north of Europe will be separated from the south, and that seven thousand cities, towns, and villages will be destroyed. This prediction he delivered at the aforesaid courts in the
• Private Correspondence.
+ This is a geographical error. The Rhine takes its rise in the canton of the Grisons. It is the Rhone which derives its source from the western flank of Mount St. Gothard, where there are three springs, which unite their waters to that tor rent. The river Aar rises not far distant, but there is no other river.-Edit.
year seventy-nine, asserting that in February following the commotion would begin, and that by Easter 1786 the whole would be accomplished. Accordingly, between the 15th and 27th of February, in the year eighty, the public gazettes and newspapers took notice of several earthquakes in the Alps, and in the regions at their foot; particularly about Mount St. Gothard. From this partial fulfilment, Mr. O argues the probability of a complete one, and exhorts the world to watch and be prepared. He adds moreover that Mr. Zichen was a pious man, a man of science, and a man of sense ; and that when he gave in his writing he offered to swear to it-I suppose, as a revelation from above. He is since dead.
Nothing in the whole affair pleases me so much as that he has named a short day for the completion of his prophecy. It is tedious work to hold the judgment in suspense for many years; but any body methinks may wait with patience till a twelvemonth shall pass away, especially when an earthquake of such magnitude is in question. I do not say that Mr. Zichen is deceived; but, if he be not, I will say that he is the first modern prophet who has not both been a subject of deception himself and a deceiver of others. A year will show.
Our love attends all your family. Believe me, my dear friend, affectionately yours,
TO THE REV. JOHN NEWTON.*
Olney, April 22, 1785. My dear Friend—When I received your account of the great celebrity of John Gilpin, I felt myself both flattered and grieved. Being man, and having in my composition all the ingredients of which other men are made, and vanity among the rest, it pleased me to reflect that I was on a sudden become so famous, and that all the world was busy inquiring after me: but, the next moment, recollecting my former self, and that thirteen years ago, as harmless as John's history is, I should not then have written it, my spirits sank and I was ashamed of my success. Your letter was followed the next post by one from Mr. Unwin. You tell me that I am rivalled by Mrs. Bellamy it and he, that I have a competitor for fame not less formidable in the Learned Pig. Alas! what is an author's popularity worth in a world that can suffer a prostitute on one side, and a pig on the other, to eclipse his brightest glories? I am therefore sufficiently humbled by these considerations; and, unless I should hereafter be ordained to engross the public attention by means more magnificent than a song, am persuaded that I shall suffer no real detriment by their applause. I have produced many things, under the influence of despair, which hope would not have permitted
* Private Correspondence.
+ A celebrated actress, who wrote her memoirs, which were much read at that time,
to spring. But, if the soil of that melancholy, in which I have walked so long, has thrown up here and there an unprofitable fungus, it is well at least that it is not chargeable with having brought forth poison. Like
I or think I can see, that Gilpin may have his use. Causes, in appearance trivial, produce often the most beneficial consequences; and perhaps my volumes may now travel to a distance, which, if they had not been ushered into the world by that notable horseman, they would never have reached. Our temper differs somewhat from that of the ancient Jews. They would neither dance nor weep. We indeed weep not, if a man mourn unto us; but I must needs say that, if he pipe, we seem disposed to dance with the greatest alacrity.
TO THE REV. WILLIAM UNWIN.
Olney, April 30, 1785. My dear Friend—I return you thanks for a letter so warm with the intelligence of the celebrity of John Gilpin. I little thought, when I mounted him upon my Pegasus, that he would become so famous. I have learned also from Mr. Newton that he is equally renowned in Scotland, and that a lady there had undertaken to write a second part, on the subject of Mrs. Gilpin's return to London; but, not succeeding in it as she wished, she dropped it. He