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I am per
years, than in the more numerous ones that I had before.
Memorandum.-The latter are almost all Unwins or Unwinisms.
You are entitled to my thanks also for the facetious engravings of John Gilpin. A serious poem is like a swan : it flies heavily and never far; jest has the wings of a swallow that never tire, and that carry
nook and corner. fectly a stranger however to the reception that, my volume meets with, and, I believe, in respect of my nonchalance upon
that subject, if authors would but copy so fair an example, am a most exemplary character. I must tell
nevertheless that, although the laurels that I gain at Olney will never minister much to my pride, I have acquired some. The Rev. Mr. Scott is my admirer, and thinks my
second volume superior to my first. It ought to be so. If we do not improve by practice, then nothing can mend us; and a man has no more cause to be mortified at being told that he has excelled himself, than the elephant had, whose praise it was that he was the greatest elephant in the world, himself excepted.
If it be fair to judge of a book by an extract, I do not wonder that you were so little edified by Johnson's Journal. It is even more ridiculous than was poor —'s, of flatulent memory. The portion of it given to us in this day's paper contains not one sentiment worth one farthing except the last, in which he resolves to bind himself with no more unbidden obligations. Poor man! one would think that to pray for his dead wife, and to pinch himself with church-fasts had been almost the whole of his religion. I am sorry that he who was so manly an advocate for the cause of virtue in all other places was so childishly employed, and so superstitiously too, in his closet. Had he studied his Bible more, to which by his own confession he was in great part a stranger, he had known better what use to make of his retired hours, and had trifled less. His lucubrations of this sort have rather the appearance of religious dotage than of any vigorous exertions towards God. It will be well if the publication prove not hurtful in its effects, by exposing the best cause, already too much despised, to ridicule still more profane. On the other side of the same paper, I find a long string of aphorisms, and maxims, and rules for the conduct of life, which, though they appear not with his name, are so much in his manner, with the above-mentioned, that I
suspect them for his. I have not read them all, but several of them I read that were trivial enough: for the sake of one however I forgive him the resthe advises never to banish hope entirely, because it is the cordial of life, although it be the greatest flatterer in the world. Such a measure of hope as may not endanger my peace by a disappointment I would wish to cherish upon every subject in which I am interested: but there lies the difficulty. A cure however, and the only one, for all the irregularities of hope and fear, is found in submission to the will of God. Happy they that have it !
This last sentence puts me in mind of your reference to Blair in a former letter, whom
there permitted to be your arbiter to adjust the respective
claims of who or that. I do not rashly differ from so great a grammarian, nor do at any rate differ from him altogether—upon solemn occasions, as in prayer or preaching, for instance, I would be strictly correct, and upon stately ones; for instance, were I writing an epic poem, I would be so likewise, but not upon familiar occasions. God, who heareth prayer, is right: Hector, who saw Patroclus, is right: and the man, that dresses me every day, is in my mind right also; because the contrary would give an air of stiffness and pedantry to an expression that, in respect of the matter of it, cannot be too negligently made up. Adieu, my
dear William ! I have scribbled with all my might, which, breakfast-time excepted, has been my employment ever since I rose, and it is now past one.
TO THE REV. JOHN NEWTON.*
Olney, Sept. 24, 1785. My dear Friend—I am sorry than an excursion, which
would otherwise have found so agreeable, was attended with so great a drawback upon
its pleasures as Miss Cunningham's illness must needs have been. Had she been able to bathe in the sea, it might have been of service to her, but I knew her weakness and delicacy of habit to be such as did not
* Private Correspondence.
encourage any very sanguine hopes that the regimen would suit her. I remember Southampton well, having spent much time there ; but, though I was young, and had no objections on the score of conscience either to dancing or cards, I never was in the assembly-room in my life. I never was fond of company, and especially disliked it in the country. A walk to Netley Abbey, or to Freemantle, or to Redbridge, or a book by the fire-side, had always more charms for me than any other amusement that the place afforded. I was also a sailor, and, being of Sir Thomas Hesketh's party, who was himself born one, was often pressed into the service. But, though I gave myself an air and wore trowsers, I had no genuine right to that honour, disliking much to be occupied in great waters, unless in the finest weather. How they continue to elude the wearisomeness that attends a sea life, who take long voyages, you know better than I; but, for my own part, I seldom have sailed so far as from Hampton river to Portsmouth without feeling the confinement irksome, and sometimes to a degree that was almost insupportable. There is a certain perverseness, of which I believe all men have a share, but of which no man has a larger share than I-I mean that temper, or humour, or whatever it is to be called, that indisposes us to a situation, though not unpleasant in itself, merely because we cannot get out of it. I could not endure the room in which I now write, were I conscious that the door were locked. In less than five minutes I should feel myself a prisoner, though I can spend hours in it under an assurance
that I may leave it when I please without experiencing any tedium at all. It was for this reason, I suppose, that the yacht was always disagreeable
Could I have stepped out of it into a cornfield or a garden, I should have liked it well enough, but, being surrounded with water, I was as much confined in it as if I had been surrounded by fire, and did not find that it made me any adequate compensation for such an abridgement of my liberty. I make little doubt but Noah was glad when he was enlarged from the ark; and we are sure that Jonah was, when he came out of the fish; and so was I to escape from the good sloop the Harriet. In my last, I wrote you
word that Mr. Perry was given over by his friends, and pronounced a dead man by his physician. Just when I had reached the end of the foregoing paragraph, he came in. His errand hither was to bring two letters, which I enclose ; one is to yourself, in which he will give you, I doubt not, such an account both of his body and mind, as will make all that I might say upon those subjects superfluous. The only consequences of his illness seem to be that he looks a little pale, and that, though always a most excellent man, he is still more angelic than he was. Illness sanctified is better than health. But I know a man who has been a sufferer by a worse illness than his, almost these fourteen years, and who at present is only the worse for it.
Mr. Scott called upon us yesterday; he is much inclined to set up a Sunday school, if he can raise a fund for the purpose.
Mr. Jones has had one some