Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

the language legibly is not the lot of every man who can read it. Witness myself for one.

I like the little ode of Huntingford's that you sent me. In such matters we do not expect much novelty, or much depth of thought. The expression is all in all, which to me at least appears to be faultless.

Adieu, my dear William! We are well, and you and yours are ever the objects of our affection.

W. C.

TO THE REV. JOHN NEWTON.*

Olney, Nov.5, 1785. My dear Friend—Were it with me as in days past, you should have no cause to complain of my tardiness in writing. You supposed that I would have accepted your packet as an answer to my last; and so indeed I did, and felt myself overpaid ; but, though a debtor, and deeply indebted too, had not wherewithal to discharge the arrear. You do not know nor suspect what a conquest I sometimes gain, when I only take up the pen with a design to write. Many a time have I resolved to say to all my few correspondents,—I take my leave of you for the present ;

if I live to see better days, you shall hear from me again.— I have been driven to the very verge of this measure; and even upon this occasion was upon the point of desiring Mrs. Unwin to become my substitute. She indeed offered to write

* Private Correspondence.

in my stead; but, fearing that you would understand me to be even worse than I am, I rather chose to answer for myself.-So much for a subject with which I could easily fill the sheet, but with which I have occupied too great a part of it already. It is time that I should thank

you,
and return you

Mrs. Unwin's thanks for your Narrative.* I told you in my last in' what manner I felt myself affected by the abridgement of it contained in your letter; and have therefore only to add, upon that point, that the impression made upon me by the relation at large was of a like kind. I envy all that live in the enjoyment of a good hope, and much more all who die to enjoy the fruit of it: but I recollect myself in time; I resolved not to touch that chord again, and yet was just going to trespass upon my resolution. As to the rest, your history of your happy niece is just what it should be,-clear, affectionate, and plain ; worthy of her, and worthy of yourself. How much more beneficial to the world might such a memorial of an unknown but pious and believing child eventually prove, would the supercilious learned condescend to read it, than the history of all the kings and heroes that ever lived! But the world has its objects of admiration, and God has objects of his love. Those make a noise and perish; and these weep silently for a short season, and live for

I had rather have been your niece, or the writer of her story, than any Cæsar that ever thundered.

• The Narrative of Miss Eliza Cunningham's last illness and happy death.

ever.

The vanity of human attainments was never so conspicuously exemplified as in the present day. The sagacious moderns make discoveries, which, how useful they may prove to themselves I know not; certainly they do no honour to the ancients. Homer and Virgil have enjoyed (if the dead have any such enjoyments) an unrivalled reputation as poets, through a long succession of ages. but it is now shrewdly suspected that Homer did not compose the poems for which he has been so long applauded ;* and it is even asserted by a certain Robert Heron, Esq., that Virgil never wrote a line worth reading. He is a pitiful plagiary; he is a servile imitator, a bungler in his plan, and has not a thought in his whole work that will bear examination. In short, he is any thing but what the literati for two thousand years have taken him to be-a man of genius and a fine writer. I fear that Homer's case is desperate. After the lapse of so many generations, it would be a difficult matter to elucidate a question which time and modern ingenuity together combine to puzzle. And I suppose that it were in vain for an honest plain man to inquire, if Homer did not write the Iliad and the

* In the Prolegomena to Villoisson's Iliad it is stated, that Pisistratus, in collecting the works of Homer, was imposed upon by spurious imitations of the Grecian bard's style ; and that not suspecting the fraud, he was led to incorporate them as the genuine productions of Homer.

Cowper justly ridicules so extravagant a supposition.

Odyssey, who did ? The answer would undoubtedly be—it is no matter; he did not: which is all that I undertook to prove. For Virgil, however, there still remains some consolation. The very same Mr. Heron, who finds no beauties in the Æneid, discovers not a single instance of the sublime in Scripture. Particularly he says, speaking of the prophets, that Ezekiel, although the filthiest of all writers, is the best of them. He, therefore, being the first of the learned who has reprobated even the style of the Scriptures, may possibly make the fewer proselytes to his judgment of the Heathen writer. For my own part at least, had I been accustomed to doubt whether the Æneid were a noble composition or not, this gentleman would at once have decided the question for me; and I should have been immediately assured that a work must necessarily abound in beauties that had the happiness to displease a censurer of the Word of God. What enterprises will not an inordinate passion for fame suggest ? It prompted one man to fire the Temple of Ephesus; another, to fling himself into a volcano; and now has induced this wicked and unfortunate Squire either to deny his own feelings, or to publish to all the world that he has no feelings at all. *

* The playful spirit in which the writer adverts to this subject appears to have yielded afterwards to a feeling of indignation; the following lines in his own hand-writing having been found by Dr. Johnson amongst his papers :

ON THE AUTHOR OF LETTERS ON LITERATURE.

The Genius of th’ Augustan age
His bead among Rome's ruins rear'd,

Mr. Scott is pestered with anonymous letters, but he conducts himself wisely; and the question whether he shall go to the Lock or not, seems hasting to a decision in the affirmative.

We are tolerably well; and Mrs. Unwin adds to mine her affectionate remembrances of yourself and Mrs. Newton. Yours, my dear friend,

W. C.

The work of Mr. Heron is entitled, “ Letters on Literature,” in which he spares neither things sacred nor profane. The author seems to be a man of talent, but it is talent painfully misapplied. After calling Virgil a servile imitator of Homer, and indulging in various critiques, he thus concludes his animadversions. “ Such is the Æneid, which the author, with good reason, on his death-bed, condemned to the flames; and, had it suffered that fate, real poetry would have lost nothing by it. I have said that, notwithstanding all, Virgil deserves

And, bursting with heroic rage,
When literary Heron appear'd,

Thou hast, he cried, like him of old
Wbo set th' Ephesian dome on fire,
By being scandalously bold,
Attain'd the mark of thy desire.

And for traducing Virgil's name
Şhalt share his merited reward ;
A perpetuity of fame,
That rots, and stinks, and is abhorr'd.

« ZurückWeiter »