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did not please him, and, as often as I could, I paid all possible respect to his animadversions. You will accordingly find, at least if you recollect how they stood in the MS., that several passages are better for having undergone his critical notice. Indeed I know not where I could have found a bookseller who could have pointed out to me my defects with more discernment; and as I find it is a fashion for modern bards to publish the names of the literati who have favored their works with a revisal, would myself most willingly have acknowledged my obligations to Johnson, and so I told him. I am to thank you likewise, and ought to have done it in the first place, for having recommended to me the suppression of some lines, which I am now more than ever convinced would at least have done me no honor. W. C.
TO JOSEPH HILL, ESQ.*
My dear Friend,-As servant-maids, and such sort of folks, account a letter good for nothing, unless it begins with-This comes hoping you are well, as I am at this present: so I should be chargeable with a great omission, were I not to make frequent use of the following grateful exordium-Many thanks for a fine cod and oysters. Your bounty never arrived more seasonably. I had just been observing that, among other deplorable effects of the war, the scarcity of fish which it occasioned was severely felt at Olney; but your plentiful supply immediately reconciled me, though not to the war, yet to my small share in the calamities it produces.
I hope my bookseller has paid due attention to the order I gave him to furnish you with my books. The composition of those pieces afforded me an agreeable amusement at intervals, for about a twelvemonth; and I should be glad to devote the leisure hours of another twelvemonth to the same occupation; at least, if my lucubrations should meet with a favorable acceptance. But I cannot write when I would; and whether I shall find readers is a problem not yet decided. So the Muse and I are parted for the present. I sent Lord Thurlow a volume, and the following letter with it, which I communicate because you will undoubtedly have some curiosity to see it.† Yours, W. C.
TO THE REV. WILLIAM UNWIN. Olney, March 18, 1782. My dear Friend,-Nothing has given me so much pleasure, since the publication of my volume, as your favorable opinion of it.
* Private correspondence.
↑ This letter has been inserted in the preceding pages.
may possibly meet with acceptance from hun dreds, whose commendation would afford me no other satisfaction than what I should find in the hope that it might do them good. I have some neighbors in this place, who say they like it; doubtless 1 had rather they should than that they should not, but I know them to be persons of no more taste in poetry than skill in the mathematics; their applause, therefore, is a sound that has no music in it for me. But my vanity was not so entirely quiescent when I read your friendly account of the manner it had affected you. It was tickled, and pleased, and told me in a pretty loud whisper, that others, perhaps, of whose taste and judgment I had a high opinion, would approve it too. As a giver of good counsel, I wish to please all; as an author, I am perfectly indifferent to the judgment of all, except the few who are indeed judicious. The circumstance, however, in your letter which pleased me most was, that you wrote in high spirits, and, though you said much, suppressed more, lest you should hurt my delicacy; my delicacy is obliged to you, but you observe it is not so squeamish but that, after it has feasted upon praise expressed, it can find a comfortable dessert in the contemplation of praise implied. I now feel as if I should be glad to begin another volume, but from the will to the power is a step too wide for me to take at present, and the season of the year brings with it so many avocations into the garden, where I am my own fac-totum, that I have little or no leisure for the quill. I should do myself much wrong, were I to omit mentioning the great complacency with which I read your narrative of Mrs. Unwin's smiles and tears; persons of much sensibility are always persons of taste; and a taste for poetry depends indeed upon that very article more than upon any other. If she had Aristotle by heart, I should not esteem her judg ment so highly, were she defective in point of feeling, as I do and must esteem it, knowing her to have such feelings as Aristotle could not communicate, and as half the read
ers in the world are destitute of. This it is
that makes me set so high a price upon your mother's opinion. She is a critic by nature and not by rule, and has a perception of what is good or bad in composition that I never knew deceive her, insomuch that when two sorts of expression have pleaded equally for the precedence in my own esteem, and I have referred, as in such cases I always did, the decision of the point to her, I never knew her at a loss for a just one.
Whether I shall receive any answer from his Chancellorship* or not, is at present in ambiguo, and will probably continue in the same state of ambiguity much longer. He is so busy a man, and at this time, if the papers
* Lord Thurlow.
may be credited, so particularly busy, that I am forced to mortify myself with the thought, that both my book and my letter may be thrown into a corner, as too insignificant for a statesman's notice, and never found till his executor finds them. This affair, however, is neither at my libitum nor his. I have sent him the truth. He that put it into the heart of a certain eastern monarch to amuse himself, one sleepless night, with listening to the records of his kingdom, is able to give birth to such another occasion, and inspire his lordship with a curiosity to know what he has received from a friend he once loved and valned. If an answer comes, however, you shall not long be a stranger to the contents
I have read your letter to their worships, and much approve of it. May it have the desired effect it ought! If not, still you have acted a humane and becoming part, and the poor aching toes and fingers of the prisoners will not appear in judgment against you. have made a slight alteration in the last sentence, which perhaps you will not disapprove. Yours ever, W. C.
The conclusion of the preceding letter alJudes to an application made by Mr. Unwin to the magistrates, for some warmer clothing for the prisoners in Chelmsford gaol.
It is a gratifying reflection, that the whole system of prison discipline has undergone an entire revision since the above period. This reformation first commenced under the great philanthropist Howard, who devoted his life to the prosecution of so benevolent an object, and finally fell a victim to his zeal. Subsequently, and in our own times, the system has been extended still further; and the names of a Gurney, a Buxton, a Hoare, and others, will long be remembered with gratitude, as the friends and benefactors of these outcasts of Society. One more effort was still wanting to complete this humane enterprise, viz., to endeavor to eradicate the habits of vice, and to implant the seeds of virtue. This attempt has been made by Mrs. Fry and her excellent female associates in the prison of Newgate; and the result, in some instances, has proved that no one, however depraved, is beyond the reach of mercy; and that divine truth, conveyed with zeal, and in the accents of Christian love and kindness, seldom fails to penetrate into the heart and conscience.
The unwillingness with which the mind receives the consolations of religion, when laboring under an illusion, is painfully evinced m the following letter:
TO THE REV. JOHN NEWTON.* Olney, March 24, 1782. My dear Friend, I was not unacquainted * Private correspondence.
with Mr. B- -'s extraordinary case,* before you favored me with his letter and his intended dedication to the Queen, though I am obliged to you for a sight of those two curiosities, which I do not recollect to have ever seen till you sent them. I could, however, were it not a subject that would make us all melancholy, point out to you some essential differences between his state of mind and my own, which would prove mine to be by far the most deplorable of the two. I suppose no man would despair, if he did not apprehend something singular in the circumstances of his own story, something that discriminates it from that of every other man, and that induces despair as an inevitable consequence. You may encounter his unhappy persuasion with as many instances as you please of persons who, like him, having renounced all hope, were yet restored; and may thence infer that he, like them, shall meet with a season of restoration-but it is in vain. Every such individual accounts himself an exception to all rules, and therefore the blessed reverse that others have experienced affords no ground of comfortable expectation to him. But, you will say, it is reasonable to conclude, that as all your predecessors in this vale of misery and horror have found themselves delightfully disappointed at last, so will you:-I grant the reasonableness of it; it would be sinful, perhaps, because uncharitable, to reason otherwise; but an argument, hypothetical in its nature, however rationally conducted, may lead to a false conclusion; and, in this instance, so will yours. But I forbear. For the cause above mentioned, I will say no more, though it is a subject on which I could write more than the mail would carry. I must deal with you as I deal with poor Mrs. Unwin, in all our disputes about it, cutting all controversy short by an appeal to the event. W. C.
TO THE REV. WILLIAM UNWIN. Olney, April 1, 1782. My dear Friend,-I could not have found a *The person here alluded to is Simon Browne, a learned Disscuting minister, born at Shepton Mallet,
about the year 1690. He Labored under a most extraor dinary species of mental derangement, which led him to believe that God had in a gradual manner annihilated in him the thinking substance, and utterly divested him of consciousness; and that, although he retained the human shape, and the faculty of speaking, in a manner that appeared to others rational, he had all the while no more notion of what he said than a parrot." His intellectual faculties were not in any way affected by this singular alienation of mind, in proof of which he published many vigor of thought. He addressed a Dedication to Queen Caroline, in which he details the peculiarities of his extraordinary case, but his friends prevented its publication. It was subsequently inserted in No. 88 of the “Adventurer." Such was the force of his delusion, that he considered himself no longer to be a moral agent; he desisted from his ministerial functions, and could never be
theological works, written with great clearness and
induced to engage in any act of worship, public or private. In this state he died, in the year 1732, aged fiftyfive years.
better trumpeter. Your zeal to serve the interest of my volume, together with your extensive acquaintance, qualify you perfectly for that most useful office. Methinks I see you with the long tube at your mouth, proclaiming to your numerous connexions my poetical merits, and at proper intervals levelling it at Olney, and pouring into my ear the welcome sound of their approbation. I need not encourage you to proceed; your breath will never fail in such a cause; and, thus encouraged, I myself perhaps may proceed also, and, when the versifying fit returns, produce anoth-ment, and in hopes to prevail on you to con er volume. Alas! we shall never receive such trive a longer abode with us. But rather commendations from him on the woolsack than not see you at all, we should be glad of as your good friend has lavished upon us. you though but for an hour. If the paths Whence I learn that, however important I should be clean enough, and we are able to may be in my own eyes, I am very insignifi- walk, (for you know we cannot ride,) we will cant in his. To make me amends, however, endeavor to meet you in Weston-park. But for this mortification, Mr. Newton tells me I mention no particular hour, that I may not that my book is likely to run, spread, and pros- lay you under a supposed obligation to be per; that the grave cannot help smiling, and punctual, which might be difficult at the end the gay are struck with the truth of it; and of so long a journey. Only, if the weather that it is likely to find its way into his Ma- be favorable, you shall find us there in the jesty's hands, being put into a proper course evening. It is winter in the south, perhaps for that purpose. Now, if the King should therefore it may be spring at least, if not fall in love with my muse, and with you for summer, in the north; for I have read that it her sake, such an event would make us am- is warmest in Greenland when it is coldest ple amends for the Chancellor's indifference, here. Be that as it may, we may hope at the and you might be the first divine that ever latter end of such an April, that the first reached a mitre, from the shoulders of a poet. change of wind will improve the season. But (I believe) we must be content, I with my gains, if I gain anything, and you with the pleasure of knowing that I am a gainer.
The curate's simile Latinized
What a dignity there is in the Roman lan
We laughed heartily at your answer to little John's question; and yet I think you might have given him a direct answer-guage; and what an idea it gives us of the "There are various sorts of cleverness, my good sense and masculine mind of the people dear. I do not know that mine lies in the that spoke it! The same thought which, poetical way, but I can do ten times more clothed in English, seems childish and even towards the entertainment of company in the foolish, assumes a different air in Latin, and way of conversation than our friend at Olney. makes at least as good an epigram as some He can ryhme and I can rattle. If he had my of Martial's. talent, or I had his, we should be too charming, and the world would almost adore us." Yours, W. C.
and elegant symphony, such as charmed our ears and convinced us that no length of time can wear out a taste for harmony, and that though plays, balls, and masquerades, have lost all their power to please us, and we should find them not only insipid but insupportable, yet sweet music is sure to find a corresponding faculty in the soul, a sensibility that lives to the last, which even religion itself does not extinguish.
TO THE REV. WILLIAM UNWIN. Olney, April 27, 1782. My dear William,-A part of Lord Harrington's new-raised corps have taken up their quarters at Olney, since you left us. They have the regimental music with them. The men have been drawn up this morning upon the Market-hill, and a concert, such as we have not heard these many years, has been performed at no great distance from our window. Your mother and I both thrust our heads into the coldest east wind that ever blew in April, that we might hear them to greater advantage. The band acquitted themselves with taste and propriety, not blairing, like trumpeters at a fair, but producing gentle
When we objected to your coming for a single night, it was only in the way of argu
Sors adversa gerit stimulum, sed tendit et alas:
I remember your making an observation, when here, on the subject of "parentheses," to which I acceded without limitation; but a little attention will convince us both that they are not to be universally condemned. When they abound, and when they are long, they both embarrass the sense, and are a proof that the writer's head is cloudy; that he has not properly arranged his matter, or is not well skilled in the graces of expression. But, as parenthesis is ranked by grammarians among the figures of rhetoric, we may suppose they had a reason for conferring that honor upon it. Accordingly we shall find that, in the use of some of our finest writers, as well as in the hands of the ancient poets and orators, it has a peculiar elegance, and imparts a beauty which the period would want without it. "Hoc nemus, hunc, inquit, frondoso vertice collem (Quis deus incertum est) habitat deus." VIRG. Æn. 8.
In this instance, the first that occurred, it is graceful. I have not time to seek for more, nor room to insert them. But your own observation, I believe, will confirm my opinion. Yours ever, W. C.
TO THE REV. WILLIAM UNWIN. Olney, May 27, 1782. My dear Friend,-Rather ashamed of having been at all dejected by the censure of the Critical Reviewers, who certainly could not read without prejudice a book replete with opinions and doctrines to which they cannot subscribe, I have at present no little occasion to keep a strict guard upon my vanity, lest it should be too much flattered by the following eulogium. I send it to you for the reasons I gave, when I imparted to you some other anecdotes of a similar kind, while we were together. Our interests in the success of this same volume are so closely united, that you must share with me in the praise or blame that attends it; and, sympathizing with me under the burden of injurious treatment, have a right to enjoy with me the cordials I now and then receive, as I happen to meet with more candid and favorable judges.
A merchant, a friend of ours,* (you will soon guess him,) sent my Poems to one of the first philosophers, one of the most eminent literary characters, as well as one of the most important in the political world, that the present age can boast of. Now perhaps your conjecturing faculties are puzzled, and you begin to ask "who, where, and what is he? speak out, for I am all impatience." I will not say a word more: the letter in which he returns his thanks for the present shall speak for him.t
We may now treat the critics as the archbishop of Toledo treated Gil Blas, when he found fault with one of his sermons. His grace gave him a kick and said, "Begone for a jackanapes, and furnish yourself with a better taste, if you know where to find it."
We are glad that you are safe at home again. Could we see at one glance of the eye what is passing every day upon all the roads in the kingdom, how many are terrified and hurt, how many plundered and abused, we should indeed find reason enough to be thankful for journeys performed in safety, and for deliverance from dangers we are not perhaps even permitted to see. When, in some of the high southern latitudes, and in a dark tempestuous night, a flash of lightning discovered to Captain Cook a vessel, which glanced along close by his side, and which but for the lightning he must have run foul
• John Thornton, Esq.
↑ Here Cowper transcribed the letter written from Pay, by the American ambassador, Franklin, in praise of me book.
of, both the danger and the transient light that showed it were undoubtedly designed to convey to him this wholesome instruction, that a particular Providence attended him, and that he was not only preserved from evils of which he had notice, but from many more of which he had no information, or even the least suspicion. What unlikely contingencies may nevertheless take place! How improbable that two ships should dash against each other, in the midst of the vast Pacific Ocean, and that, steering contrary courses from parts of the world so immensely distant from each other, they should yet move so exactly in a line as to clash, fill, and go to the bottom, in a sea, where all the ships in the world might be so dispersed as that none should see another! Yet this must have happened but for the remarkable interference which he has recorded. The same Providence indeed might as easily have conducted them so wide of each other that they should never have met at all, but then this lesson would have been lost; at least, the heroic voyager would have encompassed the globe, without having had occasion to relate an incident that so naturally suggests it.
I am no more delighted with the season than you are. The absence of the sun, which has graced the spring with much less of his presence than he vouchsafed to the winter, has a very uncomfortable effect upon my frame; I feel an invincible aversion to employment, which I am yet constrained to fly to as my only remedy against something worse. If I do nothing I am dejected, if I do anything I am weary, and that weariness is best described by the word lassitude, which of all weariness in the world is the most oppressive. But enough of myself and the
The blow we have struck in the West Indies* will, I suppose, be decisive, at least for the present year, and so far as that part of our possessions is concerned in the present conflict. But the news-writers and their correspondents disgust me and make me sick. One victory, after such a long series of adverse occurrences, has filled them with selfconceit and impertinent boasting; and, while Rodney is almost accounted a Methodist for
*This alludes to the celebrated victory gained by Sir George Rodney over Count de Grasse, April 12, 1782. On this occasion, eight sail of the line were captured from the French, three foundered at sea, two were forever disabled, and the French Admiral was taken in the Ville de Paris, which had been presented by the city of Paris to Louis XV. Lord Robert Manners fell in this engagement. It was the first instance where the attempt
was ever made of breaking the line, a system adopted afterwards with great success by Lord Nelson. occasion, addressed a letter of acknowledgment to the speaker, conveyed in the following terms. "To fulfil,"
Lord Rodney, on receiving the thanks of Parliament on this
he observed, "the wishes, and execute the commands of my Sovereign, was my duty. To command a fleet so well appointed, both in officers and men, was my good fortune as by their undaunted spirit and valor, under Divine Providence, the glory of that day was acquired."
ascribing his success to Providence,* men
TO THE REV. WILLIAM UNWIN.
My dear Friend,-Every extraordinary occurrence in our lives affords us an opportunity to learn, if we will, something more of our own hearts and tempers than we were before aware of. It is easy to promise ourselves beforehand that cur conduct shall be wise, or moderate, or resolute, on any given occasion. But when that occasion occurs, we do not always find it easy to make good the promise: such a difference there is between theory and practice. Perhaps this is no new remark: but it is not a whit the worse for being old, if it be true.
cal Rhadamanthus say, when my shivering genius shall appear before him? Still he keeps me in hot water, and I must wait another month for his award. Alas! when I wish for a favorable sentence from that quarter (to confess a weakness that I should not confess to all,) I feel myself not a little influenced by a tender regard to my reputation here, even among my neighbors at Olney. Here are watchmakers, who themselves are wits, and who at present, perhaps think me
Here is a carpenter, and a baker, and not to mention others, here is your idol, Mr.
whose smile is fame. All these read the "Monthly Review," and all these will set me down for a dunce, if those terrible critics should show them the example. But oh! wherever else I am accounted dull, dear Mr. Griffith, let me pass for a genius at Olney.
We are sorry for little William's illness. It is, however, the privilege of infancy to reby sickness. We are sorry too for Mr.'s cover almost immediately what it has lost dangerous condition. But he that is well prepared for the great journey cannot enter on it too soon for himself, though his friends will weep at his departure.
W. C. The immediate success of his first volume was very far from being equal to its extraordinary merit. For some time it seemed to be neglected by the public, although the first
Before I had published, I said to myself-poem in the collection contains such a powyou and I, Mr. Cowper, will not concern our-erful image of its author as might be thought selves much about what the critics may say sufficient not only to excite attention but to of our book. But, having once sent my wits secure attachment: for Cowper had undefor a venture, I soon became anxious about signedly executed a masterly portrait of himthe issue, and found that I could not be satis- self in describing the true poet: we allude to fied with a warm place in my own good the following verses in "Table Talk.” graces, unless my friends were pleased with Nature, exerting an unwearied power, me as much as I pleased myself. Meeting Forms, opens, and gives scent to every flower; with their approbation, I began to feel the Spreads the fresh verdure of the field, and leads workings of ambition. It is well, said I, that The dancing Naiads thro' the dewy meads: my friends are pleased; but friends are some- She fills profuse ten thousand little throats times partial, and mine, I have reason to think, With music, modulating all their notes; [known, are not altogether free from bias. Methinks And charms the woodland scenes, and wilds unI should like to hear a stranger or two speak With artless airs and concerts of her own; well of me. I was presently gratified by the Bur seldom (as if fearful of expense) Vouchsafes to man a poet's just pretenceapprobation of the "London Magazine" and Fervency, freedom, fluency of thought, the "Gentleman's," particularly by that of Harmony, strength, words exquisitely sought. the former, and by the plaudit of Dr. Frank- Fancy, that from the bow that spans the sky lin. By the way, magazines are publications Brings colors, dipt in heaven, that never die; we have but little respect for till we ourselves A soul exalted above earth, a mind are chronicled in them, and then they assume Skill'd in the characters that form mankind; an importance in our esteem which before we And, as the sun in rising beauty drest could not allow them. But the "Monthly Looks from the dappled orient to the west, Review," the most formidable of all my Ere yet his race begins, its glorious closeAnd marks, whatever clouds may interpose, judges, is still behind. What will that critiAn eye like his to catch the distant goalere the wheels of verse begin to roll, Like his to shed illuminating rays On every scene and subject it surveys: Thus grac'd the man asserts a poet's name, And the world cheerfully admits the claim.
Lord Rodney's despatches commenced in the follow-Or. ing words: "It has pleased God, out of his Divine Providence, to grant to his Majesty's arms," &c. This was more religious than the nation at that time could tolerate. Lord Nelson afterwards was the first British Admiral that adopted the same language.