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Sophocles is against us; but even he says, lamenting
Itys, and the comparison of her to Electra, is rather as “ to perseverance day and night, than as to sorrow. At “ all events, a tragick poet is not half so good authority “ in this question, as Theocritus and Chaucer. " not light upon the passage in the Odyssey, where " Penelope's restlessness is compared to the nightingale;
but I am sure that it is only as to restlessness and
watchfulness, that he makes the comparison. If you " will read the last twelve books of the Odyssey, you will
certainly find it, and I am sure you will be paid for your
hunt, whether you find it or not. The passage in “ Chaucer is in the Flower and Leaf, p. 99. The one
I particularly allude to in Theocritus, is in his Epi
grams, I think in the fourth. Dryden has transferred " the word merry to the goldfinch, in the Flower and " the Leaf; in deference, may be, to the vulgar error; " but pray read his description of the nightingale there: “ It is quite delightful. I am afraid I like these re" searches as much better than those that relate to
Shaftesbury, Sunderland, &c. as I do those better " than attending the House of Commons. Your's, affectionately,
“ C. J. FOX.”
The fact is, he struggled so little against such inclinations, that when pressed to sacrifice his Greek studies
for a time, he answers, “ I have no thoughts of throw
ing away my Greek books, and would give up the " whole plan if I thought it incompatible with my ' giving a little time to them.'
But it was not merely the interference of other occupations, whether of business or amusement, that impeded the progress of his work.
He knew by experience, that he was as slow in composition, as he was rapid in publick speaking. He had employed many days in writing his Letter to the Electors of Westminster, in 1793 ; and even the publication of his Speech+ on the late Duke of Bedford, (the only instance in which he ever revised what he had delivered in publick,) occupied a greater portion of his time than could be easily imagined, by those who were unacquainted with his scrupulous attention to all the niceties of language. In addition to these circumstances he soon
* MS. Correspondence.
# Having mentioned these works, I take this opportunity of adding, that, with the exception of the 14th, 16th, and peshaps a few other numbers of a periodical publication in 1779, called the Englishman, and an Epitaph on the late Bishop of Downe, they are the only pieces of prose he ever printed ; unless indeed, one were to reckon his Advertisements to Electors, and the Parliamentary Papers which he may have drawn up.
There are several specimens of his composition in verse, in different lan. guages: but the Lines on Mrs. Crewe, and those to Mrs. Fox, on his birth. day, are, as far as I recollect, all that have been printed. An Ode to Poverty, and an Epigram upon Gibbon, though very generally attributed to him, are certainly not his compositions.
perceived that his scrupulous exactness, with respect to all the circumstances of any fact which he was obliged either to relate or advert to, would retard him by the multiplicity and minuteness of the researches it would occasion." History goes on, (he remarked,) but it
goes on very slowly. The fact is, I am a very slow writer,
, but I promise I will persevere. I believe I am too scrupulous both about language and facts; though with respect to the latter, it is hardly possible. It is
astonishing how many facts one finds related, for “ which there is no authority whatever. Tradition, you will
say, does in some cases, but it will not apply to others.'
Even while he was employed in the Introduction, in which“ as it was rather a discussion alluding to known
facts, than a minute enquiry into disputed points, he acknowledged that " it was not so important to be
exact to a nicety;" he nevertheless found some difficulty in tracing the information of historians to their original sources. Upon this, as upon all other occasions, where he stood in need of active assistance, he had recourse to the advice and friendship of Lord Lauderdale; and the following letter was the first step he took in those researches, which, after a long series of enquiries, enabled him both to ascertain the nature, and the fate of the Scotch College Manuscripts, and to procure a
* MS. Correspondence..
valuable collection of papers from the Depôt of Foreign Affairs at Paris.
To the Earl of LAUDERDALE.
Dear LAUDERDALE, " I am seriously thinking of becoming an historian, and have indeed begun; but my progress hitherto is so little, that it is not worth mentioning, except upon the principle of dimidium qui cepit. As to what people may expect, I know not. If much, they will be dis'appointed; but I certainly do not intend to decline - the labour of any search, which I am able to make,
and much less to refuse any assistance I can have in “ such research. I hope, therefore, you will not be “ satisfied with merely recommending to me to make “ use of assistance, but give me some hint of what na
and from whom I may get it. To enable you to “ do this better, it is necessary to inform you, that the
death of Charles the Second is the period from which I commence my history; though in my Introduction, I take a pretty full review of his reign, and consequently, should be glad enough to get new lights with regard to it. Even this Introductory Chapter, how
finished. Next, it is fit you should know, that so far from having as yet examined, or even looked into any manuscript papers, or other documents
* This letter was written in the beginning of the
is not yet
“not generally known, I do not even know where any “ such exist, and, therefore, any information on that • head will be very welcome. I find one of my greatest
difficulties to be, how to discover the authorities upon " which historians advance their facts, for they very oo often do not refer to them. Hitherto, where I am
only taking a cursory review, this is of no great importance. But in regard to the Popish and Rye-house
plots particularly, I find both Rapin and Hume ad“ vancing so many facts, for which I cannot guess
their " authorities, that if I were to give a regular history of " these transactions, I should be much puzzled. Now, so when I am under difficulties of this sort, can you
either direct me to whom I can apply for a solution of them ? or if I send queries to you, can you give me answers to them?"
With both the above requests Lord Lauderdale complied; and by his own diligence, and the assistance of Mr. Laing, was enabled to transmit to Mr. Fox much useful information. In a very short time afterwards that Gentleman published his History of Scotland, a work which Mr. Fox emphatically termed a treasure,
and which so animated his labours, by opening new sources of information, and new views of transactions, that at no period was he so ardent in the prosecution of his plan, as when fresh from the perusal of that valuable