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TO THE REV. WILLIAM UNWIN.
MY DEAR FRIEND,
Sept. 17, 1780. You desire my further thoughts on the subject of education. I send you such as had for the most part occurred to me when I wrote last, but could not be comprised in a single letter. They are indeed on a different branch of this interesting theme, but not less important than the former.
I think it your happiness, and wish you to think it so yourself, that you are in every respect qualified for the task of instructing your son, and preparing him for the university, without committing him to the care of a stranger. In my judgment, a domestic education deserves the preference to a public one on a hundred accounts, which I have neither time nor room to mention. I shall only touch upon two or three that I can not but consider as having a right to your most earnest atten
admonitions, and the solicitous care of both his parents, are no longer before his eyes-year after year he feels himself more and more detached from them, till at last he is so effectually weaned from the connexion, as to find himself happier any where than in their company.
I should have been glad of a frank for this letter, for I have said but little of what I could say upon this subject, and perhaps I may not be able to catch it by the end again. If I can, I shall add to it hereafter. Yours, W. C.
TO THE REV. WILLIAM UNWIN. MY DEAR FRIEND,
Oct. 5, 1780.. Now for the sequel-you have anticipated one of my arguments in favour of a private education, therefore I need say but little about it. The folly of supposing that the mother-tongue, in some respects the most difficult of all tongues, may be acIn a public school, or indeed in any school, his quired without a teacher, is predominant in all the morals are sure to be but little attended to, and his public schools that I have ever heard of. To proreligion not at all. If he can catch the love of vir-nounce it well, to speak and to write it with fluency tue from the fine things that are spoken of it in and elegance, are no easy attainments; not one in the classics, and the love of holiness from the cus- fifty of those who pass through Westminster and tomary attendance upon such preaching as he is Eton, arrive at any remarkable proficiency in these likely to hear, it will be well; but I am sure you accomplishments; and they that do are more inhave had too many opportunities to observe the debted to their own study and application for it, inefficacy of such means, to expect any such ad- than to any instruction received there. In general, vantage from them. In the mean time, the more there is nothing so pedantic as the style of a schoolpowerful influence of bad example, and perhaps boy, if he aims at any style at all; and if he does bad company, will continually counterwork these not, he is of course inelegant, and perhaps unonly preservatives he can meet with, and may pos- grammatical. A defect, no doubt, in great measure sibly send him home to you, at the end of five or six years, such as you will be sorry to see him. You escaped indeed the contagion yourself; but a few instances of happy exemption from a general malady are not sufficient warrant to conclude, that it is therefore not infectious, or may be encountered without danger.
owing to want of cultivation; for the same lad that is often commended for his Latin, frequently would deserve to be whipped for his English, if the fault were not more the master's than his own. I know not where this evil is so likely to be prevented as at home-supposing always, nevertheless, (which is the case in your instance) that the boy's parents, You have seen too much of the world, and are and their acquaintance, are persons of elegance a man of too much reflection, not to have ob- and taste themselves. For to converse with those served that in proportion as the sons of a family who converse with propriety, and to be directed to approach to years of maturity, they lose a sense of such authors as have refined and improved the lanobligation to their parents, and seem at last almost guage by their productions, are advantages which divested of that tender affection which the nearest he can not elsewhere enjoy in an equal degree. of all relations seems to demand from them. I And though it requires some time to regulate the have often observed it myself, and have always taste, and fix the judgment, and these effects thought I could sufficiently account for it, without must be gradually wrought even upon the best unlaying all the blame upon the children. While derstanding, yet I suppose much less time will be they continue in their parents' house, they are necessary for the purpose than could at first be every day obliged, and every day reminded how imagined, because the opportunities of improvemuch it is their interest, as well as duty, to be ment are continual.
obliging and affectionate in return. But at eight A public education is often recommended as the or nine years of age the boy goes to school. From most effectual remedy for that bashful and awkthat moment he becomes a stranger in his father's ward restraint, so epidemical among the youth of house. The course of parental kindness is inter- our country. But I verily believe that instead of rupted. The smiles of his mother, those tender being a cure, it is often the cause of it. For seven
To close this article, as I did the last, by applying myself immediately to the present concern little John is happily placed above all occasion for dependence on all such precarious hopes, and need not be sent to school in quest of some great men in embryo, who may possibly make his fortune. Yours, my dear friend, W. C.
or eight years of his life, the boy has hardly seen worthy and unfit for the place he once held in our or conversed with a man, or a woman, except the affections. maids at his boarding-house. A gentleman or a lady are consequently such novelties to him, that he is perfectly at a loss to know what sort of behaviour he should preserve before them. He plays with his buttons, or the strings of his hat, he blows his nose, and hangs down his head, is conscious of his own deficiency to a degree that makes him quite unhappy, and trembles lest any one should speak to him, because that would quite overwhelm him. Is not all this miserable shyness the effect of his education? To me it appears to be so. If he saw good company every day, he would never be terrified at the sight of it, and a room full of ladies and gentlemen would alarm him no more than the chairs they sit on. Such is the effect of custom.
TO MRS. NEWTON.
DEAR MADAM, Oct. 5, 1780. WHEN a lady speaks, it is not civil to make her wait a week for an answer-I received your letter within this hour, and, foreseeing that the garden will engross much of my time for some days to I need add nothing further on this subject, be- come, have seized the present opportunity to accause I believe little John is as likely to be ex- knowledge it. I congratulate you on Mr. Newempted from this weakness as most young gentle-ton's safe arrival at Ramsgate, making no doubt men we shall meet with. He seems to have his but that he reached that place without difficulty father's spirit in this respect, in whom I could or danger, the road thither from Canterbury being never discern the least trace of bashfulness, though so good as to afford room for neither. He has I have often heard him complain of it. Under now had a view of the element, with which he was your management, and the influence of your ex- once so familiar, but which I think he has not ample, I think he can hardly fail to escape it. seen for many years. The sight of his old acIf he does, he escapes that which has made many quaintance will revive in his mind a pleasing rea man uncomfortable for life; and ruined not a collection of past deliverances, and when he looks at few, by forcing them into mean and dishonourable him from the beach, he may say You have forcompany, where only they could be free and merly given me trouble enough, but I have cast cheerful. anchor now where your billows can never reach
Mrs. Unwin returns you many thanks for your anxiety on her account. Her health is considerably mended upon the whole, so as to afford us a hope that it will be established. Our love attends Yours, dear madam, W. C.
TO THE REV. WILLIAM UNWIN
Connexions formed at school are said to be last-me.'-It is happy for him that he can say so. ing, and often beneficial. There are two or three stories of this kind upon record, which would not be so constantly cited as they are, whenever this subject happens to be mentioned, if the chronicle that preserves their remembrance had many be- you. sides to boast of. For my own part, I found such friendships, though warm enough in their commencement, surprisingly liable to extinction; and of seven or eight, whom I had selected for intimates out of about three hundred, in ten years I WROTE the following last summer. The tratime not one was left me. The truth is, that there gical occasion of it really happened at the next may be, and often is, an attachment of one boy to house to ours. I am glad when I can find a subanother, that looks very like a friendship; and ject to work upon; a lapidary I suppose accounts while they are in circumstances that enable them it a laborious part of the business to rub away the mutually to oblige and to assist each other, pro- roughness of the stone; but it is my amusement, mises well, and bids fair to be lasting. But they are no sooner separated from each other, by entering into the world at large, than other connexions, and new employments, in which they no longer share together, efface the remembrance of what passed in earlier days, and they become strangers to each other for ever. Add to this, that the man frequently differs so much from the boy; his principles, manners, temper, and' conduct, undergo so great an alteration, that we no longer recognise in him our old play fellow, but find him utterly un
and if after all the polishing I can give it, it discovers some little lustre, I think myself well rewarded for my pains.*
I shall charge you a halfpenny a-piece for every copy I send you, the short as well as the long. This is a sort of afterclap you little expected, but I can not possibly afford them at a cheaper rate. If this method of raising money had occurred to me sooner, I should have made the bargain sooner:
• Verses on a Goldfinch starved to death in a cage.
In the interval between this and the following letter, the writer commenced the First Volume of
but am glad I have hit upon it at last. It will be circumlocution, and the endless embarrassment in a considerable encouragement to my muse, and which they are involved by it, they would become act as a powerful stimulus to my industry. If the surprisingly intelligible, in comparison with their American war should last much longer, I may be present obscurity. And lastly, they would by this obliged to raise my price, but this I shall not do means be rendered susceptible of musical embelwithout a real occasion for it-it depends much lishment, and instead of being quoted in the counupon lord North's conduct in the article of sup- try, with that dull monotony, which is so weariplies if he imposes an additional tax on any thing some to by-standers, and frequently lulls even the that I deal in, the necessity of this measure, on my judges themselves to sleep, might be rehearsed in part, will be so apparent, that I dare say you will recitation; which would have an admirable effect, not dispute it. ⚫W. C. in keeping the attention fixed and lively, and could not fail to disperse that heavy atmosphere of sadness and gravity, which hangs over the jurisprudence of our country. I remember many years ago being informed by a relation of mine, who in his youth had applied himself to the study of the law, that one of his fellow-students, a gentleman of sprightly parts, and very respectable talents of the poetical kind, did actually engage in the prosecution of such a design; for reasons I suppose have now suggested. He began with Coke's Insomewhat similar to, if not the same with those I stitutes; a book so rugged in its style, that an attempt to polish it seemed an Herculean labour, and not less arduous and difficult, than it would be to give the smoothness of a rabbit's fur to the prickly back of a hedge-hog. But he succeeded to admiration, as you will perceive by the following specimen, which is all that my said relation could recollect of the performance.
TO JOSEPH HILL, ESQ.
MY DEAR FRIEND,
"Tenant in fee
And need neither quake nor quiver,
Free from demands,
Happy is the man who knows just so much of the law, as to make himself a little merry now and then with the solemnity of juridical proceedings. I have heard of common law judgments before now, indeed have been present at the delivery of some, that, according to my poor apprehension, while they paid the utmost respect to the letter of a statute, have departed widely from the spirit of it; and, being governed entirely by the point of law, have left equity, reason, and common sense, You have an ear for music, and a taste for verse, behind them at an infinite distance. You will which saves me the trouble of pointing out with a judge whether the following report of a case, critical nicety the advantages of such a version. I drawn up by myself, be not a proof and illustra-proceed, therefore, to what I at first intended, and tion of this satirical assertion.* to transcribe the record of an adjudged case thus managed, to which indeed what I premised was intended merely as an introduction.*
To him, and his heirs for ever.
POETICAL reports of law cases are not very
TO JOSEPH HILL, ESQ.
Feb. 15, 1781.
common, yet it seems to me desirable that they MY DEAR FRIEND, should be so. Many advantages would accrue I AM glad you were pleased with my report of from such a measure. They would in the first so extraordinary a case. If the thought of versifying place be more commodiously deposited in the me- the decisions of our courts of justice had struck mory, just as linen, grocery, or other such matters, me, while I had the honour to attend them, it when neatly packed, are known to occupy less would perhaps have been no difficult matter to room, and to lie more conveniently in any trunk, have compiled a volume of such amusing and chest, or box, to which they may be committed. interesting precedents; which, if they wanted the In the next place, being divested of that infinite eloquence of the Greek or Roman oratory, would
•The 'Report of an adjudged case, not to be found in any of the books,' concluded this letter. Vide Poems.
⚫ This letter concludes with the poetical law case of "Nose plaintiff-Eyes, defendants," before referred to.
have amply compensated that deficiency by the address should take great care, that they be always harmony of rhyme and metre. in the right: the justness and propriety of their
Your account of my uncle and your mother sentiments and censures being the only tolerable gave me great pleasure. I have long been afraid apology that can be made for such a conduct, espeto inquire after some in whose welfare I always cially in a country where civility of behaviour is feel myself interested, lest the question should pro- inculcated even from the cradle. But in the induce a painful answer. Longevity is the lot of so stance now under our contemplation, I think you few, and is so seldom rendered comfortable by the a sufferer under the weight of an animadversion associations of good health and good spirits, that I not founded in truth, and which, consequently, you could not very reasonably suppose either your re- did not deserve. I account him faithful in the lations or mine so happy in those respects, as it pulpit, who dissembles nothing, that he believes, seems they are. May they continue to enjoy those for fear of giving offence. To accommodate a disblessings so long as the date of life shall last. I course to the judgment and opinion of others, for do not think in these costermonger days, as I have the sake of pleasing them, though by doing so a notion Falstaff calls them, an antediluvian age we are obliged to depart widely from our own, is is at all a desirable thing; but to live comfortably, to be unfaithful to ourselves at least, and can not while we do live, is a great matter and comprehends be accounted fidelity to him, whom we profess to in it every thing that can be wished for on this serve. But there are few men who do not stand side the curtain that hangs between Time and in need of the exercise of charity and forbearance; Eternity.
Farewell my better friend than any I have to boast of either among the lords, or gentlemen of the house of commons. Yours ever, W. C.
TO THE REV. WILLIAM UNWIN.
MY DEAR FRIEND,
April 2, 1781. FINE weather, and a variety of extraforaneous occupations (search Johnson's dictionary for that word, and if not found there, insert it-for it saves a deal of circumlocution, and is very lawfully compounded) make it difficult (excuse the length of the parenthesis, which I did not foresee the length of when I began it, and which may perhaps a little perplex the sense of what I am writing, though, as I seldom deal in that figure of speech, I have the less need to make an apology for doing it at present) make it difficult (I say) for me to find opportunities for writing. My morning is engrossed by the garden; and in the afternoon, till I have drunk tea, I am fit for nothing. At five we walk; and when the walk is over, lassitude recommends rest, and again I become fit for nothing. The current hour therefore, which (I need not tell you) is comprised in the interval between four and five, is devoted to your service, as the only one in the twenty-four which is not otherwise engaged.
and the gentleman in question has afforded you an ample opportunity in this respect, to show how readily, though differing in your views, you can practise all that he could possibly expect from you, if your persuasion corresponded exactly with his
With respect to Monsieur le Cure, I think you not quite excusable for suffering such a man to give you any uneasiness at all. The grossness and injustice of his demand ought to be its own antidote. If a robber should miscall you a pitiful fellow for not carrying a purse full of gold about you, would his brutality give you any concern? I suppose not. Why then have you been distressed in the present instance?
Yours, W. C.
TO THE REV. WILLIAM UNWIN.
May 1, 1781.
YOUR mother says I must write, and must admits of no apology; I might otherwise plead that I have nothing to say, that I am weary, that I am dull, that it would be more convenient therefore for you, as well as for myself, that I should let it alone; but all these pleas, and whatever pleas besides either disinclination, indolence, or necessity might suggest, are overruled, as they ought to be, I do not wonder that you have felt a great deal the moment a lady adduces her irrefragable arguupon the occasion you mention in your last, espe- ment, you must. You have still however one comcially on account of the asperity you have met fort left, that what I must write, you may, or may with in the behaviour of your friend. Reflect, not read, just as it shall please you, unless lady however, that as it is natural to you to have very Anne at your elbow should say, you must read it, fine feelings, it is equally natural to some other and then, like a true knight, you will obey withtempers, to leave those feelings entirely out of the out looking for a remedy. question, and to speak to you, and to act towards In the press, and speedily will be published, in you, just as they do towards the rest of mankind, one volume octavo, price three shillings, Poems, without the least attention to the irritability of by William Cowper, of the Inner Temple, Esq. your system. Men of a rough and unsparing You may suppose, by the size of the publication,
LET. 76, 77.
that the greatest part of them have been long kept | respect, therefore, I and my contemporary bards secret, because you yourself have never seen them: are by no means upon a par. They write when but the truth is, that they are most of them, ex- the delightful influences of fine weather, "fine cept what you have in your possession, the pro- prospects, and a brisk motion of the animal spiduce of the last winter. Two-thirds of the com- rits, make poetry almost the language of nature; pilation will be occupied by four pieces, the first of and I, when icicles depend from all the leaves of which sprung up in the month of December, and the Parnassian laurel, and when a reasonable They man would as little expect to succeed in verse, as the last of them in the month of March. contain, I suppose, in all about two thousand and to hear a blackbird whistle. This must be my five hundred lines; are known, or to be known in apology to you for whatever want of fire and anidue time, by the names of Table Talk-The mation you may observe in what you will shortly Progress of Error-Truth-Expostulation. Mr. have the perusal of. As to the public, if they like Newton writes a Preface, and Johnson is the pub-me not, there is no remedy. A friend will weigh lisher. The principal, I may say the only reason and consider all disadvantages, and make as large why I never mentioned to you, till now, an affair allowances as an author can wish, and larger perwhich I am just going to make known to all the world, (if that Mr. All-the-world should think it worth his knowing) has been this; that till within these few days, I had not the honour to know it myself. This may seem strange, but it is true; for not knowing where to find underwriters who would choose to insure them; and not finding it May?" A question that might puzzle a wiser convenient to a purse like mine, to run any hazard, head than we poets are generally blessed with. even upon the credit of my own ingenuity, I was very much in doubt for some weeks, whether any bookseller would be willing to subject himself to an ambiguity, that might prove very expensive in case of a bad market. But Johnson has heroically set all peradventures at defiance, and takes the whole charge upon himself. So out I come. I shall be glad of my translations from Vincent Bourne, in your next frank. My Muse will lay herself at your feet immediately on her first public appearance. Yours, my dear friend, W. C.
TO JOSEPH HILL, ESQ.
MY DEAR SIR,
May 9, 1781.
haps than he has any right to expect; but not so the world at large; whatever they do not like, they will not by any apology be persuaded to forgive, and it would be in vain to tell them, that I wrote my verses in January, for they would immediately reply, "Why did not you write them in
TO THE REV. WILLIAM UNWIN.
It is Friday; I have just drank tea, and just perused your letter: and though this answer can not set off till Sunday, I obey the warm impulse I feel, which will not permit me to postpone the business till the regular time of writing.
I expected you would be grieved; if you had not been so, those sensibilities which attend you upon every other occasion, must have left you upon this. I am sorry that I have given you pain, but not sorry that you have felt it. A concern of I AM in the press, and it is in vain to deny it. that sort would be absurd, because it would be to But how mysterious is the conveyance of intelli- regret your friendship for me and to be dissatisfied gence from one end to the other of your great with the effect of it. Allow yourself however city!-Not many days since, except one man, and three minutes only for reflection, and your penehe but little taller than yourself, all London was tration must necessarily dive into the motives of ignorant of it; for I do not suppose that the public my conduct. In the first place, and by way of prints have yet announced the most agreeable preface, remember that I do not (whatever your tidings, the title page, which is the basis of the partiality may incline you to do) account it of advertisement, having so lately reached the pub-much consequence to any friend of mine, whether lisher; and now it is known to you, who live at he is, or is not employed by me upon such an ocleast two miles distant from my confidant upon casion. But all affected renunciations of poetical the occasion.
merit apart, (and all unaffected expressions of the My labours are principally the production of sense I have of my own littleness in the poetical the last winter; all indeed, except a few of the character too) the obvious and only reason why I minor pieces. When I can find no other occupa resorted to Mr. Newton, and not to my friend tion, I think, and when I think, I am very apt to Unwin, was this-that the former lived in Londo it in rhyme. Hence it comes to pass that the don, the latter at Stock; the former was upon the season of the year which generally pinches off the spot to correct the press, to give instructions reflowers of poetry, unfolds mine, such as they are, specting any sudden alterations, and to settle with and crowns me with a winter garland. In this the publisher every thing that might possibly occur