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April 5, 1786.
village called Emberton, and command the whole length of a long bridge, described by a certain poet, together with a view of the road at a distance. Should you wish for books at Olney, you must bring them with you, or you will wish in vain, for I have none but the works of a certain poet, Cowper, of whom perhaps you have heard, and they are as yet but two volumes. They may multiply hereafter, but at present they are no more.
I DID, as you suppose, bestow all possible consideration on the subject of an apology for my You are the first person for whom I have heard Homerican undertaking. I turned the matter Mrs: Unwin express such feelings as she does for about in my mind an hundred different ways, and you. She is not profuse in professions, nor forin every way in which it would present itself ward to enter into treaties of friendship with new found it an impracticable business. It is impossi- faces, but when her friendship is once engaged, it ble for me, with what delicacy soever I may man- may be confided in even unto death. She loves age it, to state the objections that lie against Pope's you already, and how much more will she love you translation, without incurring odium, and the im- before this time twelvemonth! I have indeed enputation of arrogance; foreseeing this danger, I deavoured to describe you to her, but perfectly as I choose to say nothing. have you by heart, I am sensible that my picture can not do you justice. I never saw one that did. P. S.-You may well wonder at my courage, Be you what you may, you are much beloved and who have undertaken a work of such enormous will be so at Olney, and Mrs, U. expects you with length. You' would wonder more if you knew the pleasure that one feels at the return of a long that I translated the whole Iliad with no other absent, dear relation; that is to say, with a pleasure help than a Clavis. But I have since equipped such as mine. She sends you her warmest affecmyself better for this immense journey, and am tions. revising the work in company with a good com
TO LADY HESKETH..
MY DEAREST COUSIN,
Olney, April 17, 1786.
On Friday I received a letter from dear Anonymous, apprising me of a parcel that the coach would bring me on Saturday. Who is there in the world that has, or thinks he has reason to love me to the degree that he does? But it is no matHe chooses to be unknown, and his choice is, and ever shall be so sacred to me, that if his name lay on the table before me reversed, I would IF you will not quote Solomon, my dearest cou- not turn the paper about that I might read it. sin, I will. He says, and as beautifully as truly-Much as it would gratify me to thank him, I would Hope deferred maketh the heart sick, but when turn my eyes away from the forbidden discovery. the desire cometh, it is a tree of life!" I feel how I long to assure him that those same eyes, conmuch reason he had on his side when he made cerning which he expresses such kind apprehenthis observation, and am myself sick of your fort- sions, lest they should suffer by this laborious unnight's delay.
dertaking, are as well as I could expect them to be, if I were never to touch either book or pen. The vicarage was built by Lord Dartmouth, Subject to weakness, and occasional slight inflamand was not finished till some time after we ar- mations, it is probable that they will always be; rived at Olney, consequently it is new. It is a but I can not remember the time when they ensmart stone building well sashed, by much too joyed any thing so like an exemption from those good for the living, but just what I would wish infirmities as at present. One would almost supfor you. It has, as you justly concluded from my pose that reading Homer were the best ophthalmic premises, a garden, but rather calculated for use in the world. I'should be happy to remove his than ornament. It is square, and well walled, but solicitude on the subject, but it is a pleasure that has neither arbour, nor alcove, nor other shade, he will not let me enjoy. Well then, I will be except the shadow of the house. But we have content without it; and so content that, though I two gardens, which are yours. Between your believe you, my dear, to be in full possession of mansion and ours is interposed nothing but an all this mystery, you shall never know me, while orchard, into which a door opening out of our you live, either directly, or by hints of any sort, garden affords us the easiest communication imag- attempt to extort, or to steal the secret from you. inable, will save the round-about by the town, and I should think myself as justly punishable as the make both houses one. Your chamber-windows Bethshemites, for looking into the ark, which they look over the river, and over the meadows, to a were not allowed to touch.
I have not sent for Kerr, for Kerr can do no-that you are a Cowper (and the better it is for the thing but send me to Bath, and to Bath I can not Cowpers that such you are, and I give them joy go for a thousand reasons. The summer will set of you, with all my heart) you must not forget that me up again; I grow fat every day, and shall be I boast myself a Cowper too, and have my huas big as Gog or Magog, or both put together, be-mours, and fancies, and purposes, and determinafore you come. tions, as well as others of my name, and hold them
I did actually live three years with Mr. Chap-as fast as they can. You indeed tell me how often man, a solicitor, that is to say, I slept three years I shall see you when you come. A pretty story in his house, but I lived, that is to say, I spent my truly. I am a he Cowper, my dear, and claim days in Southampton Row, as you very well re- the privileges that belong to my noble sex. But member. There was I, and the future Lord Chan- these matters shall be settled, as my cousin Agacellor, constantly employed from morning to night memnon used to say, at a more convenient time. in giggling and making giggle, instead of studying I shall rejoice to see the letter you promise me, the law. O fie, cousin! how could you do so? I for though I met with a morsel of praise last week, am pleased with Lord Thurlow's inquiries about I do not know that the week current is likely to If he takes it into that inimitable head of produce me any, and having lately been pretty his, he may make a man of me yet. I could love much pampered with that diet, I expect to find him heartily if he would but deserve it at my myself rather hungry by the time when your next hands. That I did so once is certain. The Duch- letter shall arrive. It will therefore be very opess of who in the world set her a going? portune. The morsel above alluded to, came from But if all the duchesses in the world were spin--whom do you think? From -, but she ning, like so many whirligigs, for my benefit, I desires that her authorship may be a secret. And would not stop them. It is a noble thing to be a in my answer I promised not to divulge it except poet, it makes all the world so lively. I might to you. It is a pretty copy of verses, neatly writ have preached more sermons than even Tillotson ten, and well turned, and when you come you did, and better, and the world would have been shall see them. I intend to keep all pretty things still fast asleep, but a volume of verse is a fiddle that puts the universe in motion.
Yours, my dear friend and cousin, W. C.
TO LADY HESKETH.
Olney, April 24, 1786. YOUR letters are so much my comfort that I often tremble lest by any accident I should be disappointed; and the more because you have been, more than once, so engaged in company on the writing day, that I have had a narrow escape. Let me give you a piece of good counsel, my cousin; follow my laudable example, write when you can, take Time's forelock in one hand, and a pen in the other, and so make sure of your opportunity. It is well for me that you write faster than any body, and more in an hour than other people in two, else I know not what would become of me. When I read your letters I hear you talk, and I
to myself till then, that they may serve me as a bait to lure you hither more effectually. The last letter that I had from I received so many years since, that it seems as if it had reached me a good while before I was born.
I was grieved at the heart that the General could not come, and that illness was in part the cause that hindered him. I have sent him, by, his express desire, a new edition of the first book, and half the second. He would not suffer me to send it to you, my dear, lest you should post it away to Maty at once. He did not give that reason, but, being shrewd, I found it.
The grass begins to grow, and the leaves to bud, and every thing is preparing to be beautiful against you come. Adieu, W. C.
You inquire of our walks, I perceive, as well as of our rides. They are beautiful. You inquire also concerning a cellar. You have two cellars. Oh! what years have passed since we took the love talking letters dearly, especially from you. same walks, and drank out of the same bottle! Well! the middle of June will not be always a but a few more weeks and then!
thousand years off, and when it comes I shall hear you, and see you too, and shall not care a farthing then if you do not touch a pen in a month. By the way, you must either send me, or bring me some more paper, for before the moon shall have performed a few more revolutions I shall not have a scrap left, and tedious revolutions they are just now, that is certain.
TO LADY HESKETH.
Olney, May 8, 1786.
I DID not at all doubt that your tenderness for my feelings had inclined you to suppress in your letters to me the intelligence concerning Maty's
I give you leave to be as peremptory as you critique, that yet reached me from another quarter. please, especially at a distance; but when you say When I wrote to you I had not learned it from
fore, my dear, and take a little of this good physic with me, for you will find it beneficial as well as I; come and assist Mrs. Unwin in the re-establishment of your cousin's health. Air and exercise, and she and you together, will make me a perfect Sampson. You will have a good house over your head, comfortable apartments, obliging neighbours, good roads, a pleasant country, and in us your
the General, but from my friend Bull, who only with a view to emolument. I wrote those stanzas knew it by hearsay. The next post brought me merely for my own amusement, and they slept in the news of it from the first-mentioned, and the a dark closet years after I composed them; not in critique itself enclosed. Together with it came the least designed for publication. But when also a squib discharged against me in the Public Johnson had printed off the longer pieces, of which Advertiser. The General's letter found me in one the first volume principally consists, he wrote me of my most melancholy moods, and my spirits did word that he wanted yet two thousand lines to not rise on the receipt of it. The letter indeed that swell it to a proper size. On that occasion it was he had cut from the newspaper gave me little pain, that I collected every scrap of verse that I could both because it contained nothing formidable, find, and that among the rest. None of the smaller though written with malevolence enough, and be-poems had been introduced or had been published cause a nameless author can have no more weight at all with my name, but for this necessity. with his readers than the reason which he has on Just as I wrote the last word I was called down his side can give him. But Maty's animadversions to Dr. Kerr, who came to pay me a voluntary hurt me more. In part they appeared to me un-visit. Were I sick, his cheerful and friendly manjust, and in part ill-natured, and yet the man him- ner would almost restore me. Air and exercise self being an oracle in every body's account, I ap-are his theme; them he recommends as the best prehended that he had done me much mischief. physic for me, and in all weathers. Come thereWhy he says that the translation is far from exact, is best known to himself. For I know it to be as exact as is compatible with poetry; and prose, translations of Homer are not wanted, the world has one already. But I will not fill my letter to you with hypercriticisms, I will only add an extract from a letter of Colman's, that I received last Friday, and will then dismiss the subject. It came accompanied by a copy of the specimen, constant companions, two who will love you, and which he himself had amended, and with so much do already love you dearly, and with all our hearts. taste and candour that it charmed me. He says If you are in any danger of trouble, it is from myas follows; self, if my fits of dejection seize me; and as often as 'One copy I have returned with some remarks, they do, you will be grieved for me; but perhaps prompted by my zeal for your success, not, Heaven by your assistance I shall be able to resist them knows, by arrogance or impertinence. I know no better. If there is a creature under heaven, from other way at once so plain and so short, of deliver-whose co-operations with Mrs. Unwin I can reaing my thoughts on the specimen of your transla- sonably expect such a blessing, that creature is tion, which on the whole I admire exceedingly, yourself. I was not without such attacks when I thinking it breathes the spirit, and conveys the lived in London, though at that time they were manner of the original; though having here neither less oppressive, but in your company I was never Homer, nor Pope's Homer, I can not speak pre- unhappy a whole day in all my life. cisely of particular lines or expressions, or compare your blank verse with his rhyme, except by declaring, that I think blank verse infinitely more congenial to the magnificent simplicity of Homer's hexameters, than the confined couplets, and the jingle of rhyme.'
Of how much importance is an author to himself! I return to that abominable specimen again, just to notice Maty's impatient censure of the repetition that you mention. I mean of the word hand. In the original there is not a repetition of it. But to repeat a word in that manner, and on such His amendments are chiefly bestowed on the an occasion, is by no means what he calls it, a lines encumbered with elisions, and I will just take modern invention. In Homer I could show him this opportunity to tell you, my dear, because I many such, and in Virgil they abound. Colman, know you to be as much interested in what I write who, in his judgment of classical matters, is inas myself, that some of the most offensive of those ferior to none, says, 'I know not why Maty objects elisions were occasioned by mere criticism. I was to this expression.' I could easily change it. But fairly hunted into them, by vexatious objections the case standing thus, I know not whether my made without end by -, and his friend, and proud stomach will condescend so low. I rather altered, and altered, till at last I did not care. how feel disinclined to it.
I altered. Many thanks for 's verses, which One evening last week, Mrs. Unwin and I took deserve just the character you give of them. They our walk to Weston, and as we were returning are neat and easy-but I would mumble her well, through the grove opposite to the house, the if I could get at her, for allowing herself to sup- Throckmortons presented themselves at the door. pose for a moment that I praised the Chancellor They are owners of a house at Weston, at present
empty. It is a very good one, infinitely superior | marvellous than fiction itself would dare to hazard: to ours. When we drank chocolate with them, and (blessed be God!) they are not all of the disthey both expressed their ardent desire that we tressing kind. Now and then in the course of an would take it, wishing to have us for nearer neigh-existence, whose hue is for the most part sable, a bours. If you, my cousin, were not so well pro-day turns up that makes amends for many sighs, vided for as you are, and at our very elbow, Iverily and many subjects of complaint. Such a day believe I should have mustered up all my rhetoric shall L account the day of your arrival at Olney. to recommend it to you. You might have it for Wherefore is it (canst thou tell me?) that toever without danger of ejectment, whereas your gether with all those delightful sensations, to which possession of the vicarage depends on the life of the the sight of a long absent dear friend gives birth, vicar, who is eighty-six. The environs are most there is a mixture of something painful; flutterings, beautiful, and the village itself one of the prettiest and tumults, and I know not what accompaniI ever saw. Add to this, you would step imme- ments of our pleasure, that are in fact perfectly diately into Mr. Throckmorton's pleasure ground, foreign from the occasion? Such I feel when I where you would not soil your slipper even in win-think of our meeting; and such I suppose feel you; ter. A most unfortunate mistake was made by and the nearer the crisis approaches, the more I am that gentleman's bailiff in his absence. Just before sensible of them. I know beforehand that they he left Weston last year for the winter, he gave will increase with every turn of the wheels, that him orders.to cut short the tops of the flowering shall convey me to Newport, when I shall set out shrubs, that lined a serpentine walk in a delightful to meet you, and that when we actually meet, the grove, celebrated in my poetship in a little piece pleasure, and this unaccountable pain together, that you remember was called the Shrubbery. The will be as much as I shall be able to support. I dunce, misapprehending the order, cut down and am utterly at a loss for the cause, and can only fagoted up the whole grove, leaving neither tree, resolve it into that appointment, by which it has bush, nor twig; nothing but stumps about as high been foreordained that all human delights shall be as my ancle. Mr. T. told us that she never saw qualified and mingled with their contraries. For her husband so angry in her life. I judged indeed there is nothing formidable in you, To me at by his physiognomy, which has great sweetness in least there is nothing such, no, not even in your it, that he is very little addicted to that infernal menaces, unless when you threaten me to write no passion. But had he cudgeled the man for his more. Nay, I verily believe, did I not know you cruel blunder, and the havoc made in consequence to be what you are, and had less affection for you of it, I could have excused him. than I have, I should have fewer of these emo
I felt myself really concerned for the Chancel-tions, of which I would have none, if I could help lor's illness, and from what I learned of it, both it. But a fig for them all! Let us resolve to comfrom the papers, and from General Cowper, con- bat with, and to conquer them. They are dreams. cluded that he must die. I am accordingly de- They are illusions of the judgment. Some enemy lighted in the same proportion with the news of that hates the happiness of human kind, and is his recovery. May he live, and live to be still the ever industrious to dash it, works them in us; and support of government!. If it shall be his good their being so, perfectly unreasonable as they are is pleasure to render me personally any material ser- a proof of it. Nothing that is such can be the vice, I have no objection to it. But Heaven knows, work of a good agent. This I know too by exthat it is impossible for any living wight to bestow perience, that, like all other illusions, they exist less thought on that subject than myself.-May only by force of imagination, are indebted for their God be ever with you, my beloved cousin!.. prevalence to the absence of their object, and in a few moments after its appearance cease. So then this a settled point, and the case stands thus. You will tremble as, you draw near to Newport, and so shall I. But we will both recollect that there is no reason why we should, and this recollection MY DEAREST COUSIN, Olney, May 15, 1786. will at least have some little effect in our favour. FROM this very morning I begin to date the last We will likewise both take the comfort of what we month of our long separation, and confidently and know to be true, that the tumult will soon cease, most comfortably hope that before the fifteenth and the pleasure long survive the pain, even as of June shall present itself, we shall have seen long as I trust we ourselves shall survive it. each other. Is it not so? And will it not be one What you say of Maty gives me all the consoof the most extraordinary eras of my extraordinary lation that you intended. We both think it highly life? A year ago, we neither corresponded, nor probable that you suggest the true cause of his expected to meet in this world. But this world is displeasure, when you suppose him mortified at a scene of marvellous events, many of them more not having had a part of the translation laid before
TO LADY HESKETH.
him, ere this specimen was published. The Ge- the consequence has been that we have mutually neral was very much hurt, and calls his censure wished an acquaintance without being able to acharsh and unreasonable. He likewise sent me a complish it. Blessings on you for the hint that consolatory letter on the occasion, in which he you dropped on the subject of the house at Westook the kindest pains to heal the wound that he ton! For the burthen of my song is→→ Since we supposed I might have suffered. I am not na- have met once again, let us never be separated, as turally insensible, and the sensibilities that I had we have been, more.'
TO THE REV. WALTER BAGOT."
MY DEAR FRIEND,
you a just measure of submission to his will! the most effectual of all remedies for the evils of this changing scene. I doubt not that he has granted you this blessing already, and may he still continue it!
by nature have been wonderfully enhanced by a long series of shocks, given to a frame of nerves that was never very athletic. I feel accordingly, whether painful or pleasant, in the extreme; am easily elevated, and easily cast down. The frown Olney, May 20; 1786. · of a critic freezes my poetical powers, and dis- ABOUT three weeks since I met your sister Chescourages me to a degree that makes me ashamed ter at Mr. Throckmorton's, and from her learned of my own weakness. Yet I presently recover my that you are at Blithfield, and in health.. Upon confidence again. The half of what you so kindly the encouragement of this information it is that I say in your last would at any time restore my write now; I should not otherwise -haye known spirits, and, being said by you, is infallible. I am with certainty where to find you, or have been not ashamed to confess, that having commenced equally free from the fear of unseasonable intruan author, I am most abundantly desirous to suc- sion. May God be with you, my friend, and give ceed as such. I have (what perhaps you little suspect me of) in my nature an infinite share of ambition. But with it I have at the same time, as you well know, an equal share of diffidence. To this combination of opposite qualities it has been owing that, till lately, I stole through life Now I will talk a little about myself. For exwithout undertaking any thing, yet always wish- cept myself, living in this Terrarum angulo, what ing to distinguish myself. At last I ventured, can I have to talk about? In a scene of perfect ventured too in the only path that at so late a tranquillity, and the profoundest silence, I am kickperiod was yet open to me; and am determined, ing up the dust of heroic narrative, and besieging if God have not determined otherwise, to work my Troy again. I told you that I had almost finished way through the obscurity that has been so long the translation of the Iliad, and I verily thought my portion, into notice. Every thing therefore so. But I was never more mistaken. By the that seems to threaten this my favourite purpose time when I had reached the end of the poem, the with disappointment, affects me nearly. I suppose first book of my version was a twelvemonth old. that all ambitious minds are in the same prodica- When I came to consider it after having laid it ment. He who seeks distinction must be sensible by so long, it did not. satisfy me.. I set myself to of disapprobation, exactly in the same proportion mend it, and I did so. But still it appeared to me as he desires applause. And now, my precious improveable, and that nothing would so effectually cousin, I have unfolded my heart to you in this secure that point as to give the whole book a new particular, without a speck of dissimulation. Some translation. With the exception of very few lines people, and good people too, would blame me. But have so done, and was never in my life so conyou will not; and they I think would blame with- vinced of the soundness of Horace's advice to pubout just cause. We certainly do not honour God lish nothing in haste; so much advantage have when we bury, or when we neglect to improve, as I derived from doing that twice which I thought I far as we may, whatever talent he may have be had accomplished notably at once. He indeed stowed on us, whether it be little or much. In recommends nine years' imprisonment of your natural things, as well as in spiritual, it is a never-verses before you send them abroad; but the ninth failing truth, that to him who hath (that is to him part of that time is I believe as much as there is who occupies what he hath diligently, and so as need of to open a man's eyes upon his own defects, to increase it) more shall be given. Set me down and to secure him from the danger of premature therefore, my dear, for an industrious rhymer, so self-approbation. Neither ought it to be forgotten long as I shall have the ability. For in this only that nine years make so wide an interval between way is it possible for me, so far as I can see, either the cup and the lip, that a thousand things may to honour God, or to serve man, or even to serve fall out between. New engagements may occur, myself. which may make the finishing of that which a I rejoice to hear that Mr. Throckmorton wishes poet has begun, impossible. In nine years he to be on a more intimate footing. I am shy, and may rise into a situation, or he may sink into one suspect that he is not very much otherwise; and highly incompatible with his purpose. His con