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I believe, about Homer; and great satisfaction it because, as Hopkins answers, we must have regave me to find, that on the most important points fused it. But it fell out singularly enough, that of that subject his lordship and I were exactly this ball was held, of all days in the year, on my of one mind. In the course of our conversation birth day-and so I told them-but not till it was he produced from his pocket-book a translation all over. of the first ten or twelve lines of the Iliad, and in Though I have thought proper never to take order to leave my judgment free, informed me any notice of the arrival of my MSS. together kindly at the same time that they were not his with the other good things in the box, yet certain own. I read them, and according to the best it is, that I received them. I have furbished up of my recollection of the original, found them well the tenth book till it is as bright as silver, and am executed. The bishop indeed acknowledged that now occupied in bestowing the same labour upon they were not faultless, neither did I find them the eleventh. The twelfth and thirteenth are in so. Had they been such, I should have felt their the hands of and the fourteenth and fifperfection as a discouragement hardly to be sur-teenth are ready to succeed them. This notable mounted; for at that passage I have laboured job is the delight of my heart, and how sorry shall more abundantly than at any other, and hitherto I be when it is ended.
with the least success. I am convinced that Ho- The smith and the carpenter, my dear, are both mer placed it at the threshold of his work as a in the room, hanging a bell; if I therefore make a scarecrow to all translators. Now, Walter, if thou thousand blunders, let the said intruders answer knowest the author of this version, and it be not for them all. treason against thy brother's confidence in thy se- I thank you, my dear, for your history of the crecy, declare him to me. Had I been so happy G-s. What changes in that family! And how as to have seen the bishop again before he left this many thousand families have in the same time excountry, I should certainly have asked him the perienced changes as violent as theirs! The course question, having a curiosity upon the matter that of a rapid river is the justest of all emblems, to exis extremely troublesome. press the variableness of our scene below. Shakspeare says, none ever bathed himself twice in the same stream, and it is equally true that the world upon which we close our eyes at night is never the same with that on which we open them in the morning.
The awkward situation in which you found yourself on receiving a visit from an authoress, whose works, though presented to you long before, you had never read, made me laugh, and it was no sin against my friendship for you to do so. It was a ridiculous distress, and I can laugh at it I do not always say, give my love to my uncle, even now. I hope she catechised you well. How because he knows that I always love him. I do did you extricate yourself?-Now laugh at me. The clerk of the parish of All Saints, in the town of Northampton, having occasion for a poet, has appointed me to the office. I found myself obliged to comply. The bellman comes next, and then, I think, though even borne upon your swan's quill, I can soar no higher!
I am, my dear friend, faithfully yours, W. C.
not always present Mrs. Unwin's love to you,
TO LADY HESKETH.
TO SAMUEL ROSE, ESQ. Weston, Dec. 13, 1787. The Lodge, Dec. 10, 1787. UNLESS my memory deceives me, I forewarned I THANK you for the snip of cloth, commonly you that I should prove a very unpunctual correscalled a pattern. At present I have two coats, pondent. The work that lies before me engages and but one back. If at any time hereafter I unavoidably my whole attention. The length of should find myself possessed of fewer coats, or more it, the spirit of it, and the exactness that is requibacks, it will be of use to me. site in its due performance, are so many most inEven as you suspect, my dear, so it proved. teresting subjects of consideration to me, who find The ball was prepared for, the ball was held, and that my best attempts are only introductory to the ball passed, and we had nothing to do with it. others, and that what to day I suppose finished, Mrs. Throckmorton, knowing our trim, did not to-morrow I must begin again. Thus it fares give us the pain of an invitation, for a pain it with a translator of Homer. To exhibit the mawould have been. And why? as Sternhold says,-jesty of such a poet in a modern language is a
TO LADY HESKETH.
task that no man can estimate the difficulty of till he attempts it. To paraphrase him loosely, to hang him with trappings that do not belong to him, The Lodge, Jan. 1, 1788. all this is comparatively easy. But to represent Now for another story almost incredible! A him with only his own ornaments, and still to pre story that would be quite such, if it was not cerserve his dignity, is a labour that, if I hope in any tain that you give me credit for any thing. I measure to achieve it, I am sensible can only be have read the poem for the sake of which you achieved by the most assiduous, and most unre- sent the paper, and was much entertained by it. mitting attention. Our studies, however different You think it perhaps, as very well. you may, the in themselves, in respect of the means by which only piece of that kind that was ever produced. they are to be successfully carried on, bear some It is indeed original, for I dare say Mr. Merry resemblance to each other. A perseverance that never saw mine; but certainly it is not unique. nothing can discourage, a minuteness of observa- For most true it is, my dear, that ten years since, tion that suffers nothing to escape, and a determi- having a letter to write to a friend of mine, to nation not to be seduced from the straight line that whom I could write any thing, I filled a whole lies before us, by any images with which fancy sheet with a composition, both in measure and may present us, are essentials that should be com- in manner precisely similar. I have in vain mon to us both. There are perhaps few arduous searched for it. It is either burnt or lost. Could undertakings, that are not in fact more arduous I have found it, you would have had double postthan we at first supposed them. As we proceed, age to pay. For that one man in Italy, and anodifficulties increase upon us, but our hopes gather ther in England, who never saw each other, strength also, and we conquer difficulties which, should stumble on a species of verse, in which no could we have foreseen them, we should never have other man ever wrote (and I believe that to be the had the boldness to encounter. May this be your case) and upon a style and manner too, of which, experience, as I doubt not that it will. You pos- I suppose, that neither of them had ever seen an sess by nature all that is necessary to success in example, appears to me so extraordinary a fact, the profession that you have chosen. What re- that I must have sent you mine, whatever it had mains is in your own power. They say of poets, cost you, and am really vexed that I can not authat they must be born such: so must mathemati- thenticate the story by producing a voucher. cians, so must great generals, and so must law- The measure I recollect to have been perfectly yers, and so indeed must men of all denominations, the same, and as to the manner I am equally sure or it is not possible that they should excel. But of that, and from this circumstance, that Mrs. with whatever faculties we are born, and to what- Unwin and I never laughed more at any producever studies our genius may direct us, studies they tion of mine, perhaps not even at John Gilpin. must still be. I am persuaded, that Milton did But for all
not write his Paradise Lost, nor Homer his Iliad, give me credit my dear, you must, as I said,
for the thing itself is gone to that
nor Newton his Principia, without immense la- limbo of vanity, where alone, says Milton, things bour. Nature gave them a bias to their respective lost on earth are to be met with. Said limbo is, pursuits, and that strong propensity, I suppose, is as you know, in the moon, whither I could not at what we mean by genius. The rest they gave present convey myself without a good deal of difthemselves. "Macte esto," therefore, have no ficulty and inconvenience. fears for the issue!
This morning being the morning of new year's I have had a second kind letter from your friend day, I sent to the hall a copy of verses, addressed Mr., which I have just answered. I must to Mrs. Throckmorton, entitled, the Wish, or the not I find hope to see him here, at least I must Poet's New Year's Gift. We dine there to-mornot much expect it. He has a family that does row, when, I suppose, I shall hear news of them. not permit him to fly southward. I have also a Their kindness is so great, and they seize with notion, that we three could spend a few days com- such eagerness every opportunity of doing all fortably together, especially in a country like this, they think will please us, that I held myself alabounding in scenes with which I am sure you most in duty bound to treat them with this stroke would both be delighted. Having lived till lately of my profession. at some distance from the spot that I now inhabit, The small pox has done, I believe, all that it and having never been master of any sort of ve has to do at Weston. Old folks, and even women hicle whatever, it is but just now that I begin my-with child, have been inoculated. We talk of self to be acquainted with the beauties of our situ- our freedom, and some of us are free enough, but ation. To you I may hope, one time or other, to not the poor. Dependant as they are upon parish show them, and shall be happy to do it, when an bounty, they are sometimes obliged to submit to opportunity offers. impositions, which perhaps in France itself could Yours, most affectionately, W. C. hardly be paralleled. Can man or woman be said
to be free, who is commanded to take a distemper, | On all other occasions I prune with an unsparing sometimes at least mortal, and in circumstances hand, determined that there shall not be found in most likely to make it so? No circumstance what-the whole translation an idea that is not Homer's. ever was permitted to exempt the inhabitants of My ambition is to produce the closest copy possiWeston. The old as well as the young, and the ble, and at the same time as harmonious as I pregnant as well as they who had only themselves know how to make it. This being my object, you within them, have been inoculated. Were I ask- will no longer think, if indeed you have thought ed who is the most arbitrary sovereign on earth? it at all, that I am unnecessarily and over much I should answer, neither the king of France, nor industrious. The original surpasses every thing; the grand signor, but an overseer of the poor in it is of an immense length, is composed in the England. best language ever used upon earth, and deserves, I am as heretofore occupied with Homer: my indeed demands all the labour that any translator, present occupation is the revisal of all I have be he who he may, can possibly bestow on it. Of done, viz. of the first fifteen books. I stand this I am sure, and your brother the good bishop amazed at my own increasing dexterity in the is of the same mind, that, at present, mere Engbusiness, being verily persuaded that, as far as I have gone, I have improved the work to double its former value. ·
That you may begin the new year and end it in all health and happiness, and many more when the present shall have been long an old one, is the ardent wish of Mrs. Unwin, and of yours, my dearest coz, most cordially, W. C.
TO THE REV. WALTER BAGOT.
MY DEAR FRIEND,
Weston, Jan 5, 1788.
lish readers know no more of Homer in reality, than if he had never been translated. That consideration indeed it was, which mainly induced me to the undertaking; and if after all, either through idleness, or dotage upon what I have already done, I leave it chargeable with the same incorrectness as my predecessors, or indeed with any other that I may be able to amend, I had better have amused myself otherwise. And you I know are of my opinion.
I send you the clerk's verses, of which I told you. They are very clerklike, as you will perceive. But plain truth in plain words seemed to 1 THANK you for your information concerning me to be the ne plus ultra of composition on such the author of the translation of those lines. Had an occasion. I might have attempted something a man of less note and ability than Lord Bagot very fine, but then the persons principally concernproduced it, I should have been discouraged. As ed, viz. my readers, would not have understood ine. it is, I comfort myself with the thought, that even If it puts them in mind that they are mortal, its he accounted it an achievement worthy of his best end is answered. My dear Walter, adieu! powers, and that even he found it difficult. Yours faithfully, W. C. Though I never had the honour to be known to his lordship, I remember him well at Westminster, and the reputation in which he stood there. Since that time I have never seen him, except once, many years ago, in the House of Commons, when I heard him speak on the subject of a drainage bill better than any member there.
TO LADY HESKETH.
The Lodge, Jan. 19, 1788. WHEN I have prose enough to fill my paper, which is always the case when I write to you, I My first thirteen books have been criticised in can not find in my heart to give a third part of it London; have been by me accommodated to those to verse. Yet this I must do, or I must make my criticisms, returned to London in their improved pacquets more costly than worshipful, by doubling state, and sent back to Weston with an impri- the postage upon you, which I should hold to be mantur. This would satisfy some poets less anxi- unreasonable. See then the true reason why I did ous than myself about what they expose in public; not send you that same scribblement till you debut it has not satisfied me. I am now revising sired it. The thought which naturally presents them again by the light of my own critical taper, and make more alterations than at the first. But are they improvements? you will ask-Is not the spirit of the work endangered by all this attention to correctness? I think and hope that it is not. Fine things indeed I have few. He who has Being well aware of the possibility of such a ca- Homer to transcribe may well be contented to do tastrophe, I guard particularly against it. Where little else. As when an ass, being harnessed with I find that a servile adherence to the original would ropes to a sand cart, drags with hanging ears his render the passage less animated than it should heavy burthen, neither filling the long echoing be, I still, as at the first, allow myself a liberty. streets with his harmonious bray, nor throwing up
itself to me on all such occasions is this-Is not your cousin coming? Why are you impatient? Will it not be time enough to show her your fine things when she arrives?
his heels behind, frolicksome and airy, as asses less advice, my dear, but not easily taken by a man engaged are wont to do; so I, satisfied to find my- circumstanced as I am. I have learned in the
self indispensably obliged to render into the best school of adversity, a school from which I have no possible English metre eight and forty Greek books, expectation that I shall ever be dismissed, to apof which the two finest poems in the world consist, prehend the worst, and have ever found it the onaccount it quite sufficient if I may at last achieve ly course in which I can indulge myself without that labour; and seldom allow myself those pretty the least danger of incurring a disappointment. little vagaries, in which I should otherwise delight, and of which, if I should live long enough, I intend hereafter to enjoy my fill.
This kind of experience, continued through many years, has given me such an habitual bias to the gloomy side of every thing, that I never have This is the reason, my dear cousin, if I may be a moment's ease on any subject to which I am not permitted to call you so in the same breath with indifferent. How then can I be easy, when I am which I have uttered this truly heroic comparison, left afloat upon a sea of endless conjectures of this is the reason why I produce at present but few which you furnish the occasion? Write I beseech occasional poems, and the preceding reason is that you, and do not forget that I am now a battered which may account satisfactorily enough for my actor upon this turbulent stage; that what little withholding the very few that I do produce. A vigour of mind I ever had, of the self-supporting thought sometimes strikes me before I rise; if it kind I mean, has long since been broken; and that runs readily into verse, and I can finish it before though I can bear nothing well, yet any thing betbreakfast, it is well; otherwise it dies, and is for- ter than a state of ignorance concerning your welgotten; for all the subsequent hours are devoted to fare. I have spent hours in the night leaning upHomer. on my elbow and wondering what your silence means. I entreat you once more to put an end to these speculations, which cost me more animal spirits than I can spare; if you can not without great trouble to yourself, which in your situation may very possibly be the case, contrive opportunities of writing so frequently as usual, only say it, and I am content. I will wait, if you desire it, as long for every letter, but then let them arrive at the period once fixed, exactly at the time, for my patience will not hold out an hour beyond it.
The day before yesterday, I saw for the first time Bunbury's new print, the Propagation of a Lie. Mr. Throckmorton sent it for the amusement of our party. Bunbury sells humour by the yard, and is, I suppose, the first vender of it who ever did so. He can not, therefore, be said to have humour without measure (pardon a pun, my dear, from a man who has not made one before these forty years) though he may certainly be said to be immeasurably droll.
The original thought is good, and the exemplification of it, in those very expressive figures, admirable. A poem on the same subject, displaying all TO LADY HESKETH. that is displayed in those attitudes, and in those features, (for faces they can hardly be called) would The Lodge, Feb. 1, 1788. be most excellent. The affinity of the two arts, PARDON me, my dearest cousin, the mournful viz. verse and painting, has been observed; possi-litty that I sent you last. There are times when bly the happiest illustration of it would be found, I see every thing through a medium that distressif some poet would ally himself to some draughts-es me to an insupportable degree, and that letter man, as Bunbury, and undertake to write every was written in one of them. A fog that had for thing he should draw. Then let a musician be three days obliterated all the beauties of Weston, admitted of the party. He should compose the and a north-east wind, might possibly contribute said poem, adapting notes to it exactly accommo- not a little to the melancholy that indited it. But dated to the theme; so should the sister arts be my mind is now easy, your letter has made it so, proved to be indeed sisters, and the world die of and I feel myself as blithe as a bird in comparison. laughing. W. C. I love you, my cousin, and can not suspect, either with or without cause, the least evil in which you may be concerned, without being greatly troubled! Oh trouble! the portion of all mortals-but mine in particular. Would I had never known thee, or MY DEAREST COUSIN, The Lodge, Jan. 30, 1788. could bid thee farewell for ever; for I meet thee at Ir is a fortnight since I heard from you, that is every turn, my pillows are stuffed with thee, my to say, a week longer than you have accustomed very roses smell of thee, and even my cousin, who me to wait for a letter. I do not forget that you would cure me of all trouble if she could, is some.. have recommended it to me, on occasions somewhat times innocently the cause of trouble to me. similar, to banish all anxiety, and to ascribe your I now see the unreasonableness of my late trousilence only to the interruptions of company. Good ble, and would, if I could trust myself so far, pro
TO LADY HESKETH.
mise never again to trouble either myself or you in according to the use we make of them, till adthe same manner, unless warranted by some more vanced years begin to threaten them with the loss substantial ground of apprehension. of both. How much wiser would thousands have What I said concerning Homer, my dear, was been, than now they ever will be, had a puny conspoken, or rather written, merely under the influ-stitution, or some occasional infirmity, constrained ence of a certain jocularity, that I felt at that mo- them to devote those hours to study and reflection, ment. I am in reality so far from thinking myself which for want of some such check they have given an ass, and my translation a sand-cart, that I ra- entirely to dissipation! I, therefore, account you ther seem, in my own account of the matter, one happy, who, young as you are, need not be inof those flaming steeds harnessed to the chariot of formed that you can not always be so; and who Apollo, of which we read in the works of the an- already know that the materials, upon which age cients. I have lately, I know not how, acquired a can alone build its comfort, should be brought tocertain superiority to myself in this business, and gether at an earlier period. You have indeed, in in this last revisal have elevated the expression to losing a father, lost a friend, but you have not lost a degree far surpassing its former boast. A few his instructions. His example was not buried evenings since I had an opportunity to try how far with him, but happily for you (happily because I might venture to expect such success of my la- you are desirous to avail yourself of it) still lives bours as can alone repay them, by reading the first in your remembrance, and is cherished in your book of my Iliad to a friend of ours. He dined best affections. with you once at Olney. His name is Greatheed, Your last letter was dated from the house of a a man of letters and of taste. He dined with us, gentleman, who was, I believe, my schoolfellow. and the evening proving dark and dirty, we per- For the Mr. C, who lived at Watford, suaded him to take a bed. I entertained him as while I had any connexion with Hertfordshire, I tell you. He heard me with great attention, and must have been the father of the present, and acwith evident symptoms of the highest satisfaction, cording to his age, and the state of his health, which, when I had finished the exhibition, he put when I saw him last, must have been long dead. I out of all doubt by expressions which I can not never was acquainted with the family farther than repeat. Only this he said to Mrs. Unwin while by report, which always spoke honourably of them, I was in another room, that he had never entered though in all my journeys to and from my father's into the spirit of Homer before, nor had any thing I must have passed the door. The circumstance like a due conception of his manner. This I have however reminds me of the beautiful reflection of said, knowing that it will please you, and will now say no more.
Glaucus in the sixth Iliad; beautiful as well for
DEAR SIR, The Lodge, Feb. 14, 1788. THOUGH it be long since I received your last, I have not yet forgotten the impression it made upon me, nor how sensibly I felt myself obliged by your unreserved and friendly communications. I will Excuse this piece of pedantry in a man whose not apologize for my silence in the interim, be- Homer is always before him! What would I give cause, apprised as you are of my present occupa- that he were living now, and within my reach! I, tion, the excuse that I might allege will present itself to you of course, and to dilate upon it would therefore be waste of paper.
of all men living, have the best excuse for indulging such a wish, unreasonable as it may seem, for I have no doubt that the fire of his eye, and the You are in possession of the best security ima- smile of his lips, would put me now and then in ginable for the due improvement of your time, possession of his full meaning more effectually than which is a just sense of its value. Had I been, any commentator. I return you many thanks for when at your age, as much affected by that im- the elegies which you sent me, both which I think portant consideration as I am at present, I should deserving of much commendation. I should renot have devoted, as I did, all the earliest parts of quite you but ill by sending you my mortuary my life to amusement only. I am now in the pre- verses, neither at present can I prevail on myself dicament into which the thoughtlessness of youth to do it, having no frank, and being conscious that betrays nine-tenths of mankind, who never disco- they are not worth carriage without one. I have ver that the health and good spirits, which gene- one copy left, and that copy I will keep for you. rally accompany it, are in reality blessings only W. C.