« VorigeDoorgaan »
tainty, till now, that the marginal strictures I found in the Task proofs were yours. The justness of them, and the benefit I derived from them, are fresh in my memory, and I doubt not that their utility will be the same in the present instance.*
Weston, Oct. 30, 1790
TO MRS. BODHAM.
MY DEAR COZ,
After perpetual versification during five years, I find myself at last a vacant man, and reduced to read for my amusement. My Homer is gone to the press, and you will imagine that I feel a void in consequence. The proofs however will be coming soon, and I shall avail myself, with all my force, of this last opportunity, to make my work as perfect as I wish it. I shall not therefore be long time destitute of employment, but shall have sufficient to keep me occupied all the winter, and part of the ensuing spring, for Johnson purposes to publish either in March, April, or May-my Weston, Nov. 21, 1790. very preface is finished. It did not cost me much OUR kindness to your nephew is no more than trouble, being neither long nor learned. I have he must entitle himself to wherever he goes. His spoken my mind as freely as decency would per- amiable disposition and manners will never fail to mit on the subject of Pope's version, allowing him, secure him a warm place in the affection of all at the same time, all the merit to which I think who know him. The advice I gave respecting his him entitled. I have given my reasons for trans-poem on Audley End was dictated by my love of lating in blank verse, and hold some discourse on him, and a sincere desire of his success. the mechanism of it, chiefly with a view to obviate the prejudices of some people against it. I expatiate a little on the manner in which I think Homer ought to be rendered, and in which I have endeavoured to render him myself, and anticipated two or three cavils, to which I foresee that I shall be liable from the ignorant, or uncandid, in order, if possible, to prevent them. These are the chief heads of my preface, and the whole consists of about twelve pages.
It is one
thing to write what may please our friends, who, because they are such, are apt to be a little biased in our favour; and another to write what may please every body; because they who have no connexion, or even knowledge of the author, will be sure to find fault if they can. My advice, however salutary and necessary as it seemed to me, was such as I dared not give to a poet of less diffidence than he. Poets are to a proverb irritable, and he is the only one I ever knew, who seems to It is possible when I come to treat with John-have no spark of that fire about him. He has son about the copy, I may want some person to left us about a fortnight, and sorry we were to lose negotiate for me; and knowing no one so intelli- him; but had he been my son, he must have gone, gent as yourself in books, or so well qualified to and I could not have regretted him more. If his estimate their just value, I shall beg leave to resort sister be still with you, present my love to her, and to and rely on you as my negotiator. But I will tell her how much I wish to see them at Weston not trouble you unless I should see occasion. My cousin was the bearer of my Mss. to London. He went on purpose, and returns to-morrow. Mrs. Unwin's affectionate felicitations, added to my own, conclude me,
My dear friend, sincerely yours, W. C. The trees of a colonnade will solve my riddle.
[TO MR. JOHNSON.] Weston, Oct. 3, 1790. MR. NEWTON having again requested that the preface which he wrote for my first volume may be prefixed to it, I am desirous to gratify him in a particular that so emphatically bespeaks his friendship for me; and should my books see another edition, shall be obliged to you if you will add it accordingly.
I beg that you will not suffer your reverence either for Homer, or his translator, to check your continual examinations. I never knew with cer
Mrs. Hewitt probably remembers more of my childhood, than I can recollect either of hers or my own; but this I recollect, that the days of that period were happy days, compared with most I have seen since. There are few perhaps in the world, who have not cause to look back with regret on the days of infancy; yet, to say the truth, I suspect some deception in this. For infancy itself has its cares; and though we can not now conceive how trifles could affect us much, it is certain that they did. Trifles they appear now, but W. C. such they were not then.
of Euclid into the bosom of Justinian. It is use- other poets could be apprised of, they would do ful I suppose to every man, to be well grounded in well to follow. Miscarriages in authorship (I am the principles of jurisprudence; and I take it to persuaded) are as often to be ascribed to want of be a branch of science that bids much fairer to painstaking, as to want of ability.. enlarge the mind, and give an accuracy of reasoning, that all the mathematics in the world. Mind your studies, and you will soon be wiser than I can hope to be.
We had a visit on Monday, from one of the first women in the world; in point of character, I mean, and accomplishments, the dowager lady Spencer! I may receive perhaps some honours hereafter, should my translation speed according to my wishes, and the pains I have taken with it; but shall never receive any that I shall esteem so highly. She is indeed worthy to whom I should dedicate, and may but my Odyssey prove as worthy of her, I shall have nothing to fear from the Yours, my dear Johnny,
With much affection, W. C.
TO SAMUEL ROSE, ESQ.
MY DEAR FRIEND,
The Lodge, Nov. 30, 1790.
Lady Hesketh, Mrs. Unwin, and myself often mention you, and always in terms, that though you would blush to hear them, you need not be ashamed of; at the same time wishing much that you could change our trio into a quartetto. W. C.
TO THE REV. WALTER BAGOT.
MY DEAR FRIEND,
Weston, Dec. 1, 1790.
It is plain that you understand trap, as we used to say at school: for you begin with accusing me of long silence, conscious yourself at the same time that you have been half a year in my debt, or thereabout. But I will answer your accusations with a boast, with a boast of having intended many a day to write to you again, notwithstanding your long insolvency. Your brother and sister of Chicheley can both witness for me that, weeks since, I testified such an intention; and if I did not execute it, it was not for want of good will, but for I WILL Confess that I thought your letter some-want of leisure. When will you be able to glory what tardy, though at the same time I made every of such designs, so liberal and magnificent, you, excuse for you, except, as it seems, the right, who have nothing to do by your own confession That indeed was out of the reach of all possible but to grow fat and saucy? Add to all this, that I conjecture. I could not guess that your silence have had a violent cold, such as I never have but was occasioned by your being occupied with ei-at the first approach of winter, and such as at that ther thieves or thief-takers. Since however the time I seldom escape. A fever accompanied it, cause was such, I rejoice that your labours were and an incessant cough. not in vain, and that the freebooters who had plun- You measure the speed of printers, of my printer dered your friend, are safe in limbo. I admire too, as at least, rather by your own wishes than by any much as I rejoice in your success, the indefatiga- just standard. Mine (I believe) is as nimble a ble spirit that prompted you to pursue, with such one as falls to the share of poets in general, though unremitting perseverance, an object not to be not nimble enough to satisfy either the author or reached but at the expense of infinite trouble, and his friends. I told you that my work would go to that must have led you into an acquaintance with press in autumn, and so it did. But it had been scenes and characters the most horrible to a mind six weeks in London ere the press began to work like yours. I see in this conduct the zeal and upon it. About a month since we began to print, firmness of your friendship to whomsoever pro- and at the rate of nine sheets in a fortnight have fessed; and though I wanted not a proof of it proceeded to about the middle of the sixth Iliad. myself, contemplate so unequivocal an indication" No further?" you say, I answer-No, nor even of what you really are, and of what I always be- so far, without much scolding on my part both at lieved you to be, with much pleasure. May you the bookseller and the printer. But courage, my rise from the condition of an humble prosecutor, or witness, to the bench of judgment !
friend! Fair and softly as we proceed, we shall find our way through at last; and in confirmation of this hope, while I write this, another sheet arrives. I expect to publish in the spring.
When your letter arrived, it found me with the worst and most obstinate cold that I ever caught. This was one reason why it had not a speedier I love and thank you for the ardent desire you answer. Another is, that, except Tuesday morn- express to hear me bruited abroad, el per ora virâm ing, there is none in the week in which I am not volitantem. For your encouragement I will tell engaged in the last revisal of my translation; the you that I read, myself at least, with wonderful revisal I mean of my proof-sheets. To this busi- complacence what I have done; and if the world, ness I give myself with an assiduity and attention when it shall appear, do not like it as well as I, truly admirable, and set an example, which if we will both say and swear with Fluellin, that it
is an ass and a fool (look you!) and a prating cox-soon as possible to your kind inquiries after my comb. health, which has been both better and worse since I felt no ambition of the laurel. Else, though I wrote last. The cough was cured, or nearly so, vainly perhaps, I had friends who would have made when I received your letter, but I have lately been a stir on my behalf on that occasion. I confess afflicted with a nervous fever, a malady formidable that when I learned the new condition of the of- to me above all others, on account of the terror and fice, that odes were no longer required, and that dejection of spirits, that in my case always accomthe salary was increased, I felt not the same dis-pany it. I even looked forward, for this reason, like of it. But I could neither go to court, nor to the month now current, with the most miserable could I kiss hands, were it for a much more valua-apprehensions, for in this month the distemper has ble consideration. Therefore never expect to hear twice seized me I wish to be thankful however that royal favours find out me! to the sovereign Dispenser both of health and sickness, that, though I have felt cause enough to tremble, he gives me now encouragement to hope that I may dismiss my fears, and expect, for this January at least, to escape it.
Adieu, my dear old friend! I will send you a mortuary copy soon, and in the mean time remain, Ever yours, W. C.
TO JOHN JOHNSON, ESQ.
Weston, Dec. 18, 1790. I PERCEIVE myself so flattered by the instances of illustrious success mentioned in your letter, that I feel all the amiable modesty, for which I was once so famous, sensibly giving way to a spirit of vain glory.
The King's College subscription makes me proud-the effect that my verses have had on your two young friends, the mathematicians, makes me proud; and I am, if possible, prouder still of the contents of the letter that you enclosed.
The mention of quantity reminds me of a remark that I have seen somewhere, possibly in Johnson, to this purport, that the syllables in our language being neither long nor short, our verse accordingly is less beautiful than the verse of the Greeks or Romans, because requiring less artifice in its construction. But I deny the fact, and am ready to depose on oath, that I find every syllable as distinguishably and clearly either long or short, in our language, as in any other. I know also that without an attention to the quantity of our syllables, good verse can not possibly be written; and that ignorance of this matter is one reason You complained of being stupid, and sent me why we see so much that is good for nothing. The one of the cleverest letters. I have not complained movement of a verse is always either shuffling or of being stupid, and have sent you one of the dull-graceful, according to our management in this parest. But it is no matter; I never aim at any thing ticular, and Milton gives almost as many proofs above the pitch of every day's scribble, when I of it in his Paradise Lost as there are lines in the write to those I love. poem. Away therefore with all such unfounded Homer proceeds, my boy! We shall get through observations! I would not give a farthing for many it in time, and (I hope) by the time appointed. bushels of them—nor you perhaps for this letter. We are now in the tenth Iliad. I expect the la-Yet upon recollection, forasmuch as I know you dies every minute to breakfast. You have their to be a dear lover of literary gossip, I think it posbest love. Mine attends the whole army of Donnes sible you may esteem it highly. at Mattishall Green assembled. How happy should Believe me, my dear friend, most truly yours, I find myself, were I but one of the party! My W. C. capering days are over. But do you caper for me, that you may give them some idea of the happiness I should feel, were I in the midst of them!
[TO MR. JOHNSON.*]
Note by the Editor.
This extract is, in fact, entitled to a much earlier place in the collection; but having a common subject with the concluding paragraph of the preceding Letter, it seemed to call for insertion immediately after it.
I DID not write in the line, that has been tam
It happened that some accidental reviser of the manuscript had taken the liberty to alter a line in a poem of Cowper's:-This liberty drew from the offended poet the following very just and animated remonstrance, which I am anxious to
preserve, because it elucidates, with great felicity of expres sion, his deliberate ideas on English versification. Hayley.
pered with, hastily, or without due attention to the construction of it; and what appeared to me its only merit is, in its present state, entirely annihilated.
Yours, my dear Johnny, are vagaries that I shall never see practised by any other; and whether you slap your ancle, or reel as if you were fuddled, or dance in the path before me, all is chaI know that the ears of modern verse-writers are racteristic of yourself, and therefore to me delightdelicate to an excess, and their readers are troubled ful. I have hinted to you indeed sometimes, that with the same squeamishness as themselves. So you should be cautious of indulging antic habits that if a line do not run as smooth as quicksilver and singularities of all sorts, and young men in they are offended. A critic of the present day general have need enough of such admonition. serves a poem as a cook serves a dead turkey, when But yours are a sort of fairy habits, such as might she fastens the legs of it to a post, and draws out belong to Puck or Robin Goodfellow, and thereall the sinews. For this we may thank Pope; fore, good as the advice is, I should be half sorry but unless we could imitate him in the closeness should you take it. and compactness of his expression, as well as in This allowance at least I give you. Continue the smoothness of his numbers, we had better drop to take your walks, if walks they may be called, the imitation, which serves no other purpose than exactly in their present fashion, till you have taken to emasculate and weaken all we write. Give me orders! Then, indeed, forasmuch as a skipping, a manly, rough line, with a deal of meaning in it, curveting, bounding divine might be a spectacle rather than a whole poem full of musical periods, not altogether seemly, I shall consent to your adopthat have nothing but their oily smoothness to re- tion of a more grave demeanour. commend them!
TO SAMUEL ROSE, ESQ.
I have said thus much, as I hinted in the beginning, because I have just finished a much longer poem than the last, which our common friend will receive by the same messenger that has the charge of this letter. In that poem there are many The Lodge, Feb. 5, 1791. lines, which an ear, so nice as the gentleman's who My letters to you were all either petitionary, or made the above-mentioned alteration, would un- in the style of acknowledgments and thanks, and doubtedly condemn; and yet (if I may be permit- such nearly in an alternate order.. In my last I ted to say it) they can not be made smoother with-loaded you with commissions, for the due disout being the worse for it. There is a roughness charge of which I am now to say, and say truly, on a plum, which nobody that understands fruit, how much I feel myself obliged to you; neither can would rub off, though the plum would be much I stop there, but must thank you likewise for new more polished without it. But lest I tire you, I honours from Scotland, which have left me nowill only add, that I wish you to guard me from all thing to wish for from that country; for my list is such meddling; assuring you, that I always write now I believe graced with the subscription of all as smoothly as I can; but that I never did, never its learned bodies. I regret only that some of them will sacrifice the spirit or sense of a passage to the arrived too late to do honour to my present publisound of it cation of names. But there are those among them and from Scotland too, that may give an useful hint perhaps to our own universities. Your very handsome present of Pope's Homer has arrived safe, notwithstanding an accident that befel him by the way. The Hall-servant brought the parcel Weston, Jan. 21, 1791. from Olney, resting it on the pommel of the saddle, I KNOW that you have already been catechised and his horse fell with him. Pope was in conseby Lady Hesketh on the subject of your return quence rolled in the dirt, but being well coated got hither before the winter shall be over, and shall no damage. If augurs and soothsayers were not therefore only say that if you CAN COME, we shall out of fashion, I should have consulted one or two be happy to receive you. Remember also, that of that order, in hope of learning from them that nothing can excuse the nonperformance of a pro- this fall was ominous. I have found a place for mise but absolute necessity! In the mean time my him in the parlour, where he makes a splendid faith in your veracity is such, that I am persuaded appearance, and where he shall not long want a you will suffer nothing less than necessity to prevent it. Were you not extremely pleasant to us, and just the sort of youth that suits us, we should neither of us have said half so much, or perhaps a word on the subject.
TO JOHN JOHNSON, ESQ.
neighbour, one who, if less popular than himself,
TO LADY HESKETH.
Feb. 13, 1791.
this subject pretty much at large; for which reason I will curb my zeal, and say the less about it at present. That Johnson, who wrote harmoniously in rhyme, should have had so defective an ear as never to have discovered any music at all in blank verse, till he heard a particular friend of
I CAN now send you a full and true account of this business. Having learned that your inn at Woburn was the George, we sent Samuel thither yesterday. Mr. Martin, master of the George, his reading it, is a wonder never sufficiently to be told him
*+ W. C.
wondered at. Yet this is true on his own acknowledgment, and amounts to a plain confession (of which perhaps he was not aware when he made
P.S. I can not help adding a circumstance that it) that he did not know how to read blank verse will divert you. Martin, having learned from Sam himself. In short, he either suffered prejudice to whose servant he was, told him that he had never lead him in a string whithersoever it would, or his seen Mr. Cowper, but he had heard him frequently taste in poetry was worth little. I don't believe he spoken of by the companies that had called at his ever read any thing of that kind with enthusiasm house, and therefore, when Sam would have paid in his life: and as good poetry can not be composed for his breakfast, would take nothing from him. without a considerable share of that quality in the Who says that fame is only empty breath? On mind of the author, so neither can it be read or the contrary, it is good ale, and cold beef into the tasted as it ought to be without it. bargain.
TO THE REV. WALTER BAGOT.
Weston Underwood, Feb. 26, 1791.
MY DEAR FRIEND,
It is a maxim of much weight,
I have said all this in the morning fasting, but am soon going to my tea. When, therefore, I shall have told you that we are now, in the course of our printing, in the second book of the Odyssey, I shall only have time to add, that I am, my dear friend,
Most truly yours, W. C. I think your Latin quotations very applicable to the present state of France. But France is in a situation new and untried before.
TO JOHN JOHNSON, ESQ.
Feb. 27, 1791. Now, my dearest Johnny, I must tell thee in few words how much I love and am obliged to thee for thy affectionate services.
BUT notwithstanding the truth and importance of this apophthegm, to which I lay claim as the original author of it, it is not equally true that my application to Homer, close as it is, has been the sole cause of my delay to answer you. No. In observing so long a silence I have been influenced much more by a vindictive purpose, a purpose to punish you for your suspicion that I could possi- My Cambridge honours are all to be ascribed to bly feel myself hurt or offended by any critical sug- you, and to you only. Yet you are but a little gestion of yours that seemed to reflect on the pu- inan; and a little man into the bargain who have rity of my nonsense verses, Understand, if you kicked the mathematics, their idol, out of your stuplease, for the future, that whether I disport my-dy. So important are the endings which Proviself in Greek or Latin, or in whatsoever other dence frequently connects with small beginnings. language, you are hereby, henceforth, and for ever, Had you been here, I could have furnished you entitled and warranted to take any liberties with it to which you shall feel yourself inclined, not excepting even the lines themselves which stand at the head of this letter!
You delight me when you call blank verse the English heroic; for I have always thought, and often said, that we have no other verse worthy to be so entitled. When you read my Preface, you will be made acquainted with my sentiments on
This letter contained the history of a servant's cruelty to a posthorse, which a reader of humanity could not wish to see in print. But the postscript describes so pleasantly the signal ⚫ influence of a poet's reputation on the spirit of a liberal innkeeper, that it surely ought not to be suppressed. Hayley.
with much employment; for I have so dealt with your fair MSS. in the course of my polishing and improving, that I have almost blotted out the whole." Such, however, as it is, I must now send it to the printer, and he must be content with it, for there is not time to make a fresh copy. We are now printing the second book of the Odyssey.
Should the Oxonians bestow none of their notice on me on this occasion, it will happen singularly enough, that as Pope received all his university honours in the subscription way from Oxford, and none at all from Cambridge, so I shall have received all mine from Cambridge, and none from Oxford. This is the more likely to be the case, because I understand that on whatsoever occasion