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In other words, I have received three packets. Nothing is quick enough for impatience, and I TO THE REV. WILLIAM UNWIN. suppose that the impatience of an author has the quiekest of all possible movements. It appears to MY DEAR FRIEND,
April 30, 1785. me, however, that at this rate we shall not publish I RETURN you thanks for a letter so warm with till next autumn. Should you happen therefore the intelligence of the celebrity of John Gilpin. to pass Johnson's door, pop in your head as you I little thought, when I mounted him upon my go, and just insinuate to him, that, were his re- Pegasus, that he would become so famous. I have mittances rather more frequent, that frequency learned also, from Mr. Newton, that he is equally would be no inconvenience to me. I much ex- renowned in Scotland, and that a lady there had pected one this evening, a fortnight having now undertaken to write a second part, on the subject elapsed since the arrival of the last. But none of Mrs. Gilpin's return to London, but not snecame, and I felt myself a little mortified. I took ceeding in it as she wished, she dropt it. He tells up the newspaper, however, and read it. There I me likewise, that the head master of St. Paul's found that the emperor and the Dutch are, after school (who he is I know not) has conceived, in all their negotiations, going to war. Such reflec- consequence of the entertainment that John has tions as these struck me. A great part of Europe afforded him, a vehement desire to write to me. is going to be involved in the greatest of all cala- Let us hope he will alter his mind; for should we mities-troops are in motionartillery is drawn to- even exchange civilities on the occasion, Tirocigether-cabinets are busied in contriving schemes nium will spoil all. The great estimation howof blood and devastation-thousands will perish, ever in which this knight of the stone-bottles is who are incapable of understanding the dispute; held, may turn out a circumstance propitious to and thousands, who, whatever the event may be, the volume of which his history will make a part. are little more interested in it than myself, will Those events that prove the prelude to our greatsuffer unspeakable hardships in the course of the est success, are often apparently trivial in themquarrel - Well! Mr. Poet, and how then? You selves, and such as seemed to promise nothing. have composed certain verses, which you are de- The disappointment that Horace mentioned is resirous to see in print, and because the impression versed—We design a mug and it proves a hops. seems to be delayed, you are displeased, not to say head. ' It is a little hard that I alone should be dispirited-be ashamed of yourself! you live in a unfurnished with a printed copy of this facetious world in which your feelings may find worthier story. When you visit London next, you must subjects—be concerned for the havoc of nations, buy the most elegant impression of it, and bring and mourn over your retarded volume when you it with you. I thank you also for writing to Johnfind a dearth of more important tragedies!
I likewise wrote to him myself. Your letYou postpone certain topics of conference to our ter and mine together have operated to admiration. next meeting. When shall it take place? I do There needs nothing more than that the effect be not wish for you just now, because the garden is a lasting, and the whole will be soon printed. We wilderness, and so is all the country around us, now draw towards the middle of the fifth book of In May we shall have asparagus, and weather in the Task. The man, Johnson, is like unto some which we may stroll to Weston; at least we may vicious horses, that I have known. They would hope for it; therefore come in May; you will find not budge till they were spurred, and when they us happy to receive you, and as much of your fair were spurred they would kick-So did he-His household as you can bring with you.
temper was somewhat disconcerted; but his pace We are very sorry for your uncle's indisposition. was quickened, and I was contented. The approach of summer seems however to be in I was very much pleased with the following senhis favour, that season being of all remedies for tence in Mr. Newton's last—"I am perfectly satthe rheumatism I believe the most effectual. isfied with the propriety of your proceeding as to
I thank you for your intelligence concerning the the publication,”—Now therefore we are friends celebrity of John Gilpin. You may be sure that again. Now he once more inquires after the work, it was agreeable—but your own feelings on occa- which, till he had disburdened himself of this acsion of that article pleased me most of all. Well, knowledgment, neither he nor 1, in any of our my friend, be comforted! You had not an op- letters to each other, ever mentioned. Some sideportunity of saying publicly, “I know the author.” wind has wasted to him a report of those reasons But the author will say as much for you soon, and by which I justified my conduct. I never made a perhaps will feel in doing so a gratification equal secret of them, but both your mother and I have to your own.
studiously deposited them with those who we In the affair of face-painting, I am precisely of thought were most likely to transmit them to him your opinion.
Adieu, W.C. They wanted only a hearing, which once obtained,
their solidity and cogency were such that they summer-time, whether to my friends, or to the were sure to prevail.
public. It is secure from all noise, and a refuge You mention
I formerly knew the from all intrusion; for intruders sometimes trouble man you mention, but his elder brother much bet- me in the winter evenings at Olney. But (thanks ter. We were schoolfellows, and he was one of a tomy Poudoir !) I can now hide myself from them. club of seven Westminster men, to which I be- A poet's retreat is sacred. They acknowledge the longed, who dined togetherevery Thursday. Should truth of that proposition, and never presume to it please God to give me ability to perform the violate it. poet's part to some purpose, many whom I once The last sentence, puts me in mind to tell you called friends, but who have since treated me with that I have ordered my volume to your door. My a most magnificent indifference, will be ready to bookseller is the most dilatory of all his fraternity, take me by the hand again, and some, whom I or you would have received it long since. It is never held in that estimation, will, like (who more than a month since I returned him the last was but a boy when I left London) boast of a con- proof, and consequently since the printing was nexion with me which they never had. Had I the finished. I sent him the manuscript at the bevirtues, and graces, and accomplishments of St. ginning of last November, that he might publish Paul himself, I might have them at Olney, and while the town was full, and he will hit the cxact nobody would care a button about me, yourself moment when it is entirely empty. Patience (vou and one or two more excepted. Fame begets will perceive) is in no situation exempted from the favour, and one talent, if it be rubbed a little bright severest trials; a remark that may serve to comfort by use and practice, will procure a man more you under the numberless trials of your own.* friends than a thousand virtues. Dr. Johnson (I
W.C. believe) in the life of one of our poets, says, that he retired from the world flattering himself that he should be regretted. But the world never missed him. I think his observation upon it is, that the TO THE REV. WILLIAM UNWIN. vacancy made by the retreat of any individual is soon filled up; that a man may always be obscure, MY DEAR WILLIAM,
July 27, 1785. if he chooses to be so; and that he, who neglects You and your party left me in a frame of mind the world, will be by the world neglected. that indisposed me much to company. I com
Your mother and I walked yesterday in the forted myself with the hope that I should spend a wilderness. As we entered the gate, a glimpse of silent day, in which I should find abundant leisomething white, contained in a little hole in the sure to indulge sensations which, though of the gate-post, caught my eye. I looked again, and melancholy kind, I.yet wished to nourish. But discovered a bird's nest, with two tiny eggs in it. that hope proved vain. In less than an hour after By and by they will be fledged, and tailed, and get your departure, Mr. made his appearance at wing-feathers, and fly. My case is somewhat simi- the green-house door. We were obliged to ask lar to that of the parent bird. My nest is a little him to dinner, and he dined with us. He is an nook. Here I brood and hatch, and in due time agreeable, sensible, well-bred young man, but with my progeny takes wing and whistles.
all his recommendations, I felt that on that occaWe wait for the time of your coming with pleas- sion I could have spared him. So much better ant expectation.
Yours truly, W. C. are the absent, whom we love much, than the
present whom we love a little.. I have however
made myself amends since, and nothing else TO JOSEPH HILL, ESQ.
having interfered, have sent many a thought MY DEAR FRIEND,
# June 25, 1785.
You had been gone two days when a violent I write in a nook that I call my Boudoir. It thunder-storm came over us. I was passing out is a summer-house not much bigger than a sedan of the parlour into the hall, with Mungo at my chair, the door of which opens into the garden, heels, when a flash seemed to fill the room with that is now crowded with pinks, roses, and honey- fire. In the same instant came the clap, so that suckles, and the window into my neighbour's or- the explosion was (I suppose) perpendicular to chard. It formerly served an apothecary, now the roof. Mungo's courage upon the iremendous dead, as a smoking-room; and under my feet is a occasion constrained me to smile, in spite of the trap-door, which once covered a hole in the ground solemn impression that such an event never fails where he kept his bottles. At present however it to affect me with—the moment that he heard the is dedicated to sublimer uses. Having lined it thunder (which was like the burst of a great gun), with garden mats, and furnished it with a table and two chairs, here I write all that I write in the . In this interval The Task was published.
with a wrinkled forehead, and with eyes directed fills my soul with ineffable love and joy. Will a to the ceiling, whence the sound seemed to pro- man tell me that I am deceived, that I ought not ceed, he barked; but he barked exactly in concert to love or rejoice in him for such a reason, bewith the thunder. It thundered once, and he cause a dream is merely a picture drawn upon barked once; and so precisely the very instant the imagination? I hold not with such divinity, when the thunder happened, that both sounds To love Christ is the greatest dignity of man, be seemed to begin and to end together. Some dogs that affection wrought in him how it may. will clap their tails close, and sneak into a corner, Adieu! May the blessing of God be upon you at such a time, but Mungo it seems is of a more all! It is your mother's heart's wish and mine. fearless family. A house at no great distance
W.C. from ours was the mark to which the lightning was directed; it knocked down the chimney, split
TO THE REV. WILLIAM UNWIN. the building, and carried away the corner of the next house, in which lay a fellow drunk, and MY DEAR FRIEND,
August 27, 1785. asleep upon his bed--it roused and terrified him, I was low in spirits yesterday, when your parand he promises to get drunk no more; but I have cel came and raised them. Every proof of attenseen a woful end of many such conversions. I tion and regard to a man who lives in a vinegar remember but one such storm at Olney since I bottle is welcome from his friends on the outside have known the place; and I am glad that it did of it—accordingly your books were welcome (you not happen two days sooner for the sake of the must not forget by the way that I want the oriladies, who would probably, one of them at least, ginal, of which you have sent me the translation have been alarmed by it. I have received, since only) and the ruffles from Miss Shuttleworth you went, two very flattering letters of thanks, most welcome. I am covetous, if ever man was, one from Mr. Bacon, and one from Mr. Barham, of living in the remembrance of absentees whom such as might make a lean poet plump, and an I highly value and esteem, and consequently felt humble poet proud. But being myself neither myself much gratified by her very obliging prelean nor hunble, I know of no other effect they sent. I have had more comfort, far more comfort, had, than that they pleased me; and I communi- in the connexions that I have formed within the cate the intelligence to you, not without an as- last twenty years, than in the more numerous sured hope that you will be pleased also. We ones that I had before. are now going to walk, and thus far I have writ- Memorandum-The latter are almost all Unten before I have received your letter. Friday - wins or Unwinisms. I must now be as compact as possible. When I You are entitled to my thanks also for the fabegan, I designed four sides, but my packet being cetious engravings of John Gilpin. A serious transformed into two single epistles, I can conse- poem is like a swan, it flies heavily, and never far, quently afford you but three. I have filled a large but a jest has the wings of a swallow, that never sheet with animadversions upon Pope. I am tire, and that carry it into every nook and corproceeding in my translation-" Velis et remis, ner. I am perfectly a stranger however to the omnibus nervis”-as Hudibras has it; and if God reception that my volume meets with, and I begive me health and ability, will put it into your lieve in respect of my nonchalance upon that subhands when I see you next. Mr. -h has just ject, if authors would but copy so fair an examleft us. He has read my book, and, as if fearful ple, am a most exemplary character. I must tell that I had overlooked some of them myself, has you nevertheless, that although the laurels that I pointed out to me all its beauties. I do assure gain at Olney will never minister much to my you the man has a very acute discernment, and a pride, I have acquired some. The Rev. Mr. taste that I have no fault to find with. I hope S- is my admirer, and thinks my second that you are of the same opinion.
volume superior to my first. It ought to be so. Be not sorry that your love of Christ was ex- If we do not improve by practice, then nothing cited in you by a picture. Could a dog or cat can mend us; and a man has no more cause to be suggest to me the thought, that Christ is precious, mortified at being told that he has excelled himI would not despise that thought because a dog or self, than the elephant had, whose praise it was, cat suggested it. The meanness of the instru- that he was the greatest elephant in the world, ment can not debase the nobleness of the princi- himself excepted. If it be fair to judge of a book ple. He that kneels before a picture of Christ, is by an extract, I do not wonder that you were so an idolater. But he in whose heart the sight of a little edified by Johnson's Journal. It is even picture kindles a warm remembrance of the Sa- more ridiculous than was poor's of flatuviour's sufferings, must be a Christian. Suppose lent memory. The portion of it given to us in that I dream as Gardiner did, that Christ walks this day's paper contains not one sentiment worth before me, that he turns and smiles upon me, and one farthing; except the last, in which he re
solves to bind himself with no more unbidden give more than you gave me this morning. When obligations. Poor man! one would think, that I came down to breakfast, and found upon the to pray for his dead wife, and to pinch himself table a letter franked by my uncle, and when with church fasts, had been almost the whole of opening that frank I found that it contained a lethis religion. I am sorry that he, who was so ter from you, I said within myself—' This is just manly an advocate for the cause of virtue in all as it should be. We are all grown young again, other places, was so childishly employed, and so and the days that I thought I should see no more, superstitiously too, in his closet. Had he studied are actually returned.' You perceive therefore his Bible more, to which by his own confession that you judged well when you conjectured that a he was in great part a stranger, he had known line from you would not be disagreeable to me. It better what use to make of his retired hours, and could not be otherwise than as in fact it proved, a had trifled less. His lucubrations of this sort most agreeable surprise, for I can truly boast of an have rather the appearance of religious dotage, affection for you, that neither years, nor interruptthan of any vigorous exertions towards God. It ed intercourse, have at all abated. I need only will be well if the publication prove not hurtful recollect how much I valued you once, and with in its effects, by exposing the best cause, already how much cause, immediately to feel a revival too much despised, to ridicule still more profane. of the same value: if that can be said to revive, On the other side of the same paper I find a long which at the most has only been dormant for string of aphorisms, and maxims, and rules for the want of employment. But I slander it when I say conduct of life, which, though they appear not with that it has slept. A thousand times have I rehis name, are so much in his manner, with the collected a thousand scenes, in which our two above-mentioned, that I suspect them for his. I selves have formed the whole of the drama, with have not read them all, but several of them I read the greatest pleasure; at times too, when I had no that were trivial enough: for the sake of one how- reason to suppose that I should ever hear from you ever I give him the rest—he advises never to ban- again. I have laughed with you at the Arabian ish hope entirely, because it is the cordial of life, Nights' Entertainments, which afforded us, as you although it be the greatest flatterer in the world. well know, a fund of merriment that deserves never Such a measure of hope as may not endanger my to be forgot. I have walked with you to Netley peace by disappointment I would wish to cherish Abbey, and have scrambled with you over hedges upon every subject, in which I am interested in every direction, and many other feats we have But there lies the difficulty. A cure however, performed together, upon the field of my rememand the only one, for all the irregularities both of brance, and all within these few years. Should I hope and fear, is found in submission to the will say within this twelvemonth, I should not transof God. Happy they that have it!
gress the truth. The hours that I have spent This last sentence puts me in mind of your re- with you were among the pleasantest of my former ference to Blair in a former letter, whom you there days, and are therefore chronicled in my mind so permitted to be your arbiter to adjust the respective deeply as to feel no erasure. Neither do I forget claims of who or that. I do not rashly differ from my poor friend Sir Thomas. I should remember 60 great a grammarian, nor do at any rate differ him indeed, at any rate, on account of his personal from him altogether-upon solemn occasions, as kindness to myself; but the last testimony that he in prayer or preaching for instance, I would be gave of his regard for you endears him to me still strictly correct, and upon stately ones, for instance more. With his uncommon understanding were I writing an epic poem, I would be so like- with many peculiarities he had more sense than wise, but not upon familiar occasions. God who any of his acquaintance,) and with his generous heareth prayer, is right. Hector who saw Patro- sensibilities, it was hardly possible that he should clus, is right. And the man that dresses me every not distinguish you as he has done. As it was day, is in my mind right also ;-because the con- the last, so it was the best proof that he could give, trary would give an air of stiffness and pedantry to of a judgment that never deceived him, when he an expression, that in respect of the matter of it would allow himself leisure to consult it. can not be too negligently made up.
You say that you have often heard of me; that Adieu, my dear William! I have scribbled with puzzles me. I can not imagine from what quarter, all my might, which, breakfast-time excepted, has but it is no matter. I must tell you however, my been my employment ever since I rose, and it is cousin, that your information has been a little denow past one.
Yours, W.C. fective. That I am happy in my situation is true;
I live, and have lived these twenty years, with TO LADY HESKETH.
Mrs. Unwin, to whose affectionate care of me, MY DEAR COUSIN,
Oct. 12, 1785. during the far greater part of that time, it is under It is no new thing with you to give pleasure. Providence owing that I live at all. But I do not But I will venture to say that you do not often account myself happy in having been for thirteen
of those years in a state of mind, that has made all between both, my morning and evening are for the that care and attention necessary; an attention most part completely engaged. Add to this, that and a care that have injured her health, and which, though my spirits are seldom so bad but I can had she not been uncommonly supported, must write verse, they are often at so low an ebb as to have brought her to the grave. But I will pass to make the production of a letter impossible. So another subject; it would be cruel to particularize much for a trespass which called for some apology, on!y to give pain, neither would I by any means but for which to apologize further, would be to give a sable hue to the first letter of a correspond commit a greater trespass still. ence so unexpectedly renewed.
I am now in the twentieth book of Homer, and I am delighted with what you tell me of my shall assuredly proceed, because the farther I go uncle's good health. To enjoy any measure of the more I find myself justified in the undertaking: cheerfulness at so late a day is much. But to have and in due time, if I live, shall assuredly publish. that late day enlivened with the vivacity of youth, In the whole I shall have composed about forty is much more, and in these postdiluvian times a thousand verses, about which forty thousand verses rarity indeed, Happy for the most part are pa- I shall have taken great pains, on no occasion sufrents who have daughters. Daughters are not apt fering a slovenly line to escape me. I leave you to outlive their natural affections, which a son has to guess therefore whether, such a labour once generally survived even before his boyish years achieved, I shall not determine to turn it to some are expired. I rejoice particularly in my uncle's account, and to gain myself profit if I can, if not, felicity, who has three female descendants from at least some credit, for my reward. his little person, who leave him nothing to wish I perfectly approve of your course with John. for upon that head.
The most entertaining books are best to begin My dear cousin, dejection of spirits, which (I with, and none in the world, so far as entertainsuppose) may have prevented many a man from ment is concerned, deserves the preference to Hobecoming an author, made me one. I find con- mer. Neither do I know, that there is any where stant employment necessary, and therefore take to be found Greek of easier construction. Poetical care to be constantly employed. Manual occupa- Greek I mean; and as for prose, I should recomtions do not engage the mind sufficiently, as I mend Xenophon's Cyropædia. That also is a know by experience, having tried many. But most amusing narrative, and ten times easier to composition, especially of verse, absorbs it wholly. understand than the crabbed epigrams and scribI write therefore generally three hours in a morn- blements of the minor poets, that are generally put ing, and in an evening I transcribe. I read also, into the hands of boys. I took particular notice but less than I write, for I must have bodily exer- of the neatness of John's Greek character, which cise, and therefore never pass a day without it. (let me tell you) deserves its share of commenda
You ask me where I have been this summer. I tion; for to write the language legibly is not the answer, at Olney. Should you ask me where I lot of every man who can read it. Witness myspent the last seventeen summers, I should still self for one. answer at Olney. Ay, and the winters also; I
I like the little ode of Huntingford's that you have seldom left it, and except when I attended sent me. In such matters we do not expect much my brother in his last illness, never I believe a novelty, or much depth of thought. The expres. fortnight together.
sion is all in all, which to me at least appears to Adieu, my beloved cousin, I shall not always be be faultless. thus nimble in reply, but shall always have great
Adieu, my dear William! We are well, and pleasure in answering you when I can. you and yours are ever the objects of our affection. Yours, my friend and cousin, W.C.
TO THE REV. WILLIAM UNWIN.
TO LADY HESKETH. MY DEAR WILLIAM,
Oct. 22, 1785. MY DEAREST COUSIN, Olney, Nov. 9, 1785. You might well suppose that your letter had Whose last most affectionate letter has run in miscarried, though in fact it was duly received. 1 my head ever since I received it, and which I now am not often so long in arrear, and you may assure sit down to answer two days sooner than the post yourself that when at any time it happens that I will serve me; I thank you for it, and with a am so, neither neglect nor idleness is the cause. I warmth for which I am sure you will give me crehave, as you well know, a daily occupation, forty dit, though I do not spend many words in describlines to translate, a task which I never excuse my-ing it. I do not seek new friends, not being altoself when it is possible to perform it. Equally gother sure that I should find them, but have unsedulous I am in the matter of transcribing, so that speakable pleasure in being still beloved by an old