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LET. 339, 340, 341.
After perpetual versification during five years, I tainty, till now, that the marginal strictures I find myself at last a vacant man, and reduced to found in the Task proofs were yours. The justread for my amusement. My Homer is gone to ness of them, and the benefit I derived from them, the press, and you will imagine that I feel a void are fresh in my memory, and I doubt not that in consequence. The proofs however will be com- their utility will be the same in the present ining soon, and I shall avail myself, with all - my stance.* force, of this last opportunity, to make my work Weston, Oct. 30, 1790 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
TO MRS. BODHAM. part of the ensuing spring, for Johnson purposes to publish either in March, April, or May--my MY DEAR coz, 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. It is one the mechanism of it, chietly with a view to obviate thing to write what may please our friends, who, the prejudices of some people against it. I expa- because they are such, are apt to be a little biased tiate a little on the manner in which I think Ho- in our favour; and another to write what may mer ought to be rendered, and in which I have en- please every body; because they who have no condeavoured to render him myself, and anticipated nexion, or even knowledge of the author, will be two or three cavils, to which I foresee that I shall sure to find fault if they can. My advice, howbe liable from the ignorant, or uncandid, in order, ever salutary and necessary as it seemed to me, if possible, to prevent them. These are the chief was such as I dared not give to a poet of less diffiheads of my preface, and the whole consists of dence than he. Poets are to a proverb irritable, about twelve pages.
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 together. cousin was the bearer of my mss. to London. He Mrs. Hewitt probably remembers more of my went on purpose, and returns tomorrow. Mrs. childhood, than I can recollect either of hers or Unwin's affectionate felicitations, added to my own, my own; but this I recollect, that the days of that conclude me,
period were happy days, compared with most I My dear friend, sincerely yours, W. C.
have seen since. There are few perhaps in the The trees of a colonnade will solve my riddle.
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 it
self has its cares; and though we can not now [TO MR. JOHNSON.)
conceive how trifles could affect us much, it is cer
tain that they did. Trifles they appear now, but Weston, Oct. 3, 1790. such they were not then.
W.C. MR. Newton having again requested that the preface which he wrote for my firt volume may be prefixed to it, I am desirous to gratify him in a particular that so emphatically bespeaks his friend- TO JOHN JOHNSON, ESQ. ship for me; and should my books see another
MY BIRTH-DAY. edition, shall be obliged to you if you will add it
Friday, Nov. 26, 1790. accordingly.
MY DEAREST JOHNNY,
I am happy that you have escaped from the claws I beg that you will not suffer your reverence
I am anxious to preserve this singular anecdote; as it either for Homer, or his translator, to check your is honourable both to the modest poet, and to his intelligent continual examinations. I never knew with cer- | bookseller. Hayley.
of Euclid into the bosom of Justinian. It is use other poets could be apprised of, they would do
of; at the same time wishing much that you could
that you have been half a year in my debt, or there-
about. But I will answer your accusations with
day to write to you again, notwithstanding your
long insolvency. Your brother and sister of Chi
cheley can both witness for me that, weeks since, The Lodge, Nov. 30, 1790. I testified such an intention; and if I did not exeMY DEAR FRIEND,
cute 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, friend! Fair and softly as we proceed, we shall or witness, to the bench of judgment !
find our way through at last; and in confirmation When your letter arrived, it found me with the of this hope, while I write this, another sheet arworst and most obstinate cold that I ever caught. rives. I expect to publish in the spring. This was one reason why it had not a speedier I love and thank you for the ardent desire you
Another is, that, except Tuesday morn-express to hear me bruited abroad, el per ora virim 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 sickAdieu, my dear old friend! I will send you a ness, that, though I have felt cause enough to mortuary copy soon, and the mean time remain, tremble, he gives me now encouragement to hope
Ever yours, W.C. that I may dismiss my fears, and expect, for this
January at least, to escape it.
TO JOHN JOHNSON, ESQ.
The mention of quantity reminds me of a re
mark that I have seen somewhere, possibly in Weston, Dec. 18, 1790. Johnson, to this purport, that the syllables in our I PERCEIVE myself so flattered by the instances language being neither long nor short, our verse of illustrious success mentioned in your letter, that accordingly is less beautiful than the verse of the I feel all the amiable modesty, for which I was Greeks or Romans, because requiring less artifice once so famous, sensibly giving way to a spirit of in its construction. But I deny the fact, and am vain glory.
ready to depose on oath, that I find every syllable The King's College subscription makes me as distinguishably and clearly either long or short, proud-the effect that my verses have had on in our language, as in any other. I know also your two young friends, the mathematicians, makes that without an attention to the quantity of our me proud; and I am, if possible, prouder still of the syllables, good verse can not possibly be written; contents of the letter that you enclosed.
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.
collection; but having a common subject with the conclud. TO THE REV. WALTER BAGOT.
ing paragraph of the preceding Letter, it seemed to call for
insertion immediately after it. MY DEAR FRIEND, Weston, Jan 4, 1791. You would long since have received an answer
I did not write in the line, that has been tamto your last, had not the wicked Clerk of Northainpton delayed to send me the printed copy of my It happened that some accidental reviser of the manuannual dirge, which I waited to enclose. Here it script had taken the liberty to alter a line in a poem of Cow
pers:- This liberty drew from the offended poet the following is at last, and much good may it do the readers !
very just and animated remonstrance, which I am anxious to I have regretted that I could not write sooner, preserve, because it elucidates, with great felicity of expres. especially because it well became me to reply as sion, his deliberate ideas on English versification. Hayley.
pered with, hastily, or without due attention to the . Yours, my dear Johnny, are vagaries that I construction of it; and what appeared to me its shall never see practised by any other; and wheonly ment is, in its present state, entirely anni-ther you slap your ancle, or reel as if you were hilated.
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. W.C. commend them!
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 TO SAMUEL ROSE, EŞQ. will receive by the same messenger that has the charge of this letter. In that poem there are many MY DEAR FRIEND, 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 no will 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 TO JOHN JOHNSON, ESQ.
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 pre- neighbour, one who, if less popular than himself, vent it. Were you not extremely pleasant to us, shall at least look as big as he. How has it hapand just the sort of youth that suits us, we should pened that, since Pope did certainly dedicate both neither of us have said half so much, or perhaps a Iliad and Odyssey, no dedication is found in this word on the subject.
first edition of them?
LET. 349, 350, 351.
this subject pretty much at large; for which reaTO LADY HESKETH.
son I will curb my zeal, and say the less about
Feb. 13, 1791. it at present. That Johnson, who wrote harmoI CAN now send you a full and true account of niously in rhyme, should have had so defective an this business. Having learned that your inn at ear as never to have discovered any music at all Woburn was the George, we sent Samuel thither in blank verse, till he heard a particular friend of yesterday. Mr. Martin, master of the George, his reading it, is a wonder never sufficiently to be told him
* wondered at. Yet this is true on his own acknow*
ledgment, and amounts to a plain confession (of W.C.
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.
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 TO THE REV. WALTER BAGOT.
our printing, in the second book of the Odyssey, I
shall only have time to add, that Weston Underwood, Feb. 26, 1791.
I am, my dear friend, MY DEAR FRIEND,
Most truly yours, W.C. It is a maxim of much weight,
I think your Latin quotations very applicable to Worth conning o'er and o'er,
the present state of France. But France is in a He, who has Homer to translate,
situation new and untried before. Had need do nothing more. But notwithstanding the truth and importance of this apophthegm, to which I lay claim as the
TO JOHN JOHNSON, ESQ. original author of it, it is not equally true that my application to Homer, close as it is, has been the
Feb. 27, 1791. sole cause of my delay to answer you. No. In ob- Now, my dearest Johnny, I must tell thee in serving so long a silence I have been influenced few words how much I love and am obliged to much more by a vindictive purpose, a purpose to thee for thy affectionate services. 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- man; 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 with much employment; for I have so dealt with it to which you shall feel yourself inclined, not your fair MSS. in the course of my polishing and excepting even the lines themselves which stand improving, that I have almost blotted out the whole. at the head of this letter!
Such, however, as it is, I must now send it to the You delight me when you call blank verse the printer, and he must be content with it, for there English heroic; for I have always thought, and is not time to make a fresh copy. We are now often said, that we have no other verse worthy to printing the second book of the Odyssey. be so entitled. When you read my Preface, you
Should the Oxonians bestow none of their nowill be made acquainted with my sentiments on tice on me on this occasion, it will happen singu
larly enough, that as Pope received all his univer
sity honours in the subscription way from Oxford, This letter contained the history of a servant's cruelty to and none at all from Cambridge, so I shall have a posthors, which a reader of humanity could not wish to see
received all mine from Cambridge, and none from in print. But the postscript describes so pleasantly the signal influence of a pret’s reputation on the spirit of a liberal inn. Oxford. This is the more likely to be the case, keeper, that it surely ought not to be suppressed. Hayley. because I understand that on whatsoever occasion