« PoprzedniaDalej »
give you, if you wish for them, when I can find nothing more interesting to say ; a period which I do not conceive to be very near; I have not answered many things in your letter, nor can do it at present for want of room. I cannot believe but that I should know you, notwithstanding all that time may have done. There is not a feature of your face, could I meet it upon the road by itself, that I should not instantly recollect. I should say, that is my Cousin's nose, or those are her lips and her chin, and no woman upon earth can claim them but herself. As for me, I am a very smart youth of my years. I am not indeed grown grey so much as I am grown bald. No matter. There was more hair in the world than ever had the honour to belong to me, Accordingly, having found just enough to curl a little at my ears, and to intermix with a little of my own that still hangs behind, I appear, if you see me in an afternoon, to have a very decent head-dress, not easily distinguished from my natural growth ; which being worn by a small bag, and a black riband about my neck, continues to me the charms of my youth, even on the verge 'of age. Away with the fear of writing too often. Yours, my dearest Cousin,
W. C. P. S. That the view I give you of myself may be complete, I add the two following itemsThat I am in debt to nobody, and that I grow fat.
To Lady HESKETH. MY DEAREST COUSIN,
I am glad that I always loved you as I did. It releases me from any occasion to
suspect that my present affection for you is indebted for its existence to any selfish considerations. No. I am
sure I love you disinterestedly, and for your own sake, di because I never thought of you with any other sensa.
tions than those of the truest affection, even when I was under the influence of a persuasion, that I should
never hear from you again. But with my present feel. Eings, superadded to those that I always had for you, I
find it no easy matter to do justice to my sensations. I 1 perceive myself in a state of mind similar to that of the
traveller, described in Pope's Messiah, who, as he passes through a sandy desart, starts at the sudden and unexpected sound of a waterfall. You have placed me in a situation new to me, and in which I feel myself somewhat puzzled how I ought to behave. At the
same time that I would not grieve you by putting a f check upon your bounty, I would be as careful not to
abuse it, as if I were a miser, and the question not about your money but my own.
Although I do not suspect that a secret to you, my cousin, is any burthen, yet having maturely considered i that point since I wrote my last, I feel myself altoge
ther disposed to release you from the injunction to that effect under which I laid you. I have now made such a progress in my translation, that I need neither fear that I shall stop short of the end, nor that any other ri. der of Pegasus should overtake me. Therefore, if at any time it should fall fairly in your way, or you should feel yourself invited to say that I am so occupied, you have my Poetship's free permission. Dr. Johnson read and recommended my first volume.
Dec. 24, 1785. MY DEAR FRIEND,
"Till I had made, such a pro. gress in my present undertaking as to put it out of all doubt that, if I lived, I should proceed in and finish it, I kept the matter to myself. It would have done me little honour to have told my friends that I had an ar. duous enterprize in hand, if afterwards I must have told them that I had dropped it. Knowirig it to have been universally the opinion of the literati, ever since they have allowed themselves to consider the matter coolly, that a translation, properly so called, of Ho. mer, is, notwithstanding what Pope has done, a desi. deratum in the English language, it struck me that an attempt to supply the deficiency would be an honoura. ble one; and having made myself, in former years, somewhat critically a master of the original, I was, by this double consideration, induced to make the attempt myself. I am now translating into blank verse the last book of the Iliad, and mean to publish by subscription,
LETTER XLIV. .
Jan. 10, 1786.
It gave me great pleasure that you found my friend Unwin, what I was sure you would find him, a most agreeable man. I did not usher him
in with the marrow-bones and cleavers of high-sounding panegyric, both because I was certain that whatsoever merit he had, your discernment would mark it, and because it is possible to do a man material injury, by making his praise his harbinger. It is easy to raise expectation to such a pitch that the reality, be it ever 60 excellent, must necessarily fall below it.
I hold myself much indebted to Mr. , of whom I have the first information from yourself, both for his friendly dispositions towards me, and for the manner in which he marks the defects in my volume. An author must be tender indeed, to wince on being touched so gently. It is undoubtedly as he says, and as you and my uncle say. You cannot be all mistaken, neither is it at all probable that any of you should be so. I take it for granted, therefore, that there are inequalities in the composition; and I do assure you, iny dear, most faithfully, that if it should reach a second edition, I will spare no pains to improve it. It may serve me for an agreeable amusement, perhaps, when Homer shall be gone and done with. The first edition of poems has generally been susceptible of improvement. Pope, I believe, never published one in his life, that did not undergo variations, and his longest pieces many. I will only observe, that inequalities there must be always, and in every work of length. There are level parts of every subject, parts which we cannot, with propriety, attempt to elevate. They are by nature humble, and can only be made to assume an awkward and uncouth appearance by being inounted. But again, I take it for granted that this remark does not apply to the matter of your objection. You were sufficiently aware of it be. fore, and have no need that I should suggest it as an apology, could it have served that office, but would have made it for me yourself. In truth, my dear, had
you known in what anguish of mind I wrote the whole of that poem, and under what perpetual interruptions from a cause that has since been removed, so that sometimes I had not an opportunity of writing more than three lines at a sitting, you would long since have wondered as much I do myself, that it turned out any thing better than Grub-street.
My cousin, give yourself no trouble to find out any of the Magi to scrutinize my Homer. I can do without them; and if I were not conscious that I have no need of their help, I would be the first to call for it. Assure yourself that I intend to be careful to the utmost line of all possible caution, both with respect to language and versification. I will not send a verse to the press, that shall not have undergone the strictest examination.
A subscription is surely on every account the most eligible mode of publication. When I shall have empa tied the purses of my friends and of their friends into my own, I am still free to levy contributions upon the world at large, and I shall then have a fund to defray the expenses of a new edition. I have ordered Johnson to print the proposals immediately, and hope that they will kiss your hands before the week is expired.
I have had the kindest letter from Josephus that I ever had. He mentioned my purpose to one of the masters of Eton, who replied, that « such a work is much wanted.”
LETTER XLV. .
Olney, Jan. 31, 1786.
It is very pleasant, my dearest cousin, to receive a present so delicately conveyed as