« PoprzedniaDalej »
lowing passage of a Letter to the same correspondent.
It was only one year that I gave to drawing, for I found it an employment hurtful to my eyes, which have always been weak and subject to inflammation. I finished my attempts in this way with three small landscapes, which I presented to a lady. These may perhaps exist, but I have now no correspondence with the fair proprietor. Except these there is nothing remaining to shew that I ever aspired to such an accomplishment.
The native warmth of Cowper's affections led him to take a particular pleasure in recording the merit with which he was personally acquainted : a remarkable instance of this amiable disposition appears in his condescending to translate the Latin epitaph on his school-master, Dr. Lloyd, This epitaph, with Cowper's version, and his remark upon it, my reader may find in the Appendix; another epitaph on his Uncle, Mr. Ashley Cowper, I shall insert here, as it '
displays, in a most pleasing point of view, both the affectionate ardour, and the modesty of its author.
COMPOSED FOR A MBMORIAL
ASHLEY COW PER, Esqr.
Immediately after his death,
HIS NEPHEW, WILLIAM OF WESTON.
Farewell! endued with all that could engage
Marble may flatter, and lest this should seem
The person whom these verses commemorate, was himself an elegant poet, and father to the lady, to whom so many of Cowper's Letters are addressed in the preceding collection. The reader can hardly fail to recollect the very pathetic manner, in which
the poet spoke to the daughter of this gentleman on · the death of a parent so justly beloved.
In describing the social and friendly faculties of Cowper, it would be unjust not to bestow particular notice on a talent, that he possessed in perfection, and one, that friendship ought especially to honour, as she is indebted to it for a considerable portion of her most valuable delights, I mean the talent of writing Letters.
Melmoth, the elegant translator of Pliny's Letters, has observed, in an interesting note to the thirteenth Letter of the second book, how highly the art of epistolary writing was esteemed by the Romans, lamenting at the same time, that our country has not distinguished itself in this branch of literature.
My late accomplished friend Dr. Warton has also remarked in his Life of Pope, that “ in the vari“ ous sorts of composition in which the English have 5 excelled, we have perhaps the least claim to ex“ cellence in the article of Letters, of our celebrated “ countrymen.”
Those of Pope are generally thought deficient in that air of perfect ease, that unstudied flow of affection, which gives the highest charm to epistolary writing; but those unaffected graces, which the delicate critic wished in vain to find in the Letters of Pope, may be found abundant, and complete, in the various correspondence of Cowper. He was indeed a being of such genuine simplicity and tenderness, so absolute a stranger to artifice and disguise ; his affections were so ardent, and so pure, that in writing to those he loved, he could not fail to shew, what really passed in his own bosom, and his Letters are most faithful representatives of his heart. He could never subscribe to that dangerous, and sophistical dogma of Dr. Johnson, in his splenetic disquisition on the Letters of Pope, that “ friendship has no tendency to secure veracity.”
It certainly has such a tendency, and in proportion to the sense, and the goodness of the writer; for a sensible, and a good man must rather wish to afford his bosom friend the most accurate knowledge of his real character, than to obtain a precarious increase of regard by any sort of illusion. The great charm of confidential epistolary intercourse to such a man, arises from the persuasion that veracity is not dangerons in speaking of his own defects, when he is speaking to a true. and a considerate friend.
The letters not intended for the eye of the public have generally obtained the greatest share of popular applause ; and for this reason, because such letters display no profusion of studied ornaments, but abound in the simple and powerful attractions of nature and truth.
Letters indeed will ever please, when they are frank, confidential conversations on paper between persons of well-principled and highly cultivated minds, of graceful manners, and of tender affections.
The language of such letters must of course have that mixture of ease and elegance peculiarly suited to such composition, and most happily exemplified in the Letters of Cicero and of Cowper. These two great masters of a perfect epistolary style have both mentioned their own excellent and simple rule for attaining it—to use only the language of familiar conversation.
Cowper's opinion of two English writers, much admired for the style of their letters, is expressed in the following extract from one of his own to Mr. Hill.