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I mean that, of which your Lordship is the subject. The best excuse I can make is, that it flowed almost spontaneously from the affectionate remembrance of a connexion that did me so much honour.
As to the rest, their merits, if they have any, and their defects, which are probably more than I am aware of, will neither of them escape your notice. But where there is much discernment, there is generally much candour; and I commit myself into your Lordship’s hands with the less anxiety, being well acquainted with yours.
If my first visit, after so long an interval should prove neither a troublesome, nor a dull one, but especially, if not altogether an unprofitable one, omne tuli punctum.
I have the honour to be, though with very different impressions of some subjects, yet with the same sentiments of affection and esteem as ever, your Lordship's faithful, and most obedient, humble servant,
February 1782. MY DEAR FRIEND,
I enclose Johnson's Letter upon the subject of the Preface, and would send you my reply to it, if I had kept a copy. This however was the purport of it. That Mr. — , whom I described, as you described him to me, had made a similar objection, but that being willing to hope, that two or three pages of sensible matter, well expressed, might possibly go down, though of a religious cast, I was resolved to believe him mistaken, and to pay no regard to it. That his judgment however, who by his occupation is bound to undersand what will promote the sale of a book, and what will hinder it, seemed to deserve more attention. That therefore, according to his own offer, written on a small slip of paper now lost, I should be obliged to him if he would state his difficulties to you; adding, 1 need not inform him, who is so well acquainted with you, that he would find you easy to be persuaded to sa
crisice, if necessary, what you had written, to the interests of the book. I find he has had an interview with you upon the occasion, and your behaviour in it has verified my prediction. What course he determines upon, I do not know, nor am I at all anxious about it. It is impossible for me however, to be so insensible of your kindness in writing the Preface, as not to be desirous of defying all contingencies, rather than entertain a wish to suppress it. It will do me honour in the eyes of those, whose good opinion is indeed an honour, and if it hurts me in the estimation of others, I cannot help it; the fault is neither yours, nor mine, but theirs. If a minister's is a more splendid character than a poet's, and I think nobody that understands their value can hesitate in deciding that question, then undoubtedly the advantage of having our names united in the same volume, is all on my side.
We thank you for the Fast-sermon. I had not read two pages before I exclaimed the man has read Expostulation. But though there is a strong resemblance between the two pieces, in point of matter, and sometimes the very same expressions are to be met with, yet I soon recollected, that on such a theme, a striking coincidence of both might hap
pen without a wonder. I doubt not that it is the production of an honest man, it carries with it an air of sincerity and zeal, that is not easily counterfeited, But though I can see no reason, why kings should not sometimes hear of their faults, as well as other men, I think I see many good ones why they should not be reproved so publickly. It can hardly be done with that respect which is due to their office, on the part of the author, or without encouraging a spirit of unmannerly censure in his readers. His majesty too perhaps might answer— my own personal feelings, and offences, I am ready to confess, but were I to follow your adviće, and cashier the profligate from my service, where must I seek men of faith, and true Christian piety, qualified by nature and by education, to succeed them? Business must be done, men of business alone can do it, and good men are rarely found, under that description. When Nathan reproved David, he did not employ an herald, or accompany his charge with the sound of the trumpet; nor can I think the writer of this sermon quite justifiable in exposing the king's faults in the sight of the people.
Your answer respecting Ætna is quite satisfactory, and gives me much pleasure. I hate altering.
though I never refuse the task when propriety seems to enjoin it; and an alteration in this instance, if I am not mistaken, would have been singularly difficult. Indeed, when a piece has been finished two or three years, and an author finds occasion to amend, or make an addition to it, it is not easy to fall upon the very vein, from which he drew his ideas in the first instance, but either a different turn of thought or expression, will betray the patch, and convince a reader of discernment, that it has been cobbled and yarnished.
Our love to you both, and to the young Euphrosyne! the old lady of that name being long since dead, if she pleases she shall fill her vacant office, and be my muse hereafter. Yours, my dear sir,
To the Revd. JOHN NEWTON.
March 6, 1782.
Is peace the nearer because our patriots have resolved that it is desirable ?