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present concern, could have prevailed with me to interrupt, as much as ever,
May 10, 1780. MY DEAR FRIEND,
If authors could have lived to adjust, and authenticate their own text, a commentator would have been an usesless creature. For instance-if Dr. Bentley had found, or opined that he had found, the word tube, where it seemed to present itself to you, and had judged the subjeet worthy of his critical acumen, he would either have justified the corrupt reading, or have substituted some invention of his own, in defence of which he would have exerted all his polemical abilities, and have quarreled with half the literati in Europe. Then suppose the writer himself, as in the present case, to interpose, with a gentle whisper, thus:-*“ If you look again, Doc“ tor, you will perceive, that what appears to you to « be tube, is neither more, nor less, than the mono“ syllable ink, but I wrote it in great haste, and “ the want of sufficient precision in the character, “ has occasioned your mistake : you will be satis“ fied, especially when you see the sense elucidated “ by the explanation." But I question, whether the Doctor would quit his ground, or allow any author to be a competent judge in his own case. The world, however, would acquiesce immediately, and vote the critic useless
James Andrews, who is my Michael Angelo, pays me many compliments, on my success, in the art of drawing, but I have not yet the vanity to think myself, qualified to furnish your apartment. If I should ever attain to the degree of self-opinion, requisite to such an undertaking, I shall labour at it with pleasure. I can only say, though I hope not with the affected modesty of the above-mentioned Dr. Bentley, who said the same thing.
Me quoque dicunt
A crow, rook, or raven, has built a nest in one of the young elm-trees, at the side of Mrs. Aspray's orchard. In the violent storm, that blew yesterday
morning, I saw it agitated to a degree, that seemed to threaten its immediate destruction, and versified the following thoughts upon the occasion.*
June 8, 1780. MY DEAR FRIEND,
It is possible I might have indulged myself in the pleasure of writing to you, without waiting for a Letter from you, but for a reason, which you will not easily guess. Your Mother communicated to me, the satisfaction you expressed in my correspondence, that you thought me entertaining and clever, and so forth :-Now you must know, I love praise dearly, especially from the judicious, and those, who have so much delicacy themselves, as not to offend mine in giving it. But then, I found this consequence attending, or likely to attend, the eulogium you bestowed if my friend thought me witty before, he shall think me ten times more witty hereafter where I joked once, I will joke five times, and, for one sensible remark, I will send him a dozen. Now this foolish vanity would have spoilt me quite, and would have made me as disgusting a Letter-writer, as Pope, who seems to have thought, that unless a sentence was well turned, and every period pointed with some conceit, it was not worth the carriage. Accordingly he is to me, except in a very few instances, the most disagreeable maker of epistles, that ever I met with. I was willing, therefore, to wait 'till the impression your commendation had made, upon the foolish part of me, was worn off, that I might scribble away as usual, and write my uppermost thoughts, and those only.
* Cowper's fable of the Raven concluded this Letter. :
You are better skilled in ecclesiastical law than Iam M rs. P. desires me to inform her, whether a parson can be obliged to take an apprentice. For some of her husband's opposers, at D , threaten to clap one upon him. Now I think it would be rather hard, if clergymen, who are not allowed to exercise any handicraft whatever, should be subject to such an imposition. If Mr. P. was a cordwainer, or a breeches-maker, all the week, and a preacher only on Sundays, it would seem reasonable enough, in
that case, that he should take an apprentice, if he chose it. But even then, in my poor judgment, he ought to be left to his option. If they mean by an apprentice, a pupil, whom they will oblige him to hew into a parson, and after chipping away the block that hides the minister within, to qualify him to stand erect in a pulpit—that indeed, is another consideration–But still, we live in a free country, and I cannot bring myself even to suspect, that an English divine can possibly be liable to such compulsion. Ask your Uncle however; for he is wiser in these things, than either of us.
I thank you for your two inscriptions, and like the last the best; the thought is just, and fine
but the two last lines are sadly damaged, by the monkish jingle of peperit and reperit. I have not yet translated them, nor do I promise to do it, though at some idle hour perhaps I may. In return, I send you a translation, of a simile, in the Paradise Lost. --Not having that Poem at hand, I cannot refer you to the book, and page, but you may hunt for it, if you think it worth your while. It beginsma