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talents, that he had hitherto given no composition professedly to the public, now amused himself with preparations to appear as an author. : But he hoped to conduct those preparations with a modest secrecy, and was astonished to find one of his intimate friends apprized of his design.
The following Letters afford a very pleasing circumstantial account, of the manner in which he was induced to venture into the world as a poet.
I will only add, to the information they contain, what I learned from the lips of his guardian friend, Mrs. Unwin, that she strongly solicited him, on his recovery from a very long fit of mental dejection, to devote his thoughts to poetry of considerable extent. She suggested to him, at the same time, the first subject of his verse,, " the Progress of Error,” which the reader will recollect as the second poem, in his first volume. The time when that volume was completed, and the motives of its author for giving it to the world, are clearly displayed, in an admirable Letter, to his poetical Cousin, Mrs. Cowper, and his feelings, on the approach of publication, are described with his usual nobleness of sentiment, and simplicity of expression, in
reply to a question, upon the subject, from the anxjous young friend, to whom he gave the first notice of his intention in the next Letter.
Your Mother says I must write, and must admits of no apology; I might otherwise plead, that I have nothing to say, that I am weary, that I am dull, that it would be more convenient therefore for you, as well as for myself, that I should let it alone: But all these pleas, and whatever pleas besides, either disinclination, indolence, or necessity, might suggest, are over-ruled, as they ought to be, the moment a lady adduces her irrefragable argument, you must. You have still however one comfort left, that what I must write, you may, or may not read, just as it shall please you ; unless Lady Anne at your elbow, should say, you must read it, and then, like a true knight, you will obey without looking for a remedy.
In the press, and speedily will be published,
in one volume octavo, price three shillings; Poems, by William Cowper, of the Inner-temple, Esqr. You may suppose, by the size of the publication, that the greatest part of them have been long kept secret, because you yourself have never seen them; bụt the truth is, that they are most of them, except what you have in your possession, the produce of the last winter. Two thirds of the compilation, will be occupied by four pieces, the first of which sprung up in the month of December, and the last of them in the month of March. They contain, I suppose, in all, about two thousand and five hundred lines ; are known, or to be known in due time, by the names of Table Talk- The Progress of Error- Truth - Expostulation. Mr. Newton writes a Preface, and Johnson is the publisher. The principal, I may say the only reason, why I never mentioned to you, Ptill now, an affair which I am just going to make known to all the world, (if that Mr. All-the-world should think it worth his knowing) has been this ; that 'till within these few days, I had not the honour to know it myself. This may seem ştrange, but it is true, for not knowing where to find under-writers, who would chuse to insure them, and not finding it convenient to a purse like mine, to run any hazard,
even upon the credit of my own ingenuity, I was very much in doubt for some weeks, whether any bookseller would be willing to subject himself to an ambiguity, that might prove very expensive in case of a bad market. But Johnson has heroically set all peradventures at defiance, and takes the whole charge upon himself. So out I come. I shall be glad of my Translations from Vincent Bourne, in your next frank. My Muse will lay herself at your feet immediately on her first public appearance.
Yours, my dear friend,
W. C. 21. vidi Portojis ,
LETTER LXXV. Selain
To JOSEPH HILL, Esqr.
May 9, 1781.
MY DEAR S
: I am in the press, and it is in vain to deny it. But how mysterious is the conveyance of intelligence from one 'end to the other of your great city !-Not many days since, except one man, and he but little taller than yourself, all London was ignorant of it; for I do not suppose that the public prints have yet annouced the most agreeable tidings; the title-page, which is the basis of the advertisement, having so lately reached the publisher, and now it is known to you, who live at least two miles distant from my confidant upon the occasion..) . My labours are principally the production of the last-winter; all indeed, except a few of the minor pieces. When I can find no other occupation, I think, and when I think, I am very apt to do it in-rhyme. Hence it comes to pass, that the season of the year, which generally pinches off the flowers of poetry, unfolds mine, such as they are, and crowns me with a winter garland. In this respect therefore, I and my cotemporary bards are by no means upon a par. They write when the delightful influences of fine weather, fine prospects, and a brisk motion of the animal spirits, make Poetry almost the language of nature; and 1; when icicles depend from all the leaves of the Parnassian laurel, and when a reasonable man would as little expect to succeed in verse, as to hear a blackbird whistle. This must be my apology to you for whatever want of fire and animation you may observe in what you will shortly have the perusal. of. As to the Public, if they like me not, there is no remedy. A friend will-weigh and consider all disad,