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vantages, and make as large allowances as an author can wish, and larger perhaps than he has any right to expect; but not so the world at large; whatever they do not like, they will not by any apology be persuaded to forgive, and it would be in vain to tell them that I wrote my verses in January, for they would immediately reply, “ Why did not you write them in May ?" A question that might puzzle a wiser head than we poets are generally blessed with.
To the Revd. WILLIAM UNWIN.
May 10, 1781. MY DEAR FRIEND, se: .
It is Friday; I have just drunk tea. and just perused your Letter; and though this answer to it cannot set off ’till Sunday, I obey the warm impulse I feel, which will not permit me to postpone the business till the regular time of writing.
I expected you would be grieved; if you had not been so, those sensibilities, which attend you
upon every other occasion, must have left you upon this. I am sorry that I have given you pain, but not sorry that you have felt it. A concern of that sort would be absurd, because it would be to regret your friendship for me, and to be dissatisfied with the effect of it. Allow yourself however, three minutes only for reflection, and your penetration must necessarily dive into the motives of my conduct. In the first place, and by way of preface, remember that I do not (whatever your partiality may incline you to do) account it of much consequence to any friend of mine, whether he is, or is not, employed by me, upon such an occasion. But all affected renunciations of poetical merit apart, and all unaffected expressions of the sense I have of my own littleness in the poetical character too, the obvious and only reason, why I resorted to Mr. Newton, and not to my friend Unwin, was this that the former lived in London, the latter at Stock; the former was upon the spot to correct the press, to give instructions respecting any sudden alterations, and to settle with the publisher every thing that might possibly occur in the course of such a business ;-the latter could not be applied to for these purposes, without what I thought would be a manifest encroachment on his kindness; because it
might happen, that the troublesome office might cosé him now and then a journey, which it was absolutely impossible for me to endure the thought of.
When I wrote to you for the copies you have sent me, I told you I was making a collection, but not with a design to publish. There is nothing truer, than at that time I had not the smallest expectation of sending a volume of Poems to the press. I had several 'small pieces, that might amuse, but I would not, when I publish, make the amusement of the reader my only object. When the winter deprived me of other employments, I began to compose, and seeing six or seven months before me, which would naturally afford me much leisure for such a purpose, I un dertook a piece of some length; that finished, another; and so on, till I had amassed the number of lines I mentioned in my last. .. ,3.;?
Believe of me what you please, but not that I am indifferent to you, or vour friendship for me, on any occasion. . . . . : :!
To the Revd. WILLIAM UNWIN.
May 23, 1781. MY DEAR FRIEND,,.
If a writer's friends have need of patience, how much more the writer ! Your desire to see my Muse in public, and mine to gratify you, must both suffer the mortification of delay expected that my trumpeter would have informed the world, by this time, of all that is needful for them to know, upon such an occasion; and that an advertizing blast, blown through every news-paper, would have said. " The poet is coming."- But man, especially man that writes verse, is born to disappointments, as surely as printers and booksellers are born to be the most dilatory, and tedioys of all creatures. The plain English of this magnificent preamble is, that the season of publication is just elapsed, that the town is going into the country every day, and that my book cannot appear, 'till they return, that is to say, not 'till next winter. This misfortune however, comes not without its attendant advantage ; I shall now have, what I should not otherwise have had, an
opportunity to correct the press myself: no small advantage upon any occasion, but especially important, where poetry is concerned! A single erratum may knock out the brains of a whole passage, and that perhaps, which of all others, the unfortunate poet is the most proud of. Add to this, that now and then, there is to be found in a printing house, a presumptuous intermeddler, who will fancy himself a poet too, and what is still worse, a better than he that employs him. The consequence is, that with cobbleing, and tinkering, and patching on here and there a shred of his own, he makes such a difference between the original and the copy, that an author cannot know his own work again. Now as I chuse to be responsible for nobody's dullness but my own, I am a little comforted, when I reflect, that it will be in my power to prevent all such impertinence, and. yet not without your assistance. It will be quite necessary, that the correspondence between me and Johnson, should be carried on without the expence of postage, because proof sheets would make double or treble Letters, which expence; as in every instance it must occur twice, first when the pacquet is sent, and again when it is returned, would be rather inconven nient to me who, as you perceive, am forced to