which he lays to the charge of others. A proof that he did not judge by a borrowed standard, or from rules laid down by critics, but that he was qualified to do it by his own native powers, and his great superiority of genius. For he that wrote so much, and so fast, would through inadvertence and hurry, unavoidably have departed from rules which he might have found in books, but his own truly poetical talent was a guide which could not suffer him to err. A racehorse is graceful in his swiftest pace, and never makes an awkward motion though he is pushed to his utmost speed. A cart-horse might perhaps be taught to play tricks in the riding-school, and might prance and curvet like his betters, but at some unlucky time would be sure to betray the baseness of his original. It is an affair of very little consequence perhaps to the well-being of mankind, but I cannot help regretting that he died so soon. Those words of Virgil, upon the immature death of Marcellus, might serve for his epitaph.

“ Ostendent terris hunc tantum fata, neque ultra
« Esse sineni

[blocks in formation]





I find the Register in all respects an entertaining medley, but especially in this, that it has brought to my view some long forgotten pieces of my own production. I mean by the way two or three. Those I have marked with my own initials, and you may be sure I found them peculiarly agreeable, as they had not only the grace of being mine, but that of novelty likewise to recommend them. It is at least twenty years since I saw them. You I think. was never a dabbler in rhyme. I have been one ever since I was fourteen years of age, when I began with translating an elegy of Tibullus. I have no more right to the name of a poet, than a maker of mousetraps has to that of an engineer, but my little exploits in this way have at times amused me so much, that I have often wished myself a good one. Such a talent in verse as mine, is like a child's rattle, very entertaining to the trifler that uses it, and very disagreeable to all beside. But it has served to rid me of

some melancholy moments, for I only take it up as a gentleman-performer does his fiddle. I have this peculiarity belonging to me as a rhymist, that though I am charmed to a great degree with my own work, while it is on the anvil, I can seldom bear to look at it when it is once finished, The more I contemplate it, the more it looses its value, till I am at last disgusted with it. I then throw it by, take it up again, perhaps ten years after, and am as much delighted with it as at the first.

Few people have the art of being agreeable when they talk of themselves, if you are not weary therefore, you pay me a high compliment. i.

I dare say Miss S was much diverted with the conjecture of her friends. The true key to the pleasure she found at Olney, was plain enough to be seen, but they chose to overlook it. She brought with her a disposition to be pleased, which whoever does, is sure to find a visit agreeable, because they make it so.


W. C*

was n


This dateless Letter, which is probably entitled to a very early place in this collection, was reserved to close the corres

[ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small]

I began to fear for your health, and every day said to myself—I must write to Bagot soon, if it be only to ask him how he does--a measure that I should certainly have pursued long since, had I been less absorbed in Homer than I am. But such are my engagements in that quarter, that they make me, I think, good for little else.

Many thanks, my friend, for the names that you have sent me.' The Bagots will make a most conspicuous figure among my subscribers, and I shall not, I hope, soon forget my obligations to them.

The unacquaintedness of modern ears with the divine harmony of Milton's numbers, and the principles upon which he constructed them, is the cause

pondence of Mr. Unwin, from the hope, that before the press advanced so far, the editor might recover those unknown verses of Cowper to which the Letter alludes, but all researches for this purpose have failed. .., 9 i


of the quarrel that they have with elisions in blank verse. But where is the remedy ? In vain should you or I, and a few hundreds more perhaps who have studied his versification, tell them of the superior majesty of it, and that for that majesty it is greatly indebted to those elisions. In their ears they are discord and dissonance, they lengthen the line beyond its due limits, and are therefore not to be endured. There is a whimsical inconsistence in the judgment of modern readers in this particular. Ask them all round, whom do you account the best writer of blank verse? and they will reply almost to to a man, Milton, to be sure; Milton against the field! Yet if a writer of the present day should contrast his numbers exactly upon Milton's plan, not one in fifty of these professed admirers of Milton, would endure him. The case standing thus, what is to be done? An author must either be contented to give disgust to the generality, or he must humour them by sinning against his own judgment. This latter course, so far as elisions are concerned, I have adopted as essential to my success. In every other respect I give as much variety in my measure as I can, I believe I may say as in ten syllables it is possible to give, shifting perpetually the pause and cadence, and account

[ocr errors]
« ElőzőTovább »