« ElőzőTovább »
gaged them all. It is true, as Lady Hesketh told you, that I shall not fear in the matter of subscriptions, a comparison even with Pope himself; considering (I mean) that we live in days of terrible taxation, and when verse, not being a necessary of life, is account. ed dear, be it what it may, even at the lowest price. I am no very good arithmetician, yet I calculated the other day in my morning walk, that my two volumes, at the price of three guineas, will cost the purchaser less than the seventh part of a farthing per line. Yet there are lines among them, that have cost me the labour of hours, and none, that have not cost me some labour.
To Lady HESKETH.
Friday-night, March 25, 1791.
MY DEAREST COZ.
Johnson writes me word, that he has repeatedly called on Horace Walpole and has
never found him at home. He has also written to him, and received no answer. I charge thee therefore on thy allegiance, that thou move not a finger more in this business. My back is up, and I cannot bear the thought of wooing him any farther, nor would do it, though he were as pig a gentleman (look you!) as Lucifer himself. I have Welch blood in me, if the pedigree of the Donnes say true, and every drop of it says " Let him alone!”
I should have dined at the Hall to day, having engaged myself to do so. But an untoward occurrence, that happened last night, or rather this morning, prevented me. It was a thundering rap at the door, just after the clock struck three. First, I thought the house was on fire. Then I thought the Hall was on fire. Then I thought it was a housebreaker's trick. Then I thought it was an express. In any case I thought, that if it should be repeated, it. would awaken and terrify Mrs. Unwin, and kill her with spasms. The consequence of all these thoughts was the worst nervous fever I ever had in my life, although it was the shortest. The rap was given but once, though a multifarious one. Had I heard a second, I should have risen myself at all adventures. It was the only minute since you went, in which I
have been glad that you were not here. Soon after I came down, I learned, that a drunken party had passed through the village at that time, and they were, no doubt, the authors of this witty, but troublesome invention.
Our thanks are due to you for the book you sent us. Mrs. Unwin has read to me several parts of it, which I have much admired. The observations are shrewd and pointed ; and there is much wit in the similes and illustrations. Yet a remark struck me, which I could not help making viva voce on the occasion. If the book has any real value, and does in truth deserve the notice taken of it by those, to whom it is addressed, its claim is founded neither on the expression, nor on the style, nor on the wit of it, but altogether on the truth that it contains. Now the same truths are delivered, to my knowledge, perpetually from the pulpit by ministers, whom the admirers of this writer would disdain to hear. Yet the truth is not the less important for not being accompanied and recommended by brilliant thoughts and expressions ; neither is God, from whom comes all truth, any more a respecter of wit than he is of persons. It will appear soon whether they applaud the book for the sake of its unanswerable arguments, or only
tolerate the argument for the sake of the splendid manner in which it is enforced. I wish as heartily that it may do them good, as if I were myself the author of it. But, alas! my wishes and hopes are much at variance. It will be the talk of the day, as another publication of the same kind has been ; and then the noise of vanity-fair will drown the voice of the preacher.
I am glad to learn that the Chancellor does not forget me, though more for his sake than my own: for I see not, how he can ever serve a man like me.
April 1, 1791. MY DEAR MRS. FROG,
A word or two before breakfast ; which is all that I shall have time to send you ! You have not, I hope, forgot to
tell Mr. Frog, how much I am obliged to him for his kind, though unsuccessful, attempt in my favour at Oxford. It seems not a little extraordinary, that persons so nobly patronized themselves, on the score of literature, should resolve to give no encouragement to it in return. Should I find a fair opportunity to thank them hereafter, I will not neglect it.
Could Homer come himself, distress’d and poor,
I have read your husband's pamphlet through and through. You may think, perhaps, and so may he, that a question so remote from all concern of mine, could not interest me; but if you think so, you are both mistaken. He can write nothing that will not interest me; in the first place for the writer's sake, and in the next place, because he writes better and reasons better than any body, with more candour, and with more sufficiency; and, consequently, with more satisfaction to all his readers, save only his opponents. They, I think, by this time wish that they had let him alone,