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tion in which he stood there. Since that time I have never seen him, except once, many years ago, in the House of Commons, when I heard him speak on the subject of a drainage bill, better than any member there.
My first thirteen books have been criticized in London; have been by me accommodated to those criticisms, returned to London in their improved state, and sent back to Weston with an imprimantur. This would satisfy some poets, less anxious than myself about what they expose in public; but it has not satisfied me. I am now revising them again by the light of my own critical taper, and make more alterations than at the first. But are they improvements ? you will ask—Is not the spirit of the work endangered by all this attention to correctness? I think and hope that it is not. Being well aware of the possibility of such a catastrophe, I guard particularly against it. Where I find that a servile adherence to the original would render the passage less animated than it would be, I still, as at the first, allow myself a liberty. On all other occasions I prune with an unsparing hand, determined that there shall not be found in the whole translation an idea that is not Homer's. My ambition is to produce the closest copy possible, and
at the same time as harmonious as I know how to make it. This being my object, you will no longer think, if indeed you have thought it at all, that I am unnecessarily and over-much industrious. The original surpasses every thing, it is of an immense length, is composed in the best language ever used upon earth, and deserves, indeed demands, all the labour that any translator, be he who he may, can possibly bestow on it. Of this I am sure, and your Brother the good Bishop is of the same mind, that, at present, mere English readers know no more of Homer in reality, than if he had never been translated. That consideration indeed it was which mainly induced me to the undertaking; and if after all, either through idleness, or dotage upon what I have already done, I leave it chargeable with the same incorrectness as my predecessors, or, indeed with any other that I may be able to amend, I had better have amused myself otherwise. “And you I know are of my opinion.
I send you the clerk's verses of which I told you. They are very clerk-like as you will perceive. But plain truth in plain words seemed to me to be the ne plus ultra of composition on such an occasion. I might have attempted something very fine, but
then the persons principally concerned, viz. my readers, would not have understood me. If it puts them in mind that they are mortal, its best end is answered. My dear Walter, adieu! yours faithfully,
To Lady HESKETH.
The Lodge, Jan. 19, 1788,
When I have prose enough to filt my paper, which is always the case when I write to you, I cannot find in my heart to give a third part of it to verse. Yet this I must do; or I must make my pacquets more costly than worshipful, by doubling the postage upon you, which I should hold to be unreasonable. See then the true reason why I did not send you that same scribblement till you desired it. The thought which naturally presents itself to me on all such occasions is this Is not your Cousin coming? Why are you impatient? Will it not be time enough to shew her your fine things when she arrives?
Fine things indeed I have few. He who has Homer to transcribe may well be contented to do little else. As when an ass being harnessed with ropes to a sand cart, drags with hanging ears his heavy burthen, neither filling the long echoing streets with his harmonious bray, nor throwing up his heels behind, frolicksome and airy, as asses less engaged are wont to do; so I, satisfied to find myself indispensibly: obliged to render into the best possible English metre, eight and forty Greek books, of which the two finest poems in the world consist, account it quite sufficient if I may at last achieve that labour, and seldom allow myself those pretty little vagaries in which
I should otherwise delight, and of which if I should , live long enough, I intend hereafter to enjoy my fill.
This is the reason, my dear Cousin, if I may be permitted to call you so in the same breath with which I have uttered this truly heroic comparison ; this is the reason why I produce at present but few occasional poems, and the preceding reason is that, which may account satisfactorily enough for my withholding the very few that I do produce. A thought sometimes strikes me before I rise; if it runs readily into verse, and I can finish it before breakfast it is
well; otherwise it dies, and is forgotten; for all the subsequent hours are devoted to Homer.
The day before yesterday, I saw for the first time, Bunbury's new print, the Propagation of a Lie. Mr. Throckmorton-sent it for the amusement of our party. Bunbury sells humour by the yard, and is I suppose the first vender of it who ever did so. He cannot therefore be said to have humour without measure (pardon a pun, my dear, from a man who has not made one before these forty years) though he may certainly be said to be immeasurably droll.
The original thought is good, and the exemplification of it in those very expressive figures, admirable. A poem on the same subject, displaying all that is displayed in those attitudes, and in those features, (for faces they can hardly be called) would be most excellent. The affinity of the two arts, viz. verse and painting, has been osten observed ; possibly the happiest illustration of it would be found, if some poet would ally himself to some draftsman, as Bunbury, and undertake to write every thing he should draw. Then let a musician be admitted of the party. He should compose the said poem, adapting notes to it exactly accommodated to the theme ;