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If killing birds be such a crime,
(Which I can hardly see)
With verse address'd to me?
TO SĄMUEL ROSE, ESQ.
Weston, Sept. 25, 1788.
MY DEAR FRIEND,
Say what is the thing by my Riddle design'd,
I EXPECT your answer, and without a fee. The half hour next before breakfast I devote to you. The moment Mrs. Unwin arrives in the study, be what I have written much or little, I shall make my bow, and take leave. If you live to be a judge, as if I augur right you will, I shall expect to hear of a walking circuit.
I was shocked at what you tell me of Superior talents, it seems, give no security for propriety of conduct; on the contrary, having a natural tendency to nourish pride, they often betray the possessor into such mistakes, as men more moderately gifted never commit. Ability therefore is not wisdom, and an ounce of grace
is a better guard against gross absurdity, than the brightest talents in the world.
I rejoice that you are prepared for transcript work, here will be plenty for you. The day on which you shall receive this, I beg you will remember to drink one glass at least to the success of the Iliad, which I finished the day before yesterday, and yesterday began the Odyssey. It will be some time before I shall perceive myself travelling in another road; the objects around me are at present so much the same; Olympus, and a council of Gods meet me at my first entrance. To tell you the truth, I am weary of heroes and deities, and, with reverence be it spoken, shall be glad for variety's sake, to exchange their company for that of a Cyclops.
Weston has not been without its tragedies since you left us; Mrs. Throckmorton's piping bull-finch has been eaten by a rat, and the villain left nothing but poor Bully's beak behind him. It will be a wonder if this event does not at some convenient time employ my versifying passion. Did ever fair lady, from the Lesbia of Catullus, to the present day, lose her bird, and find no poet to commemorate the loss? :
.. LETTER CCLXXXV.
TO SAMUEL ROSE, ESQ.
Weston, Nov. 30, 1788. MY DEAR FRIEND,
Your letter, accompanying the books with which you have favoured me, and for which I return you a thousand thanks, did not arrive till yesterday. I shall have great pleasure in taking now and then a peep at my old friend Vincent Bourne; the neatest of all men in his versification, though when I was under his, ushership, at Westminster, the most slovenly in his person. He was so inattentive to his boys, and so indifferent whether they brought him good or bad exercises, or none at all, that he seemed determined, as he was the best, so to be the last Latin poet of the Westminster line; a plot which, I believe, he executed very successfully, for I have not heard of any, who has deserved to be compared with him. i .
., We have had hardly any rain or snow since you left us; the roads are accordingly as dry as in the middle of summer, and the opportunity of walking much more favorable. We have no season in my mind, so pleasant as such a win
ter; and I account it particularly fortunate, that such it proves, my Cousin being with us. She is in good health, and cheerful, so are we all; and this I say, knowing you will be glad to hear it, for you have seen the time when this could not be said of all your friends at Weston. We shall rejoice to see you here at Christmas; but I recollect when I hinted such an excursion by word of mouth, you gave me no great encouragement to expect you. Minds alter, and yours may be of the number of those that do so; and if it should, you will be entirely welcome to us all. Were there no other reason for your coming than merely the pleasure it will afford to us, that reason alone would be sufficient; but after so many toils, and with so many more in prospect, it seems essential to your well-being, that you should allow yourself a respite, which perhaps you can take as comfortably (I am sure as quiet ly) here as any where.
The ladies beg to be remembered to you with all possible esteem and regard; they are just come down to breakfast, and being at this moment extremely talkative, oblige me to put an end to my letter. Adieu. ...
I have a fresh occasion to acknowledge my obligation to Lord Carrington for another ad
ditional letter of Cowper. The following contạins the genuine sentiments of the poet on the political character of Mr. Pitt. I print them with a melancholy pleasure in reflecting, that these two illustrious and eloquent men, who are equally enshrined in the grateful remembrance of our country, spoke with justice and sensibility on the talents and virtues of each other.
TO ROBERT SMITH, ESQ.
Weston Underwood, Dec. 20, 1788. MY DEAR SIR,
Mrs. Unwin is in tolerable health, and adds her warmest thanks to mine for your favor, and for your obliging inquiries. My own health is better than it has been many years. Long time I had a stomach that would digest nothing, and now nothing disagrees with it; an amendment for which I am, under God, indebted to the daily use of soluble tartar, which I have never omitted these two years. I am still, as you may suppose, occupied in my long labour. The Iliad has nearly received its last polish. And I have advanced in a rough copy,