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must consequently always think. But pardon me, in jest, that he meant nothing but his own amuse-
Yours, my dear friend, W.C.
TO THE REV. WILLIAM UNWIN. dispute which I little thought of being engaged in to-day.
MY DEAR WILLIAM,
Oct. 10, 1784 Last night I had a letter from Lord Dartmouth.
I send you four quires of verse,
which having It was to apprise me of the safe arrival of Cook's sent, I shall dismiss from my thoughts
, and think last voyage, which he was so kind as to lend me, no more of, till I sce them in print. I have not in St. Jame's Square. The reading of those vol-after all found time or industry enough, to give the umes afforded ine much amusement, and I hope last hand to the points. I believe however they some instruction. No observation however forced
are not very erroneous, though in so long a work, itself upon me with more violence than one, that and in a work that requires nicety in this particuI could not help inaking on the death of Captain lar, some inaccuracies will escape. Where you Cook. God is a jealous God, and at Owhyhee the find any, you will oblige me by correcting them. poor man was content to be worshipped. From
In some passages, especially in the second book, that moment, the remarkable interposition of Provi
you will observe me very satirical. Writing on dence in his favour, was converted into an opposi- such subjects I could not be otherwise. I can tion that thwarted all his purposes. He left the write nothing without aiming at least at usefulness scene of his deification, but was driven back to it It were beneath my years to do it, and still more by a most violent storm, in which he suffered more dishonourable to my religion. I know that a reforthan in any that had preceded it. When he de- mation of such abuses as I have censured is not parted he left his worshippers still infatuated with to be expected from the efforts of a poet ; but to an idea of his godship, consequently well disposed contemplate the world, its follies, its vices
, its into serve him. At his return he found them sul- difference to duty, and its strenuous attachment to len, distrustful, and mysterious. A trifling theft what is evil, and not to reprehend, were to apwas committed, which, by a blunder of his own prove it. From this charge at least I shall be in pursuing the thief after the property had been clear, for I have neither tacitly nor expressly flatrestored, was magnificd to an affair of the last tered either its characters, or its customs. I have importance. One of their favourite chiefs was paid one, and only one compliment, which was so killed too by a blunder. Nothing, in short, but justly due, that I did not know how to withhold it, blunder and mistake attended him, till he fell breathless into the water, and then all was smooth again. The world indeed will not take notice, or * Having enjoyed, in the year 1772, the pleasure of convers: see, that the dispensation bore evident marks of ing with the illustrious seaman, on board his own ship, the Divine displeasure; but a mind I think in any that I am persuaded my friend Cowper utterly misappre
Resolution, 1 can not pass the present letter without observing, degree spiritual can not overlook them. We know hended the behaviour of Captain Cook, in the afair alluded from truth itself, that the death of Herod was for to.
From the little personal acquaintance, which I had say: a similar offence. But Herod was in no sense a self with this humane and truly Christian navigator, aus
? believer in God, nor had enjoyed half the
opportu- for him w have acted, under any circumstances, with such
from the whole tenor of his life, i can not believe it pusikle nities with which our poor countryman had been impious arrogance, as might appear offensive in the eye of favoured. It may be urged perhaps that he was the Almighty. Haley.
them borrowed from books, or in the least degree that though I write generally with a serious in
this ma especially having so fair an occasion (I forget my- itself make a volume so large as the last, or as a
, there is another in the first book to Mr. bookseller would wish. I say this, because when I ho des Throckmorton,) but the compliment I mean is to had sent Johnson five thousand verses, he applied Mr.
It is however so managed, that for a thousand more. Two years since, I began a nobody but himself can make the application, and piece which grew to the length of two hundred, you, to whom I disclose the secret; a delicacy on and there stopped. I have lately resumed it, and my part, which so much delicacy on his obliged (I believe) shall finish it. But the subject is fruit. me to the observance of!
ful, and will not be comprised in a smaller comWhat there is of a religious cast in the volume I pass than seven or eight hundred verses. It turns have thrown towards the end of it, for two rea- on the question, whether an education at school or sons—first that I might not revolt the reader at at home be preferable, and I shall give the preferhis entrance-and secondly, that my best impres-ence to the latter. I mean that it shall pursue the sions might be made last. Were I to write as track of the former. That is to say, that it shall many volumes as Lopez de Vega, or Voltaire, not visit Stock in its way to publication. My design one of them would be without this tincture. If the also is to inscribe it to you. But you must see it world like it not, so much the worse for them. I first; and if, after having seenit, you should have any make all the concessions I can, that I may please objection, though it should be no bigger than the them, but I will not please them at the expense of tittle of an i, I will deny myself that pleasure, and my conscience.
find no fault with your refusal. I have not been My descriptions are all from nature. Not one without thoughts of adding John Gilpin at the of them second-handed. My delineations of the tail of all. He has made a good deal of noise in heart are from my own experience. Not one of the world, and perhaps it may not be amiss to show,
. In my numbers, which I have varied tention, I know how to be occasionally merry. as much as I could (for blank verse without variety The Critical Reviewers charged me with an atof numbers is no better than bladder and string) I tempt at humour. John having been more celehave imitated nobody, though sometimes, perhaps, brated upon the score of humour than most pieces there may be an apparant resemblance; because that have appeared in modern days, may serve to at the same time that I would not imitate, I have exonerate me from the imputation : but in this arnot effectually differed.
ticle I am entirely under your judgment, and mean If the work can not boast a regular plan (in to be set down by it. All these together will make which respect however I do not think it altogether an octavo volume like the last. I should have told indefensible) it may yet boast, that the reflections you, that the piece which now employs me, is in are naturally suggested always by the preceding rhyme. I do not intend to write any more blank. passage, and that except the fifth book, which is It is more difficult than rhyme, and not so amusing rather of a political aspect, the whole has one ten- in the composition. If, when you make the offer deney; to discountenance the modern enthusiasm of my book to Johnson, he should stroke his chin, after a London life, and to recommend rural ease and look up to the ceiling and cry—' Humph!and leisure, as friendly to the cause of piety and anticipate him, (I beseech you) at once, by say
ing,—that you know I should be sorry that he If it pleases you I shall be happy, and collect should undertake for me to his own disadvantage, from your pleasure in it an omen of its general or that my volume should be in any degree pressed acceptance. Yours, my dear friend, W.C. upon him. I make him the offer merely because
I think he would have reason to complain of me,
if I did not.' But that punctilio once satisfied, it TO THE REV. WILLIAM UNWIN.
is a matter of indifference to me what publisher
sends me forth. If Longman should have diffi
Oct. 20, 1784. culties, which is the more probable, as I underYour letter has relieved me from some anxiety, stand from you that he does not in these cases see and given me a good deal of positive pleasure. 1 with his own eyes, but will consult a brother poet
, have faith in your judgment, and an implicit confi- take no pains to conquer them. The idea of be dence in the sincerity of your approbation. The ing hawked about, and especially of your being writing of so long a poem is a serious business; the hawker, is insupportable
. Nichols (I have and the author must know little of his own heart, heard) is the most learned printer of the present who does not in some degree, suspect himself of day. He may be a man of taste as well as learnpartiality to his own production; and who is he ing; and I suppose that you would not want a that would not be mortified by the discovery, that gentleman usher to introduce you. He prints the he had written five thousand lines in vain? The Gentleman's Magazine, and may serve us, if the poem however which you have in hand, will not of others should decline ; if not, give yourself no
MY DEAR WILLIAM,
farther trouble about the matter. I may possibly no flight from them. But solicitations to sin, that envy authors, who can afford to publish at their address themselves to our bodily senses, are, I beown expense, and in that case should write no lieve, seldom conquered in any other way.
But the mortification would not break my I can easily see that you may have very reasonaheart.
ble objections to my dedicatory proposal. You are I proceed to your corrections, for which I most a clergyman, and I have banged your order. You unaffectedly thank you, adverting to them in their arc a child of alma mater, and I have banged her order.
too. Lay yourself therefore under no constraints Page 140.— Truth generally, without the article that I do not lay you under, but consider yourself the, would not be sufficiently defined. There are as perfectly free. many sorts of truth, philosophical, mathematical, With our best love to you all, I bid you heartily moral, &c.; and a reader not much accustomed to farewell. I am tired of this endless scribblement. hear of religious or scriptural truth, might possi- Adieu!
Yours, W.C. bly, and indeed easily doubt whát truth was particularly intended. I acknowledge that grace, in my use of the word, does not often occur in poet
TO THE REV. JOHN NEWTON ry. So neither does the subject which I handle. Every subject has its own terms, and religious MY DEAR FRIEND,
Oct. 30, 1784. ones take theirs with most propriety from the scrip I ACCEDE most readily to the justness of your ture. Thence I take the word grace. The sar- remark on the subject of the truly Roman heroism castic use of it in the mouths of infidels I admit, of the Sandwich islanders. Proofs of such prowess but not their authority to proscribe it, especially I believe are seldom exhibited by a people who as God's favour in the abstract has no other have attained to a high degree of civilization. Reword, in all our language, by which it can be ex- finement and profligacy of principle are too nearly pressed.
allied, to admit of any thing so noble; and I quesPage 150.— Impress the mind faintly, or not at tion whether any instances of faithful friendship, all.-I prefer this line, because of the interrupted like that which so much affected you in the berun of it, having always observed that a little un- haviour of the poor savage, were produced even by evenness of this sort, in a long work, has a good the Romans themselves, in the latter days of the effect, used, I mean sparingly, and with discre- empire. They had been a nation whose virtues it tion.
is impossible not to wonder at. But Greece, which Page 127.–This should have been noted first, was to them what France is to us, a Pandora's but was overlooked. Be pleased to alter for me box of mischief, reduced them to her own standard
, thus, with the difference of only one word from and they naturally soon sunk still lower. Religion the alteration proposed by you
in this case seems pretty much out of the question, We too arc friends to royalty. We love
To the production of such heroism, undebauched The king who loves the law, respects his bounds,
nature herself is equal. When Italy was a land And reigns content within them.
of heroes, she knew no more of the true God than
her cicisbèos and her fiddlers know now; and inYou observed probably, in your second reading, deed it seems a matter of indifference, whether a that I allow the life of an animal to be fairly taken man be born under a truth which does not inaway, when it interferes either with the interest or fluence him, or under the actual influence of a convenience of man. Consequently snails, and all lie; or if there be any difference between the two reptiles that spoil our crops, either of fruit or grain, cases, it seems to be rather in favour of the latter: may be destroyed, if we can catch them. It gives for a false persuasion, such as the Mahometan for me real pleasure, that Mrs. Unwin so readily un- instance, may animate the courage, and furnish derstood me. Blank verse, by the unusual arrange-motives for the contempt of death, while despisers ment of the words, and by the frequent infusion of the true religion are punished for their folly by of one line into another, not less than by the style, being abandoned to the last degrees of deprivity
, which requires a kind of tragical magnificence, can Accordingly we see a Sandwich islander sacrinot be chargeable with much obscurity, must rather ficing himself to his dead friend, and our Christian be singularly perspicuous, to be so easily compre- seamen and mariners, instead of being impressed hended. It is my labour, and my principal one, by a sense of his generosity, butchering him with to be as clear as possible. You do not mistake a persevering cruelty that will disgrace them for me, when you suppose that I have great respect ever: for he was a defenceless, unresisting enemy, for the virtue that flies temptation. It is that sort who meant nothing more than to gratify his love of prowess which the whole train of scripture calls for the deceased. To slay him in such cireumus to manifest, when assailed by sensual evil. In- stances was to murder him, and with every aggraterior mischiefs must be grappled with. There is vation of the crime that can be imagined.
NY DEAR FRIEND
2013 ally possess. I wrote to Mr. Newton by the last lar, who is a sensible man too, has not, I think,
I am again at Johnson's in the shape of a poem to his friends. The influence of one I have felt in blank verse, consisting of six books, and called myself, for which none of them would blame meThe Task. I began it about this time twelve- I mean the desire of surprising agreeably. And month, and writing sometimes an hour in the day, if I have denied myself this pleasure in your insometimes half a one, and sometimes two hours, stance, it was only to give myself a greater, by have lately finished it. I mentioned it not sooner, eradicating from your mind any little weeds of susbecause almost to the last I was doubtful whether picion, that might still remain in it, that any man I should ever bring it to a conclusion, working living is nearer to me than yourself. Had not often in such distress of mind, as, while it spurred this consideration forced up the lid of my strong me to the work, at the same time threatened to box like a lever, it would have kept its contents disqualify me for it. My bookseller I suppose will with an invisible closeness to the last; and the first be as tardy as before. I do not expect to be born news that either you or any of my friends would into the world till the month of March, when I have heard of the Task, they would have received and the crocuses shall peep together. You may from the public papers. But you know now, that assure yourself that I shall take my first opportu- neither as a poet, nor a man, do I give to any man nity to wait on you. I mean likewise to gratify a precedence in my estimation at your expense. myself by obtruding my musc upon Mr. Bacon. I am proceeding with my new work (which at
Adieu, my dear friend! we are well, and love present I feel myself much inclined to call by the you. Yours and Mrs. Newton's, W. C. name of Tirocinium) as fast as the muse permits.
It has reached the length of seven hundred lines, and will probably receive an addition of two or
three hundred more. When you see Mr. TO THE REV. WILLIAM UNWIN.
perhaps you will not find it difficult to procure
from him half a dozen franks, addressed to your
Nov. 1, 1784. self, and dated the fifteenth of December, in which Were I to delay my answer, I must yet write case, they will all go to the post filled with my without a frank at last, and may as well therefore lucubrations, on the evening of that day. I do write without one now, especially feeling, as I do, not name an earlier, because I hate to be hurried; a desire to thank you for your friendly offices so and Johnson can not want it sooner than, thus well performed. I am glad for your sake, as well managed, it will reach him. as for my own, that you succeeded in the first in I am not sorry that John Gilpin, though hitherto stance, and that the first trouble proved the last. 1 he has been nobody's child, is likely to be owned at am willing too to consider Johnson's readiness to last. Here and there I can give him a touch that accept a second volume of mine, as an argument I think will mend him, the language in some that at least he was no loser by the former. I col- places not being quite so quaint and old-fashioned lect from it some reasonable hope that the volume as it should be; and in one of the stanzas there is in question may not wrong him neither. My a false rhyme. When I have thus given the finishimagination tells me (for I know you interest your-ing stroke to his figure, I mean to grace him with self in the success of my productions) that your two mottos, a Greek and a Latin one, which, heart fluttered when you approached Johnson's when the world shall see that I have only a little door
, and that it felt itself discharged of a burthen one of three words to the volume itself, and none when you came out again. You did well to men- to the books of which it consists, they will perhaps tion it at the T-s; they will now know that understand as a stricture upon that pompous disyou do not pretend a share in my confidence, play of literature, with which some authors take whatever be the value of it, greater than you ac- occasion to crowd their titles. Knox, in particupost
, to tell him that I was gone to the press fewer than half a dozen to his Essays. again. He will be surprised and perhaps not
Adieu, W.C. pleased. But I think he can not complain, for he keeps his own authorly secrets without participating thern with me. I do not think myself in the least [TO THE REV. WILLIAM BULL.) injured by his reserve; neither should I, if he were to publish a whole library without favouring me
Norember 8, 1784. with any previous notice of his intentions. In The Task, as you know, is gone to the press : these cases it is no violation of the laws of friend-since it went I have been employed in writing anoship not to communicate, though there must be a ther poem, which I am now transcribing, and which friendship where the communication is made. But in a short time I design shall follow. It is entimany reasons may concur in disposing a writer to tled, Tirocinium, or a Review of Schools : the bukeep his work secret
, and none of them injurious siness and purpose of it are, to censure the want
of discipline, and the scandalous inattention to morals, that obtain in them, especially in the larg.
TO THE REV. JOHN NEWTON. est; and to recommend private tuition as a mode
MY DEAR FRIEND,
Nov. 27, 1784. of education preferable on all accounts; to call up on fathers to becoine tutors of their own sons, lication, and all the pleas that you urge in behalf
All the interest that you take in my new pubwhere that is practicable; to take home a domestic tutor, where it is not; and if neither can be done,
of your right to my confidence, the moment I had to place them under the care of such a man, as he
read your letter, struck me as so many proofs of to whom I am writing, some rural parson, whose your regard; of a friendship, in which distance
and time make no abatement. But it is difficult attention is limited to a few.
to adjust opposite claims to the satisfaction of all
parties. I have done my best, and must leave it TO JOSEPH HILL, ESQ. to your candour to put a just interpretation upon MY DEAR FRIEND,
November, 1784. | all that has passed, and to give me credit for it, as To condole with you on the death of a mother a certain truth, that whatever seeming defects, in aged eighty-seven would be absurd-rather, there point of attention and attachment to you, my confore, as is reasonable, I congratulate you on the duct on this occasion may have appeared to have almost singular felicity of having enjoyed the com- been chargeable with, I am in reality as clear of pany of so amiable and so near a relation so long. all real ones, as you would wish to find me. Your lot and mine in this respect have been very I send you enclosed, in the first place, a copy of different, as indeed in almost every other. Your the advertisement to the reader, which accounts mother lived to see you rise, at least to see you for my title, not otherwise easily accounted forcomfortably established in the world. Mine, dy- secondly, what is called an argument, or a summa: ing when I was six years old, did not live to see ry of the contents of each book, more circumstan. me sink in it. You may remember with pleasure, tial and diffuse by far than that which I have sent while you live, a blessing vouchsafed to you so to the press. It will give you a pretty accurate long; and I, while I live, must regret a comfort of acquaintance with my matter, though the tenons which I was deprived so early. I can truly say, and mortises, by which the several passages are that not a week passes (perhaps I might with equal connected, and let into each other, can not be exveracity say a day) in which I do not think of her. plained in a syllabus--and lastly, an extract as you Such was the impression her tenderness made up desired. The subject of it I am sure will please on me, though the opportunity she had for show- you, and as I have admitted into my description ing it was so short. But the ways of God are no images but what are scriptural, and have aimequal--and when I reflect on the pangs she woulded as exactly as I could at the plain and simple have suffered, had she been a witness of all mine, sublimity of the scripture language, I have hopes I see more cause to rejoice, than to mourn, that the manner of it may please you too. As far as she was hidden in the grave so soon.
the numbers and diction are concerned, it may serve We have, as you say, lost a lively and sensible pretty well for a sample of the whole. But the neighbour in Lady Austen, but we have been long subjects being so various, no single passage can in accustomed to a state of retirement within one de- all respects be a specimen of a book at large. gree of solitude, and being naturally lovers of still My principal purpose is to allure the reader, by life, can relapse into our former duality without character, by scenery, by imagery, and such poetibeing unhappy at the change. To me indeed a cal embellishments, to the reading of what may third is not necessary, while I can have the com- profit him. Subordinately to this, to combat that panion I have had these twenty years. predeliction in favour of a metropolis, that beggars
I am gone to the press again; a volume of mine and exhausts the country, by evacuating it of all, will greet your hands some time either in the course its principal inhabitants : and collaterally, and as of the winter, or early in the spring. You will far as is consistent with this double intention, to find it perhaps on the whole more entertaining than have a stroke at vice, vanity, and folly, wherever the former, as it treats a great variety of subjects, I find them. I have not spared the universities. and those, at least the most, of a sublunary kind. A letter which appeared in the General Evening It will consist of a poem in six books, called the Post of Saturday, said to have been received by a Task. To which will be added another, which I general officer, and by him sent to the press, as finished yesterday, called, I believe, Tirocinium, on worthy of public notice, and which has all the apthe subject of education.
pearance of authenticity, would alone justify the You perceive that I have taken your advice, and severest censure of those hodies, if any such jusgiven the pen no rest.*
W. C. tification were wanted. By way of supplement to
what I have written on this subject, I have added On the 21st of this month the writer commenced his a poem, called Tirocinium, which is in thyme. It
treats of the scandalous relaxation of that disci
translation of Homer.