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TO SAMUEL ROSE, ESQ.
The Lodge, Feb. 14, 1788. Dear Sir— Though it be long since I received your last, I have not yet forgotten the impression it made upon me, nor how sensibly I felt myself obliged by your unreserved and friendly communications. I will not apologize for my silence in the interim, because, apprized as you are of my present occupation, the excuse that I might allege will present itself to you of course, and to dilate upon it would therefore be waste of paper.
You are in possession of the best security imaginable for the due improvement of your time, which is a just sense of its value. Had I been, when at your age, as much affected by that important consideration as I am at present, I should not have devoted, as I did, all the earliest parts of my life to amusement only. I am now in the predicament into which the thoughtlessness of youth betrays nine-tenths of mankind, who never discover that the health and good spirits which generally accompany it are in reality blessings only according to the use we make of them, till advanced years begin to threaten them with the loss of both. How much wiser would thousands have been than now they ever will be, had a puny constitution, or some occasional infirmity, constrained them to devote those hours to study and reflection, which for want of some such check they had given entirely to dissipation! I, therefore, account you happy, who, young as you are, need not be informed that you
cannot always be so, and who already know that the materials upon
which age can alone build its comfort should be brought together at an earlier period. You have indeed, in losing a father, lost a friend, but you have not lost his instructions. His example was not buried with him, but happily for you (happily because you are desirous to avail yourself of it) still lives in your remembrance, and is cherished in
best affections. Your last letter was dated from the house of a gentleman, who was, I believe, my schoolfellow. For the Mr. C- who lived at Watford, while I had
any connexion with Hertfordshire, must have been the father of the present, and, according to his age and the state of his health when I saw him last, must have been long dead. I never was acquainted with the family further than by report, which always spoke honourably of them, though, in all my journeys to and from my father's, I must have passed the door. The circumstance however reminds me of the beautiful reflection of Glaucus in the sixth Iliad; beautiful as well for the affecting nature of the observation as for the justness of the comparison and the incomparable simplicity of the expression. I feel that I shall not be satisfied without transcribing it, and yet perhaps my Greek may be difficult to decipher.
Oιη περ φυλλων γενεη, τοιηδε και ανδρων.
Ως ανδρων γενεη, η μεν φυει, ηδ απολήγει.* * We insert Pope's translation, as being the most familiar to the reader :
Excuse this piece of pedantry in a man whose Homer is always before him! What would I give that he were living now and within my reach! I, of all men living, have the best excuse for indulging such a wish, unreasonable as it may seem; for I have no doubt that the fire of his eye, and the smile of his lips, would put me now and then in possession of his full meaning more effectually than any commentator. I return you many thanks for the elegies which you sent me, both which I think deserving of much commendation. I should requite you but ill by sending you my mortuary verses, neither at present can I prevail on myself to do it, having no frank, and being conscious that they are not worth carriage without one.
I have one copy left, and that copy I will keep for you.
The public mind was deeply interested in the subject of the slave trade—that nefarious system, which was once characterised in the House of Lords, by Bishop Horsley, as “ the greatest moral pestilence that ever withered the happiness of mankind.” The honour of introducing this momentous question, in which the interests of humanity and justice were “ Like leaves on trees the race of man is found, Now green in youth, now withering on the ground; Another race the following spring supplies, They fall successive, and successive rise : So generations in their course decay, So flourish these, when those have pass'd away.”
so deeply involved, was reserved for William Wilberforce, Esq. How he executed that task is too well known to require either detail or panegyric. The final abolition of the slave trade was an era in the history of Great Britain, never to be forgotten; and the subsequent legislative enactments for abolishing slavery itself completed what was wanting, in this noble triumph of national benevolence.
The following letter alludes to this interesting subject.
TO LADY HESKETH.
The Lodge, Feb. 16, 1788. I have now three letters of yours, my dearest Cousin, before me, all written in the space of a week; and must be indeed insensible of kindness did I not feel yours on this occasion. I cannot describe to you, neither could you comprehend it if I should, the manner in which my mind is sometimes impressed with melancholy on particular subjects. Your late silence was such a subject. I heard, saw, and felt, a thousand terrible things, which had no real existence, and was haunted by them night and day, till they at last extorted from me the doleful epistle which I have since wished had been burned before I sent it. But the cloud has passed, and, as far as you are concerned, my heart is once more at rest.
Before you gave me the hint, I had once or twice, as I lay on my bed, watching the break of day, ruminated on the subject which, in your last but one, you recommended to me.
Slavery, or a release from slavery, such as the poor negroes have endured, or perhaps both these topics together, appeared to me a theme so important at the present juncture, and at the same time so susceptible of poetical management, that I more than once perceived myself ready to start in that career, could I have allowed myself to desert Homer for so long a time as it would have cost me to do them justice.
While I was pondering these things, the public prints informed me that Miss More was on the point of publication, having actually finished what I had not yet begun.*
The sight of her advertisement convinced me that my best course would be that to which I felt myself most inclined, to persevere without turning aside to attend to any other call, however alluring, in the business I have in hand.
It occurred to me likewise, that I have already borne my testimony in favour of my black brethren, and that I was one of the earliest, if not the first, of
For the gratification of those who are not in possession of this poem, we insert the following extract.
" Whene'er to Afric's shores I turn my eyes,
Horrors of deepest, deadliest guilt arise ;
By felon bands, by one relentless stroke,