Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub

you, for he did not mention it here) has met with similar treatment at a place in this country called Hinksey, or by some such name.* But he suffered in effigy for the Gospel's sake ;-a cause in which I presume he would not be unwilling, if need were, to be burnt in propria personâ.

I have nothing to add, but that we are well, and remember

you

with much affection; and that I am, my dear friend,

Sincerely yours,

W. C.

The following letters communicate various interesting particulars respecting Cowper's laborious undertaking, the new version of Homer's Iliad.

TO THE REV. WILLIAM UNWIN.

Olney, Oct. 22, 1785. My dear William – You might well suppose that your letter had miscarried, though in fact it was duly received. I am not often so long in arrear, and you may assure yourself that when at any time it happens that I am so, neither neglect nor idleness is the cause.

I have, as you well know, a daily occupation, forty lines to translate, a task which I never excuse myself, when it is possible to perform it. Equally sedulous I am in the matter of transcribing, so that between both my morning and evening are most part completely engaged. Add to this that, though my spirits are seldom so bad but I can

ame of the place is Tingewick.

* The proper

write verse, they are often at so low an ebb as to make the production of a letter impossible. much for a trespass, which called for some apology, but for which to apologize further would be a greater

trespass still.

you to

а

I am now in the twentieth book of Homer, and shall assuredly proceed, because the further I go the more I find myself justified in the undertaking; and in due time, if I live, shall assuredly publish, In the whole I shall have composed about forty thousand verses, about which forty thousand verses I shall have taken great pains, on no occasion suffering a slovenly line to escape me. I leave guess

therefore whether, such a labour once achieved, I shall not determine to turn it to some account, and to gain myself profit if I can, if not at least some credit for

my

reward. I perfectly approve of your course with John. The most entertaining books are best to begin with, and none in the world, so far as entertainment is concerned, deserves the preference to Homer. Neither do I know that there is any where to be found Greek of easier construction – poetical Greek I mean ; and as for

I should recommend Xenophon's Cyropædia. That also is a most amusing narrative, and ten times easier to understand than the crabbed epigrams and scribblements of the minor poets that are generally put into the hands of boys. I took particular notice of the neatness of John's Greek character, which (let me tell you) deserves its share of commendation ; for to write the language legibly is not the lot of every man who can read it.

prose,

Witness myself for one. I like the little ode of Huntingford's that you sent me. In such matters we do not expect much novelty, or much depth of thought. The expression is all in all, which to me at least appears to be faultless. Adieu, my dear William! We are well, and

you and yours are ever the objects of our affection.

W. C.

TO THE REV. JOHN NEWTON.*

Olney, Nov.5, 1785. My dear Friend—Were it with me as in days past, you should have no cause to complain of my tardiness in writing. You supposed that I would have accepted your packet as an answer to my last; and so indeed I did, and felt myself overpaid ; but, though a debtor, and deeply indebted too, had not wherewithal to discharge the arrear. You do not know nor suspect what a conquest I sometimes gain, when I only take up the pen with a design to write. Many a time have I resolved to say to all my few correspondents,—I take my leave of you for the present; if I live to see better days, you shall hear from me again.— I have been driven to the very verge of this measure; and even upon this occasion was upon the point of desiring Mrs. Unwin to become my substitute. She indeed offered to write

* Private Correspondence.

a

in my stead; but, fearing that you would understand me to be even worse than I am, I rather chose to answer for myself.—So much for a subject with which I could easily fill the sheet, but with which I have occupied too great a part of it already. It is time that I should thank

you,
and return you

Mrs. Unwin's thanks for your Narrative.* I told

you

in my last in what manner I felt myself affected by the abridgement of it contained iny our letter; and have therefore only to add, upon that point, that the impression made upon me by the relation at large was of a like kind. I envy all that live in the enjoyment of a good hope, and much more all who die to enjoy the fruit of it: but I recollect myself in time; I resolved not to touch that chord again, and yet was just going to trespass upon my resolution. As to the rest, your history of your happy niece is just what it should be clear, affectionate, and plain ; worthy of her, and worthy of yourself. How much more beneficial to the world might such a memorial of an unknown but pious and believing child eventually prove, would the supercilious learned condescend to read it, than the history of all the kings and heroes that ever lived! But the world has its objects of admiration, and God has objects of his love. Those make a noise and perish; and these weep silently for a short season, and live for

I had rather have been your niece, or the writer of her story, than any Cæsar that ever thundered.

* The Narrative of some remarkable and interesting particulars in the life of Mr. Newton.

ever.

The vanity of human attainments was never so conspicuously exemplified as in the present day. The sagacious moderns make discoveries, which, how useful they may prove to themselves I know not; certainly they do no honour to the ancients. Homer and Virgil have enjoyed (if the dead have any such enjoyments) an unrivalled reputation as poets, through a long succession of ages: but it is now shrewdly suspected that Homer did not compose the poems for which he has been so long applauded ;* and it is even asserted by a certain Robert Heron, Esq., that Virgil never wrote a line worth reading. He is a pitiful plagiary; he is a servile imitator, a bungler in his plan, and has not a thought in his whole work that will bear examination. In short, he is any thing but what the literati for two thousand years have taken him to be-a man of genius and a fine writer. I fear that Homer's case is desperate. After the lapse of so many generations, it would be a difficult matter to elucidate a question which time and modern ingenuity together combine to puzzle. And I suppose

I that it were in vain for an honest plain man to inquire, if Homer did not write the Iliad and the

a

* A few years afterwards a question was agitated whether the war of Troy itself was not a poetical fiction. Dr. Clarke, in bis Travels, shows the absurdity of these incredulous speculations, and satisfactorily establishes the fact. In the same spirit Lord Orford endeavoured to prove that Falstaff was no coward. But the boldest act of literary presumption was the assertion of Father Hardouin, that all the classic writings of antiquity were the production of the monks of the middle ages.

« ForrigeFortsæt »