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what I have got, be verse or not; by the tune and the time, it ought to be rhyme; but if it be, did you ever see, of late or of yore, such a ditty before? The thought did occur, to me and to her, as madam and I, did walk and not fly, over the hills and dales, with spreading sails, before it was dark to Weston Park.
The news at Oney is little or noney ; but such as it is, I send it, viz. : Poor Mr. Peace cannot yet cease, addling his head with what
you said, and has left parish-church quite in the lurch, having almost swore to go there no more.
Page and his wife, that made such a strife, we met them twain in Dog-lane; we gave them the wall, and that was all. For Mr. Scott, we have seen him not, except as he pass’d, in a wonderful haste, to see a friend in Silver End. Mrs. Jones proposes, ere July closes, that she and her sister, and her Jones mister, and we that are here, our course shall steer, to dine in the Spinney ;? but for a guinea, if the weather should hold, so hot and so cold, we had better by far, stay where we are. For the
grows, while nobody mows, (which is very wrong,) so rank and long, that so to speak, 'tis at least a week, if it happens to rain, ere it dries again.
I have writ Charity, not for popularity, but as well as I could, in hopes to do good ; and if the Reviewer should say “ To be sure, the gentleman's Muse, wears methodist shoes; you may know by her pace, and talk about grace, that she and her bard have little regard, for the taste and fashions, and ruling passions, and hoidening play, of the modern day; and though she assume a borrowed plume, and here and there wear a tittering air, 'tis only her plan, to catch if she can, the giddy and gay, as they go that way, by a production on a new construction. She has baited her trap in hopes to snap all that may come, with a sugar-plum.”
His opinion in this, will not be amiss ; 'tis what I intend, my principal end; and if I succeed, and folks should read, till a few are brought to a serious thought, I shall think I am paid, for all I have said and all I have done, though I have run, many a time, after a rhyme, as far as from hence, to the end of my sense, and by hook or crook, write another book, if I live and am here,
I have heard before, of a room with a floor, laid upon springs, and such-like things, with so much art, in every part, that when you went in, you was forced to begin a minuet
1 The Spinney was a delightful rural retirement-a grove--belonging to Mrs. Throckmorton of Weston, and about a mile from Olney. The word is used for a thicket, or clump of trees.
2 Cowper's summer-house still exists, but his favorite Spinney was cut down in 1785. Writing to Newton, he said, “In one year the whole will be a thicket; that which was once the serpentine-walk is now in a state of transformation, and is already become as woody as the rest. Poplars and elms, without number, are springing in the turf. They are now as high as the knee. Before the summer is ended they will be twice as high; and the growth of another season will make them trees. The desolation of the whole scene is such that it sunk our spirits."
pace, with an air and a grace, swimming about, now in and now out, with a deal of state, in a figure of eight, without pipe or string, or any such thing; and now I have writ, in a rhyming fit, what will make you dance, and as you advance, will keep you still, though against your will, dancing away, alert and gay, till you come to an end of what I have penn'd; which that you may do, ere madam and you are quite worn out with jigging about, I take my leave, and here you receive a bow profound, down to the ground, from your humble me,
W. C. P.S. When I concluded, doubtless you did think me right, as well you might, in saying what I said of Scott; and then it was true, but now it is due to him to note, that since I wrote, himself and he has visited me.
EXPECTS LADY HESKETH-PREPARATIONS FOR HER-HIS WORKSHOP
OLNEY, May 29, 1786. To LADY HESKETH.
Thou dear, comfortable cousin, whose letters, among all that I receive, have this property peculiarly their own, that I expect them without trembling, and never find any thing in them that does not give me pleasure; for which therefore I would take nothing in exchange that the world could give me, save and except that for which I must exchange them soon, (and happy shall I be to do so,) your own company. That, indeed, is delayed a little too long; to my impatience at least it seems so, who find the spring, backward as it is, too forward, because many of its beauties will have faded before you will have an opportunity to see them. We took our customary walk yesterday in the wilderness at Weston, and saw, with regret, the laburnums, syringas, and guelder-roses, some of them blown, and others just upon the point of blowing, and could not help observing—All these will be gone before Lady Hesketh comes! Still however there will be roses, and jasmine, and honeysuckle, and shady walks, and cool alcoves, and you will partake them with us.
But I want you to have a share of every thing that is delightful here, and cannot bear that the advance of the season should steal away a single pleasure before you can come to enjoy it.
Every day I think of you, and almost all the day long; I will venture to say, that even you were never so expected in your life. I called last week at the Quaker's to see the furniture of your bed, the fame of which had reached me. It is, I assure you, superb, of printed cotton, and the subject classical. Every morning you will open your eyes on Phaeton kneeling to Apollo, and imploring his father to grant him the conduct of his chariot for a day. May your sleep be as sound as your bed will be sumptuous, and your nights at least will be well provided for.
I shall send up the sixth and seventh books of the Iliad shortly, and shall address them to you. You will forward them to the General. I long to show you my workshop, and to see you sitting on the opposite side of my table. We shall be as close packed as two wax figures in an old-fashioned picture frame. I am writing in it now. It is the place in which I fabricate all my verse in summer time. I rose an hour sooner than usual this morning, that I might finish my sheet before breakfast, for I must write this day to the General.
The grass under my windows is all bespangled with dewdrops, and the birds are singing in the apple trees, among the blossoms. Never poet had a more commodious oratory in which to invoke his Muse.
TRANSLATION OF HOMER-TIE NONSENSE CLUB.
To Joseph HILL, Esq.
OLNEY, June 9, 1786. The little time that I can devote to any other purpose than that of poetry is, as you may suppose, stolen. Homer is urgent. Much is done, but much remains undone, and no schoolboy is more attentive to the performance of his daily task than I am. You will therefore excuse me if at present I am both unfrequent and short.
I had a letter some time since from your sister Fanny, that gave me great pleasure. Such notices from old friends are always pleasant, and of such pleasures I have received many lately. They refresh the remembrance of early days, and make me young again. The noble institution of the Nonsense Club will be forgotten, when we are gone who composed it; but I often think of your most heroic line, written at one of our meetings, and especially think of it when I am translating Homer,
"To whom replied the Devil yard-long-tailed." I There never was any thing more truly Grecian than that triple epithet, and were it possible to introduce it into either Iliad or Odyssey, I should certainly steal it. I am now flushed with expectation of Lady Hesketh, who spends the summer with us. We hope to see her next week. We have found admirable lodgings both for her and her suite, and a Quaker in this town, still more admirable than they, who, as if he loved her as much as I do, furnishes them for her with real elegance.
1 See page 70 under "Moral Plays."
ON A PARTICULAR PROVIDENCE." How mysterious are the ways of Providence! Why did I receive grace and mercy? Why was I preserved, afflicted for my good, received, as I trust, into favor, and blessed with the greatest happiness I can ever kno or hope for in this life, while others were overtaken by the great arrest, unawakened, unrepenting, and every way unprepared for it? His infinite wisdom, to whose infinite mercy I owe it all, can solve these questions, and none beside him. If I am convinced that no affliction can befall me without the permission of God, I am convinced, likewise, that he sees and knows that I am afflicted. Believing this, I must in the same degree believe that, if I pray to him for deliverance, he hears me; I must needs know likewise with equal assurance that, if he hears, he will also deliver me, if that will, upon the whole, be most conducive to my happiness; and if he does not deliver me, I may be well assured that he has none but the most benerolent intention in declining it. He made us, not because we could add to his happiness, which was always perfect, but that we might be happy ourselves; and will he not, in all his dispensations towards us, even in the minutest, consult that end for which he made us ? To suppose the contrary, is (which we are not always aware of) affronting every one of his attributes ; and at the same time the certain consequence of disbelieving his care for us is, that we renounce utterly our dependence upon him. In this view, it will appear plainly that the line of duty is not stretched too tight, when we are told that we ought to accept every thing at his hands as a blessing, and to be thankful even while we smart under the rod of iron with which he sometimes rules us. Without this persuasion, every blessing, however we may think ourselves happy in it, loses its greatest recommendation, and every affliction is intolerable. Death itself must be welcome to him who has this faith, and he who has it not, must aim at it, if he is not a madman.
1 From a letter to Lady Hesketh, dated Sept. 4, 1765.
QUESTIONS FOR EXAMINATION,
WHEN THE WORK IS USED AS A
COLLEGE OR SCHOOL TEXT-BOOK.
SIR JOUN MANDEVILLE, (page 17.) his chief work? What is its nature? In Date of birth and death? In whose reign
what character, therefore, is Barbour to be did he flourish? Date of Edward III.'s reign?
considered? What does he say, himself, of When did he leave England for foreign tra- his work? Repeat the paraphrase of his vel? How long was he gone? Through
A postrophe to Freedom, (note.) [The last what countries did he travel? In what lan two lines of the original are much superior, guages did he write his travels ?
and should be imbedded in the memory.] titles him to great consideration? What ac
GEOFFREY CHAUCER, (p. 27.) counts did he give which were not believed at the time, but which later testimony has
Date of Chaucer's birth and death? Reproved true? How does he prove the spheri.
peat Spenser and Wordsworth's lines. By cal form of the earth? Give his reasoning. what title is he distinctively known? What What does he say of the Chinese? What does Warton say of him? In whose reign evidence of the popularity of his work? did he flourish? To what family did he be(note, p. 19.) What books referred to ? come connected by marriage? Where did he (note.)
travel! With whom did he become ac
quainted? Who were the three chief scho JOHN WICLIF, (p. 21.)
lars of Italy in the 14th century, and for Date of Wiclif's birth and death? In what distinguished ? (note.) What public whose reign did he flourish? (Ir IIere the office dil Chaucer receive? When did he scholar must not be governed by the name die? In what respect does Chaucer resemble of the monarch at the top of the page over Cowper? What is his great work? From the author's name, for as the authors are what did he take the idea? What was the arranged according to the dates of their Decameron? Its etymology? Where was death, some will be found to have died the Canterbury? Why were pilgrimages made very first or second year of a new king's there? In what respect is Chaucer's plan reign; of course, therefore, they cannot be superior to Boccacio's? What is the plan of said to have “flourished in his reign.” Thus, the Decameron? What knowledge do the though Wiclif died in the reign of Richard Canterbury Tales give us! What great cause II., his great works were mostly written, and did they subsequently aid? (note.) (Here his great labors chiefly exerted in the reign the instructor may direct the scholar to comof Edward III.; he, therefore, must be said mit to memory such extracts from the varito have "fiourished" in the reign of that ous authors, as he may deem best. Of those monarch.] What was he called? What from Chaucer, I would recommend - The does Milton say of him? Where was he Parson." *) What are the four other prineducated? For what did he early distinguish cipal works of Chaucer? Give an account of himself? What title did he acquire? What was henceforth the great business of his
* I cannot too strongly urge upon the young life? Repeat the quotation from Milton re- the advantage of committing to memory the lative to Wiclif. State the comparative choicest passages in prose and poetry in Engmerits of Wiclif and Luther, as reformers.
lish Literature. What we learn thoroughiy Repeat the fine remark of Burnet, (note.) When did Wiclif die? What did the Coun
when young, remains by us through life. “Sir," cil of Constance decree? What is the re- sald the great Doctor Johnson to Boswell, "in mark of Fuller? Repeat the lines of Words- my early days I read very hard. It is a sad reworth, (note.) What is said of Wiclif's writ- tection, but a true one, that I knew almost as inga? What was his chief work? What hovor belongs to him? What did the papal be sure, was not so good; but I had all the facts.
much at eighteen as I do now. My judgment, to clergy say of his labors? (note.) What was his character? What books referred to? I remember very well when I was at Oxford, an (note.)
old gentleman said to me, “Young man, ply your JOHN BARBOUR, (p. 25.)
book diligently now, and acquire a stock of Date of Barbour's birth and death? To knowledge: for when years come unto you, you what country did he belong? In whose will find that poring upon books will be but an reign did he flourish ? What is the title of irksome task.'"