ePub 版


your own judgment must be the best : professional men may suggest hints, but I would keep the decision to myself.

Lady Beaumont utters something like an apprehension that the slowness of workmen or other impediments may prevent our families meeting at Coleorton next summer. We shall be sorry for this, the more so, as the same cause will hinder

your coming hither. At all events, we shall depend upon her frankness, which we take most kindly indeed; I mean, on the promise she has made, to let us know whether you are gotten so far through your work as to make it comfortable for us all to be together.

I cannot close this letter without a word about myself. I am sorry to say I am not yet settled to any serious employment. The expectation of Coleridge not a little unhinges me, and, still more, the number of visitors we have had; but winter is approaching, and I have good hopes. I mentioned Michael Angelo's poetry some time ago; it is the most difficult to construe I ever met with, but just what you would expect from such a man, shewing abundantly how conversant his soul was with great things. There is a mistake in the world concerning the Italian language; the poetry of Dante and Michael Angelo proves, that if there be little majesty and strength in Italian verse, the fault is in the authors, and not in the tongue. I can translate, and have translated, two books of Ariosto, at the rate, nearly, of 100 lines a day; but so much meaning has been put by Michael Angelo into so little room, and that meaning sometimes so excellent in itself, that I found the difficulty of translating him insurmountable. I attempted, at least, fifteen of the sonnets, but could not anywhere succeed. I have sent you the only one I was able to finish: it is far from being the best, or most characteristic, but the others were too much for me.*

I began this letter about a week ago, having been interrupted. I mention this, because I have on this account to apologise to Lady Beaumont, and to my sister also, whose intention it was to have written, but being very much engaged, she put it off as I was writing. We have been weaning Dorothy, and since, she has had a return of the croup from an imprudent exposure on a very cold day. But she is doing well again ; and

“Yes, Hope may with my strong desire keep pace,' &c.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

my sister will write very soon. Lady Beaumont inquired how game might be sent us. There is a direct conveyance from Manchester to Kendal by the mail, and a parcel directed for me, to be delivered at Kendal, immediately, to John Brockbank, Ambleside, postman, would, I dare say, find its way to us expeditiously enough; only you will have the goodness to mention in your letters when you do send anything, otherwise we may not be aware of any mistake.

I am glad the Houbraken will be acceptable, and will send it any way you shall think proper, though perhaps, as it would only make a small parcel, there might be some risk in trusting it to the waggon or mail, unless it could be conveniently inquired after. No news of Coleridge. The length of this letter is quite formidable; forgive it. Farewell, and believe me, my dear Sir George, Your truly affectionate friend,



Letter to Sir George H. Beaumont, Bart.

Had there been room at the end of the small avenue of lime-trees for planting a spacious circle of the same trees, the urn might have been placed in the centre, with the inscription thus altered :

Ye lime-trees, ranged around this hallowed urn,
Shoot forth with lively power at Spring's return !

Here may some painter sit in future days,
Some future poet meditate his lays !
Not mindless of that distant age, renowned,
When inspiration hovered o'er this ground,
The haunt of him who sang, how spear and shield
In civil conflict met on Bosworth field,
And of that famous youth (full soon removed
From earth!) by mighty Shakespear's self approved,

Fletcher's associate, Jonson's friend beloved. The first couplet of the above, as it before stood, would have appeared ludicrous, if the stone had remained after the * Memoirs, vol. i. pp. 345-54, with very important additions from the original. G.


tree might have been gone. The couplet relating to the household virtues did not accord with the painter and the poet; the former being allegorical figures; the latter, living men.

What follows, I composed yesterday morning, thinking there might be no impropriety in placing it, so as to be visible only to a person sitting within the niche which we hollowed out of the sandstone in the winter-garden. I am told that this is, in the present form of the niche, impossible ; but I shall be most ready, when I come to Coleorton, to scoop out a place for it, if Lady Beaumont think it worth while.



Oft is the medal faithful to its trust
When temples, columns, towers, are laid in dust;
And 'tis a common ordinance of fate
That things obscure and small outlive the great.

Hence, &c. These inscriptions have all one fault, they are too long; but I was unable to do justice to the thoughts in less room. The second has brought Sir John Beaumont and his brother Francis so lively to my mind, that I recur to the plan of republishing the former's poems, perhaps in connection with those of Francis. Could


further search be made after the Crown of Thorns?' If I recollect right, Southey applied without effect to the numerous friends he has among the collectors. The best way, perhaps, of managing this republication would be, to print it in a very elegant type and paper, and not many copies, to be sold high, so that it might be prized by the collectors as a curiosity. Bearing in mind how many excellent things there are in Sir John Beaumont's little volume, I am somewhat mortified at this mode of honouring his memory; but in the present state of the taste of this country, I cannot flatter myself that poems of that character would win their way into general circulation. Should it appear advisable, another edition might afterwards be published, upon a plan which would place the book within the reach of those who have little money to spare. I remain, my dear Sir George,

Your affectionate friend,

W. WORDSWORTH. * Memoirs, vol. i, pp. 358-60,



Letter to Sir George H. Beaumont, Bart.

Grasmere, Sat., Nov. 16. 1811. MY DEAR SIR GEORGE,

I have to thank you for two letters. Lady Beaumont also will accept my acknowledgments for the interesting letter with which she favoured me.

[ocr errors]


I learn from Mrs. Coleridge, who has lately heard from C--, that Alston, the painter, has arrived in London. Coleridge speaks of him as a most interesting person. He has brought with him a few pictures from his own pencil, among others, a Cupid and Psyche, which, in C.'s opinion, has not, for colouring, been surpassed since Titian. C. is about to deliver a Course of Lectures upon Poetry, at some Institution in the city. He is well, and I learn that the 'Friend' has been a good deal inquired after lately. For ourselves, we never hear from him.

I am glad that the inscriptions please you. It did always appear to me, that inscriptions, particularly those in verse, or in a dead language, were never supposed necessarily to be the composition of those in whose name they appeared. If a more striking, or more dramatic effect could be produced, I have always thought, that in an epitaph or memorial of any kind, a father, or husband, &c. might be introduced, speaking, without any absolute deception being intended : that is, the reader is understood to be at liberty to say to himself,—these verses, or this Latin, may be the composition of some unknown person, and not that of the father, widow, or friend, from whose hand or voice they profess to proceed. If the composition be natural, affecting, or beautiful, it is all that is required. This, at least, was my view of the subject, or I should not have adopted that mode. However, in respect to your scruples, which I feel are both delicate and reasonable, I have altered the verses; and I have only to regret that the alteration is not more happily done. But I never found anything more difficult. I wished to preserve the expression patrimonial grounds, but I found this impossible, on account of the awkwardness of the pronouns, he


and his, as applied to Reynolds, and to yourself. This, even where it does not produce confusion, is always inelegant. I was, therefore, obliged to drop it; so that we must be content, I fear, with the inscription as it stands below. As you mention that the first copy was mislaid, I will transcribe the first part from that; but you can either choose the Dome or the Abbey as you like.

Ye lime-trees, ranged before this hallowed urn,
Shoot forth with lively power at Spring's return;
And be not slow a stately growth to rear
Of pillars, branching off from year to year,
Till ye have framed, at length, a darksome aisle,
Like a recess within that sacred pile
Where Reynolds, 'mid our country's noblest dead,

In the last sanctity of fame is laid, &c. &c.
I hope this will do: I tried a hundred different ways, but

, cannot hit upon anything better. I am sorry to learn from Lady Beaumont, that there is reason to believe that our cedar is already perished. I am sorry for it. The verses upon that subject you and Lady B. praise highly; and certainly, if they have merit, as I cannot but think they have, your discriminating praises have pointed it out. The alteration in the beginning, I think with you, is a great improvement, and the first line is, to my ear, very rich and grateful. As to the 'Female and Male,' I know not how to get rid of it; for that circumstance gives the recess an appropriate interest. I remember, Mr. Bowles, the poet, objected to the word ravishment at the end of the sonnet to the winter-garden ; yet it has the authority of all the first-rate poets, for instance, Milton :

In whose sight all things joy, with ravishment,

Attracted by thy beauty still to gaze. Objections upon these grounds merit more attention in regard to inscriptions than any other sort of composition; and on this account, the lines (I mean those upon the niche) had better be suppressed, for it is not improbable that the altering of them might cost me more trouble than writing a hundred fresh ones.

We were happy to hear that your mother, Lady Beaumont, was so surprisingly well. You do not mention the school at Coleorton. Pray how is Wilkie in health, and also as to progress in his art ? I do not doubt that I shall like Arnold's picture; but he would have been a better painter, if his genius

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
« 上一頁繼續 »