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October 19, 1748.
itself was so finished that I suppose it did I NEED not, I believe, advise you not require all the art I had imagined to adapt your conversation to the people to copy it tolerably. My aunts, seeing you are conversing with; for I suppose me open your letter, took it to be a buryyou would not, without this caution, have ing ticket, and asked whether anybody talked upon the same subject and in the had left me a ring; and so they still consame manner to a minister of state, a
ceive it to be, even with all their specbishop, a philosopher, a captain, and a
tacles on. Heaven forbid they should woman. A man of the world must, like suspect it to belong to any verses of the chameleon, be able to take every
mine, they would burn me for a poet. different hue, which is by no means a
This I know, if you suffer my head criminal or abject, but a necessary, com
to be printed, you will infallibly put me plaisance, for it relates only to manners,
out of mine. I conjure you immediately and not to morals.
to put a stop to any such design. Who One word only as to swearing, and that
is at the expense of engraving it, I know I hope and believe is more than is nec- not; but if it be Dodsley, I will make up essary. You may sometimes hear some the loss to him. The thing as it was, people in good company interlard their I know, will make me ridiculous enough; discourse with oaths, by way of embellish- but to appear in proper person, at the ment, as they think; but you must ob- head of my works, consisting of half a serve, too, that those who do so are never
dozen ballads in thirty pages, would be those who contribute in any degree to
worse than the pillory. I do assure you, give that company the denomination of if I had received such a book, with such good company. They are always sub- a frontispiece, without any warning, I alterns, or people of low education; for
believe it would have given me a palsy. that practice, besides that it has no one
Therefore I rejoice to have received this temptation to plead, is as silly and illib- notice, and shall not be easy till you tell eral as it is wicked.
me all thoughts of it are laid aside. Loud laughter is the mirth of the mob, who are only pleased with silly things;
TO REV. WILLIAM MASON for true wit or good sense never excited
Dec. 19, 1757 a laugh since the creation of the world. A man of parts and fashion is therefore THOUGH I very well know the bland, only seen to smile, but never heard to emollient, saponaceous qualities of both laugh.
sack and silver, yet if any great man
would say to me, “I make you rat-catcher THOMAS GRAY
to his Majesty, with a salary of £300 a
year and two butts of the best Malaga ; TO HORACE WALPOLE and though it has been usual to catch a
mouse or two, for form's sake, in public January, 1753
once a year, yet to you, sir, we shall not I am at present at Stoke, to which place stand upon these things,” I cannot say I came at half an hour's warning upon the I should jump at it. Nay, if they would news I received of my mother's illness, drop the very name of the office, and call and did not expect to have found her it Sinecure to the King's Majesty, I alive; but when I arrived she was much should still feel a little awkward, and better, and continues so. I shall there- think everybody I saw smelt a rat about fore be very glad to make you a visit at But I do not pretend to blame any Strawberry Hill, whenever you give me
one else that has not the same sensations ; notice of a convenient time. I am sur- for my part I would rather be sergeant prised at the print, which far surpasses
1 At the time when Gray's name had been menmy idea of London graving; the drawing tioned for the vacant post of Poet.
trumpeter or pinmaker to the palace. the door at nine o'clock in the morning, Nevertheless I interest myself a little in where Sir William Saunderson respectthe history of it, and rather wish some- fully informed them the Chancellor had body may accept it that will retrieve made an order against their admittance. the credit of the thing, if it be retrievable, The Duchess of Queensberry, as head of or ever had any credit. Rowe was, I the squadron, pished at the ill-breeding think, the last man of character that had of a mere lawyer, and desired him to let it. As to Settle, whom you mention, them upstairs privately. After he belonged to my Lord Mayor, not to modest refusals, he swore by G - he the king. Eusden was a person of great
would not let them in. Her Grace, with hopes in his youth, though at last he a noble warmth, answered, by G they turned out a drunken parson. Dryden would come in, in spite of the Chancellor was as disgraceful to the office, from his and the whole House. This being recharacter, as the poorest scribbler could ported, the Peers resolved to starve them have been from his verses. The office out; an order was made that the doors itself has always humbled the professor should not be opened until they had hitherto (even in an age when kings raised their siege. These Amazons now were somebody), if he were a poor writer showed themselves qualified for the duty by making him more conspicuous, and even of foot-soldiers; they stood there if he were a good one by setting him till five in the afternoon, every now and at war with the little fry of his own pro- then playing volleys of thumps, kicks, fession, - for there are poets little enough and raps against the door, with so much to envy even a poet laureate.
violence that the speakers in the House
were scarce heard. When the Lords were LADY MARY MONTAGU
not to be conquered by this, the two
duchesses (very well apprised of the use TO THE COUNTESS OF POMFRET
of stratagems in war) commanded a dead
silence of half an hour; and the ChanMarch, 1739.
cellor, who thought this a certain proof At the last warm debate in the of their absence - the Commons also House of Lords, it was unanimously re- being very impatient to enter - gave solved there should be no crowd of un- order for the opening of the door; upon necessary auditors; consequently the fair which they all rushed in, pushed aside sex were excluded, and the gallery des- their competitors, and placed themselves tined to the sole use of the House of Com- in the front rows of the gallery. They mons. Notwithstanding which deter- stayed there till after eleven, when the mination, a tribe of dames resolved to House rose; and during the debate gave show on this occasion that neither men applause, and showed marks of dislike, nor laws could resist them. These her- not only by smiles and winks (which oines were Lady Huntingdon, the Duch- have always been allowed in these cases), ess of Queensberry, the Duchess of An- but by noisy laughs and apparent concaster, Lady Westmoreland, Lady Cob- tempts, -- which is supposed the true ham, Lady Charlotte Edwin, Lady Archi- reason why poor Lord Hervey spoke bald Hamilton and her daughter, Mrs. miserably. I beg your pardon, dear Scott, and Mrs. Pendarves, and Lady madam, for this long relation; but 'tis Frances Saunderson. I am thus partic- impossible to be short on so copious a ular in their names, since I look upon subject; and you must own this action them to be the boldest assertors, and very well worthy of record, and I think most resigned sufferers for liberty, I ever not to be paralleled in history, ancient read of. They presented themselves at or modern.
TO THE COUNTESS OF BUTE important part of a woman's education
than it is generally supposed. Many January 28, 1753. a young damsel has been ruined by a You have given me a great deal of fine copy of verses, which she would have satisfaction by your account of your eld- laughed at if she had known it had been est daughter. I am particularly pleased stolen from Mr. Waller. I remember, to hear she is a good arithmetician; it when I was a girl, I saved one of my is the best proof of understanding; the companions from destruction, who comknowledge of numbers is one of the chief municated to me an epistle she was quite distinctions between us and the brutes. charmed with. As she had a natural
. . Every woman endeavours to breed good taste, she observed the lines were not her daughter a fine lady, qualifying her so smooth as Prior's or Pope's, but had for a station in which she will never ap- more thought and spirit than any of theirs. pear, and at the same time incapacitat. She was wonderfully delighted with such ing her for that retirement to which she is a demonstration of her lover's sense and destined. Learning, if she has a real passion, and not a little pleased with taste for it, will not only make her con- her own charms, that had force enough tented, but happy in it. No entertain- to inspire such elegancies. In the midst ment is so cheap as reading, nor any of this triumph I showed her that they pleasure so lasting. She will not want were taken from Randolph's poems, and new fashions, nor regret the loss of ex- the unfortunate transcriber was dismissed pensive diversions, or variety of company, with the scorn he deserved. To say if she can be amused with an author in truth, the poor plagiary was very unher closet. To render this amusement lucky to fall into my hands; that author, extensive, she should be permitted to being no longer in fashion, would have learn the languages. I have heard it escaped any one of less universal reading lamented that boys lose so many years
than myself. You should encourage your in mere learning of words; this is no ob- daughter to talk over with you what she jection to a girl, whose time is not so pre- reads; and, as you are very capable of cious; she cannot advance herself in any distinguishing, take care she does not profession, and has therefore more hours mistake pert folly for wit and humour, or to spare; and as you say her memory rhyme for poetry, which are the common is good, she will be very agreeably em- errors of young people, and have a train ployed this way. There are two cautions of ill consequences. The second caution to be given on this subject : first, not to to be given her (and which is most absothink herself learned when she can read lutely necessary) is to conceal whatever Latin, or even Greek. Languages are learning she attains, with as much solicimore properly to be called vehicles of tude as she would hide crookedness or learning than learning itself, as may be lameness. The parade of it can only observed in many schoolmasters, who, serve to draw on her the envy, and conthough perhaps critics in grammar, are sequently the most inveterate hatred, the most ignorant fellows upon earth. of all he and she fools, which will cerTrue knowledge consists in knowing tainly be at least three parts in four of things, not words. I would wish her all her acquaintance. no further a linguist than to enable her to read books in their originals, that are
Lovere, (1755). often corrupted, and always injured, by I have promised you some remarks on translations. Two hours' application all the books I have received. I believe every morning will bring this about much you would easily forgive my not keeping sooner than you can imagine, and she my word; however, I shall go on. The will have leisure enough besides to run Rambler is certainly a strong misnomer ; over the English poetry, which is a more he always plods in the beaten road of his
predecessors, following the Spectator with the same pace a packhorse would do a hunter in the style that is proper to lengthen a paper. These writers may, perhaps, be of service to the public, which is saying a great deal in their favour. There are numbers of both sexes who never read anything but such productions, and cannot spare time from doing nothing to go through a six-penny pamphlet. Such gentle readers may be improved by a moral hint which, though repeated over and over from generation to generation, they never heard in their lives. I should be glad to know the name of this labourious author. H. Fielding has given a true picture of himself and his first wife in the characters of Mr. and Mrs. Booth, some compliments to his own figure excepted; and I am persuaded several of the incidents he mentions are real matters of fact. I wonder he does not perceive Tom Jones and Mr. Booth are sorry scoundrels. All these sort of books have the same fault, which I cannot easily pardon, being very mischievous. They place a merit in extravagant passions, and encourage young people to hope for impossible events, to draw them out of the misery they chose to plunge themselves into, expecting legacies from unknown relations, and generous benefactors to distressed virtue, as much out of nature as fairy treasures. Fielding has really a fund of true humour, and was to be pitied at his first entrance into the world, having no choice, as he said himself, but to be a hackney writer or a hackney coachman. His genius deserved a better fate; but I cannot help blaming that continued indiscretion, to give it the softest name, that has run through his life, and I am afraid still remains. . . . The general want of invention which reigns among our writers inclines me to think it is not the natural growth of our island, which has not sun enough to warm the imagination. The press is loaded by the servile flock of imitators. ... Since I was born, no original has appeared excepting Congreve, and Fielding, who would, I believe, have approached nearer to his excellences, if
not forced by necessity to publish without correction, and throw many productions into the world he would have thrown into the fire, if meat could have been got without money, or money without scribbling. The greatest virtue, justice, and the most distinguishing prerogative of mankind, writing, when duly executed, do honour to human nature; but when degenerated into trades, are the most contemptible ways of getting bread.
September, 22, 1755. I am sorry for H. Fielding's death, not only as I shall read no more of his writings, but I believe he lost more than others, as no man enjoyed life more than he did. . . . There was a great similitude between his character and that of Sir Richard Steele. He had the advantage both in learning and — in my opinion genius; they both agreed in wanting money in spite of all their friends, and would have wanted it, if their hereditary lands had been as extensive as their imagination; yet each
of them was formed for happiness, it is pity he was not immortal.
TO MRS. COWPER
Huntingdon, Oct. 20, 1766. MY DEAR COUSIN - I am very sorry for poor Charles's illness, and hope you will soon have cause to thank God for his complete recovery. We have an epidemical fever in this country likewise, which leaves behind it a continual sighing, almost to suffocation: not that I have seen any instance of it, for, blessed be God! our family have hitherto escaped it, but such was the account I heard of it this morning
I am obliged to you for the interest you take in my welfare, and for your inquiring so particularly after the manner in which my time passes here. As to amusements, I mean what the world calls such, we have none: the place indeed swarms with them; and cards and dancing are the
professed business of almost all the gentle new convert is apt to think himself called inhabitants of Huntingdon. We refuse to upon for that purpose; but it has pleased take part in them, or to be accessaries to God, by means which there is no need to this way of murdering our time, and by so particularize, to give me full satisfaction doing have acquired the name of Metho- as to the propriety of declining it; indeed, dists. Having told you how we do not they who have the least idea of what I spend our time, I will next say how we do. have suffered from the dread of public We breakfast commonly between eight exhibitions will readily excuse my never and nine; till eleven, we read either the attempting them hereafter. In the mean Scripture, or the sermons of some faithful time, if it please the Almighty, I may be an preacher of those holy mysteries; at instrument of turning many to the truth, eleven, we attend divine service, which is in a private way, and hope that my enperformed here twice every day; and deavours in this way have not been from twelve to three we separate, and entirely unsuccessful. Had I the zeal of amuse ourselves as we please. During
we please. During Moses, I should want an Aaron to be my that interval I either read in my own spokesman. apartment, or walk, or ride, or work in
Yours ever, my dear Cousin, the garden. We seldom sit an hour after
W. C. dinner, but if the weather permits adjourn to the garden, where, with Mrs. Unwin TO THE REV. WILLIAM UNWIN and her son, I have generally the pleasure of religious conversation till tea time. If
October 31, 1779. it rains, or is too windy for walking, we MY DEAR FRIEND — I wrote my last either converse within doors, or sing some letter merely to inform you that I had hymns of Martin's collection, and, by the nothing to say, in answer to which you help of Mrs. Unwin's harpsichord, make have said nothing. I admire the propriety up a tolerable concert, in which our hearts, of your conduct, though I am a loser by it. I hope, are the best and most musical I will endeavour to say something now, performers. After tea we sally forth to and shall hope for something in return. walk in good earnest. Mrs. Unwin is a I have been well entertained with good walker, and we have generally Johnson's biography, for which I thank travelled about four miles before we see you: with one exception, and that a home again. When the days are short, swinging one, I think he has acquitted we make this excursion in the former part himself with his usual good sense and of the day, between church-time and sufficiency. His treatment of Milton is dinner. At night we read and converse,
unmerciful to the last degree. A penas before, till supper, and commonly fin- sioner is not likely to spare a republican, ish the evening either with hymns or a and the Doctor, in order, I suppose to sermon; and, last of all, the family are convince his royal patron of the sincerity called to prayers. I need not tell you that of his monarchical principles, has besuch a life as this is consistent with the laboured that great poet's character with utmost cheerfulness; accordingly, we are the most industrious cruelty. As a man, all happy, and dwell together in unity as he has hardly left him the shadow of brethren. Mrs. Unwin has almost a ma- one good quality. Churlishness in his ternal affection for me, and I have some- private life, and a rancourous hatred of thing very like a filial one for her, and her everything royal in his public, are the son and I are brothers. Blessed be the two colours with which he has smeared God of our salvation for such companions, all the canvas. If he had any virtues, and for such a life, above all for a heart to they are not to be found in the Doctor's like it!
picture of him, and it is well for Milton I have had many anxious thoughts that some sourness in his temper is the about taking orders, and I believe every only vice with which his memory has been