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should find opportunity to transcribe them. At the
same time, Mrs. Unwin's pain in her side has almost
forbidden her the use of the pen. She cannot use
it long without increasing that pain ; for which rea-
son I am more unwilling than herself that she should
ever meddle with it. But, whether what I write be
a trifle, or whether it be serious, you would cer-
tainly, were you present, see them all. Others get
a sight of them, by being so, who would never other-
wise see them ; and I should hardly withhold them
from you whose claim upon me is of so much older
a date than theirs. It is not, indeed, with readiness
and good-will that I give them to any body, for, if I
live, I shall probably print them ; and my friends,
who are previously well acquainted with them will
have the less reason to value the book in which they
shall appear. A trifle can have nothing to recom-
mend it but its novelty. I have spoken of giving
copies ; but, in fact, I have given none. They who
have them made them ; for, till my whole work shall
have fairly passed the press, it will not leave me a



256 LIFE OF COWPER.

moment more than is necessarily due to my corre-
spondents. Their number has of late increased upon
me, by the addition of many of my maternal rela-
tions, who, having found me out about a year since,
have behaved to me in the most affectionate manner,
and have been singularly serviceable to me in the
article of my subscription. Several of them are
coming from Norfolk to visit me in the course of
the summer.

I enclose a copy of my last mortuary verses. The
clerk for whom they were written is since dead ;
and whether his successor, the late sexton, will
choose to be his own dirge-maker, or will employ
me, is a piece of important news which has not
yet reached me.

Our best remembrances attend yourself and Miss
Catlett, and we rejoice in the kind Providence that
has given you in her so amiable and comfortable a
companion. Adieu, my dear friend !

I am sincerely yours,

w. c.



TO MRS. THROCKMORTON.

Weston, April 1, 1791.
My dear Mrs. Frog — A word or two before break-
fast; which is all that I shall have time to send
you ! You have not, I hope, forgot to tell Mr.
Frog how much I am obliged to him for his kind
though unsuccessful attempt in my favour at Oxford.
It seems not a little extraordinary that persons so
nobly patronised themselves on the score of lite-



LIFE OF COVVPER. 257

rature should resolve to give no encouragement to
it in return. Slioukl I find a fair opportunity to
thank them hereafter I will not neglect it.

Could Homer come himself, distress'd and poor,
And tune his harp at Rhedicina's door,
The rich old vixen would exclaim, (I fear,)
" Begone! no tramper gets a farthing here."

I have read your husband's pamphlet through and
through. You may think perhaps, and so may he,
that a question so remote from all concern of mine
could not interest me ; but if you think so, you are
both mistaken. He can write nothing that will not
interest me : in the first place, for the writer's sake,
and in the next place, because he writes better and
reasons better than any body ; with more candour,
and with more sufficiency, and, consequently, with
more satisfaction to all his readers, save only his
opponents. They, I think, by this time wish that
they had let him alone.

Tom is delighted past measure with his wooden
nag, and gallops at a rate that would kill any horse
that had a life to lose.

Adieu !

W. C.



TO JOHN JOHNSON, ESQ.

Weston, April 6, 1791.
My dear Johnny — A thousand thanks for your
splendid assemblage of Cambridge luminaries ! If

VOL. IV. s



2;>8 LIFE OF COWPER.

you are not contented with your collection, it can
only be because you are unreasonable ; for I, who
may be supposed more covetous on this occasion
than anybody, am highly satisfied and even delighted
with it. If indeed you should find it practicable to
add still to the number, I have not the least ob-
jection. But this charge I give you,

'AAAo Se TOL epe'to, cru 5' eVl (ppeffl 0dWeo afjcri.

Stay not an hour beyond the time you have men-
tioned, even though you should be able to add a
thousand names by doing so ! For I cannot afford to
purchase them at that cost. I long to see you, and
so do we both, and will not suffer you to postpone
your visit for any such consideration. No, my dear
boy ! In the affair of subscriptions, we are already
illustrious enough, shall be so at least, when you
shall have enlisted a college or two more ; which,
perhaps, you may be able to do in the course of
the ensuing week. I feel myself much obliged to
your university, and much disposed to admire the
liberality of spirit they have shown on this occa-
sion. Certainly I had not deserved much favour at
their hands, all things considered. But the cause
of literature seems to have some weight with them,
and to have superseded the resentment they might
be supposed to entertain, on the score of certain
censures that you wot of. It is not so at Oxford.

W. C.



LIF^ OF COWPER. 259



TO SAMUEL HOSE, ESQ.



Weston, April 29, 1791.

My dear Friend — I forget if I told you that Mr.
Throckmorton had apphed through the medium of

to the university of Oxford. He did so, but

without success. Their answer was, " that they
subscribe to nothing."

Pope's subscriptions did not amount, I think, to
six hundred ; and mine will not fall very short of
five. Noble doings, at a time of day when Homer
has no news to tell us, and when, all other comforts
of life having risen in price, poetry has of course
fallen. I call it a " comfort of life :" it is so to
others, but to myself it is become even a necessary.

The holiday times are very unfavourable to the
printer's progress. He and all his demons are
making themselves merry and me sad, for I mourn
at every hindrance

w. c.



TO THE REV. WALTER BAGOT.

Weston, May 2, 1791.

My dear Friend — Monday being a day in which
Homer has now no demands upon me, I shall give
part of the present Monday to you. But it this
moment occurs to me that the proposition with
which I begin will be obscure to you, unless fol-
lowed by an explanation. You are to understand,

s 2



260 LIFE OF CO\^PER.

therefore, that Monday being no post-day, I have
consequently no proof-sheets to correct, the cor-
rection of which is nearly all that I have to do with
Homer at present, I say nearly all, because I am
likewise occasionally employed in reading over the
whole of what is already printed, that I may make
a table of errata to each of the poems. How
much is already printed ? say you : I answer— the
whole Iliad, and almost seventeen books of the
Odyssey.

About a fortnight since, perhaps three weeks, I
had a visit from your nephew, Mr. Bagot, and his
tutor Mr. Hurlock, who came hither under con-
duct of your niece. Miss Barbara. So were the
friends of Ulysses conducted to the palace of An-
tiphates the Laestrigonian by that monarch's daugh-
ter. But mine is no palace, neither am I a giant,
neither did I devour any one of the party — on the
contrary, I gave them chocolate and pei-mitted them
to depart in peace. I was much pleased both with the
young man and his tutor. In the countenance of
the former I saw much Bagotism, and not less in
his manners. I will leave you to guess what I
mean by that expression. Physiognomy is a study of
which I have almost as high an opinion as Lavater
himself, the professor of it, and for this good reason,
because it never yet deceived me. But perhaps I
shall speak more truly if I say, that I am somewhat of
an adept in the art, although I have never studied it;
for, whether I will or not, I judge of every human
creature by the countenance, and, as I say, have
never yet seen reason to repent of my judgment.



LIFE OF COWPER. 261

Sometimes I feel myself powerfully attracted, as I
was by your nephew, and sometimes with equal ve-
hemence repulsed, which attraction and repulsion
have always been justified in the sequel.

I have lately read, and with more attention than
I ever gave to them before, Milton's Latin poems.
But these I must make the subject of some future
letter, in which it will be ten to one that your
friend Samuel Johnson gets another slap or two at
the hands of your humble servant. Pray read them
yourself, and with as much attention as I did ; then
read the Doctor's remarks if you have them, and
then tell me what you think of both.* It will be
pretty sport for you on such a day as this, which is
the fourth that we have had of almost incessant
rain. The weather, and a cold, the effect of it,
have confined me ever since last Thursday. Mrs.
Unwin however is well, and joins me in every good
wish to yourself and family. I am, my good friend,
Most truly yours,

W. C.

* Johnson's remark on IMilton's Latin poems is as follows :
" The Latin pieces are lusciously elegant ; but the delight
which they afford is rather by the exquisite imitation of the
ancient writers, by the purity of the diction and the harmony
of the numbers, than by any power of invention or vigour of
sentiment. They are not all of equal value ; the elegies
excel the odes ; and some of the exercises on gunpowder
treason might have been spared."

He, however, quotes with apjjrobation the remark of Hamp-
ton, the translator of Polybius, that " Milton was the first
Englishman who, after the revival of letters, wrote Latin
verses with classic elegance " — See Johnson's Life of Milton,



262 LIFE OF COWPER.



TO THE KEV. MR. BUCHANAN.

Weston, May 11, 1791,
My dear Sir — You have sent me a beautiful
poem, wanting nothing but metre. I would to hea-
ven that you could give it that requisite yourself;
for he who could make the sketch cannot but be
well qualified to finish. But, if you will not, I will;
provided always, nevertheless, that God gives me
ability, for it will require no common share to do
justice to your conceptions.*

I am much yours,

w. c.

Your little messenger vanished before I could
catch him



TO LADY HESKETH.



The Lodge, May 18, 1791.
My dearest Coz. — Has another of my letters
fallen short of its destination ; or wherefore is it,
that thou writest not ? One letter in five weeks is
a poor allowance for your friends at Weston. One,
that I received two or three days since from Mrs.

* We are indebted to Mr. Buchanan for having suggested
to Cowper the outline of the poem called '' The Four Ages,"
viz. infancy, youth, middle age, and old age. The writer was
acquainted with this respectable clergvman in his declining
years. He was considered to be a man of cultivated mind and
taste.



LIFE OF COW PER. i'63

Frog, has not at all enlightened me on this head.
But I wander in a wilderness of vain conjecture.

I have had a letter lately from New York, from
a Dr. Cogswell of that place, to thank me for my
fine verses, and to tell me, which pleased me par-
ticularly, that, after having read " The Task," my first
volume fell into his hands, which he read also, and
was equally pleased with. This is the only instance
I can recollect of a reader doing justice to my first
effusions : for I am sure, that in point of expres-
sion they do not fall a jot below my second, and
that in point of subject they are for the most part
superior. But enough, and too much of this. " The
Task" he tells me has been reprinted in that city.

Adieu ! my dearest Coz.

We have blooming scenes under wintry skies,
and with icy blasts to fan them.

Ever thine,

w. c.



TO JOHN JOHNSON, ESQ.

Weston, May 23, 1791.

My dearest Johnny — Did I not know that you
are never more in your element than M'hen you are
exerting yourself in my cause, I should congratulate
you on the hope there seems to be that your labour
will soon have an end.''^

You will wonder, perhaps, my Johnny, that Mrs.

* The labour df triinscribing C'owper's version.



264 LIFE OF COWPER.

Unwin, by my desire, enjoined you to secrecy con-
cerning the translation of the Frogs and Mice.*
Wonderful it may well seem to you, that I should
wish to hide for a short time from a few what I am
just going to publish to all. But I had more rea-
sons than one for this mysterious management ;
that is to say, I had two. In the first place, I
wished to surprise my readers agreeably ; and
secondly, I wished to allow none of my friends an
opportunity to object to the measure, who might
think it perhaps a measure more bountiful than
prudent. But I have had my sufficient reward,
though not a pecuniary one. It is a poem of much
humour, and accordingly I found the translation of
it very amusing. It struck me too, that I must
either make it part of the present publication, or
never publish it at all ; it would have been so terri-
bly out of its place in any other volume.

I long for the time that shall bring you once
more to Weston, and all your et ceteras with you.
Oh ! what a month of May has this been ! Let
never poet, English poet at least, give himself to
the praises of May again.

W. C.



We add the verses that he composed on this
occasion.

* See his version of Homer.



LIFE OF COWPER. 2G5



THE JUDGMENT OF THE POETS.

Two nj-mphs,* both nearly of an age,
Of numerous charms possess'd,

A warm dispute once chanc'd to wage,
Whose temper was the best.

The worth of each had been complete,

Had both alike been mild;
But one, although her smile was sweet,

Frown'd oft'ner than she smil'd.

And in her humour, when she frown'd,
Would raise her voice and roar;

And shake with fury to the ground,
The garland that she wore.

The other was of gentler cast.

From all such frenzy clear;
Her frowns were never known to last.

And never prov'd severe.

To poets of renown in song,
The nymphs referr'd the cause.

Who, strange to tell ! all judg'd it wrong
And gave misplac'd ajiplause.

They gentle call'd, and kind, and soft.

The flippant and the scold ;
And, though she chang'd her mood so oft.

That failing left untold.

No judges sure were e'er so mad,

Or so resolv'd to err;
In short, the charms her sister had.

They lavisli'd all on her.

* May and June.



266 LIFE OF COWPER.

Then thus die god, whom fondly they

Their s^reat inspirer call,
Wps hoard one genial summer's day.

To reprimand them all :

*' Since thus ye have combin'd," he said,
" My fav'rite nymph to slight,

Adorning May, that peevish maid !
With June's undoubted right;

The minx shall, for your folly's sake,
Still prove herself a shrew ;

Shall make your scribbling fingers ache.
And pinch your noses blue. '



TO LADY HESKETH.

The Lodge, May 27, 1791.

My dearest Coz. — I, who am neither dead, nor
sick, nor idle, should have no excuse, were I as tardy
in answering as you in writing. I live indeed
where leisure abounds, and you where leisure is
not ; a difference that accounts sufficiently both for
your silence and my loquacity.

When you told Mrs. that my Homer would

come forth in May, you told her what you believed,
and therefore no falsehood. But you told her at
the same time what will not happen, and therefore
not a truth. There is a medium between truth
and fiilsehood ; and I believe the word mistake ex-
presses it exactly. I will therefore say that you
were mistaken. If instead of May you had men-
tioned June, I flatter myself that you would have
hit the mark. For in June there is every proba-



LIFE OF COWI'ER. 267

bility that we shall publish. You will say, " Hang
the printer ! — for it is his fault ! " But stay, my
dear, hang him not just now ! For to execute him
and find another will cost us time, and so much too,
that I question if, in that case, we should publish
sooner than in August. To say truth, I am not
perfectly sure that there will be any necessity to
hang him at all ; though that is a matter which I
desire to leave entirely at your discretion, alleging
only, in the mean time, that the man does not ap-
pear to me during the last half-year to have been
at all in fault. His remittance of sheets in all that
time has been punctual, save and except while the
Easter holidays lasted, when I suppose he found it
impossible to keep his devils to their business. I
shall however receive the last sheet of the Odyssey
to-morrow, and have already sent up the Preface,
together with all the needful. You see, therefore,
that the publication of this famous work cannot be
delayed much longer.

As for politics, I reck not, having no room in my
head for any thing but the Slave bill. That is lost;
and all the rest is a trifle. I have not seen Paine's
book,* but refused to see it, when it was offered to
me. No man shall convince me that I am impro-
perly governed while I feel the contrary.

Adieu !

W. C.

* The " Riorhts of Man," a book which created a great fer-
ment in the coimtry, by its revolutionary character and state-



268 LIFE OF COWPER.

TO JOHN JOHNSON, ESQ.

Weston, June 1, 1791.
My dearest Johnny — Now you may rest. Now
I can give you joy of the period, of which I gave
you hope in my last; the period of all your labours
in my service.* But this I can foretell you also,
that, if you persevere in serving your friends at this
rate, your life is likely to be a life of labour. Yet
persevere ! Your rest will be the sweeter here-
after ! In the mean time I wish you, if at any
time you should find occasion for him, just such a
friend as you have proved to me !

W.C.

• As a transcriber.



^ait tfte mjixri.



Having now arrived at that period in the history of
Cowper, when he had brought to a close his great
and laborious undertaking, his version of Homer,
we suspend for a moment the progress of the Cor-
respondence, to aiford room for a few observations.

We have seen in many of the preceding letters,
with what ardour of application and liveliness of
hope he devoted himself to this favourite project
of enriching the literature of his country with an
English Homer, that might justly be esteemed a
faithful yet free translation ; a genuine and grace-
ful representative of the justly admired original.

After five years of intense labour, from which
nothing could withhold him, except the pressure of
that unhappy malady which retarded his exertions
for several months, he published his complete ver-
sion in two quarto volumes, on the first of July,
1791, having inscribed the Iliad to his young noble
kinsman. Earl Cowper, and the Odyssey to the
dowager Countess Spencer — a lady for whose virtues
he had long entertained a most cordial and affec-
tionate veneration.



270 LIFE OF COWPER.

He had exerted no common powers of genius and
of industry in this great enterprise, yet, we la-
ment to say, he failed in satisfying the expec-
tations of the public. Hayley assigns a reason
for this failure, which we give in his own words.
" Homer," he observes, " is so exquisitely beau-
tiful in his own language, and he has been so
long an idol in every literary mind, that any
copy of him, which the best of modern poets can
execute, must probably resemble in its effect the
portrait of a graceful woman, painted by an excel-
lent artist for her lover : the lover indeed w ill ac-
knowledge great merit in the work, and think him-
self much indebted to the skill of such an artist,
but he will never admit, as in truth he never can
feel, that the best of resemblances exhibits all the
grace that he discerns in the beloved original."

This illustration is ingenious and amusing, but
we doubt its justness ; because the painter may
produce a correct and even a flattering likeness of
the lover's mistress, though it is true that the lover
himself will think otherwise. But where is the
translator that can do justice to the merits of Ho-
mer ? Who can exhibit his majestic simplicity,
his sententious force, the lofty grandeur of his con-
ceptions, and the sweet charm of his imagery, embel-
lished with all the graces of a language never sur-
passed either in harmony or richness ? The two com-
petitors, who are alone entitled to be contrasted with
each other, are Pope and Cowper. We pass over
Ogilby, Chapman, and others. It is Hector alone
that is worthy to contend with Achilles. To the



LIFE OF COW PER. 271

version of Pope must be allowed the praise of me-
lody of numbers, richness of poetic diction, splen-
dour of imagery, and brilliancy of effect ; but these
merits are acquired at the expense of fidelity and
justness of interpretation. The simplicity of the
heroic ages is exchanged for the refinement of
modern taste, and Homer sinks under the weight of
ornaments not his own. Where Pope fails, Cow-
per succeeds; but, on the other hand, where Pope
succeeds, Cowper seems to fail. Cowper is more
faithful, but less rich and spirited. He is singularly
exempt from the defects attributable to Pope.
There is nothing extraneous, no meretricious or-
nament, no laboured elegance, nothing added, no-
thing omitted. The integrity of the text is hap-
pily preserved. But though it is in the page of
Cowper that we must seek for the true interpreta-
tion of Homer's meaning — though there are many
passages distinguished by much grace and beauty —
yet, on the whole, the lofty spirit, the bright glow
of feeling, the " thoughts that breathe, the words
that burn," are not sufficiently sustained. Each of
these distinguished writers, to a certain extent, has
failed, not from any want of genius, but because
complete success is difficult, if not unattainable.
Two causes may perhaps be assigned for this fail-
ure ; first, no copy can equal the original, if the
original be the production of a master artist. The
poet who seeks to transfuse into his own page the
meaning and spirit of an author, endowed with ex-
traordinary powers, resembles the chemist in his
laboratory, who, in endeavouring to condense the



272 LIFE OF COVVPER.

properties of different substances, and to extract
their essence, has the misfortune to see a great
portion of tlie volatile qualities evaporate in the
process, and elude all the efforts of his philosophic
art. Secondly, Homer still remains untranslated,
because of all poets he is the most untranslateable.
He seems to claim the lofty prerogative of standing
alone, and of enjoying the solitary grandeur of his
own unrivalled genius ; allowing neither to rival
nor to friend, to imitator nor to translator, the ho-
nours of participation ; but exercising the exclusive
right of interpreting the majestic simplicity of
his own conceptions, in all the fervour oi his
own poetic fancy, and in the sweet melody of his
own graceful and flowing numbers. He who wishes
to understand and to appreciate Homer, must seek
him in the charm and beauty of his own inimitable
language.

As Cowper's versions of the Iliad and Odyssey
have formed so prominent a feature in his corre-
spondence, for five successive years, we think it
may be interesting to subjoin a few specimens from
each translator, restricting our quotations to the
Iliad, as being the most familiar to the reader.

We extract passages, Avhere poetic skill was most
likely to be exerted.

Like leaves on trees, the race of man is found.

Now green in youth, now with'ring 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 are past awav.

Pope's ] eiiion, book vi, line 181.



LIFE OF COWPER. 273

For as the leaves, so springs the race of man.
Chill blasts shake down the leaves, and warm'd anew
By vernal airs the grove puts forth again :
Age after age, so man is born and dies.

Coiipei's Version, book vi, line 164.

The interview between Hector and Andromache —

Yet come it will, the day decreed by fates;

(How my heart trembles while my tongue relates!)

The day when thou, imperial Troy, must bend.

And see thy warriors fall, thy glories end.

And yet no dire presage so wounds my mind,

My mother's death, the ruin of my kind,

Not Priam's hotiry hairs defil'd with gore,

Not all my brothers gasping on the shore ;

As thine, Andromache! thy griefs I dread.

I see thee trembling, weeping, caj)tive led !

In Argive looms our battles to design

And woes, of which so large a part was thine!

To bear the victor's hard commands, or bvin?

The weight of waters from Hyperia's spring.

There, while you groan beneath the load of life,

They cry, liehold the mighty Hector's wife!

Some haughty Greek, who lives thv tears to see,

Embitters all thy woes, by naming me.

The thoughts of glory past, and present shame,

A thousand griefs shall waken at the name !

May I lie cold before that dreadful day,

Press'd with a load of monumental clay !


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