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A flooded valley, beneath the cloudy lour of a wintry moon, is one of those terrible graces in scenery, which the survey of danger, and the consciousness of protection, always form to people of strong imagination. I gaze with pleasing awe on the swoln, the extravagant, and usurping waters, as they roll over the fields, and, white with turbid foam, beat against the bushes.
This solemn luxury I can seldom taste, not having corporal power to seek abroad such scenes in the inclement nights which produce them; for of even the vernal and summer flood, miry ways are concomitant, and to feeble steps they are formidable ;-but I have been in situations like yours, when my mind could thus luxuriate in the prospect of scenic desolation, unpurchased by fatigue, difficulty, or danger.
Here is a long letter; I hope it will not substitute the real sin of wearying, for the imaginary one of neglecting you. Farewell.
Thos. PARK, Esg.
Lichfield, Dec. 21. 1797. VERY kind is your wish of consulting one of your London physicians on my case; but I have more confidence in those who have been long used to my constitution, and of whose skill I think highly :
“ My May of life
And many are the disorders which
annoy The rheumatism which, in a less degree, has long lurked in my frame, and weakened my limbs, lately settled, with accumulated force, in the sciatic nerve of my right hip. During three or four days, I could not set my foot to the ground, without insuppressive screams, and the assistance of two people. I have used, several times a-day, as an embrocation, the pretended essence of mustard, to the efficacy of which there is such layish testimony in the newspapers. I say pretended, because my surgeon and we are all convinced, that it does not contain a single grain of mustard, and is merely oil of turpentine tinged with saffron, or something of that colour. Yet I think it has been of use to me, and, therefore, what it is matters little.
I am extremely interested in all you say of Thomson and his Seasons * Nothing, in the study of the poetic art, could delight me more than to have the opportunity of which you availed yourself-than to trace, by comparing the first edition of the Seasons with the two last, printed with corrections, under his own eye, in 1750, and 1746—than to trace, in that comparison, the rising powers of the poet's fancy and judgment.
* Extract from Mr Park's letter. " I very lately met with the early copies of the Seasons, as they were separately published; and from them I learn, that Thomson improved and polished his poetry with the skill and indefatigable diligence of Pope. These copies differ as much from the collected edition in 1730, as that does from its expanded successor in 1746. Dr Johnson hesitates to pronounce whether, in these subsequent editions, the poems did not lose their race in fla
This appears equally strange with many other of that learned critic's critical enigmas. It is hardly possible that he could speak from actual comparison, since Summer and Winter appear mere school-hoy efforts, after perusing the modern copies. But it is always an interesting exercise to compare the first sketches of a great master with his finished productious. Winter, instead of being disregarded, as tradition reports, passed through four editions soon after publication; a success that, with all its excellence, I do not think it would have obtained in the present day. Pope subscribed for three sets of the former edition, in the year 1730."-S.
The only instance I know, where a fine poetic writer has injured in attempting to improve his compositions, is Akenside. I have the first edition of his Pleasures of Imagination, written between his twentieth and thirtieth year, bound up with his last altered edition, published in middle life. The poem, in its altered state, has indeed lost an immense portion“ of its race in flavour.” It seems, that the cold precision of mathematic studies, had not only dampt the fires of its author's fancy, but had rendered his judgment obtuse.
For Dr Johnson's having, to the disgrace of his judgment, pronounced, or rather suggested, the same censure on Thomson's alterations of his Seasons, by which they acquired a superiority so immense, I can thus account: He read them, on their first appearance, before his own sensibility of poetic beauty became warpt and blunted by literary jealousy and envy. He looked into the later editions, not read them, when those passions, so often the bane of authors, and, of all authors, most his bane, had jaundiced the native health of his mind. He remembered the pleasure with
which he had, in his youth, perused the earlier copies, and falsely placed to the poet's account that future palled and sickly perception, to which the meridian of Thomson's genius could not impart the delight, which its fainter dawn had inspired, when his own mind and taste were pure.
After Johnson rose himself into fame, it is well known that he read no other man's writings, live ing or dead, with that attention without which public criticism can have no honour, or, indeed, common honesty. If genius flashed upon his maturer eyes, they ached at its splendour, and he cast the book indignantly from him. All his familiarity with poetic compositions, was the result of juvenile avidity of perusal ; and their various beauties were stampt upon his mind, by a miraculous strength and retention of memory. The wealth of poetic quotation in his admirable Dictionary, was supplied from the hoards of his early years. They were very little augmented afterwards.
In subsequent periods, he read verse, not to appreciate, but to depreciate its excellence. His first ambition, early in life, was poetic fame; his first avowed publication was in verse. Disappointed in that darling wish, indignant of less than first-rate eminence, he hated the authors, preceding or contemporary, whose fame, as poets, eclipsed his own. In writing their lives, he gra