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H. REPTON, Esq.*
Lichfield, Feb. 23, 1786. It was with the true English sullenness that your spirit felt repressed and deadened beneath the consciousness of having, by procuring a frank, laid yourself under the necessity of writing to me on a certain day. From the style of your first page, I perceive you fancied your talents in cramping-irons, and that they must necessarily plod through the white waste of blank paper, with a dull and heavy pace; and I smile to observe how soon you found these ideal
cramping-irons were, in reality, a pair of light skates, on which imagination glided rapidly away, with every free and graceful exertion ; since the very next passage to that which complains of the retarding power of that restraint, is highly beautiful and ingenious. It is on the subject of the celebrated
expressing your doubts whether
A gentleman well known by his in landscape gardening, and not less distinguished by private worth and polished
a visit from you would prove welcome, because you had not made one before her benefit; observing, that “ the little you have to bestow must be confined to merit in distress ; that it is only for the greatly affluent to reward Genius in affluence; since, though a watering-pot may refresh a bed of drooping flowers, nothing less than the liberal showers of the wide horizon can nourish the woods and lawns, or ripen to perfection the abundant harvest.” No metaphor can be more complete than that,-no allusion more happy.
By reflecting back upon your recollection this admirable sentence, I justify myself against your charge of partial praise on the theme of your epistolary talents ; like the lover who, when his mistress tells him he flatters her, leads the nymph to the looking-glass.
let tell you, never troubles itself to manufacture unmeaning compliments, and scorns the task of disingenuous flattery—but, as I love commendation myself, where my heart tells me I deserve it, and where I have any confidence in the judgment of the commender, so I also love to indulge my spirit in the luxury of encomium where I can honestly bestow it. That I have an eye quick to discern the emanations of genius, and of just and generous sentiments; and a mind which delights to contemplate their graces, and to ap
plaud their cultivation, is at least my happiness, if it is not allowed to be my praise. Your making these propensities of mine an insuperable bar to a communication of my letters to any of your friends, is surely a needless scruple. If this is not false modesty, the frank permission I often give my companions of perusing ingenious letters addressed to myself, though sprinkled over with the hyperboles of partiality, - must strike them as a proof of vanity. But, in truth, if the readers of such letters see clearer on the subject of my talents and disposition than the writers, I conclude they observe, with Stella, on her being shewn Swift's beautiful poem, Cadenus and Vanessa,
a man of genius may write finely on a broom-stick."
However, your reserve about my letters is, perhaps, in my favour, though the sensibility which produces it may be superfluous, since my letters, like my verses, are not much calculated to please the popular taste.
I admit, in a great degree, the justice of all you say on the subject of my paraphrastic odes from Horace. If I had ever entertained the idea of translating or paraphrasing the lyric compositions of that very agreeable poet regularly, I should have probably renounced it after having read your
last letter; but I had no such intention; yet, as I find it very amusing to give an English dress to a few of the most beautiful, while my hair is dressing, and as the attempt has greatly pleased some of my learned friends since they flatter me with having caught the spirit, while I departed from the letter of the poet, I have ventured to send one for every month since this year commenced, to the Gentleman's Magazine, and perhaps may continue that tribute till it expires.
Mr Hayley calls these same little odes of mine beautiful. His partial regard for me may render his praise too vivid for their merit; but that praise cannot be bestowed, with any degree of truth, upon the entire translations of the Horaceodes which the scholars have given. That it cannot, affords proof to me that they will not bear a literal or even close translation, without losing their fire and their grace.
If I have rendered a few of them interesting to even but one genuine disciple of the muses, my trifling, for I cannot call it labour, has not been in vain. Over the lyre of Horace I throw an unfettered, perhaps a presumptuous, hand.
That you have not read the Clarissa does not much excite my wonder. I know the aversion which most sensible people have to noyels ; and those who, like you, live much in the world, are
deterred by the idea of eight volumes closely written. It is but of late years that this work has been considered as ainongst the English classics. I thank you for promising to read it with attention. Nothing is more agreeable to me than the consciousness of having opened new sources of rational delight to those whom I esteem.
You tell me that Mrs Repton reads to you in an evening while you draw. I envy you the Julian faculty of dividing your attention without breaking it into useless fragments.
If it was early instead of late in my large sheet, I should speak to you of the publications which have attracted attention since I wrote to you last. Mr Boswell's entertaining Tour with the growling philosopher, over the desert Hebrides, which, through the fidelity of the describer, enables us to discern most distinctly the colloquial brightness of that luminary, and also its dark and turbid spots ;-Those pharisaic meditations, with their popish prayers for old Tetty's soul; their contrite parade about lying in bed on a morning; drinking creamed tea on a fast-day ; snoring at sermons, and having omitted to ponder well Bel and the Dragon, and Tobit and his Dog :
-Cowper's Task, which the generous reader of poetic susceptibility at once censures and adores : O! that such a master of the metaphoric, the allusive,