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those cold-hearted devotionists, whose religion is composed of selfishness and terror. I cannot think that the oblations of such mere parasites in religion can be acceptable as those of the benevolent man, whose piety is the result of blended gratitude to his Maker, and of kindling esteem and love for whatever is great and worthy in man; who praises such efforts, without coldly pausing to consider, whether he shall get any thing by his encomiums, here or hereafter.
Since all the powers of the human mind in science and art, as well as in religion and morality, are the gift of God, to applaud and to commemorate their industrious cultivation, cannot be displeasing to their great Giver. Shall he not lend a gracious observance of such liberal and unenvying testimony of fraternal love from one created being to another ? Mr Cowper bends an eagle glance upon the follies and vices of his contemporaries, and an owlish one upon their talents and virtues. He will be likely enough to bid his austere muse frown upon the design of such a public testimony of honour for the rare and energetic virtue of Howard.
6 Yet do not thou for that, or for ought else
Lichfield, Oct. 20, 1736. The visible dejection of your mind, when you wrote last, pains me; so does it to learn that a new complaint, in the most important of our senses, is added to the many other circumstances of corporal annoyance, that have often made the hours, to which your talents are so capable of giving wings,
“ Move slowly on With dull and flagging pinion.”
May their dark and retarding influence descend seldomer upon you! It is too much to hope that they may never come to the healthiest and the happiest.
66 Who dreams of nature free from nature's strife?
Who dreams of perfect happiness below?
The youth to knowledge unchastiş'd by woe."
Your objection to the monotonoys chime of the legitimate sonnet, from the four times repeated rhyme, would be just, if the sense were carried on, as in the couplet, to the end of each line. But that jingling effect is entirely done away where the verses run into each other with undulating flow, and varied pause, after the manner of blank verse, as in the sublime anathema of Milton on the massacre at Piedmont.
I have read Mr G-s essays, and like many of them extremely; but that mania' of the imagination about weakened nature and exhausted art, in the poetic line, is strongly upon him. He should be above such idle prejudice, which has been the common cant in all
ages. Never was there so rich a galaxy of poetic stars as have shone out, with perpetual augmentation to their number, within the last half century. Mighty is the power of prejudice, when she weaves a web thick and dark enough to conceal their lustre from the eyes of her votaries. It is true, we have not a Shakespeare and a Milton, but that is not owing to nature having become more penurious respecting the gift of genius, but to the fastidiousness of refinement, and the severity of criticism.
I entered the lists with Mr G when I was in town last spring, on this subject; and, after I had enumerated our modern bards, living and extinct, who have adorned the last fifty years, and he had, somewhat reluctantly, been brought to acknowledge the genuine spirit, originality, and grace of their compositions, he was candid enough to acknowledge also, that his decisions against the claims of the moderns were hasty and unjust.
I know there is a great falling off since Johnson’s Lives of the Poets appeared. It is in the taste of the public, however, not in the genius of individuals; but the induration on the sensibility of excellence in the higher walks of poetry, which that work has so generally produced, will, in future, create the paucity it does not meet. Who takes the trouble of singing to the deaf, or of painting for the blind?
But it is time to close my epistle. Ere this period, I hope your eyes have regained their strength, and again permit the streams of wisdom and genius to flow in upon your mind from the pages of ancient and modern literature. What a misfortune to feel the soul thirsting for them in vain through ocular impediment! Heaven pre: serve all I love from such deprivation !
GEORGE HARDINGE, Esg.
Lichfield, Oct. 4, 1786. I am perfectly of David Garrick's opinion respecting your jeu d'esprit, and cannot return it without your reiterated commands. Were I Lord Chancellor, I should not think it necessary to crush such a blossom of my youth, nor wish to prevent its floating on the public gale. It is so light, so vivid, so original. Be you, however, assured, that if you permit its stay with me, no copy shall be given, nor shall it steal into circulation through the thjevish, memory of listeners, who have taste enough to intreat a second recitalthen beg to be favoured with a moment in their hand. It is thus Mr Hayley's impromptu, sent in the pocket-book Mrs Hayley worked for me, got abroad; and, by the failure of memory in one word, lost a material beauty. The book has an embroiderea lyre on one side, and a laurel wreath on the other. The mistaken line was written in the original,
“ Go thou embroider'd wreath and mimic lyre ;"