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It is printed,
« Go thou embroider'd wreath and muses' lyre.”
The common epithet, muses' lyre, injures the accurate delicacy of the whole.
Hayley is indeed a true poet; he has the fire and the invention of Dryden, without any of his absurdity; and he has the wit and ease of Prior. If his versification is a degree less polished than Pope's, it is more various. We find the numbers sweet and flowing, and, I think, sufficiently abundant in the graces of harmony. Our four years correspondence has been enriched with a galaxy of little poetic gems, of the first water. Were I to be honoured with their insertion all together in his miscellany, I should rival, in his brilliant celebration, the Chloe of Prior, and the Stella of Swift.
Your letter is extremely gratifying to my selfattachment. We are perfectly congenial in our love of praise. I think, with you, that it is sweeter to be beloved than admired; and that, consequently, commendation is the more welcome from our consciousness of its partiality. The coldhearted monitor would perhaps tell us, “ it is flattery, your encomiast is not sincere.” I should be tempted to reply, that is his own affair ; and,
concluding it so, we at least receive proof of some respect, and wish to please us, when people take the trouble of fibbing without any other impelling interest than the desire of gratifying and obliging us. Certainly, however, the partial praise is a thousand times more precious than the flattery; and I please myself with believing that which you bestow on me and mine, is totally of the former kind. I have had the good fortune to interest you, for you tell me so; and, ingenuously confessing your disapprobation of the opening of one of my sonnets, that I inclosed, you teach me to rely on your sincerity. Be ever thus frank, and my entire confidence shall ensue. You will find another copy in this cover, which probably may remove your objection.
I am glad to hear that Milton's sonnet to Laurence is peculiarly dear to you, who are so warm and just an admirer of many of its brethren. I could never read it without a pleasure that thrilled through my brain. O! such winter days, and such winier evenings, how they spangle over existence like a few bright stars in a gloomy horizon. This is certainly the most touching of Milton's sonnets ; but that to the soldier to spare his dwelling-place is the most sublime. How we love to see the great man asserting the claims of
his own genius with manly firmness, and declaring its inevitable claim to confer lasting celebrity!
Your exclamation, “ Milton no ear!" did I vociferate many times a-day, a long while after I had first started back from the assertion in Mr T. Warton's edition of the Juvenile Poems of that illustrious Being. With every other observation in Mr Warton's highly ingenious and generally eloquent notes, I was extremely delighted. He is undoubtedly the first public critic of this age. Sweet numbers have flowed from Warton's pen. It is not possible he should be unconscious of the varied, the matchless grace of Milton's versification through the Paradise Lost, which could only result from the most exquisite delicacy of ear. What, then, could produce from the judicious, the candid, the animated pen of T. Warton, the delirium of that decision ?
I am charmed to find you amongst the adorers of Milton's Lycidas. That is a test-composition; and to read it without pleasure—to have read it without frequent recurrence, argues a morbid deficiency in the judgment and in the affections. I know that it is reprobated by Johnson; but false criticism, on the pale horse of that despot, is the pest of the present times, trampling beneath its
“ armed hoofs," the richest and rarest flowers of genius. Adieu.
Lichfield, Oct. 20, 1786. You are in no danger of mistaking your own talents ; but you mistake mine in supposing that I can assist you in writing comedy or humorous prologue. Perhaps I may have imagination, but humour is not the growth of my brain. Wit is your talent. You say your characters all talk like yourself. If indeed you wanted them to sigh and talk fine, like Mr Cumberland's personages, and draw tears instead of laughter, from the audience, I might perhaps assist you. But you are wiser, and know how eligible it is to keep the orders of dramatic composition separate and distinct, unless they could be blended after Shakespeare's manner, and with his boldness and fire; and if that ability existed, our fastidious age would not endure the attempt. It does not per
mit a dramatic writer to hazard any thing with impunity.
In those walks which it has not proscribed, who treads most happily? Sheridan, certainly; and he follows the track of Congreve. All Congreve's characters, and most of Sheridan's, are without much strict appropriation in the turn of their separate dialogue. Neither of these writers were able to restrain the torrent of their wit from flowing into every bay, channel, creek, or even gutter of the dramatis personæ, where, perhaps, folly and insipidity, being more natural, might have had a better effect, the dead colouring increasing, by contrast, the lustre of the splendid tints : but few obtain the best-possible in any line of intellectual exertion. Be
you therefore content to commit splendid sins, against strict appropriation, with Congreve and Sheridan. If we sometimes perceive the levelling spirit of luxuriant wit, we are tolerably willing to pardon its excesses.