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« Ye vallies low, that the mild whispers use
But the day and night would fail me in citing instances on this subject. They swarm through the writings of Shakespeare and Milton. Take
away the epithets from any of the passages, and see how indistinct the descriptions, images, and landscapes become!
You cannot dislike make-weight epithets more than I do. Had you called Pratt an epithetmonger, you had given him his proper title, who gives the following line in seven times repetition through the course of five
« O weak, O frail, O poor mortality."
You tell me that you dislike in my poem, Louisa, the first adjective of the ensuing couplet,
“ Lighted with arrowy beams the ocean caves,
It has always been my endeavour to paint from nature, rather than to copy from books, in my poetic landscapes ; and I have often observed,
that, when caves are penetrated with light, it is shot into them in pointed rays, for which arrowy is a picturesque epithet. I confess it is of my own coinage ; but I fatter myself it was not coined unhappily. Its original appearance in English verse will, I believe, be found in my Elegy on Captain Cook, published first in the year 1780*. It has met with very flattering adoption in the subsequent works of superior poets.
I cannot conclude my letter without adding one more observation respecting the reason you allege for your strange scorn of the extracts from the Botanic Garden. If you will not grant that I have demonstrated your mistake about Shake speare and Milton being more sparing of the adjective than the best modern poets, I beg we may speak no more to each other on classical subjects, since we shall certainly agree no better on poetic claims, rights, usages, &c. than Archbishop Laud and Hampden would on political ones, were they to talk them over in Elysium. It hectics me painfully to see an understanding of high endowment thus unjust to contemporary abilities—to find the “ mole’s dim curtain," where I expected to have met the “ lynx's beam." Adieu.
* This word is not new, but may be found in Milton and Gray.
MR W. NEWTON.
Lichfield, Dec. 17, 1786. Yet too agitated to employ my pen on indifferent subjects, it is to such friends as yourself only that I am capable of writing. You who have long known and loved my poor father; you who are so kindly interested in my feelings, and in my destiny; it is you whom I wish to address in hours like these, when my mind is, as the subsiding sea, still trembling from the storm.
You are aware by how slight a thread the life of my aged nursling has been long suspended. His drop into the grave is an event which, I fear, will baffle my resolution to sustain with the cheerful resignation which reason and religion dictate. That entire dependence upon my care and attention, resulting from the decay of his corporeal and intellectual faculties, has doubled our bond of union, and engrafted the maternal upon filial tenderness. He seems at once my parent and my child; nor shall I suffer less, perhaps even more, from the loss of him, than if he had died while
power, and authority, and exertion were in his hands.
He had been several weeks exempt from those sudden seizures of apparently mortal torpidity, which often put his existence into the extremest peril. Last Sunday morning, I was roused from my slumbers, between seven and eight, by these alarming words from my servant : “ Madam, my master is very ill. He was seized, a few minutes ago, in a different way from what he used to be, with a dreadful fit. You had better not go to him. We have sent for Dr Jones."
You will suppose I was not to be restrained from a sight which, God knows, I was not able to endure without agony. That dear feeble frame, and venerable face, which I had often seen sunk in the stupor of apoplectic palsy, torn and distorted by convulsive and apparently agonized struggles !
Ere I had been ten minutes in the room, his physician entered, and pronounced the seizure epilectic. He said he should bleed him copiously, not with the least hope that he could now be rescued from death; but to prevent the continuance of the fits, and render his expiring moments calm and easy; adding, he has not strength to bear the loss of blood, which is necessary to subdue
these convulsed struggles; but if not subdued, they would be inevitably fatal.
The loss of blood did subdue the fits, of which he had no return; but sunk into cold, damp, and, in appearance, deadly slumber.
The physician said he would pass away in those slumbers; and assured me that he had little more to suffer.
I asked why it might not be hoped that he, who had survived apoplexy and palsy so often, might survive this new and more terrible attack? It was replied, that when epilepsy seizes, after a succession of other dangerous diseases, and after years of previous debility, there had been scarce an instance where it had not been speedily fatal; that it would, however, be right to make every effort to save while breath remained ; that a coffee-cup of madeira should be poured down his throat every half hour, the capability of swallowing being lost; that nothing more could be done ; that medicine was useless ; that he might expire in a few minutes, or might continue some hours; but I was intreated not to entertain a certainly fallacious hope. Dr Jones added, “ I am obliged to go out of town directly, nor can I be of any farther use."
Alas! what a day of desponding anguish did I pass by his bed-side ! that bed, on which he lay stretched out, his legs, and feet, and hands, icy cold;