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converse together. When those we esteem have emerged from the valley and shadow of death, we meet them with redoubled satisfaction
“ In the warm precincts of the cheerful day."
May you, dear Edwin, never find them wintered by the bleak gusts of disease or sorrow!
Lichfield, May 27, 1787 MUTUALLY prevented from writing to each other often, I yet hope this inevitable seldomness of intercourse will not chill our friendship.
Mr Taylor's* visit gave me pleasure. He has read, and thought deeply. Few of our clergy prove such able champions for the great cause in which they are enlisted.
father grows more infirm than ever; but his temper is become so tranquil, and satis
* A dissenting minister to whom Miss Scott was engaged, and whom she afterwards married. S.
fied with all we do for him; and his decay is so exempt from pain, that I feel an exquisite pleasure in administering to his comforts. You know, by experience, how sweet the filial affections
“ To rock the cradle of reposing age.”
You request my opinion of Cowper. He appears to me at once a fascinating, and great poet; as a descriptive one hardly excelled. Novel and original, even in landscape-painting, whose stores the luxuriant and exquisite Thomson seemed to have exhausted ; but true poetic genius, looking at the objects of nature with its own eyes, rather than through the medium of remembered description from the pen of others, will ever find her exhaustless.
There are passages in the Task to which I often recur, and always with unsated delight—viz. the address to Omai, wandering, after his return from England to Otaheite, on his native shores and hills :
“ As duly, every morn,
But my heart renounces the ungenerous sarcasm on that voyage of humanity, with which this episode, of so much melancholy beauty, concludes.
The description of the peasant's hut on the mountain; of the garden ; the green-house; the conservatory; the portraits of the foppish and of the good clergyman; the apostrophe to London; the winter's walk; and, above all most dear to me, a winter's evening in the country, and its social domestic pleasures.
But, in this very fine writer, most justly to be disliked is the uncharitable acrimony, and envious grudging of well-earned praise, which lour so dark, and so livid, through his poem. While its author. looks on all human frailty with haughty scorn, and seems to hate his ownespecies, he lavishes all his tenderness, all his kind fear of inflicting pain, upon brutes. I have not unfrequently observed this extreme affection for the lower orders of the animal world, accompanied by a cruel aptness to look on the dark side of human characters, and to aggravate folly into baseness, and frailty into vice. In other great men, we have seen pity for the miseries of cold and hunger exist, with a lamentable degree of spleen and envy rankling over every contemplation of the fortunate and the celebrated amongst mankind:
Yet, even as men, Swift had his admirers-Cowper has his, and Johnson his idolaters. This is the summary of my ideas for all three :
" I mourn their nature, but admire their art,
You plead Cowper's constitutional melancholy in excuse for his misanthropy. That plea is of ten made for Johnson also ; but if it is possible that melancholy can so narrow the mind, as to render a man of genius, like Mr Cowper, the avowed satirical foe of national gratitude, and of honour to the manes of such beings as Shakespeare and Handel, it then becomes a vice, against which every generous reader will bear the most renouncing testimony.
I have just sent a short Ode to Cadell for publication, on the speedily expected return of General Elliot from Gibraltar. His private virtues, the bravery of his defence of that garrison, which threw such lustre on the termination of a war, unjust, ill-managed, and every way inglorirous, entitle him to far higher poetical distinctions, than it is in my power to confer. My literary friends here assure me, that this Ode is inferior to nothing of mine which preceded it. That is some recompense for the trouble, ever irksome to me,
of publication. It would be trebled, were it accompanied by a consciousness of poetic degeneracy. Be this little poem what it may, it is sure to receive the darts of malice from
pen, shot from behind the screen of anonymous publications.
Soon after our troops returned from Gibraltar, leaving their glorious General, intent upon the restoration of the ravaged fortifications, a military gentleman, of pleasing' appearance, announced himself Lieutenant Seward, the son of a merchant at Southampton, to whom we knew ourselves related. He told us he had travelled from that place purposely to see me, whom he considered as the source of one the most important, as well as flattering circumstances of his life.
I was much surprised. He continued," I was at the siege of Gibraltar, adoring the virtues and the abilities of the Commander in Chief, without the most distant hope of obtaining the honour of his notice, much less of his friendship, to which high rank, or particular recommendation, were considered as the only channels, unless an officer could be fortunate enough to render very conspicuous service to the British cause.
“ I received an invitation to dine with General Elliot, and was charmed and surprised at my good