Графични страници
PDF файл
ePub

I am at present re-reading, with Giovanni, the by me often read scriptures of your idolatry, our great lyrist, Gray's Epistles ; and find, as I was wont, much to admire in them ;-yet those addressed to Mr West, before either of them were twenty, while they are full, even to affectation, of splenetic wit, terseness, point, and classical allusion, have no glow, either of the heart or the imagination ;—and at a period of life when nothing can recompence their absence. André's letters, published with my Monody on him, have, to me, much more fascinating beauty. Their easy, playful, happy flow of humour, mixed with those fine emanations of lively affection, are infinitely more engaging in youth than that satiric vein which runs through Gray's, and than that comfortless vapourishness, of which they complain. In André's also we find tender enthusiasm, and all those juvenile graces, of which the other are destitute.

There is the same fault in the highly ingenious letters of his riper years—but it sits better on the man than on the boy. They are patterns of wit; but wit is too constantly the master-tint; and therefore is it that the style has not that variety necessary to the perfection of confidential letters. The first models of perfection in the epistolary style are the letters of Clarissá, Miss Howe,

.

Lovelace, and Belford, in the immortal volumes of Richardson..

With such able assistance as Mr Potter's, there is not much wonder that P. produces poems which contain some good passages.

Mr Potter, I am told, lives wholly in retirement. A man of talents, upon whom the world's neglect has borne hard. Adieu !

LETTER LXXXV.

Rev. T. S. WHALLEY.

Lichfield, Dec. 20, 1787. Alas! my friend, that ever pain and sickness should impede the exertions of so warm, so clear a spirit !But the sullen fiends were retreating when you wrote ; that was a great comfort ; and Mrs Piozzi and Miss Williams speak in a style to confirin my hopes.

The fair Helen Williams is delighted with the visit you paid her at Southampton. It has filled her imagination with your talents, and with the wonders of Mont Blanc. When will your poem

[blocks in formation]

on that theme appear? I asked you this question in my last. Answer me, naughty boy! Can't you speak when a gentlewoman asks you a civil question ?

I am charmed that Mrs Piozzi likes me well enough to dream that I have beauty ; and I feel happy in having contributed, in the slightest de gree, to her wishes.

After poetic fame, I confess I often feel very ardent aspirations; yet are they but a short-lived blaze, and fade away into embers, that scarcely gleam. No fuel more potent can be given them, than your seeming interested that I should publish what I have written. It is needful enough to prevent the very embers from being extinguished by the stupidity or venality, the malice or ignorance of the public critics, and by the oppressive complication of my various employments. Uniting with the constant attention my father's weak and precarious state demands, they do not leave me an hour in a week for transcribing and correcting those materials, whose sometime publication I meditate, and perhaps shall never do more than meditate.

My witty and volatile correspondent, Mr Hardinge, has lately sent me very agreeable letters from his friend and correspondent, Lord Camelford, now on the Continent. There is one de

scribing Vaucluse, of which I have taken a copy, and, in return, sent Mr H. your so much more full, and more animated description of the same scene, made after your second visit to the consecrated valley, and its fountain ; when its waters, in their large cavern, were rushing in torrents over its brim *

The landscape, by Lord Camelford, is interesting ; but the view is single, and many objects are omitted, which so much heighten the interest in your description. The colouring also is comparatively cold;—behold it:

“ From Avignon we went to Vaucluse. The intervening country is every where dry and stony, with mountains at a distance, and the plain dotted with olive-trees, resembling our withies; and that is all the green now in view, except here and there a patch of wheat.

At length we reach a small and narrow valley, with some little meadows, and a few olivetrees, by the side of a pretty clear stream, and some houses, which constitute the village of Vaucluse. A rock rises immediately behind it, crown

* This collection contains two descriptions by Mr Whalley of this valley and fountain, a winter and summer scene: The first will be found in a letter to Mr Hayley, dated March 15, 1785: The second, in a Letter, addressed to Mr Hardinge, and dated November 21, 1787.-S.

ed with a ruined castle. A small path leads beyond the village amongst the rocks, by the side of a stream, which forms itself from a variety of little springs issuing out of the foot of the mountain, till a dry channel appears, rising steep, with uncouth fragments interspersed in it. Here the valley narrows, and leads iuto a recess, where nothing but huge masses of stone and rock surround you, with, here and there, a bush of wild fig or olive growing out of the chinks of the craggy cliff.

Opposite is a perpendicular mountain of stone, about six hundred feet high, like an immense quarry. The ground slopes considerably from our feet to its base, which opens into a large cavern, filled, as far as the eye can discern, with the purest water in the world. In April and May, this spring rises above the cavern, so as to fill the whole bason, which is surrounded with cliffs, except in the front, where it tumbles down the rocky channel, with loud and tumultuous violence, and is broken into a thousand cascades. The whole of the scene is majestic and imposing, but not, to my feelings, such as would fill the mind with images for amorous sonnets. If Dante, if Ossian, had frequented the retreat, I should have understood them better than I do Petrarch, who

« ПредишнаНапред »