Page images



Dromore House, March 12th, 1785.

I ought long since to have acknowledged the favor of your most obliging letter ; but a sore finger has lately disabled me from writing. Accept my very sincere thanks both for the compliment you intend to make me, and for your so judiciously withholding it from the subject you have mentioned. Though it would be indecorous to have set the name of a grave man at the head of any work of levity, yet as I am sure you will never be concerned in any publication that has a tendency to corrupt the heart, so I shall not carry the austerity so far as to refuse to peruse many curious and ingenious pages of your book, because a few lines may retain the indelicacy of a coarse unpolished age; and therefore I cannot reject your obliging offer of a present of your work, , which may be left with Mr. Hook, at No. 56, in Great Queen Street, Lincoln's Inn Fields; and, at the same time, I should be glad if Mr. Nichols would be so kind as to send thither any other parcels he


have had for me. I wrote to Mr. Nichols a pretty long letter last autumn; but, having never heard from him since, fear that either my letter or his answer miscarried ; and the same, I fear, has been the fate of many a letter both to and from this remote corner of the world. Otherwise I cannot believe that my good friend above mentioned would not before this time have informed me, that the Tatlers* were nearly finished, as I hear they are, but would have indulged me with one line on the subject, in which I cannot but be interested. Indeed if I could have seen the volumes before publication, I could probably have furnished some supplemental notes, as I have been making inquiries with a view to them. I am exceedingly glad that you have taken up the subject of the Old Romances, and will contribute all I can to it; but I think the Green Knight is rather fit for a supplemental volume of the Old Ballads, which I mean to deliver over to my poetical nephew in due time. Your kind intention of honoring me with the above work merits my best thanks.

As early as the year 1764, Dr. Percy had undertaken to publish, through Mr. Tonson, an edition of the Spectator, Tatler, &c. with notes; and the plan, as far as the Tatler was concerned, was finally completed in 1786. To use the words of Mr. Nichols, in his Literary Anecdotes, iii. 161, “The Tatler then appeared in six octavo volumes, with illustrations and notes, historical, biographical, and critical, for which the public was indebted to Dr. Percy, though the work was finished and edited by the Rev. Dr. John Calder.” Nor in a book which contains so much from the pen of the learned, acute, and excellent prelate as the present, can it be amiss to state from the same source,

that, in farther addition to what he actually published, he soon after the year 1760 proceeded very far at the press with an admirable edition of Surrey's Poems, and also with a good edition of the works of Villiers, Duke of Buckingham, both which, from a variety of causes, remained many years unfinished in the warehouse of Mr. Tonson, in the Savoy, but were resumed in 1795, and nearly brought to a conclusion, when the whole impression of both works was unfortunately consumed by the fire in Red Lion Passage, in 1808.”

P.S. If you see Mr. Nichols, you may mention, that, as a proof I have not been unmindful of him, I have got a genuine letter written by Partridge to a person in this kingdom, on the diverting freedoms taken with him by Swift ; which I pro, cured purposely for his Supplement,* &c. And I am also in full scent of some curious anecdotes of the Dean of St. Patrick, very unlike those strange things of Sheridan's.


Pettits, April 1st, 1785.

I am greatly obliged to you for the favor of your last, and so indeed for your advice as to the publication of my Elegies, which I have followed precisely. They do not go on quite so speedily as I could wish; but I shall call upon Mr. Nichols in the course of a few days, and hope to jog him on a little. I omitted the imitative elegy, as you hinted ; as I think with you that it will be much better they should all be originals.

I take this opportunity of sending you a sonnet lately composed, and shall be thankful to you for your opinion and animadversions on it. Perhaps you might advise the publication of it now: it would not bear equal objections with the elegy to Mrs. Siddons, as you know Dr. Heberden's is a respect

* Mr. Nichols first published a Supplement to Swift's works, and afterwards a complete edition of his works.

VOL. 1.


able character among the literati. The circumstance to which I allude, I know to be fact; and I have also private reasons for wishing to pay him a compliment. Tell me your opinion without reserve, and whether you think it might or might not be the means of introducing the whole to notice. I fear it wants much correction ; being so lately written, I am no judge of it: your kind criticisms therefore are the more necessary.


As oft, when summer heats too long prevail,
Or blighting winds their baleful influence shed,
The smiling honors of the season fail,
And not a floweret lifts her languid head;
If chance, when night extends her sable veil,
Soft clouds drop moisture o'er the purfled bed,
Earth’s balmy breath is felt in every gale,
And new-born verdure o'er the fields is spread.
Thus on the bed of want, when Virtue lies,
O Heberden, thy bounteous aid is given ;
Thy hand unseen the secret boon supplies,
(Refreshing as the silent dews of even)
Whose ever-during fragrance mounts the skies-
Incense, how grateful to the throne of Heaven!




June 22nd, 1785.

Since I received your book,* Sir, I scarce ceased from reading till I had finished it; so admirable I found it, and so full of good sense, brightly delivered. Nay, I am pleased with myself too for having formed the same opinions with you on several points, in which we do not agree with the generality of men. On some topics, I confess frankly, I do not concur with you: considering how many you have touched, it would be wonderful if we agreed on all, or I should not be sincere if I said I did. There are others on which I have formed no opinion ; for I should give myself an impertinent air, with no truth, if I pretended to have any knowledge of many subjects, of which, young as you are, you seem to have made yourself master. Indeed, I have gone deeply into nothing, and therefore shall not discuss those heads on which we differ most; as probably I should not defend my own opinions well. There is but one part of your work to which I will ven. ture any objection, though you have considered it much, and I little, very little indeed, with regard to your proposal, which to me is but two days old: “I mean your plan for the improvement of our language, which I allow has some defects, and

Heron's Letters of Literature, published this year. See p. 20.

« PreviousContinue »