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deserves to be handed down to posterity, might be comprised in two or three small volumes. Formerly, our men of genius wrote in Latin ; and of late they have written in English Those who now write Scotch, use an affected, mixed, barbarous dialect, which is neither Scotch nor English, but a strange jumble of both.
The best Scotch poem of modern times that I have seen, (for though the title pretends that it was written four hundred years ago, I have reason to think that it was produced in this century,) is called The Vision, compyled, as the title bears, by a most learnit clerk in the time of our hairship and oppression, and subscribed A Scot. You must have seen it. It is, I think, in the Evergreen. Dr. Percy may, perhaps, think it worth notice; but he will see that it is modern. I am inclined to think that the author of it, whoever he was, must have read Arbuthnot's History of John Bull. But there are noble images in it, and a harmony of versification superior to every thing I have seen of the kind. I suspect that it is the work of some friend of the family of Stuart, and that it must have been composed about the year 1715. When
write to Dr. Percy, I beg you will offer my best respects to him, and assure him, that if any thing comes in my way that deserves his notice, I will certainly send it to him. I thank you for your concern about my health: it is still very broken, and disqualifies me for every kind of study.
DR. PERCY TO MR. PINKERTON.
Easton Mauduit in Northamptonshire,
July 20th, 1778.
I cannot express how much I think myself obliged to you for your goodness in favoring me with a second letter, though you had so much apparent cause to be offended with me for having delayed thus long to acknowledge the favor of your former ; especially as you in so obliging a manner made me a present of the curious Volume of Poems,* the bare loan of which had laid me under a great obligation. But, Sir, I had the misfortune to mislay your kind letter above-mentioned ; and, as it contained some curious particulars which I wished to discuss, I delayed writing in hopes of recovering it, till, ere I was aware, this shameful interval had elapsed, for which I can only intreat your pardon.
And now let me again and again thank you for your most obliging present, which was extremely acceptable, both for the ancient poems, and the learned and ingenious illustrations which accom
* I cannot find by any list of Mr. Pinkerton's writings, which is the work here alluded to. It does not appear, from Nichols' Illustrations of Literature, or Watts’ Bibliotheca Britannica, that previously to his Rimes, in 1781, he had published any thing, except the Elegy on Craigmillar Castle, mentioned in the first letter. This I never saw; but its very
title seems to show that it could not be what Dr. Percy acknowledges.
panied them. I shall not fail to avail myself of both, as well as of the curious remarks in your letters, whenever I give the additional volumes to the world. The contents of these have long since been collected and arranged ; and I flatter myself, in point of merit, are no whit inferior to what the public accepted with so much indulgence in the three former volumes. But the truth is, I have
, not so much leisure, and perhaps not quite so keen an appetite for amusements of this kind as when I was younger.* It
It is near twenty years since I first began to form the preceding collection. I only considered these things as pardonable, at best, among the levities (I had almost said follies) of my youth. However, as I must consess that I have always had a relish for the poetic effusions (even the most sportive and unelaborate) of our ancestors, I have commonly taken up these trifles, as other grave men have done cards, to unbend and amuse the mind when fatigued with graver studies, till they have insensibly grown into a regular series ready for the press. And now I keep them by me, in order to make a present of them to my son, a tall youth of fisteen, who is at present a King's scholar at Westminster. And, as he has a strong relish and considerable taste for these compositions, I think to give him the merit of being editor of them, as soon as he removes to the University ; by way of introducing him into the literary world, and of filling up the vacuities of his academical studies. In the mean time I neglect no opportunity of amending and enlarging the series, and shall certainly much improve them for him by this delay.
At the time of writing this letter, Dr. Percy was fifty
And now, Sir, that I have imparted to you, what is almost a secret to all my most intimate friends, I must intreat the favor of you that it may continue so, except to Dr. Beattie, (or one or two like him) for whom I have ever had the greatest respect. I am very much obliged to him for thinking of me, and for pointing out to me the merits of the poem entitled The Vision, which I have read over again with particular pleasure, and think it deserving of every thing Dr. Beattie says of it. I am also quite of opinion with him, that it was written in favor of the Stuart family, about the year 1715.
1715. I hope you and he will continue to favor me with whatever communications occur to you on these subjects.
DR. BEATTIE TO MR. PINKERTON.
Aberdeen, August 20th, 1778.
On my return from a little excursion, I received your very obliging letter. For the honor you have done me, in prefixing my name to the Sapphic ode, and for the genteel compliment paid me, and the affectionate good wishes expressed in the end of it, be pleased, Sir, to accept of my best thanks. I am also greatly indebted to you for giving me so particular an account of Dr. Percy's
intended publication, which I shall be very impatient to see. If it be equal in size and in merit to the former one, it will be a valuable addition to English literature. I am glad to hear that The Vision is to make a part of it. That poem has long been a favorite of mine. It has a great deal of the old spirit; and yet I am of opinion that it is entirely modern, and even of the present century.
I am happy to hear that your poetical studies go on so briskly, and that you pay your court to the ancient as well as to the modern muses. The decline of classical learning in this country I have long beheld with regret, and endeavored, though ineffectually, to prevent. I hope your example shall have more weight than my precepts have had. Scotland did formerly produce many men of eminence in the classical way; but, since we began to imitate the French, we seem inclinable to forget our Latin and Greek. They have a better taste of literature in England.
As we have totally lost the true pronunciation of Latin, the prosody of that language is to us a matter of very difficult acquisition. But every person who would write Latin verses, must make himself master of it. We must not trust to that rhythm with which we hear Latin verses pronounced, for it is almost always false ; but we must thoroughly understand the structure of each particular form of verse, and the quantity of each syllable. The Sapphic rhythm, as we pronounce it, runs thus :