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LETTERS TO DR. AND MRS. ESTLIN. —so
MY DEAR FRIENDs, Hampstead, Dec. 5, 1799.
It is now much longer than I wish it ever to be since any letter has passed between us: I wish, therefore, to hear news of you both; particularly as you are drawing near the end of a session, the fatigues of which must always more or less give some wear and tear to your health and exhaust your spirits. I hope you have not forgotten that, in order to recruit them, you proposed coming, both of you, to London this Christmas; and I hope that you have by no means forgot that it was a part of the plan to give us as much of your time at Hampstead as you can spare consistently with other engagements. Write us word, then, that you are preparing to pack off the boys and come to us; and I assure you we shall feel more enlivened by the news than by ten gallons of Dr. Beddoes's most vivifying air. How often do we recall the heartfelt pleasures we enjoyed in the daily and unrestrained intercourse of Southendown; the philosophic discussions, the infantile mirth, the caves, the rocks, and especially the two nymphs, to whom, -if they are now within your circle, we beg to be affectionately remembered...
We have been much entertained by the Annual Anthology; there are some charming pieces in it. To pass from poetry to divinity—Have you seen a small piece, which has been much read and speculated upon here, Apeleutheros ? Some attribute it to one person, some to another; but the fact is, the author has kept his secret well. It is written with great candour, but slight, considering the importance of the subject to be discussed. It has not been published; and I cannot avoid a melancholy sensation on reflecting, that such are the times we live in, that a bookseller dares not publish a pamphlet written with perfect decency, and in which, moreover, there is not a word of politics. But we should not be better in France. How the revolutions of that country mock all calculation' I should suppose that the late events have not tended to bring newspapers into more request than they were at Southendown.
May I soon receive a favourable answer with respect to your health, spirits, and good intentions with respect to London and Hampstead —Come, and brighten the chain of friendship, as the Indians say.
Stoke Newington, Dec. 1813. If you ask what I am doing—nothing. Pope, I think, somewhere says, “ The last years of life, like tickets left in the wheel, rise in value.” The thought is beautiful, but false; they are of very little value,—they are generally past either in struggling with pains and infirmities, or in a dreamy kind of existence: no new veins of thought are opened; no young affections springing up; the ship has taken in its lading, whatever it may be, whether precious stones or lumber, and lies idly flapping its sails and waiting for the wind that must drive it
the wide ocean. Have you seen Lord Byron's new poem, The Bride of Abydos ? and have you read Madame de Stael's Germany? You will find in the latter many fine ideas, beautiful sentiments, and entertaining remarks on manners and countries : but in her account of Kant and the other German philosophers, she has got, I fancy, a little out of her depth. She herself is, or affects to be, very devotional ; but her religion seems to be almost wholly a matter of imagination,—the beau ideal impressed upon us at our birth, along with a taste for beauty, for music, &c. As far as I understand her account of the German school, there seems to be in many of them a design to reinstate the doctrine of innate ideas, which the cold philosophy,
as they would call it, of Locke discarded. They would like Beattie and Hutcheson better than Paley or Priestley. I do not like Lord Byron's poem quite so well as his last; and I cannot see any advantage in calling a nightingale bulbul, or a rose gul, except to disconcert plain English readers.
Stoke Newington, Jan. 1814. Yes, my dear friends, 'tis as I said, you are snowed up at the Hyde, very comfortable I dare say, with a fine library and prints, &c., and I hope a cheerful Christmas party; at least, if the party is there, you will make them so. But whether the inclosed will ever come to your hands is a melancholy consideration ; for if you offer to stir, I expect you will be buried in the snow, in which case I intend to write your epitaph,—"Here lies, &c. in candour and purity of mind equalling the snow that covers them :"-or, “Reflecting light from heaven on the world around them :"—or, “They were lovely in their lives, and in their deaths they were not divided :"-or,
« While far from home
They sought to roam,
'Twixt earth and sky
They buried lie,
The lines, I own, are not very finished; but it is not worth while to take much pains about them, unless one were sure of the catastrophe. On the supposition, however, that you will be reading this comfortably by Mr. Coates's fire-side, accept, my dear friends, my thanks for the pleasant days, - very pleasant, but very few,—that you were so good as to bestow upon me: if you can enlarge the gift, most thankfully shall I receive it.
My days of travelling are now nearly over; yet I find a little variety as necessary, perhaps, to relieve the tedium of life, as once it was to recruit from its toils and avocations. I do not know how it is with you at Bristo , but in most places there has been lately a migration into France of almost all who could command money and time. I was amused with the contrast between a lively pleasant-tempered man and a poco curante. “How do you like France ?” said I to the first. "I have spent,” said he, “seven weeks of uninterrupted happiness.” “How do you like France ?” to the second. “I have been there, because one must go, one is ashamed not to have been, it is a thing over.” “A lively nation?”
« Manners quite spoiled, no agreeable company.” “It is