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solutely laid by, since I commenced an author. How long I shall be continued in these uncomfortable circumstances is known only to Him, who, as he will, disposes of us all. I may be yet able, perhaps, to prepare the first book of the Paradise Lost for the press, before it will be wanted; and Johnson himself seems to think there will be no haste for the second. But poetry is my favourite employment, and all my poetical operations are in the mean time suspended; for, while a work to which I have bound myself remains unaccomplished, I can do nothing else. Johnson's plan of prefixing my phiz to the new edition of my poems is by no means a pleasant one to me, and so I told him in a letter I sent him from Eartham, in which I assured him that my objections to it would not be easily surmounted. But if you judge that it may really have an effect in advancing the sale, I would not be so squeamish as to suffer the spirit of prudery to prevail in me to his disadvantage. Somebody told an author, I forget whom, that there was more vanity in refusing his picture than in granting it, on which he instantly complied. I do not perfectly feel all the force of the argument, but it shall content me that he did. I do most sincerely rejoice in the success of your publication,” and have no doubt that my prophecy concerning your success in greater matters will be fulfilled. We are naturally pleased when our friends approve what we approve ourselves; how * Decisions of the English Courts.
much then must I be pleased, when you speak so kindly of Johnny! I know him to be all that you think him, and love him entirely. Adieu ! We expect you at Christmas, and shall therefore rejoice when Christmas comes. Let nothing interfere. Ever yours,
My dear Friend—I am not so insensible of your kindness in making me an exception from the number of your correspondents, to whom you forbid the hope of hearing from you till your present labours are ended, as to make you wait longer for an answer to your last; which, indeed, would have had its answer before this time, had it been possible for me to write. But so many have demands upon me of a similar kind, and, while Mrs. Unwin continues an invalid, my opportunities of writing are so few, that I am constrained to incur a long arrear to some, with whom I would wish to be punctual. She can at present neither work nor read; and, till she can do both, and amuse herself as usual, my own amusements of the pen must be suspended. I, like you, have a work before me, and a work to which I should be glad to address myself in earnest, but cannot do it at present. When the * Private Correspondence.
opportunity comes, I shall, like you, be under & necessity of interdicting some of my usual correspondents, and of shortening my letters to the excepted few. Many letters and much company are incompatible with authorship, and the one as much as the other. It will be long, I hope, before the world is put in possession of a publication, which you design should be posthumous.
Oh for the day when your expectations of my complete deliverance shall be verified! At present it seems very remote: so distant, indeed, that hardly the faintest streak of it is visible in my horizon. The glimpse, with which I was favoured about a month since, has never been repeated; and the depression of my spirits has. The future appears gloomy as ever; and I seem to myself to be scrambling always in the dark, among rocks and precipices, without a guide, but with an enemy ever at my heels, prepared to push me headlong. Thus I have spent twenty years, but thus I shall not spend twenty years more. Long ere that period arrives, the grand question concerning my everlasting weal or woe will be decided.
Adieu, my dear friend. I have exhausted my time, though not filled my paper.
Truly yours, W. C.
TO JOHN JOHNSON, ESQ.
Weston, Nov. 20, 1792. My dearest Johnny- I give you many thanks for your rhymes, and your verses without rhyme; for
your poetical dialogue between wood and stone: between Homer's head, and the head of Samuel; kindly intended, I know well, for my amusement, and that amused me much. The successor of the clerk defunct, for whom I used to write, arrived here this morning, with a recommendatory letter from Joe Rye, and an humble petition of his own, entreating me to assist him as I had assisted his predecessor. I have undertaken the service, although with no little reluctance, being involved in many arrears on other subjects, and having very little dependence at present on my ability to write at all. I proceed exactly as when you were here—a letter now and then before breakfast, and the rest of my time all holiday; if holiday it may be called, that is spent chiefly in moping and musing, and “forecasting the fashion of uncertain evils.” The fever on my spirits has harassed me much, and I have never had so good a night, nor so quiet a rising, since you went, as on this very morning; a relief that I account particularly seasonable and propitious, because I had, in my intentions, devoted this morning to you, and could not have fulfilled those intentions, had I been as spiritless as I generally am. I am glad that Johnson is in no haste for Milton, for I seem myself not likely to address myself presently to that concern, with any prospect of success; yet something now and then, like a secret whisper, assures and encourages me that it will yet be done. W. C.
TO WILLIAM HAYLEY ESQ.
Weston, Nov. 25, 1792.
How shall I thank you enough for the interest you take in my future Miltonic labours, and the assistance you promise me in the performance of them; I will some time or other, if I live, and live a poet, acknowledge your friendship in some of my best verse; the most suitable return one poet can make to another: in the mean time, I love you, and am sensible of all your kindness. You wish me warm in my work, and I ardently wish the same: but when I shall be so God only knows. My melancholy, which seemed a little alleviated for a few days, has gathered about me again with as black a cloud as ever; the consequence is absolute incapacity to begin.
I was for some years dirge-writer to the town of Northampton, being employed by the clerk of the principal parish there to furnish him with an annual copy of verses proper to be printed at the foot of his bill of mortality; but the clerk died, and, hearing nothing for two years from his successor, I well hoped that I was out of my office. The other morning however Sam announced the new clerk; he came to solicit the same service as I had rendered his predecessor, and I reluctantly complied; doubtful, indeed, whether I was capable. I have however achieved that labour, and I have done nothing more. I am just sent for up to Mary, dear Maryl Adieu ! she is as well as when I left you,