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I would I could say better. Remember us both affectionately to your sweet boy, and trust me for being Most truly yours, W. C.


Dec. 9, 1792.

My dear Friend—You need not be uneasy on the subject of Milton. I shall not find that labour too heavy for me, if I have health and leisure. The season of the year is unfavourable to me respecting the former; and Mrs. Unwin's present weakness allows me less of the latter than the occasion seems to call for. But the business is in no haste. The artists employed to furnish the embellishments are not likely to be very expeditious; and a small portion only of the work will be wanted from me at once; for the intention is to deal it out to the public piece-meal. I am, therefore, under no great anxiety on that account. It is not, indeed, an employment that I should have chosen for myself; because poetry pleases and amuses me more, and would cost me less labour, properly so called. All this I felt before I engaged with Johnson; and did, in the first instance, actually decline the service; but he was urgent; and, at last, I suffered myself to be persuaded.

The season of the year, as I have already said,

* Private Correspondence.

is particularly adverse to me: yet not in itself, perhaps, more adverse than any other; but the approach of it always reminds me of the same season in the dreadful seventy-three, and in the more dreadful eighty-six. I cannot help terrifying myself with doleful misgivings and apprehensions; nor is the enemy negligent to seize all the advantage that the occasion gives him. Thus, hearing much from him, and having little or no sensible support from God, I suffer inexpressible things till January is over. And even then, whether increasing years have made me more liable to it, or despair, the longer it lasts, grows naturally darker, I find myself more inclined to melancholy than I was a few years since. God only knows where this will end; but where it is likely to end, unless he interpose powerfully in my favour, all may know. I remain, my dear friend, Most sincerely yours, W. C.


Weston, Dec. 16, 1792.

My dear Sir—We differ so little, that it is pity we should not agree. The possibility of restoring our diseased government is, I think, the only point on which we are not of one mind. If you are right, and it cannot be touched in the medical way, without danger of absolute ruin to the constitution, keep the doctors at a distance say I–and let us live as long as we can. But perhaps physicians might be found of skill sufficient for the purpose, were they but as willing as able. Who are they? Not those honest blunderers, the mob, but our governors themselves. As it is in the power of any individual to be honest if he will, any body of men are, as it seems to me, equally possessed of the same option. For I can never persuade myself to think the world so constituted by the Author of it, and human society, which is his ordinance, so shabby a business, that the buying and selling of votes and consciences should be essential to its existence. As to multiplied representation I know not that I foresee any great advantage likely to arise from that. Provided there be but a reasonable number of reasonable heads laid together for the good of the nation, the end may as well be answered by five hundred as it would be by a thousand, and perhaps better. But then they should be honest as well as wise, and, in order that they may be so, they should put it out of their own power to be otherwise. This they might certainly do if they would; and, would they do it, I am not convinced that any great mischief would ensue. You say, “somebody must have influence,” but I see no necessity for it. Let integrity of intention and a due share of ability be supposed, and the influence will be in the right place; it will all centre in the zeal and good of the nation. That will influence their debates and decisions, and nothing else ought to do it. You will say, perhaps, that wise men, and honest men, as they are supposed, they are yet

liable to be split into almost as many differences of opinion as there are individuals ; but I rather think not. It is observed of Prince Eugene and the Duke of Marlborough, that each always approved and seconded the plans and views of the other ; and the reason given for it is that they were men of equal ability. The same cause that could make two unanimous would make twenty so, and would at least secure a majority among as many hundreds.

As to the reformation of the church, I want none, unless by a better provision for the inferior clergy; and, if that could be brought about by emaciating a little some of our too corpulent dignitaries, I should be well contented.

The dissenters, I think, Catholics and others, have all a right to the privileges of all other Englishmen, because to deprive them is persecution, and persecution on any account, but especially on a religious one, is an abomination. But after all, valeat respublica. I love my country, I love my king, and I wish peace and prosperity to Old England.*


W. C. * The question of a Reform in Parliament was at this time beginning to engage the public attention, and Mr. Grey (now Earl Grey) had recently announced his intention in the House of Commons of bringing forward that important subject in the ensuing session of Parliament. It was accordingly submitted to the House, May 6th, 1793, when Mr. Grey delivered his sentiments at considerable length, embodying many of the topics now so familiar to the public, but by no means pursuing the principle to the extent since adopted.


Weston Underwood, Dec. 17, 1792

My dear Sir–You are very kind in thinking it worth while to inquire after so irregular a correspondent. When I had read your last, I persuaded myself that I had answered your obliging letter received while I was at Eartham, and seemed clearly to remember it; but, upon better recollection, am inclined to think myself mistaken, and that I have many pardons to ask for neglecting to do it so long.

While I was at Mr. Hayley's I could hardly find opportunity to write to any body. He is an early riser and breakfasts early, and unless I could rise early enough myself to dispatch a letter before breakfast, I had no leisure to do it at all. For immediately after breakfast we repaired to the library, where we studied in concert till noon; and the rest of my time was so occupied by necessary attention to my poor invalid, Mrs. Unwin, and by

The debate lasted till two o'clock in the morning, when it was adjourned to the following day. After a renewed discussion, which continued till four in the morning, the House divided, when the numbers were as follows, viz. Ayes 40, Noes 282.

It is interesting to mark this first commencement of the popular question of Reform (if we except Mr. Pitt's measure, in 1782) and to contrast its slow progress with the final issue, under the same leader, in the year 1832. The minority for several successive years seldom exceeded the amount above specified, though the measure was at length carried by so large a majority.

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