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To John Johnson, Esq.
Weston, Oct. 19, 1792.
My dearest Johnny—You are too useful when you are here not to be missed on a hundred occasions daily; and too much domesticated with us not to be regretted always. I hope, therefore, that your month or six weeks will not be like many that I have known, capable of being drawn out into any length whatever, and productive of nothing but disappointment. I have done nothing since you went, except that I have composed the better half of a sonnet to Romney; yet even this ought to bear an earlier date, for I began to be haunted with a desire to do it long before we came out of Sussex, and have daily attempted it ever since. It would be well for the reading part of the world, if the writing part were, many of them, as dull as I am. Yet even this small produce, which my sterile intellect has hardly yielded at last, may serve to convince you that in point of spirits I am not Worse. In fact, I am a little better. The powders and the laudanum together have, for the present at least, abated the fever that consumes them ; and in measure as the fever abates, I acquire a less discouraging view of things, and with it a little power to exert myself. In the evenings I read Baker's Chronicle to Mrs. Unwin, having no other history, and hope in time VOL. W. th
to be as well versed in it, as his admirer Sir Roger de Coverley. W. C.
to John JoHNSON, ESQ.
My dear Johnny—Here am I, with I know not how many letters to answer, and no time to do it in. I exhort you, therefore, to set a proper value on this, as proving your priority in my attentions, though in other respects likely to be of little value.
You do well to sit for your picture, and give very sufficient reasons for doing it; you will also, I doubt not, take care that, when future generations shall look at it, some spectator or other shall say, this is the picture of a good man and a useful one.
And now God bless you, my dear Johnny. I proceed much after the old rate; rising cheerless and distressed in the morning, and brightening a little as the day goes on.
TO will IAM HAYLEY, ESQ.
Weston, Oct. 28, 1792. Nothing done, my dearest brother, nor likely to be done at present; yet I purpose in a day or two to make another attempt, to which, however, I shall address myself with fear and trembling, like a man, who, having sprained his wrist, dreads to use it. I have not, indeed, like such a man, injured myself by any extraordinary exertion, but seem as much enfeebled as if I had. The consciousness that there is so much to do, and nothing done, is a burthen I am not able to bear. Milton especially is my grievance, and I might almost as well be haunted by his ghost as goaded with continual reproaches for neglecting him. I will therefore begin ; I will do my best; and if, after all, that best prove good for nothing, I will even send the notes, worthless as they are, that I have made already ; a measure very disagreeable to myself, and to which nothing but necessity shall compel me. I shall rejoice to see those new samples of your biography,” which you give me to expect. Allons ! Courage 1–Here comes something however; produced after a gestation as long as that of a pregnant woman. It is the debt long unpaid, the compliment due to Romney; and if it has your approbation, I will send it, or you may send it for me. I must premise, however, that I intended nothing less than a sonnet when I began. I know not why, but I said to myself, it shall not be a sonnet; accordingly I attempted it in one sort of measure, then in a second, then in a third, till I had made the trial in half a dozen different kinds of shorter verse, and behold it is a sonnet at last. The fates would have it so.
TO GEORGE ROMNEY, ESQ.
Romney ! expert infallibly to trace,
But this I mark, that symptoms none of woe
For in my looks what sorrow could'st thou see,
To John Johnson, Esq.”
Nov. 5, 1792.
My dearest Johnny—I have done nothing since you went, except that I have finished the Sonnet which I told you I had begun, and sent it to Hayley, who is well pleased therewith, and has by this time transmitted it to whom it most concerns.
I would not give the algebraist sixpence for his encomiums on my Task, if he condemns my Homer, which, I know, in point of language, is equal to it, and in variety of numbers superior. But the character of the former having been some years established, he follows the general cry; and should Homer establish himself as well, and I trust he will hereafter, I shall have his warm suffrage for that also. But if not—it is no matter. Swift says somewhere, There are a few good judges of poetry in the world, who lend their taste to those who have none : and your man of figures is probably one of the borrowers.
* Private Correspondence.
Adieu-in great haste. Our united love attends yourself and yours, whose I am most truly and affectionately.
TO SAMUEL ROSE, ESQ.
Weston, Nov. 9, 1792.
My dear Friend—I wish that I were as industrious and as much occupied as you, though in a different way: but it is not so with me. Mrs. Unwin's great debility (who is not yet able to move without assistance) is of itself a hindrance such as would effectually disable me. Till she can work, and read, and fill up her time as usual (all which is at present entirely out of her power) I may now and then find time to write a letter, but I shall write nothing more. I cannot sit with my pen in my hand and my books before me, while she is in effect in solitude, silent, and looking at the fire. To this hindrance that other has been added, of which you are already aware, a want of spirits, such as I have never known, when I was not ab