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LETTER 97. TO LORD HOLLAND.
6 Cheltenham, September 23. 1812. "Ecco!-I have marked some passages with double readings-choose between them
better judges have admired, and may again; but I venture to 'prognosticate a prophecy' (see the Courier), that he will not succeed. So, poor dear Rogers has stuck fast on the brow of the mighty Helvellyn' — I hope not for ever. My best respects to Lady H.:-her departure, with that of my other friends, was a sad event for me, now reduced to a state of the most cynical solitude. By the waters of Cheltenham I sat down and drank, when I remembered thee, oh Georgiana Cottage! As for our harps, we hanged them up upon the willows that grew thereby. Then they said, Sing-cut-add—reject—or destroy- do with us a song of Drury Lane,' &c.;- but I am them as you will-I leave it to you and the Committee-you cannot say so called 'a dumb and dreary as the Israelites. The waters have disordered me to my heart's non committendo.' What will they do (and I do) with the hundred and one rejected you were right, as you always are. Troubadours? With trumpets, yea, and Believe me ever your obliged and affectionate servant, with shawms,' will you be assailed in the most diabolical doggerel. I wish my name not to transpire till the day is decided. I shall not be in town, so it won't much matter; but let us have a good deliverer. I think Elliston should be the man, or Pope; not Raymond, I implore you, by the love of Rhythmus!
"The passages marked thus ==, above and below, are for you to choose between epithets, and such like poetical furniture. Pray write me a line, and believe me ever, &c.
The request of the Committee for his aid having been, still more urgently, repeated, he, at length, notwithstanding the difficulty and invidiousness of the task, from his strong wish to oblige Lord Holland, consented to undertake it; and the quick succeeding notes and letters, which he addressed, during the completion of the Address, to his noble friend, afford a proof (in conjunction with others of still more interest, yet to be cited) of the pains he, at this time, took in improving and polishing his first conceptions, and the importance he wisely attached to a judicious choice of epithets as a means of enriching both the music and the meaning of his verse. They also show,-what, as an illustration of his character, is even still more valuable,—the exceeding pliancy and good humour with which he could yield to friendly suggestions and criticisms; nor can it be questioned, I think, but that the docility thus invariably exhibited by him, on points where most poets are found to be tenacious and irritable, was a quality natural to his disposition, and such as might have been turned to account in far more important matters, had he been fortunate enough to meet with persons capable of understanding and guiding him.
"My best remembrances to Lady H. Will you be good enough to decide between the various readings marked, and erase the or our deliverer may be as puzzled as a commentator, and belike repeat both. If these versicles won't do, I will hammer out some more endecasyllables.
The following are a few of those hasty notes, on the subject of the Address, which I allude to :
TO LORD HOLLAND.
"September 22. 1812.
"My dear Lord,
"In a day or two I will send you something which you will still have the liberty to reject if you dislike it. I should like to
have had more time, but will do my best,but too happy if I can oblige you, though I may offend a hundred scribblers and the discerning public. Ever yours.
Keep my name a secret; or I shall be beset by all the rejected, and, perhaps, damned by a party."
"P.S.-Tell Lady H. I have had sad work to keep out the Phoenix-I mean the It has insured Fire Office of that name. the theatre, and why not the Address?"
TO LORD HOLLAND.
September 24. "I send a recast of the four first lines of the concluding paragraph.
"This greeting o'er, the ancient rule obey'd,
The drama's homage by her Herald paid,
And do forgive all this trouble. See what
LETTER 98. TO LORD HOLLAND.
"Still 'more matter for a May morning.' Having patched the middle and end of the Address; I send one more couplet for a part
of the beginning, which, if not too turgid, you will have the goodness to add. After that flagrant image of the Thames (I hope no unlucky wag will say I have set it on fire, though Dryden, in his Annus Mirabilis,' and Churchill, in his Times,' did it before me), I mean to insert this
"As flashing far the new Volcano shone
And swept the skies with lightnings not their own, While thousands throng'd around the burning dome,
I think thousands' less flat than crowds collected'—but don't let me plunge into the bathos, or rise into Nat. Lee's Bedlam metaphors. By the by, the best view of the said fire (which I myself saw from a housetop in Covent-garden) was at Westminster Bridge, from the reflection on the Thames. Perhaps the present couplet had better come in after 'trembled for their homes,' the two lines after; as otherwise the image certainly sinks, and it will run just as well.
"The lines themselves, perhaps, may be better thus-('choose,' or refuse' but please yourself, and don't mind Sir Fretful')
Garden market on the night of conflagration, instead of the audience or the discerning public at large, all of whom are intended to be comprised in that comprehensive and, I hope, comprehensible pronoun.
'By the by, one of my corrections in the fair copy sent yesterday has dived into the bathos some sixty fathom
"When Garrick died, and Brinsley ceased to write. Ceasing to live is a much more serious concern, and ought not to be first; therefore I will let the old couplet stand, with its half rhymes 'sought' and 'wrote.' Second thoughts in every thing are best, but, in rhyme, third and fourth don't come amiss. I am very anxious on this business, and I do hope that the very trouble I occasion you will plead its own excuse, and that it will tend to show my endeavour to make the most of the time allotted. I wish I had known it months ago, for in that case I had not left one line standing on another. I always scrawl in this way, and smooth as much as I can, but never sufficiently; and, latterly, I can weave a nine-line stanza faster than a couplet, for which measure I have not the cunning. When I began 'Childe Harold,' I had never tried Spenser's measure, and now I cannot scribble in any other.
After all, my dear Lord, if you can get a decent Address elsewhere, don't hesitate to put this aside. Why did you not trust your own Muse? I am very sure she would have been triumphant, and saved the Committee their trouble-"'tis a joyful one' to me, but I fear I shall not satisfy even myself. After the account you sent me, 'tis no compliment to say you would have beaten your candidates; but I mean that, in that case, there would have been no occasion for their being beaten at all.
There are but two decent prologues in our tongue-Pope's to Cato-Johnson's to Drury-Lane. These, with the epilogue to the Distrest Mother,' and, I think, one of Goldsmith's 2, and a prologue of old Colman's to Beaumont and Fletcher's Philaster, are the best things of the kind we have.
"P. S.- I am diluted to the throat with medicine for the stone; and Boisragon wants me to try a warm climate for the winter but I won't."
"Dear are the days that made our annals bright, Ere Garrick fled, or Brinsley ceased to write."
2 [To Charlotte Lennox's comedy of "The Sister." See Goldsmith's Misc. Works, vol. iv. p. 130. ed. 1837.]
As to remarks, I can only say I will alter and acquiesce in any thing. With regard to the part which Whitbread wishes to omit, I believe the Address will go off quicker without it, though, like the agility of the Hottentot, at the expense of its vigour. I leave to your choice entirely the different specimens of stucco-work; and a brick of your own will also much improve my Babylonish turret. I should like Elliston to have it, with your leave. Adorn' and 'mourn are lawful rhymes in Pope's Death of the unfortunate Lady.-Gray has 'forlorn' and 'mourn' — and 'torn' and 'mourn' are in Smollett's
famous Tears of Scotland.
"As there will probably be an outcry amongst the rejected, I hope the Committee will testify (if it be needful) that I sent in nothing to the congress whatever, with or
without a name, as your Lordship well
knows. All I have to do with it is with and through you; and though I, of course, wish to satisfy the audience, I do assure you my first object is to comply with your request, and in so doing to show the sense I have of the many obligations you have conferred upon me. Yours ever,
lava of the "Till slowly ebb'd the spent volcanic And blackening ashes mark'd the Muse's grave.
If not, we will say 'burning wave,' and instead of 'burning clime,' in the line some couplets back, have 'glowing.'
Is Whitbread determined to castrate all my cavalry lines? I don't see why t'other house should be spared; besides, it is the public, who ought to know better; and you recollect Johnson's was against similar buffooneries of Rich's — but, certes, I am not Johnson.
"Instead of effects,' say labours'— degenerate' will do, will it? Mr. Betty is no longer a babe, therefore the line cannot be personal.
Will this do?
S the burning "Till ebb'd the lava of that molten,
with glowing dome,' in case you prefer burning' added to this 'wave' metaphorical. The word 'fiery pillar' was suggested by the pillar of fire' in the book of Exodus, which went before the Israelites through the Red Sea. I once thought of saying like Israel's pillar,' and making it a simile, but I did not know, the great temptation was leaving the epithet 'fiery' for the supple
I want to work up that passage, as it is the only new ground us prologuizers can go upon
"This is the place where, if a poet
Shined in description, he might show it.
There the deuce is in it, if that is not an improvement to Whitbread's content. Recollect, it is the name,' and not the magic,' that has a noble contempt for those same weapons. If it were the 'magic,' my metaphor would be somewhat of the maddest
so the 'name' is the antecedent. But, my dear Lord, your patience is not quite so immortal-therefore, with many and sincere thanks, I am
"Yours ever most affectionately.
"P. S.-I foresee there will be charges of partiality in the papers; but you know I sent in no Address; and glad both you and I must be that I did not, for, in that case, their plea had been plausible. I doubt the Pit will be testy; but conscious innocence (a novel and pleasing sensation) makes me bold."
LETTER 102. TO LORD HOLLAND.
September 28. "I have altered the middle couplet, so as I hope partly to do away with W.'s objection. I do think, in the present state of the stage, it had been unpardonable to pass over the horses and Miss Mudie, &c. As Betty is no longer a boy, how can this be applied to him? He is now to be judged as a man. If he acts still like a boy, the public will but be more ashamed of their blunder. I have, you see, now taken it for granted that these things are reformed. I confess, I wish that part of the Address to stand; but if W. is inexorable, e'en let it go. I have also newcast the lines, and softened the hint of future combustion, and sent them off this morning. Will you have the goodness to add, or insert, the approved alterations as they arrive? They come like shadows, so depart ;' occupy me, and, I fear, disturb
"Do not let Mr. W. put his Address into Elliston's hands till you have settled on these alterations. E. will think it too long: - much depends on the speaking. I fear it will not bear much curtailing, without
chasms in the sense.
"Yours ever, &c. "P. S.-On looking again, I doubt my idea of having obviated W.'s objection. To the
It had been, originally,
"Though other piles may sink in future flame, On the same spot," &c. &c.
other House allusion is 'non sequitur'—but I wish to plead for this part, because the thing really is not to be passed over. Many afterpieces at the Lyceum by the same company have already attacked this ' Augean Stableand Johnson, in his prologue against 'Lunn' (the harlequin manager, Rich), — Hunt,' — Mahomet,' &c. is surely a fair precedent.”
LETTER 103. TO LORD HOLLAND.
"September 29. 1812.
Shakspeare certainly ceased to reign in on of his kingdoms, as George III. did in America, and George IV.2 may in Ireland? Now, we have nothing to do out of our own realms, and when the monarchy was gone, his majesty had but a barren sceptre. I have cut away, you will see, and altered, but make it what you please; only I do implore, for my own gratification, one lash on those accursed quadrupeds a long shot, Sir Lucius, if you love me.' I have altered 'wave,' &c., and the fire,' and so forth for the timid. "Let me hear from you when convenient, and believe me, &c.
"September 30. 1812. "I send you the most I can make of it; for I am not so well as I was, and find I 'pall in resolution.'
I wish much to see you, and will be at
Tetbury by twelve on Saturday; and from
have done better.
"It is certainly too long in the reading; You will find a sort of clap-trap laudatory but if Elliston exerts himself, such a favourite couplet inserted for the quiet of the Comwith the public will not be thought tedious.mittee, and I have added, towards the end, I should think it so, if he were not to speak it.
the couplet you were pleased to like. The whole Address is seventy-three lines, still perhaps too long; and, if shortened, you will save time, but, I fear, a little of what I meant for sense also.
elsewhere. I shall choke, if we must over"P. S. Do let that stand, and cut out look their d-d menagerie."
LETTER 104. TO LORD HOLLAND.
2 Some objection, it appears from this, had been made to the passage," and Shakspeare ceased to reign."
LETTERS TO LORD HOLLAND.
"With myriads of thanks, I am ever, &c. "My sixteenth edition of respects to Lady H.- How she must laugh at all this!
I wish Murray, my publisher, to print off some copies as soon as your Lordship returns to town-it will ensure correctness in the papers afterwards."
LETTER 105. TO LORD HOLLAND.
"Far be from him that hour which asks in vain Tears such as flow for Garrick in his strain; or,
"Far be that hour that vainly asks in turn crown'd his wept o'er
Garrick's urn. "September 30. 1812.
Will you choose between these added to the lines on Sheridan? I think they will wind up the panegyric, and agree with the train of thought preceding them.
"Now, one word as to the Committee how could they resolve on a rough copy of an Address never sent in, unless you had been good enough to retain in memory, or on paper, the thing they have been good enough to adopt? By the by, the circumstances of the case should make the Committee less ' avidus gloriæ,' for all praise of them would look plaguy suspicious. If necessary to be stated at all, the simple facts bear them out. They surely had a right to act as they pleased. My sole object is one which, I trust, my whole conduct has shown; viz. that I did nothing insidious — sent in no Address whatever — but, when applied to, did my best for them and myself; but, above all, that there was no undue partiality, which will be what the rejected will endeavour to make out. Fortunately — most fortunately - I sent in no lines on the occasion. For I am sure that had they, in that case, been preferred, it would have been asserted that I was known, and owed the preference to private friendship. This is what we shall probably have to encounter; but, if once spoken and approved, we sha'n't be much embarrassed by their brilliant conjectures; and, as to criticism, an old author, like an old bull, grows cooler (or ought) at every baiting.
Such verse for him as
"The only thing would be to avoid a party on the night of delivery - afterwards, the more the better, and the whole transaction inevitably tends to a good deal of discussion. Murray tells me there are myriads of ironical Addresses ready-some, in imitation of what is called my style. If they are as good as the Probationary Odes,
These added lines, as may be seen by reference to the printed Address, were not retained.
or Hawkins's Pipe of Tobacco, it will not be bad fun for the imitated.
LETTER 106. TO LORD HOLLAND.
"October 2. 1812.
"A copy of this still altered is sent by the post, but this will arrive first. It must be humbler' —‘yet aspiring' does away the modesty, and, after all, truth is truth. Besides, there is a puff direct altered, to please your plaguy renters.
"I shall be at Tetbury by 12 or 1 — but send this for you to ponder over. There are several little things marked thus / altered for your perusal. I have dismounted the cavalry, and, I hope, arranged to your general satisfaction.
"At Tetbury by noon.- I hope, after it is sent, there will be no more elisions. It is not now so long - 73 lines two less than allotted. I will alter all Committee objections, but I hope you won't permit Elliston to have any voice whatever, except in speaking it."
CHELTENHAM.-LETTERS TO MR. MURRAY,
THE time comprised in the series of letters to Lord Holland, which, as being exclusively