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publish it with its new termination, so much more consonant to poetic justice, and the gratification of the reader.
You quote Madam Genlis. Do you not object to her system concerning the choice of books for young people? She wishes that authors oi first-rate excellence should be withheld from ou youth, during those fresh and vivid years, wher the perceptions are in their first poignancy.
I differ from her totally. Whatever books are put into the hands of sensible ingenious young people, between the age of twelve and eighteen, will, I am convinced, fix their taste in reading. A work of mediocrity, if it is in any degree inte resting, will, during that lively interval, inspire more delight, than can be produced by compositions of a far higher class, when the first fine edge of the feelings is taken off. The mind always acquires a fond predilection for that species of writing which had borne away the early fruits of its ripening sensibilities. It is therefore of the utmost importance to the future strength of intellect, that the literary taste in opening youth be set high. What a treasure is your
last letter! How completely does it place us in scenery so inevitably dear to a poetic inagination! As late you shewed me the calm, so now you make me see the
swoln and agitated waters of Vaucluse; and each are alike interesting. Ah! those cypresses!—what striking memorials! The detestable portraits of Petrarch and Laura, in the Castle of Sommane, ought to make people, whose personal representation is likely to interest generations yet unborn, careful how they leave behind them disagreeable pictures, which must hereafter disappoint the anxious gazer, and outrage his imagination, by forcing upon it an idea uncongenial to his preconceptions, and destructive of their enthusiasm.
The winter has been, with us, very long and severe. A sharp, gloomy, and steril frost, attended with frequent storms of snow, even yet
« Chills our pale morns, and bids the driving sleet
By this time, it is broad and sultry summer with you. I know how much you luxuriate in glowing suns, and I hope you enjoy them on your classic plains of Petrarchian consecration. But I had much rather you were, at this instant, rubbing your hands over an English fire, and breathing phillipics on our wayward and disappointing climate.
WILLIAM HAYLEY, Esg.
Lichfield, April 10, 1785. Health is become to me a very rigorous taskmistress. The exercise she exacts most inconveniently abridges my epistolary leisure.
Mr Boswell lately passed a few days in Lichfield. I did not find him quite so candid and ingenuous on the subject of Johnson, as I had hoped from the style of his letters. He affected to distinguish, in the despot's favour, between envy and literary jealousy. I maintained, that it was a sophistic distinction, without a real difference. Mr Boswell urged the unlikelihood that he, who had established his owu fame on other ground than that of poetry, should envy poetic reputation, especially where it was posthumous; and seemed to believe that his injustice to Milton, Prior, Gray, Collins, &c. proceeded from real want of taste for the higher orders of verse,
his judgment being too rigidly severe to relish the enthusiasms of imagination.
Affection is apt to start from the impartiality of calling faults by their proper names.
Mr Boswell soon after, unawares, observed that Johnson had been galled by David Garrick's instant success, and long eclat, who had set sail with himself on the sea of public life; that he took an aversion to him on that account; that it was a little cruel in the great man not once to name David Garrick in his preface to Shakespeare! and base, said I, as well as unkind. Garrick! who had restored that transcendent author to the taste of the public, after it had recreantly and long receded from him ; especially as this restorer had been the companion of his youth. He was galled by Garrick's prosperity, rejoined Mr Boswell. Ah! said I, you now, unawares, cede to my position. If the author of the Rambler could stoop to envy a player, for the hasty splendour of a reputation, which, compared to his own, however that might, for some time, be hid in the night of obscurity, must, in the end, prove as the meteor of an hour to the permanent light of the sun, it cannot be doubted, but his injustice to Milton, Gray, Collins, Prior, &c. proceeding from the same cause, produced that levelling system of criticism, “ which lifts the mean, and lays the
, mighty low.” Mr Boswell's comment upon this observation was, that dissenting shake of the head, to which folk are reduced, when they will not be convinced, yet find their stores of defence exhausted.
Mr B. confessed his idea that Johnson was a Roman Catholic in his heart.--I have heard him, said he, uniformly defend the cruel executions of that dark bigot, Queen Mary.
Warton's Milton, Mr Hayley I am sure you are charmed with it. But how melancholy are the reflections which result from its information, that the Lycidas, Comus, and Il Penseroso, the Sonnets, in short, all the juvenile works of that immortal poet, remained in oblivion full twenty years after the Paradise Lost had emerged. It proves the absolute incompetence of the public to discern and estimate the claims of genius, till, by the slow accumulation of the suffrage of kindred talents, it is taught their value. If, as I begin to fear, from what two men of talents, who ought to know better, say of the Mine, that fine dramatic poem should sink, for some time, beneath the fastidioys coldness of modern criticism, we may address its author in the words of his great model,
“ So sinks the day-star in the ocean-bed,
But yet, anon, exalts his drooping head;