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From the Rev. J. Allport to Sylvaticus.
Chippenham Vicarage. MY DEAR SIR, I HAVE great pleasure in being able to inform you, that having consulted the different friends to whom I lent your volume, in consequence of the high gratification it had afforded myself, the testimonies of approbation and pleasure I have received are invariable and unmingled. I have also gathered that twelve or fourteen copies must have been procured hereabout since your work was made known in the neighbourhood.
This is no more than what I anticipated. Had I been favoured with a personal acquaintance with you before, to increase and direct the interest I felt on the perusal of your work, and which then induced me to lend it to some friends chiefly that they might partake of the rich mental feast on which I had regaled, I think the purchases would have been trebled. Your new edition is
a splendid improvement, and I believe there can be few persons, who when the garland in which the choicest flowers of poesy brought from every classic mead, and combined with all the skill, and beauty, and taste, and strength of poetic and classic genius, is exhibited to their view, would not be filled with admiration, and feel a desire to possess so rich a treasure. Indeed I find it to be the case, as the forementioned circumstances testify.
For myself, I can say that every part afforded me the greatest delight; and that delight was increased with increasing admiration on a second perusal. Whilst the mind is instructed and enlightened by the order of your performance, it is captivated by the natural and simple arrangement of the majestic mass, by the elegant and beautiful embellishments of your structure, and it receives no offence by any inconsistencies.
I feel persuaded the work is calculated to charm others in a similar way; for what makes it peculiarly interesting and valuable, and will insure to it perpetual worth and undying fame, is that purity and chastity of a Christian mind with which it is enriched and dignified ; while it reflects the excellences and attractions of ancient
and modern poetry, under the divine éffulgence of Revelation. I have written to my booksellers in town, and urged them to promote its sale.,
I shall be most happy to hear of any success attending you, and to see you again at Chippenham.
I am, dear sir,
P.S. You may set me down for a dozen copies of your next work.
Since my return home, I have been very busily engaged with my school, which is now increased to more than twenty boys. I devote every leisure moment to the composition of a second epie. This poem is not founded on Sacred Writ; no, nor even rests on the basis of profane history. The tale, the characters, and the incidents are wholly the offspring of my own imagination. I wish to give full play to the romance of fancy, which is also, it seems, the prevailing taste of the day: but I intend to keep it as much as possible within the bounds of classic chasteness and propriety. Here I cannot but remark to you the happiness of my present situation, compared with that period during wbich I was employed on my first epic. Then all was doubt, uncertainty, fear, and privation.
But I must make you acquainted with a curious affair that has lately occurred here. The ignorance and superstition of the inhabitants of this
my native village are proverbial : yet without heing witness to the scenes which have been nightly played at the house of a peasant here, you will scarcely credit the following story.
A common labourer of the name of Peter, the father of eleven children, resides in an isolated cottage at the end of the village. About a twelvemonth ago, Peter's uncle departed this life, leav. ing him the heir to his whole property, consisting of household furniture, a watch, clothes, &c. orally bequeathed before two or more witnesses. But other relatives of the deceased, not satisfied, it is said, with so partial a bequest, threaten to put in their claim for a portion of the goods and chattels. Alas! the cruel wretches, worse than the witch of Endor! their magic threats have burst the cerements of the dead, making the very grave to yawn asunder, and cast the sheeted ghost abroad to stalk upon the carth again!
The village, in consequence of the supernatural visitant which, it would appear, has nightly haunted the chamber wherein Peter's uncle closed his mortal career, bas been thrown for the last fortnight into the most alarming state of terror and anxiety. The old women do not dare singly to venture a step from their own thresholds, after it is dark; nor the young ones to enter a room