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I have lately been combating Sophia's poetical prejudices, as well as yours. It is these whimsical dislikes to immaterial circumstances which makes so many people of sense and feeling bad critics. Criticism must proceed upon a large scale, or her efforts will but deceive herself, and mislead others. She may, it is true, without losing dignity, slightly notice slight things, but the only requisites on which she should strongly insist are general consistence of metaphor, and happiness of allusion, appropriation as to character, vigour of idea, perspicuity of expression, accuracy and general grace of style, and picturesque power in the epithets. Where these are, how greatly is it below the dignity of her office to indulge unmeaning aversions to this or that order of verse; or, with yet more puerile petulance, to quarrel with words for their mere sound, and even to wage idle war with individual letters of the alphabet.
Above all, it is necessary, to form the useful and enlightening critic, that he should have none of those partialities which may lead him to admire in one writer what he dislikes in another. Justice does not allow us to go farther than, in consideration of ruder times, to pardon in an ancient what we might not be so ready to forgive in a modern;
we must not preclude to the moderns those daring graces which we admire in older writers, since beauty is confined to no form, no clime, no period.
You intreat me to relieve your solitude in Ormond Street. It must certainly be very profound Heavens ! with the bar, the senate, the opera, the Siddons, the lords, and the ladies, how is it that you procure leisure for such copiousness of epistolary intercourse? I fancy, like poor Chatterton, that child of genius, you never sleep. I wish I could be superior to the necessity of such vulgar renovation !
Lichfield, Jan 15, 1787. I AM sorry you find your marine shield so vulnerable, opposed to these wintry skies; but, as they have been uncommonly mild since you wrote to me, I trust, enabling you to use exercise, they prove salutary,
Yes, truly, it was a whimsical fatality that set me again to work in washing and mending the raiments of Pi's muse, by bringing the ardent and honest Dr Warner to Lichfield, with that same odd work, the Triumphs of Benevolence, in his hand ;—the author unknown. Without discovering his name, he had left a channel of communication with the Doctor open, and had solicited from him and his literary friends, the correction of that rhapsody. Dr Warner, on fire in the Howard cause, was naturally partial to verses which celebrated the statue-design; yet he perceived how much they were deformed by the frequent mixture of bombast and vulgarism, by anticlimax and false metaphor. He solicited me to remove at least the most glaring of these stains. I made the attempt in his company, which I was too desirous to enjoy, to attend to the P-ean traces in that absurd composition. They could not have escaped a more sequestered examination.
Soon after Dr Warner left Lichfield, and be fore he knew the author of this work, I wrote to him that I suspected P. to be the writer-since, though it was in some places too good to be the work of his unassisted pen, yet that the absurdities were excessively of his species.
You will know how much I must have regretted the death of my excellent friend, Dr Knowles, whose soothing benevolence was salubrious to the spirits, as was his medical skill to the frame. His ever ingenious widow has answered my letter of condolence in an highly religious strain, and in that strong and beautiful language which, on all occasions, flows from her pen.
Lovely, sensible, and amiable Mrs Capper has followed her sweet sister, Mrs Wolferstan, to a premature grave. I have more depredations of which to inform you, committed by that pale and pitiless despot, on youthful happiness. Sunday three weeks, my father was prayed for in the Cathedral, and, as it was expressed, without hope of recovery. Mrs C. B. was at church, in the first year of her marriage, and apparently in the most florid health. The disagreeable prospect of losing, by his death, her pleasant habitation, must naturally rise before her mind, on this solemn commencement of its approach.. Alas! she little thought that that day three weeks he would be recovered, and that a much narrower house would receive her insensate clay, then glowing in the strength of six-and-twenty years.
You have heard how violently her aunt and maternal friend, Mrs G., had opposed this marriage. There was little wonder that she, who
meant her niece to be the sole heiress of her
very large fortune, should oppose the connexion, especially as, superadded to the inferiority of his fortune, the too vulnerable heart of Mr C. B. had been drawn into temporary alienation, from his engagement to Miss , by the power of beauty, to which that lady had no pretension.
They married in June last, and Mrs G. never saw her niece afterwards, speaking, both of her. and her husband, with unabating and incessant asperity. But during Mrs B.'s illness, Mrs G. was agitated and miserable ;-and, two days after the melancholy event, went, at four o'clock in the evening, to that house of death. She entered in violent agitation, and, doubtless, very real anguish. She wept over the corpse, lond and bitterly, repeatedly kissing the face, with passionate affection ;-but, strange to tell, her indignation at the family remained unquenched by those agonized tears; and she refused, with scorn, the offered hand of old Mrs B. who had been a careful and tender nurse to her daughter-in-law, through the fatal illness.
Does not this visit remind you of Miss Howe's to Harlow Place ?-the struggle of wild despondent tenderness for her lost friend, with disdain of the inhabitants ; though Miss Howes's continued affection for Clarissa, was a contrast to