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Over that lamentation I am inclined to echo the Bishop, and say, that it is, as given in our Bible, above all other poetry, pathetic and sublime.
Self-love and gratitude will here intrude their acknowledgements, that my muse never received such distinguishing honour as you have done her in this work, by complimenting the exordium to Cook's Elegy, with a nearer approach to that matchless lamentation, than any thing you have seen in modern composition ;-and also by placing the exordium to the Monody on André amongst the selected instances of excellence in the Prosopopeia.
I am delighted with your notes on the 5th lecture, which commence page 106—and which so ably demonstrate the fallacy of that rule by which our periodical critics, with Midas-like decision, condemn beautiful passages in the poets of this day, viz. that metaphoric language is not natural, when the mind is agitated. They persist in this stupidly false assertion, though daily experience might shew them, if they were capable of observation, that the most unlettered ignorance speaks in metaphor when heated by anger, or pierced by affliction. Nothing can be more true than your observation, that “ the associating principle is the source of all figurative language, and that the greatest excess of figurative language, the hyber
bole, requires impassioned situations to preserve it from producing coldness in the style by the very attempt to give it warmth.”
But if I were to descant upon all the critical notes to this work which are signed T., and which have pleased and instructed me, my letter, already too long, would be voluminous indeed. The path in which I dissent from you has a very limited extent, though its opposition is total.-It is on the subject of Sterne. I throw down my warder, but, if you please, the day of combat shall be a little time hence; till when, repose upon your laurels !
GEORGE HARDINGE, Esg.
Lichfield, Nov. 21, 1787. Your epigram from Martial is elegant; yet, I confess, the idea seems to me not expressed with sufficient clearness; if indeed it is meant that not duration, but a certain character in friendship proves it genuine.
In the year 1785, I wrote a poem, addressed to Mr Whalley, then on the Continent. It contains the same thought. I knew not that it had been expressed by Martial. Mr Whalley had passed a long and severe winter in Chambery, induced by a friendship, which he had formed at Dijon with an amiable Savoyard nobleman, the Baron de Chatilion. The second of the following stanzas you will find expressing the idea in question:
What marvel, Whalley, that a soul like thine,
Shou'd brave the bitter storms, that ceaseless howl Where winter shivers on his rocky shrine,
With nitrous breath, and petrifying scowl!
What marvel, drawn by that magnetic power
Which soul to soul so instantly endears, Investing friendship's young and blossoming hour,
With all the ripeness of experienc'd years.
I devoured Lord Camelford's * description of Vaucluse. My friend, Mr Whalley, visited it twice, exploring, with the most eager curiosity, every
feature of the scene. His description of it, after the first visit, made earlier in the summer, before the snows were melted, tallies very exact
* See a Letter to Mr Whalley dated December 20th 1787.
ly with his Lordship’s; though it is curious that each concludes his description with an observation totally opposite. Mr Whalley says, that the wild, romantic, and mountainous seclusion of the scene, is peculiarly suited to sooth, by indulgence, the melancholy of hopeless love, and induce it to give poetic colouring to its sorrows. Lord Camelford, you know, observes, that the whole of the scene is majestic and imposing ; but not such as he should think likely to feed the love-sick mind, or the soft images of enamoured poetry.
We cannot doubt, from Petrarch's perpetual mention of the Vaucluse laurels, that they did luxuriantly ornament the valley when he passed so much time in its recesses, though no vestige of them now remains. The scene must have appeared more beautiful and soothing when graced by their soft-umbrage. Behold Mr Whalley's delineation of this celebrated vale, after his second visit, in the summer 1785 :
“ I have paid another visit to the enchanting fountain ;-and what a change! There had been a great thaw and heavy rain a few days before;and its azure waters, that, ere-while, slept in their rocky cavern, were now risen above its brim, and were rushing, with lavish violence, over the shelving mound of mossy crags, which time had thrown from the overhanging rocks.
foaming, and loud cascades, they augmented the Sorgue, which was now become a considerable river.
“ Did I mention, in my first hasty sketch, the lonely graces of the little winding valley, which leads to the bold scenery of rocks immediately about the fountain ? The chief umbrage of the vale bends over the Sorgue, and is formed of the willow and the mulberry tree. I remember observing, that the solitary and melancholy appearance of the whole scene seems formed to sooth the sorrows of despairing love.
“ On our return from the fountain, the steeple, the curate's house and garden, stand grouped to the eye in the most picturesque manner imaginable: and, in the latter, two ancient and venerable cypresses stand side by side, as if mourning over the ashes of Petrarch and Laura, and as emblems of their ever-verdant memories. They are the only large trees to be discerned, and we find them exquisitely in keeping with our ideas amidst a scene so consecrated.
“ On the summit of the left-hand heights of Vaucluse, stand the remains of what is called Petrarch's Castle, though I believe it is ascertained that it never belonged to him; that his was an humbler roof, situated in a more rural spot, and more consonant to his situatiou and his taste.