« AnteriorContinuar »
the tide of your feelings in the right channel, by mentioning that it is the only state for the best sort of poetry-that is all I care for, all I live for. Forgive me for not filling up the whole sheet; letters become so irksome to me, that the next time I leave London I shall petition them all to be spared to me. To give me
credit for constancy, and at the same time waive letter-writing, will be the highest indulgence I can think of.
Ever your affectionate friend,
MY DEAR DILKE,
WINCHESTER, Wednesday Evening.
Whatever I take to, for the time, I cannot leave off in a hurry; letter-writing is the go now; I have consumed a quire at least. You must give me credit, now, for a free letter, when it is in reality an interested one on two points, the one requestive, the other verging to the pros and cons. As I expect they will lead me to seeing and conferring with you for a short time, I shall not enter at all upon a letter I have lately received from George, of not the most comfortable intelligence, but proceed to these two points, which, if you can Hume out into sections and subsections, for my edification, you will oblige me. The first I shall begin upon; the other will follow like a tail to a comet. I have written to Brown on the subject, and can but go over the same ground with you in a very short time, it not being more in length than the ordinary paces between the wickets. It concerns a resolution I have taken to endeavor to acquire something by temporary writing in periodical works. You must agree with me how unwise it is to keep feeding upon hopes, which depending so much on the state of temper and imagination, appear gloomy or bright, near or afar off, just as it happens. Now an act has three parts to act, to do, and to perform-I mean I should do something for my immediate welfare. Even if I am swept away like a spider from a drawing-room, I am determined to spin-homespun, any thing for sale. Yea, I will traffic, any thing but mortgage my brain to Blackwood. I am determined not to lie like a dead lump. You may say I want tact. That is easily acquired. You may be up to the slang of a cock-pit in three battles. It is
fortunate I have not, before this, been tempted to venture on the common. I should, a year or two ago, have spoken my mind on every subject with the utmost simplicity. I hope I have learned a little better, and am confident I shall be able to cheat as well as any literary Jew of the market, and shine up an article on any thing, without much knowledge of the subject, aye, like an orange. I would willingly have recourse to other means. I cannot; I am fit for nothing but literature. Wait for the issue of this tragedy? No: there cannot be greater uncertainties, east, west, north, and south, than concerning dramatic composition. How many months must I wait! Had I not better begin to look about me now? If better events supersede this necessity, what harm will be done? I have no trust whatever on poetry. I don't wonder at it: the marvel is to me how people read so much of it. I think you will see the reasonableness of my plan. To forward it, I purpose living in cheap lodgings in town, that I may be in the reach of books and information, of which there is here a plentiful lack. If I can [find] any place tolerably comfortable, I will settle myself and fag till I can afford to buy pleasure, which, if [I] never can afford, I must go without. Talking of pleasure, this moment I was writing with one hand, and with the other holding to my mouth a nectarine. Good God, how fine! It went down soft, pulpy, slushy, oozy-all its delicious embonpoint melted down my throat like a large beatified strawberry. Now I come to my request. Should you like me for a neighbor again? Come, plump it out, I won't blush. I should also be in the neighborhood of Mrs. Wylie, which I should be glad of, though that of course does not influence me. Therefore will you look about Rodney Street for a couple of rooms for me-rooms like the gallant's legs in Massinger's time, as good as the times allow, Sir!" I have written to-day to Reynolds, and to Woodhouse. Do you know him? He is a friend of Taylor's, at whom Brown has taken one of his funny odd dislikes. I'm sure he's wrong, because Woodhouse likes my poetry-conclusive. I ask your opinion, and yet I must say to you, as to him (Brown), that if you have any thing to say against it I shall be as obstinate and heady as a Radical. By the "Examiners" coming in your handwriting you must be in town. They have put me into spirits. Notwithstanding my aristocratic
temper, I cannot help being very much pleased with the present public proceedings. I hope sincerely I shall be able to put a mite of help to the liberal side of the question before I die. If you should have left town again (for your holidays cannot be up yet), let me know when this is forwarded to you. A most extraordinary mischance has befallen two letters I wrote Brown-one from London, whither I was obliged to go on business for George; the other from this place since my return. I can't make it out. I am excessively sorry for it. I shall hear from Brown and from you almost together, for I have sent him a letter to-day. Ever your sincere friend,
WINCHESTER, Sept. 5, 1819.
MY DEAR TAYLOR,
This morning I received yours of the 2nd, and with it a letter from Hessey, inclosing a bank post bill of £30, an ample sum I assure you-more I had not thought of. You should not have delayed so long in Fleet Street; leading an inactive life as you did was breathing poison: you will find the country air do more for you than you expect. But it must be proper country air. You must choose a spot. What sort of a place is Retford ? You should have a dry, gravelly, barren, elevated country, open to the currents of air, and such a place is generally furnished with the finest springs. The neighborhood of a rich, inclosed, fulsome, manured, arable land, especially in a valley, and almost as bad on a flat, would be almost as bad as the smoke of Fleet Street. Such a place as this was Shanklin, only open to the south-east, and surrounded by hills in every other direction. From this south-east came the damps from the sea, which, having no egress, the air would for days together take on an unhealthy idiosyncrasy altogether enervating and weakening as a city smoke. I felt it very much. Since I have been here in Winchester I have been improving in health it is not so confined, and there is, on one side of the city, a dry chalky down, where the air is worth sixpence a pint. So if you do not get better at Retford, do not impute it to your own weakness until you have well considered the
nature of the air and soil-especially as Autumn is encroaching -for the Autumn fog over a rich land is like the steam from cabbage water. What makes the great difference between valesmen, flatlandmen, and mountaineers? The cultivation of the earth in a great measure. Our health, temperament, and disposition, are taken more (notwithstanding the contradiction of the history of Cain and Abel) from the air we breathe, than is generally imagined. See the difference between a peasant and a butcher. I am convinced a great cause of it is the difference of the air they breathe the one takes his mingled with the fume of slaughter, the other from the dank exhalement from the glebe; the teeming damp that comes up from the plough-furrow is of more effect in taming the fierceness of a strong man than his labor. Let him be mowing furze upon a mountain, and at the day's end his thoughts will run upon a pick-axe if he ever had handled one ;— let him leave the plough, and he will think quietly of his supper. Agriculture is the tamer of men—the steam from the earth is like drinking their mother's milk-it enervates their nature. This appears a great cause of the imbecility of the Chinese: and if this sort of atmosphere is a mitigation to the energies of a strong man, how much more must it injure a weak one, unoccupied, unexercised? For what is the cause of so many men maintaining a good state in cities, but occupation? An idle man, a man who is not sensitively alive to self-interest, in a city, cannot continue long in good health. This is easily explained. If you were to walk leisurely through an unwholesome path in the fens, with a little horror of them, you would be sure to have your ague. But let Macbeth cross the same path, with the dagger in the air leading him on, and he would never have an ague or any thing like it. You should give these things a serious consideration. Notts, I believe, is a flat country. You should be on the slope of one of the dry barren hills in Somersetshire. I am convinced there is as harmful air to be breathed in the country as in town.
I am greatly obliged to you for your letter. Perhaps, if you had had strength and spirits enough, you would have felt offended by my offering a note of hand, or, rather, expressed it. However, I am sure you will give me credit for not in anywise mistrusting you; or imagining that you would take advantage of any power
I might give you over me. No, it proceeded from my serious resolve not to be a gratuitous borrower, from a great desire to be correct in money matters, to have in my desk the chronicles of them to refer to, and know my worldly non-estate: besides, in case of my death, such documents would be but just, if merely as memorials of the friendly turns I had done to me.
Had I known of your illness I should not have written in such fiery phrase in my first letter. I hope that shortly you will be able to bear six times as much.
Brown likes the tragedy very much, but he is not a fit judge of it, as I have only acted as midwife to his plot, and of course he will be fond of his child. I do not think I can make you any extracts without spoiling the effect of the whole when you come to read it. I hope you will then not think my labor misspent. Since I finished it I have finished " Lamia," and am now occupied in revising "St. Agnes' Eve," and studying Italian. Ariosto I find as diffuse, in parts, as Spenser. I understand completely the difference between them. I will cross the letter with some lines from "Lamia."
Brown's kindest remembrances to you, and I am ever your most sincere friend,
I shall be alone here for three weeks, expecting account of your health.
MY DEAR REYNOLDS,
WINCHESTER, 22d Sept., 1819.
I was very glad to hear from Woodhouse that you would meet in the country. I hope you will pass some pleasant time together; which I wish to make pleasanter by a brace of letters, very highly to be estimated, as really I have had very bad luck with this sort of game this season. I" kepen in solitarinesse," for Brown has gone a-visiting. I am surprised myself at the pleasure I live alone in. I can give you no news of the place here, or any other idea of it, but what I have to this effect writen to George. Yesterday, I say to him, was a grand day for Winchester. They elected a mayor. It was indeed high time the place