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Chevalier de Grieux. The Midnight Bell, a novel, Hayley's Triumphs of Temper, most of the Critical Works of Dionysius Halicarnassensis, the Hecuba of Euripides, in Porson's new edition, the first book of Hobbes's Leviathan, some of Filicaja's Poems, Bishop Taylor on the Liberty of Prophesying, &c., &c.
His friend Price had promised to pay him a visit at Abbots Bromley early in the following year, 1800; but wrote to excuse himself on account of the badness of the weather, and tried to prevail on my father to pay him a visit instead, holding out as a temptation a sale of original pictures shortly about to take place at Birmingham. This occasioned the subjoined pleasant correspondence.
TO THE REV. THOMAS PRICE.
Abbots-Bromley, February 1, 1800. DEAR PRICE, Now that your
fortnight's engagements over, I hope you will begin to think of your engagement with me, as I cannot recede from
claim of a visit. Your decoy of the pictures would not take. I am not so like the bird in the old story of the Greek painter's bunch of grapes, as to fly to you immediately on such a deception. If, however, you really wish to indulge me in that way, come to me and bring Waters, and then I shall be sure that I have at least one original in my own possession.
If you can prevail on yourself to leave Lord S. Chichester's sale, you may be certain of finding me at home at the beginning of next week, and in the language of the Politicians, “I pledge myself” to return the visit in the course of a month afterwards, with more intention of keeping my promise than they, I believe, commonly have.
I wish much to see Wilkes and Waters. His sermon has been long ordered, but from the dilatoriness of country booksellers, my anxiety has a chance of remaining some time longer unsatisfied. My wife desires her compliments,
Your faithful friend,
H. F. CARY. P.S. If you could contrive to bring me half a pound of Olympian green you would do me a service.
FROM THE REV. THOMAS PRICE.
Handsworth, February 6, 1800. DEAR CARY, I admire that high tone which you assume in claiming a visit from me. Recollect, good father Abbot, that in the first instance I expected you, and on account of your indisposition was condemned to endure the pains of disappointment. I admire that high-erected mind which, seated in a head full of taste and knowledge, could resist a decoy so alluring as a sale of paintings. I wish I could admire that firmness of resolution which, in despite of courtesy and ancient friendship, can keep you at home when I call. I wonder at, rather than delight in that incontinence of wit, which leads you to characterize the new-born author, and rising promise of the flock of divinity by an epithet ironically applied where it ought to have been used in soberness and truth. For if new and singular modes of acting and thinking, new ways of acquiring knowledge, and new ways of diffusing it, if discoveries of the most important and saving kind, moral and intellectual, constitute any part of originality, then is my admirable friend, the Curate of Barr, an original, a great original. For what man has at any time so boldly dared to oppose the fixed habits of domestic life as Vatersius? What man has dared, like him, to dine when others sup, to talk while others eat, to read while others drink, to preach while others laugh? to quote, rehearse, recite, to or from the purpose, in or out of season? What man has so wholly despised the restraints of an over-anxious principle of cleanliness, and overcome all regularity of habits and observances incompatible with the unshackled nature of his genius ? what man, before Vatersius, has studied divinity in Puffendorf, and Greek in Bishop Taylor ? Did ever yet man live, of such great resolutions and high aspirings ? Was ever man so poor and yet so honourable, so disregarded and yet so charitable, so proud and yet so friendly, so open yet so secret, so inconsiderate yet so wise, so low and yet so high, so great a copier and yet so true an original ?
When I read your innuendo contained in the words “ at least one original" and conjecture that you mean me, I shrink with terror from a comparison so disadvantageous to me. I know but of one original in the world to compare with the Curate of Barr and the chaplain of the high sheriff :-he who, soaring into the heights of poetry and romance, has yet an eye keen enough to discern, and a multifarious mind to direct the low and common concerns of domestic life; he whose generosity is corrected by his prudence; firm and unyielding, yet courteous and easy to be entreated. I am afraid the colours are too brilliant, the portrait will be too flattering, and I fear you will not know it.
But it is high time that I should begin my letter, lest the prelude should preclude the main subject of the composition. I wish to know how your engagements stand for a few weeks to come, for I mean to take the first opportunity and spend a whole week with you. I could perhaps come sooner and spend a few days with you, but I am persuaded that you would rather I deferred till I can, with some convenience, contrive to get my duty done for a Sunday, so that I may be out a “ Parson's week.”
I do not know what “Olympian green” means; explain it to me, that I may make no mistake. I once thought that it was Olympian Greek, and that it was a poetical way of desiring me to bring you some classic author, till I recollected that
would not have sent so vague a commission in a matter of such importance and nicety as your reading.
From yours truly,
TO THE REV. THOMAS PRICE.
Abbots-Bromley, February 8, 1800. MY DEAR PRICE, Overwhelmed as I am with the flow of wit and oratory which runs through your last epistolary composition, I am almost ashamed to use such plain English prose as the following: “I shall be very happy to see you as soon as you can make it convenient. I shall be at home for about a fortnight, and then probably go for the next fortnight on a visit to my father. It is fair, however, to apprise you that my sister is at present staying with us, which can be of no other inconvenience, that I know of, to you, except that you will be put into a bedchamber which has no fire-place. To me it is none; she will not interrupt either our morning's walk or our evening's reading. If it is left to me to fix a time I should certainly prefer the present to the future, provided my impatience does not make your visit shorter ; but I should suppose the obstacle of your Sunday's employment might be easily removed by the assistance of one of your clerical acquaintances and friends."
I fear you will hardly have had patience to toil