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TO MISS SEWARD.
Sutton Coldfield, August 27, 1789. I CANNOT lose a moment in exculpating myself from a charge, which, if confirmed, must for ever stamp me as the most ungrateful of beings.
All I can say is, that I am totally unconscious of having dropped any such proofs of disregard and declining affection as you accuse me of; as for the single instance you produce, it must be very much wrested to be applied to such a meaning. I believe Sir B. Boothby to be a fastidious and nice judge of literary merit, while I know from experience that through the warmth and generosity of your nature, you are ready to acknowledge a substance where there is no more than the shadow of genius. Hurried away by the first impressions you receive, you seldom can either commend or depreciate with moderation. It is for this reason that great poets in general make the worst critics in the world. This consideration, I candidly allow, was the motive of the obnoxious question ; though I might with great show of truth allege another less likely to disoblige you.
Surely the additional vote of so good a judge as Sir. B. B. must at any rate enhance and give weight to your opinion. The concurrence of his approbation with yours could not fail of putting Jephson's claims beyond all doubt. I had displaced the
alexandrine in Lister's sonnet by the same alteration as you suggest, but renounced it on finding the word “ bright” had occurred before. Salt's production does not answer the ideas I had formed of his talents; I should be glad to part with my present opinion of them by reading the romance, on perusal of which your elegant verses are addressed to him.
Pray believe me the most affectionate and faithful of your admirers,
H. F. CARY.
The following sonnet was suggested by the line in Chatterton, with which you were so enraptured:
“ The sweet ribibble dinning in the dell.”
Sweet to the musing bard who winds along
This airy mountain, from yon narrow dell
That echoes with repeated din among
Content and pleasure breathe their magic spell ;
The mingled peal, and laugh and jocund song,
That it can ne'er partake such simple joy ;
Delight that after no contrition leaves *, Sport without pain and love without alloy ;
If such the poor and humble peasant's state, Alas! what folly to be wise or great.
* In mirth that after no repenting draws.-Milton.
Enters at Christ Church.-His College Life.—Letters to Miss Seward
and his Sister.—Poem in Blank Verse, “ The Mountain Seat.”-
ley.—Commencement of his Literary Journal.- His Marriage. On the 29th of April, 1790, Mr. Cary (having obtained an exhibition of 351. a year from Birmingham School) was admitted as a commoner at Christ Church, Oxford, of which society Dr. Cyril Jackson was then dean.
During the usual period of the Oxford course, his time was spent no less diligently than it had been at school in literary pursuits. In addition to the ordinary routine of College exercises and other classical studies, to which during a residence at the University the attention is usually confined, he continued to cultivate his taste for the Italian language, with the aid or instruction of Signor U. Oliviero; and, besides this, he gave proof of an intimate acquaintance not only with the French but also the early Provençal language, by contributing to the “Gentleman's Magazine" several articles on the Provençal poets, a path till then almost untrodden by the learned of our country, but to which Warton in his “History of English Poetry” had lately pointed out the way.
His chief intimates at College were Walter Birch, then demy, afterwards fellow of Magdalen College, Edward Bullock, Charles Digby (late canon of Windsor), and William Digby (now prebendary of Worcester), all of Christ Church. The few letters that remain of his addressed to the two first and the last of these will appear in their proper places, and show how sincere and lasting were his friendships. To the last of the four I am indebted for the following account of my father's college life :
“I wish I could furnish what you wish respecting his college life (writes Mr. Digby, Nov. 14, 1845); but he was rather my senior there, and I do not know the exact line of his reading. Only this I know, that he was regularly studious, and I always understood that whatever other literary pursuits he might indulge in, he regularly pursued that line prescribed by the habit of the college and the dean's direction for his college collections, as we termed it. After his collections ceased, before his B.A. degree, he applied to the professor of Arabic and Persian for direction and instruction in the Persian language, with a view to his poetic pursuits, no doubt. Whether he continued to pursue that study* I know not. Birch, Bullock, Charles Digby (late canon of Windsor), and myself, constituted his evening tea-drinking party alternately at each other's rooms, Birch being at Magdalen. Price came to college later, and was but for a short time one of the set.
* He learned the Arabic grammar, and read a portion of Hinckelmaun (as I learn from a cotemporary letter of one of his fellowpupils), but did not prosecute the study further.
Birch * indeed had the highest opinion of your father's talents and acquirements; but used to contend with him a good deal in discourse and differ often in opinion, and now and then rather angrily, which your father took very quietly, and did not show himself very eager to refute; which habit of your father produced this remark from Birch to me some time after, 'Cary, after having delivered his opinion, takes no great pains to maintain it, if you do not choose to agree with him.'
“He once wrote to my knowledge (he might have written often without it), for a college prize. It was a Latin Essay ; but he misunderstood in what language it was to be written, Latin or English, till within a few days of the delivery, and so was forced
* This remark is occasioned by one made by me in my letter to Mr. Digby, to the effect that my father's character seemed to have made a very strong impression on Mr. Birch, unusual with men so young. Birch, in a letter dated January 9th, 1794, speaking of a fellow of Magdalen, with whom he had lately become acquainted, but whose name he does not mention, and who, he says, reminded him strongly of my father, says :—“You are both two distinct wholes, which, on reflection, excite in me different sensations, but such as I should think myself degraded, were I not to retain and cherish them with fondness ; such as I may congratulate myself on my lot in not having passed through the early part of life without being permitted to know, whilst my heart was not wholly debased, and capable of being benefited by an intercourse with elevated minds."