Page images






MY LORD, That the longest poem in this collection (1) was honoured by the notice of your Lordship's right honourable and ever-valued relation, Mr. Fox; that it should be the last which engaged his attention ; and that some parts of it were marked with his approbation ; are circumstances productive of better hopes of ultimate success than I had dared to enterlain before I was gratified with a knowledge of them: and the hope thus raised leads me to ask permission that I may dedicate this book to your Lordship, to whom that truly great and greatly lamented personage was so nearly allied in family, so closely bound in affection, and in whose mind presides the same critical taste which he exerted to the delight of all who heard him. He doubtless united with his unequalled abilities a fund of good-nature;

(1) [The Parish Register was the longest poem in the volume, published in 1807 to which this dedication was prefixed.]

and this possibly led him to speak favourably of and give satisfaction to, writers with whose productions he might not be entirely satisfied: nor must I allow myself to suppose his desire of obliging was withholden, when he honoured any effort of mine with his approbation : but, my Lord, as there was discrimination in the opinion he gave; as he did not veil indifference for insipid mediocrity of composition under any general expression of cool approval ; I allow myself to draw a favourable conclusion from the verdict of one who had the superiority of intellect few would dispute, which he made manifest by a force of eloquence peculiar to himself; whose excellent judgment no one of his friends found cause to distrust, and whose acknowledged candour no enemy had the temerity to deny. (1)

With such encouragement, I present my book to. your Lordship: the “ Account of the Life and Writings of Lope de Vega" () has taught me what

(1) [" Mr. Fox's memory seems never to have been oppressed by the number, or distracted by the variety, of the materials which he had gradu. ally accumulated. Never, indeed, will his companions forget the readiness, correctness, and glowing enthusiasm, with which he repeated the noblest passages in the best English, French, and Italian poets, and in the best epic and dramatic writers of antiquity. He read the most celebrated authors of Greece and Rome, not only with exquisite taste, but with philological precision; and the mind which had been employed in balancing the fate of kingdoms, seemed occasionally, like that of Cæsar, when he wrote upon grammatical analogy, to put forth its whole might upon the structure of sentences, the etymology of words, the import of particles, the quantity of syllables, and all the nicer distinctions of those metrical canons, which some of our ingenious countrymen have laid down for the different kinds of verse in the learned languages. Even in these subordinate accomplishments, he was wholly exempt from pedantry. He could amuse without ostentation, while he instructed without arrogance." - PARR.]

(2) (First published in 1806. A new edition appeared in 1817, to which

I am to expect; I there perceive how your Lordship can write, and am there taught how you can judge of writers: my faults, however numerous, I know, will none of them escape through inattention, nor will

any merit be lost for want of discernment: my verses are before him who has written elegantly, who has judged with accuracy, and who has given unequivocal proof of abilities in a work of difficulty,– a translation of poetry, which few persons in this kingdom are able to read (1), and in the estimation of talents not hitherto justly appreciated. In this view, I cannot but feel some apprehension : but I know also, that your Lordship is apprised of the great difficulty of writing well; that you will make much allowance for failures, if not too frequently repeated ; and, as you can accurately discern, so you will readily approve, all the better and more happy efforts of one, who places the highest value upon your Lordship’s approbation, and who has the honour to be,

was added “ An Account of the Life and Writings of Guillen de Castro." “No name among the Spanish poets,” says Mr. Southey, “is so generally known out of its own country as that of Lope de Vega, but it is only the name; and perhaps no author, whose reputation is so widely extended, has been so little read. The good fortune, however, of this phænix of Spain' has not wholly forsaken him; and he has been as happy now in a biographer, as he was during his life in obtaining the patronage of the great and the favour of the public.”

(1) [“ For about a hundred years, French had been the only literature which obtained any attention in this country. Now and then some worth. less production was done into English by a Person of Quality,' and a few sickly dramatists imported stage plots and re-manufactured them for the English market; making of less value, by their bad workmanship, materials which were of little enough value in themselves. But at this time a revival was beginning; it was brought about, not by the appearance of great and original genius, but by awakening the public to the merits of our old writers, and of those of other countries. The former task was effected by Percy and Warton: the latter it was Hayley's fortune to perform. A greater effect was produced upon the rising generation of scholars, by the notes to his Essay on Epic Poetry, than by any other contemporary work, the Relics of Ancient Poetry alone excepted. A most gratifying proof of this was afforded him thirty years after these notes were published, when he received from Lord Holland a present of the Life of Lope de Vega,' and a letter saying, that what Hayley had there written concerning the Araucana, had induced him to learn the Spanish language. And this was followed by an act of substantial kindness on his Lordship's part, in procuring an appointment for one of the author's relations. There are many persons who might make the same acknowledgment as Lord Holland, though few who have pursued the study of that fertile literature with such distinguished success.” — - SOUTHEY.]

Your Lordship's most faithful
and obliged humble servant,

GEO. CRABBE. Muston, Sept. 1807.

« PreviousContinue »