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io me, that the propriety or impropriety of ideas and of language in this respect depends very much upon the motive and
upon ner of it. Where the motive is for instruction or for reproof, a plainer kind of speech I conceive may be used, provided the manner be grave, and shew on what motive it is used : but, where the manner is licentious or light, a double meaning, an action, or a look, may raise ideas and corrupt the heart infinitely more than much plainer terms. This I conceive to be the case with those passages in the sacred writings which give offence to some. Where sins are mentioned as sins, and as being contrary to the law of God, the plainness of the terms does not appear to be an objection ; farther than that, as society and language advance in refinement, the phraseology of books should be refined in proportion. Perhaps it might be desirable that some of the passages translated in terms not now generally made use of in polished society, were to be new rendered in terms conformable to that refinement.* Something, too, depends upon
* In Mrs. Trimmer's SACRED HISTORY, jo 6 volumes 12mo. and her ABRIDGMENT OF SCRIPTURE HISTORY in 2
habit and the customs of the society in which we live, even though there should be some inconsistency in practice; as, where Alscrip, in the Comedy of The Heiress, A. iii. S. 1. commenting upon his daughter having a valet de chambre to wait upon her, says, “ Now if I was to give the charge of my person to a waiting maid, they'd say I was indelicate.” The reasoning I conceive to be just; but, as it is the custom of the country for ladies to have men to wait upon them as hairdressers, and not for gentlemen to have females to wait upon them, he
vols. 12mo. intended chiefly for young persous, these passages are either omitted or the expressions altered.
Mr. Cumming, in the Advertisement prefixed to bis dew Edition of Owen Felltham's Resolves, quotes the opinion of a learned friend upon the work, which ends with "Wben pruved (he adds) of a few impurities, and a little curtailed, it will be a vast addition to the stores of English Literature.” Then says, “ The impurities which are here referred to, consist of iodelicate expressions, allusions, and conceits, which are not unfrequently to be met with in the writers of Felltham's time, and which, though by no means of a licentious or immoral cast, are nevertheless offensive to the delicacy of modern refinement. These, have accordingly been omitted.” (p. xiii.) And Mrs. West, in the Second Volume of her Letters to a Young Lady (L.ix.p. 315. 3rd Edit.) says, “ Examples of what we should now call inelegant bluntness maġ be taken from the justly admired letters of Lady Rachel Russel."
who should thus employ a female about his person, would be more liable to censure. Where men attend upon women in a medical capacity, or women attend upon men as nurses, an alteration of circumstances renders the intercourse unobjectionable. But, on the other hand, I conceive that every circumstance or expression, which tends to make light of that which is really in itself a sin, or facilitates the approaches to it, whether it be by giving palliating or favourable names to sins, or by witty turns to lessen our abhorrence of them, or even to recommend them, this I conceive to be one main source of the " corrupt communication" against which the Apostle warns us. (Ephesians iv. 29.)
I have said so much upon the subject of Heathenism in the Introduction to my Collection of Songs, where I have quoted a passage from your very beautiful and interesting Essay on the Application of Natural History to Poetry," (Vol. i. p. xxxvi.) and in my Discourses on the Stage, that I shall introduce in this place merely a few passages from your own writings, which make me wonder that you have selected so many compositions which turn upon the heathen mythology of Venus, Cupid, Bacchus,
&c. &c. A passage from your Letters to your Son has been already cited, p. 16.
In your Letters on Poetry (L. viii. p. 110.) speaking of the Love Elegies of Hammond, you say,
" He has, however, undergone some heavy censure for adopting so large a share of the rural imagery and heathen mythology of Ti. bullus, which, being with respect to himself purely fictitious, impairs the reality of his assumed character of a lover.” In Letter ix. (p. 120.) you represent the ancient niythology as suited rather to pedantic times than to ours. Speaking of Comus, you say, “ That kind of drama called a Mask, consisting of a fable in which the characters of antient mythology, or abstract qualities personified, are the actors, frequently employed the invention of Ben Jonson and others of our carly dramatists, for the entertainment of the learned and somewhat pedantic times in which they lived.” On Akenside's “Hymn to the Naiads”, (L. xii. p. 162.) You say, “ The character of one of the most classical poems in the English language will perhaps but dubiously recommend it to your favour. In fact, it sounds the very depths of Grecian mythology; and a mere English reader may well be startled at the
mystical solemnity with which this song begins. You say of Cowley, (L. xvii. p. 234.) “ He made his first essays in a free version of some of Pindar's odes, which I will not desire you to peruse; for what amusement are you likely to find in the obscure tales of antient mythology, and the adulation of forgotten horse-racers ?" On Tickell's poem of “ Kensington Garden,” you say, (L. xviii. p. 249.) it “ is a pretty fancy-piece; not correct, indeed, in its mythology, since it blends the fiction of the fairy system with that of the heathen deities.”
The more I consider your work, Sir, the more I am surprised that some of the songs have been inserted, and that in others those alterations have not been made which would have rendered them, not only harmless, but instructive. That you have not forborne doing this out of respect to the authors, and thinking it wrong to alter what has been sent into the world in a certain form by them, appears from what you have said in your Essay (p. xv.) about national stories in Old Ballads being “ retold in newer and more polished diction, perhaps retrenched in their prolixity, and enlivened by touches of sentiment,” as may be seen in the two editions of the Ballad of Chevy Chase. You have yourself altered a song of Dr, Donne's, (p. 215.) on account of the rugged