1740 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Christopher Smart

Alexander Pope to Christopher Smart, 18 November 1740; Works of Pope, ed. Elwin and Courthope (1871-1889) 10:98-99.



TWICKENHAM, Nov. 18th [1740?].

SIR, — I thank you for the favour of yours; I would not give you the trouble of translating the whole Essay [on Man] you mention; the two First Epistles are already well done, and if you try, I could wish it were on the last, which is less abstracted, and more easily falls into poetry and common place. A few lines at the beginning and conclusion will be sufficient for a trial, whether you yourself can like the task or not. I believe the Essay on Criticism will in general be the more agreeable, both to a young writer and to the majority of readers. What made me wish the other well done, was the want of a right understanding of the subject in the foreign versions, in two Italian, two French, and one German. There is one indeed in Latin verse printed at Wirtemberg, very faithful but inelegant; and another in French prose, but in these the spirit of Poetry is as much lost, as the sense and system itself in the others. I ought to take this opportunity of acknowledging the Latin Translation of my Ode, which you sent me, and in which I could see little or nothing to alter, it is so exact. Believe me, Sir, equally desirous of doing you any service, and afraid of engaging you in an art so little profitable, though so well deserving, as good poetry. I am, your most obliged and sincere humble servant.