1734 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

John Hughes

Isaac Watts to William Duncombe, 1 November 1734; Duncombe, Letters of Eminent Persons (1772; 1773) 2:49-51.



From lady Abney's at

Newington, Nov. 1, 1734.

SIR,

Your present of a ticket, which entitles me to Mr. Hughes's "poems," was an agreeable surprise. My acquaintance and intimacy with that ingenious gentleman was in the younger years of life chiefly; our later situations in the world divided us so far as to prevent frequent conversation, though not to destroy mutual esteem.... Your lady, I believe, I have seen as a child in some of my ancient visits to Mr. John Hughes, when his brother, Jabez, was a little boy. While I write thus, methinks I recall youth, and revive some buried ideas. But eternity lies before me, and appears in a much nearer view. May I be found ready for the important summons!....

I have seen the French "Athaliah" long ago, and by your translation now enjoy the English; but a man of my character must not too much indulge what relates to the modern stage, because of its vicious entertainments. It is my opinion that dramatic poesy might have been useful to many happy purposes, had it always been kept within the bounds prescribed by virtue and religion, as Racine has done. But, as you say from Horace concerning yourself, "Quid verum at, decens curo, et rogo, et omnis in hoc sum," so must I say (at least since my last published miscellanies) "Nunc itaque et versus et caetera ludicra pono."

Mr. Samuel Say (of whom you write) was an old intimate of Mr. John Hughes at the same time with me, being all fellow-students together in logic and philosophy. He is very lately fixed in London, a minister under the care of the Rev. Dr. Calamy. With all due salutations,

I am, &c.

I. WATTS.