1786 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Walter Churchey

William Cowper to Walter Churchey, 13 December 1786; Correspondence, ed. Wright (1904) 3:124-25.



I congratulate you on your possession of a poetical talent, which at such hours of leisure as you can win from a profession the least amusing in the world, must afford you often an agreeable entertainment. I find your versification smooth, your language correct and forcible, and especially in your translation of the Art of Painting. But you ask me, would I advise to publish? I would advise every man to publish whose subjects are well chosen, whose sentiments are just, and who can afford to be a loser, if that should happen, by his publication. You are sensible that it is not an age in which poetry of a moral or religious tendency is likely to find many readers. But I know well that publication is necessary to give an edge to the poetical turn, and that what we produce in the closet is never a vigorous birth if we intend that it should die there. For my own part I could no more amuse myself with writing verse, if I did not print it when written, than with the study of tactics, for which I can never have any real occasion. I therefore reason thus. You are a man of business: require a relaxation of your attention: you are capable of poetical exertions: there is no employment of the mind more innocent, or as it may be managed, more beneficial to others; but the most effectual spur to industry in all such exertions is to lay the fruit of them before the public. From which premises I can draw no other conclusion than that I ought to advise you to print; especially as I understand that you have already dealt with printers, and can consequently better estimate your probability of success, than I, or any man can do it for you.