1773 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Gilbert West

Elizabeth Carter to Elizabeth Montagu, 19 November 1773; Letters to Mrs. Montagu, ed. Montagu Pennington (1817) 2:236-37.



I believe the only reason I did not read Mr. West's book [on the Resurrection] sooner was, because I had not it to read. My dear Miss Talbot used to laugh at me, and affirm I never would read any books but my own; and, indeed, if it is a book that pleases me, I never can have any great enjoyment of it in the hurry which I always feel to return any thing I have borrowed. Mr. West is now my own property, and placed in the class of those books which I regularly read once a year. I have bound up the Trial of the Witnesses with it (which I had read before), which has all the spirit and cleverness of its author; but neither in argument or style, I think, by any means comparable to the other. I think there has been some attempt to answer it, by that wretched, conceited, unfair scribbler Morgan. No man in his wits, I suppose, can have undertaken to answer Mr. West, which can scarcely be done, without avowing the absurdity that no historical evidence whatever has a claim to belief. One has a very high additional pleasure in reading this noble performance, from the character which you, and indeed all who knew him, give of the author, whose life carried to so high a perfection, the virtues of that religion, which his pen so admirably defended. What an influence might the talents, and the example of such a preceptor have had on the head and heart of the pupil that was proposed for him, if this nation had been worthy of such a blessing!