April 9, 1797.
My dear Sir, — I should ill deserve the friendship I hope to cultivate with you if I wrote you a letter of mere compliment on the poem you have so obligingly sent to me [Epistle to a Friend]. I must assure you, with strict truth, that I like it much. There is in it uncommon elegance and simplicity both of style and sentiment. And the notes are very pertinent and proper. It is more to show you that I have read it with attention than to wish you to alter a word or two that I venture to carp a little at the following words: Page 1, "unvalued hours," "ambush'd gate," a good image certainly, but the word seems harsh. Page 7, "Fountain flings." Page 8, "woo dreams," why not wait? 9, "unfelt," the idea is excellent, and I cannot suggest another word, yet doubt of "unfelt." I lay no sort of stress on these seeming blemishes, nor think them of much consequence. I cannot forbear adding that I am extremely struck with the concluding lines as well as with the Plan and Design of the whole, and hope you will finish it immediately. Own, my dear sir, that I have treated you with the freedom you are pleased to desire, and believe me,
Very faithfully and sincerely yours,