1720 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

John Sheffield

John Hughes to John Sheffield, January 1720; Duncombe, ed. Letters by Several Eminent Persons (1772; 1773) 1:262-64.



MY LORD,

I take the liberty, by the hands of Mr. Rotherham, to send your grace the copy of a play [Hughes's Siege of Damascus] now in the house, and in forwardness to be acted: I heartily wish I had been favoured with an opportunity of submitting it to your graces perusal sooner, which might have been much to my instruction and advantage; but I cannot, even now, satisfy myself, without being ambitious of having the opinion of the best judge of the age. I know not how it has happened to so great a lover of poetry (though a very small dealer in it) as myself, to be always a personal stranger to your grace; but I must beg leave to say, on this occasion, that your excellent Essay on Poetry, which I often read and studied as a boy, was one of the first pieces that both instructed me to write and deterred me from it; so that I have not made this adventure for the stage till an age of life, which is usually thought not too young for judgment, if that be ever attained, nor past the warmth of fancy. And now, looking upon it as a sort of poetical debt to lay it before your grace, as the eldest, as well as the best, critic of English poetry, I can truly say, that the mixed applause of an audience (if I were sure of it) will not give me so solid a pleasure, as to know, that it has, in some degree, your grace's approbation.

I am, with the greatest respect,

My lord, &c.

JOHN HUGHES.