1767 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. Joseph Warton

George Lyttelton to Joseph Warton, 15 August 1767; Wooll, Biographical Memoirs of Joseph Warton (1806) 321-22.



Hagley, Aug. 15, 1767.

Dear Sir,

As you know how much I value your approbation as a critic, I need not tell you that your letters give me great pleasure. It particularly pleases me that you distinguish that part I labour'd most, the account of laws, manners, arts, learning, &c. during the times of which I write. I could have made it more amusing, if I would have treated it more superficially; but if the Historic Muse will search for truth among the ruins and cells of Gothic antiquity, some dust and cobwebs will stick to her, and she will not look so fine as if she had been only gathering flowers, or skimming cream. The most entertaining period of my history is still to come, viz. that which contains Earl Strong-bow's achievements in Ireland; the conquest of that island by King Henry the Second, or (to speak more accurately) the submission of it to him; the revolt of his wife and children; his victory over the rebels; the King of Scotland's captivity, and the subjection of his kingdom to the sovereignty of England in consequence of that event; the relapse of Henry's eldest son into another rebellion, and his death-bed repentance; the loss of the Holy Land, and the Crusade for the recovery of it against the great Saladin; and lastly, the new treasons of Henry's children against him, which caused his death. These bright parts of my subject, which will be comprehended in the last volume, admit of more eloquence, and a higher dignity of style, than any of the foregoing; and, if God grants me health and leisure, I hope I shall finish that volume to your satisfaction in about a twelvemonth from this time. The greatest delay will be from what I have still to write concerning the courts of justice, and the criminal law of that age, at the end of my fourth book. The investigation of these matters is tedious and difficult; but I must go through it, or leave the work incompleat. The favourable judgment you pass on what is already published will not a little animate me to proceed in my task. I hope your Brother is well, and shall be proud if his suffrage agrees with your's; for he too is a critic of whose approbation I am very ambitious, either for my verse or my prose. But I give notice to you both, that you will find some inaccuracies, not only of the press, but the style, in the first edition, corrected in the second, which I hope will soon come out. I am, with great truth and esteem,

Dear Sir,

Your most obedient humble servant,

LYTTLETON.