Daniel Walters to Iolo Morganwg, 1 October 1782
(NLW 21283E, no. 513)
Daniel Walters to Iolo Morganwg
1 October 1782
Address: Mr Edward Williams, St Mary Church. Postmark: none
Source: NLW 21283E, no. 513
Norwich, 1 October 1782
You have pleaded in so irresistible a manner for a whole sheet that I cannot deny you it. And indeed, if I were to write less, I should make a very inadequate return for the long and ingenious letter you was so kind as to send me, in which I was at a loss to determine, whether the variety of matter it contained, or the lively and pleasing manner in which it was written, deserved the greater admiration. Indeed, you are happy in being able to transfuse into your writings that easy vein of pleasantry which distinguishes your conversation and behaviour and those amiable sentiments, which cannot fail to insure you the esteem and love of all that know you. I am very mu[ch] pleased to find that my scheme of literary correspondence has your approbation and, indeed, you have opened it in your letter in a most masterly manner. I shall, therefore, now proceed to consider its contents and afterwards endeavour to advance something of my own.
I am sorry to hear that you have given over writing poetry. I shall hereafter consider you as an apostate, a heretic, a deserter of that cause in which you have engaged with such peculiar success and to which your pen is able to render eminent services. You shall be proscribed, ousted, sent to Coventry. You shall be excommunicated and not dare to shew your sneaking prosaic phyz in the congregation of the poets. But I will not at present let loose my resentment, nor draw my Iambic sword against you, in hopes that you will repent of your sins and return to us under the title of a reclaimed brother. But you must testify the sincerity of your repentance by weeping and gnashing of teeth, by fasting (a thing, I believe, not very unusual with poets), by disciplining and mortifying, at least three times a day, your Jesuitical carcase and lastly, by writing a poem entitled 'The Muse's Resurrection after having been buried during the Honey-moon in the marriage-bed'. But to be poetically serious: 'Bêdd yr Awen yw Gwely Priodas' ['The marriage bed is the grave of the muse'], is a fine sentiment, as finely expressed and, I fear, too true. But if your muse must die, let it be the death of a swan:
Her dying notes shall float
Upon the zephyrs in Davona's vale;
Echo shall catch them in her stony cave,
And wonder at the sweetness of the song.
Nor marvel thou, if with regret she seem
To quit the finish'd strain - the sweetest far
She ever sung;- if on each note she dwell,
And to her own voice echo. - - - -
D: W. [?]
Your remarks upon the Chattertonian controversy are shrewd and ingenious but yet, I confess, my sentiments do not perfectly coincide with yours on that subject. I cannot admit your idea of a third person. I argue thus: what could have induced any third person to usher those poems into the world through the hands of Chatterton? For, if he supposed they would pass for the real production of the ancient poet to whom they were ascribed, why not put them off himself? But you will say, perhaps, that he fixed upon Chatterton as a more proper person from the access which he had to the recesses of Redcliffe church. In opposition to which I will ask you whether you think it probable that the well-known pride of Chatterton and the jealousy which must have arisen in a breast like his on such an occasion, would have [su]b[m]itted to act so low a part in this grand imposture? If, on the other hand, this third person, whoever he might be, thought that the world would suspect the originality of these poems, he might be assured that all the credit of them would be given to Chatterton in which the mind that could produce such exquisite pieces would hardly acquiesce. And where is this ingenious person? What has he written besides? Has so great a genius laid dormant ever since? In short, I see no reason for supposing a third person to have had any concern in the matter. I have been a Rowleyist, but am now rather inclined to Chatterton's side of the question. Dr Milles, Dean of Exeter, has lately published a very splendid edition of these poems in quarto with a multiplicity of notes, the purport of which, together with a long introductory essay, and an appendix, is to endeavour to prove that Rowley was the author of them. As you say you have transcribed only a few lines, I shall send you a passage or two, with this letter and more another time, if you desire it. My father will shew you a catalogue of my books which I have sent him. Among others you will see Bayle's Dictionary, out of which I will send you any information which that work affords. [?] if you wish to consult any other book that I have, you have nothing to do but to mention it. I have seen in one of the Norwich catalogues Binnartü Dictionarium Teutonico - Latinum. Should my father or you like to have it? Does the title (for I know nothing of the book) promise you any information in your etymological researches? The books in my catalogue in general are not marked down at the price I gave for them. I took opportunities of buying many of them cheap. For instance, I bought my Homer, Rosinus's Antiquities, and the Variorum Juvenal for half a guinea. Now upon looking into the London catalogues, I find my Juvenal to be the best edition and worth 7s 6d and, as to the other two, I am sure I have not overvalued the former at 5s and the latter at 6. So that I do not appear to be a loser by this parcel of books at least.
I wish I were with you, or you with me. I never spend my time more agreeably than in your company. But my feelings on this subject are too warm for prose. You will therefore excuse the few incorrect verses that follow whose only merit and recommendation is that they come from the heart.
O, thou ingenious bard! thou favourite child
Of fancy! how I long with thee to form
The wild, romantic scheme; in converse sweet
To wear away the silent hours of time;
To meditate the song; to muse, and mark
The nightly face of heav'n; when the pale moon
Doth shed her mild beams on the fields and woods,
That seem to listen to the Night-owl's song!
For thou art deeply read in nature's book,
And form'd to relish whatsoe'er can please
The wise and good: for mutual friendship form'd,
And the sweet intercourse of tender souls.
Never within this mortal frame did dwell
A purer spirit than informs thy breast!
O, may I, ere this flower of youth is fall'n,
Partake what rational pleasures life affords;
May I enjoy the sunshine, while it lasts:
And when I'm hastening down the hill of life,
Bearing a load of years upon my back,
I'll learn from thee, great bard, to minister
The balm of wisdom and philosophy
To all the cruel sores, and aking wounds,
That disappointment, poverty, disease,
And age, in the world-weary soul have made.
My pipes, you see, are harsh and hoarse; 'tis for want of exercise. I have not written so many verses before these two years.
I will now say something of Norfolk words. This county is not so remarkable for the use of uncommon words as for a peculiar pronunciation of words in general. But I have met with a few here which I think are not in use in other parts of the kingdom and which I shall now mention:
1. Gotch - a pitcher. - 'Gotch (a local word) a large earthen jug'. Ash's Dictionary.
2. Dodman - a snail. - 'Dodman (in ichthyology) - the name of a fish'. - Ash.
3. Thape - an unripe gooseberry. - This word I cannot find.
4. Mother (pronounced Mawther) - a little girl. 'Mother (from the Dutch madde but now grown obsolete) a young girl'. Ash.
5. For the nonce - on purpose. - 'Nonce (the derivation is uncertain, and the word is now nearly obsolete), purpose, intent, design' - Ash. - 'I'll have prepar'd him - achalice for the nonce'. Hamlet, Act 4. Sc[ene] 3.
6. A stingy air - a (cold, raw, keen) air &c.
Dr Parr and I, some time ago, wrote a very humorous song in the Norfolk dialect, which, if you like, I will send you. My reason for not letting you have it now is, that being full of local and recondite satire, it requires more copious notes than I have at present time to make. You enquire about the weather. It has been very wet and cold during the greatest part of the summer, but we had about a fortnight of very fine weather about the beginning of September for which the farmers were very thankful, as it enabled them to get in a great part of their harvest in good condition. I have now brought my letter to an equality with yours in size and quantity; id est, to the end of the third page, but in quality I am conscious of a great inferiority, which I am not ashamed to own. My dear Edward, let me hear from you soon and believe me when I assure you (not in the commo[n] formal way, but from my heart) that I am, with the most sincere and ardent friendship,
Remember me most cordially to Mrs Williams. I devoutly wish you both health and every other happiness that man in this transitory life can enjoy!
Mr Da[l]iel Walters, from Oxford.