# BC_1762_EMONTAGU_EC

<Q A 1762 TC EC EMONTAGU>
<X ELIZABETH MONTAGU>
[}ELIZABETH MONTAGU TO ELIZABETH CARTER. OCTOBER 3 1762. MO 3084}]
<P1>
Sandleford y=e= 3=d= of Oct:
1762
My Dear friend
I ought to have sent the inclosed by last post; but not having time to write, I thought, as it did not require an answer, you would pardon my delaying it till I could accompany it with a letter. My Lord Bath left us on thursday morning. He had the goodness to bestow ten days of his company upon us. I never saw him in such health & spirits. Surely there is no season of life so happy as old age where as in him the mind seems matured & meliorated by time & not impaired [\in any of its powers/] A degree of perfection is [\then/] attain'd which even the middle season of life can not boast. While his Lordship was here, he had [\an DELETED\] a letter from Lord Pulteney, to inform him, of our troops having taken Valenza. From others he heard it was taken [\by y=e= Grenadiers/] under Lord Pulteneys command, & by his conduct & valours; & the King at Windsor repeated the praises of the young Hero to several persons. You may suppose my Lord Bath was very happy in all this, but neither joy nor sorrow makes him a moment forget his dignity; his sensibility is always check'd by decency but I could see all the tenderness of a Father under the
<P2>
restrains of prudence. I was delighted at an event that gave so much joy & happiness to a heart that seems to feel so generously for others. Things are in this respect as they ought to be; the happiness of the benevolent is shared by every one; the prosperity of the selfish man is always confined to himself alone. You shall certainly have M=r= Wartons remarks on Spencer when you come to London, the book is Lord Lytteltons, but I am sure he will be glad to lend it to you. I imagine, that by M=r= Warton & M=r= Hurde, the gothick muses will be more honoured than of late, but your friends the Greeks will defend the straits of Parnassus, as they did the straits of Thermopyl[æ] against the combined World. M=r= Hurde supposes that Homer would have preferr'd the manners of the Western World, in the days of Chivalry, to those of the age he wrote of, but I must own I cannot agree with him, Those who write from Nature write for posterity. Those who describe men as form'd by customs, & inspired by some fanaticism, when those customs & opinions are worn out, seem to [\have/] follow'd the suggestions of their fancy, & the reveries of a wild imagination. Habits alter, but the human shape remains the same, & happy is the Poet who describes the unsophisticated Man. I no more believe Homer would have preferd a Knight Errant to Agamemnon & Achilles, than that
<P3>
a Lysippus or Praxiteles, would have prefer'd the figure of the Knight in armour with his Vizor up, to a naked Hercules, to shew their art, & perpatuate their fame. I will own that the Achievements of a (\Preux Chevalier\) are a good subject for epick poetry on many accounts, as the Knight acts independantly [\his/] adventures, of which the honour is not shared by any one. He follows the suggestions of his personal courage, owes his success to his personal qualities; is magnanimous, liberal, & courteous, fine poetical virtues. The celtick superstitions, the druidical ceremonies, are all preferable to Homers Mythology & have a secret & sublime mysterious air, give a solemn gravity, & shed a twilight gloom so favourable to fiction, while Homers Gods & Goddesses too often give a farcical turn to serious enterprizes. Milton whose learning & judgment were deep, often recurs to our celtick superstitions & I believe had he lived in [\an/] age less Pedantick, he had made more use of our fairies & less of the Heathen deities. He makes [\even/] Comus and his crew a sort of Goblins who come forth, when rigor & advice are gone to bed. Comus say: We that are of purer fire
Imitate the starry quire,
Who in their nightly watchfull spheres
Lead in swift round the months & years.
The sounds & Seas, with all their finny drove
Now to y=e= moon in wavering morrice move.
<P4>
And on the tawny sands & shelves,
Trip the pert fairies & the dapper elves;
By dimpled brook, & fountains brim,
The wood nymphs deckt with daisies trim,
Their merry wakes & pastimes keep. As Comus is the Son of Circe he is obliged to keep partly to ancient mythology, but still I think the verses I have quoted have a celtick air. The Lady talks of calling shapes & beck'ning shadows dire, and airy tongues that syllable mens names on sands & shores & desart wildernesses. The ender Brother speakes of "blue meager Hags & stubborn [\unlaid/] ghost
That breaks his magick chain at Curfew time
of Goblin & swart fairy of the mine. To the British Sabrina he properly gives the office of a beneficent fairy, who oft at Eve &c. In the monody instead of addressing the muses he calls to ye Nymphs & says for neither were you playing on ye steep
Where your old Bards, the famous Druids, lye,
Nor on the shaggy top of Mona high,
Nor yet where Deva spreads her wisard [\SIC\] stream, Then he talks of Orpheus for he still recurs to his classical learning. So in the Arcades. The genious of the Wood is of the fairy race. & it is his business from the boughs to brush the evil dew
and heal the harms of thwarting thunder blue &c. In short all I mean is, that Milton in spite of learned prejudice
<P5>
perceived the fitness of the celtick faith to the uses of poetry. Shakespear mentions it I think as the right of poetry, to give to airy nothing a local habitation & a name. Those who ascribed a peculiar intelligence to all the elements, & fill'd all nature with invisible beings had a poetical creed. When M=r= Hurde alledges Miltons preference to the stories of Chivalry from his desiring to call up him who left half told, the story of Cambuscan bold, I think he argues partialy. It is one great perfection of the Penseroso that all the images are shewn by twilight; there is not a perfectly apparent object in the whole poem. The story alluded to appears very fine in the uncertain outline in which he draws it. In the first place it is of Cambuscan (^bold^) , courage & high enterprize are intimated, [\you know not what was atchieved/] , there is a virtuous ring & glass, you know not of what effect, a wondrous horse of brass, on which a Tartar King did ride, very mysterious all he has said, but he adds [\if/] ought else great Bards beside
In sage & solemn tunes have sung,
Of Turneys & of trophies hung;
Of Forrests, & enchantments drear,
(^Where more is meant than meets ye ear.^) The story appears the more solemn because a man is to be calld from the dead to tell it. The judgment & taste of Milton is wisely shewn in the choice of a story, which without
<P6>
being unfolded raises great & undefined ideas, & is more sublime in its chaos than in its perfection, as far as it goes in Chaucer, where I have read it, but how does this shew Miltons preference to Chivalry? had he not just before invoked tragedy presenting Thebes or Pelops line,
or the tale of Troy divine? I think one great recommendation of this story was it was (^half^) told, told by a poet whose works are famous but not so vulgar & common as the Classic poets, the circumstances mysterious, & the names sonorous. Pray read over the peices of Milton I have alluded to, & tell me whether I am right in my criticisms. I am sure it is a great advantage to a Poet to have the belief & prejudices of the nursery to assist his fictions; they have a sacred horror which is one of the great sources of the sublime. We all see Hamlets Fathers ghost come to reveal a murther with much more credence than we should give to the appearance of the deify'd Hercules when he comes to advise Philoctetes to go to the destruction [\of Troy/] tho I think it a fine denoument of a greek Play, but in a brittish Drama it w=d= shock me to see Hercules come to the stage preceded by thunder. For the Witches in Macbeth I have great complacency, Medea in her chariot drawn by dragons hovering over a modern stage [\is abominable/] Merlin is to me a real person. Witches & wizards are more familiar to my mind than Gods & Goddeses. Shakespears hell broth is english cookery, no soup in Medeas kettle would please
<P7>
my taste as well. The things we but half believe, & but half understand, are fine ingredients in poetry. I would have the characters in a poem drawn from nature, the religion from tradition. I am however pleased with our Criticks for bringing us back to Brittish stories. The Greek tragedians did not lay their scenes in Egypt. Voltaire has a tragedy built on chivalry, & it has its merit; but the character of his Knight is like the portrait of a french beauty, whose features were so disguised by [\farde?\] & rouge the painter seems not to have justly copied nature, tho perhaps he exactly delineated the original. If I have tired you with idle criticisms you will be recreated by considering the passages of Milton & Shakespear alluded to, & I think it will give you some pleasure to observe how they have mix_d our legends with the ancient mythology, which dignifies the tales of the [\naries\] & authenticates the stories of the poets. I have enclosed some greek which I desire you to explain. The great Monsey says Plutarch uses this expression, (^all about Pompey^) to signify Pompey himself. I hope your blister will not plague & teize your head as this expression has done mine. The greek you will see is in my Lord Baths hand. I am much grieved at your state of health. I hope the blister will be of service, & remember Huxhams tincture . I have orderd my maid in Town to send you a famous plaister for your blister. I have been much better for these last three weeks. I congratulate you on our success at the
<P8>
Havannah, I hope it will facilitate a peace.
I have just been reading again Boileaus translation of Longinus on the sublime, I borrow_d it of my Lord Bath, & we both agreed to wish you would give us an english translation of Longinus; he is a fine writer surely & your pen w=d= do him justice, & indeed my dear friend [\you know that/] next to true religion & pure morals I place just criticism. You may in notes give us Aristotles opinions, & those of other criticks, & do your Countrymen great service, Who are wandering after strange whims & fancies. I desire my best respects to D=r= Carter & all your family, & particularly to M=rs= Underdown, whom I depend upon to pack you off to London on y=e= first of jan=y= 1763. Pray be particular in the account of your health.
I am my Dearest friend
most affectionately yours
E:Montagu