William Gifford to Edward Copleston (10/5/1812)

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William Gifford to Edward Copleston
Oct. 5, 1812
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Devon: 1149/F110 and 2 pp. of 1149/F111. 6pp. Date at top: Oct. 5, 1812

James St

Octr 5th. 1812

My dear Sir,

I was quite happy to hear from you, after so long an interval, and to find that you had literally been enjoying yourself, without any drawbacks from what Heber wickedly styles your Pegasean adventures.1

Yet I have read one part of your letter with a feeling of regret. It will be best to come to the point at once, and I therefore intreat you to believe me, when I give you my most serious and solemn assurance that I am ignorant of the name, profession, rank, and residence of our invaluable friend, that I have never, even by accident, to any human being, even hinted at any particular person as likely to be the writer of the Art. in question, and that, as far ^as I know, you are the only person in existence who is acquainted with his name. For this, I might appeal to my two most confidential friends, Canning and Ireland who have heard me repeatedly declare that the writer of the Art. on Tooke was utterly unknown to me.2

The letters which have passed on my side & which were directed to you at Mr Budd's, I have constantly sent by a little girl; and I was so fearful of changing the mode, that having occasion to write from Ryde, I inclosed the letter to my old acquaintance Mrs Hoppner, with a request that she would merely leave it in Pall Mall.3

That reports of different people should get abroad is easily accounted for, & is, indeed no more than might be expected. The writer of so transcendent an Art. which has given currency and popularity to our last No. would naturally be inquired after, and many persons would attempt to gain credit for sagacity by pretending to know the author—Nor is it altogether impossible that among the number mentioned the real name may not be casually mentioned: but this is not of much importance, & the secret may be still as impenetrable as ever.

One mode of discovery which flatters the shrewdness of your curious people, is that of similarity of style. I solemnly protest, for my own part, that this affords me no clue. I know not where else to look for any thing so easy and unaffected yet so pointed, so full of keen observation, of just views of politics, literature, and morality, and evincing in every line the scholar, the accomplished gentleman, and the man of the world.

Mr. Yorke, Croker and many others are fully convinced that Canning wrote the article on Pitt,4 which, to my most certain knowledge, he never saw till it appeared in print; and Canning himself gives it to a gentleman who never wrote a line of it. To return to myself—Having nothing to discover, I could of course say nothing; but believe me, my dear friend, if chance or design should ever put me in possession of the name of my invaluable correspondent, the secret shall die with me. On this, I will be content to be judged, as to my credit, and every thing that is valuable.

It seems hardly necessary to mention that I was at Ryde when the review appeared and that no one but those whom I have mentioned saw the proofs of the Article.

And now to business,—I am in the greatest hopes of receiving from your friend a review of Leckie for this No.5 I was scrupulous of writing, lest he should not be in town to receive my letters from Budd—by the way, is that channel altogether safe? booksellers are worse gabbers than midwives—but I must now beg you to trouble him, and request to know at what time he can, with convenience to himself, favour me with the Art. I have great reliance on it for the present No. as, I fear, that we shall be somewhat heavy—solid & good, but still in want of enlivening. At the same time repeat, if you please, what I have said, & add my most solemn asseveration that I have not the honour to know his name, that I have never mentioned any person whatever as likely to be the writer of Tooke, and that, in every circumstance, I will maintain the most inviolable secrecy—my gratitude and unbounded esteem I have already assured him of.

You will be pleased to hear that the writer of the excellent Art. on Warburton is your old friend Dr Whitaker.6 For the rest, you have guessed pretty well.

Heber—who is now an absentee, bought me a couple of latin vols—one, a few additional fables of Phaedras, as said, and the other a pretended work of Cicero, of which I did not read enough to see the precise drift, unless it was to substitute feeling in the place of revelation. I was then on the wing for Ryde; but he seemed to think that you would not be displeased at a request to say a few words on them, & promised to transmit both to Exeter. Since my return, I have heard nothing from him on the subject. I hope, however, that the tranquility of a College, if not the leisure, will enable you to think of us—and O, could you persuade our friend Davison! I have not plagued him; but I trust that he has something in view. I care not what it is, &, indeed, shall always leave the choice in his hands. He must not think of leaving us.7

Ryde has set me up for some time, I hope—There is some thing in the sight & air of the sea peculiarly congenial to my constitution—yet the luxury of thinking of nothing, & doing nothing, contributed not a little, I suspect, to my refrigeration.8 When I left town my few brains were absolutely dried up.

I may venture to congratulate you, I fancy, on your timely escape from the bustle of an election—but is it my friend Northmore whom I see among the candidates for Exeter? Riddle me this—if he succeeds, will he owe most to his politicks or his poetry?9 Ever my dear Sir, with

the highest esteem, your

faithful & obedt servt

Wm Gifford