William Gifford to Edward Copleston (12/8/1809)

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William Gifford to Edward Copleston
Dec. 8, 1809
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Devon 1149M/F74. 6pp. Date at bottom 8 Dec. 1809



James St.

Buckingham Gate



I have heard with great concern from Mr. Heber, that you are offended with at the rejection of Mr Penroses's Article, and at the treatment which Dr. Kidd has experienced in the Quarterly Review.1 Shall I entreat your patience for a few words.

The idea of this Review was not started by me. The Lord Advocate of Scotland, who had witnessed the pernicious efforts of the Edin. Rev. first, I believe, mentioned it to the Government, by whom it was taken up; and, as I happened to be known to some of them, the conduct of it was warmly pressed upon me. In accepting it, I certainly made some sacrifices, and acquired some claim to indulgence. Neither my years, my state of health, nor my general habits of retirement and study, peculiarly fitted me for such an employ; yet the hope of doing some service prevailed over every other consideration. I had long seen, with thousands besides, that the Government was calumniated, the great literary Establishment of the country depreciated, the Church insulted, and even Religion itself attacked with the unfairest and most odious weapons: & I flattered myself that when a fair opportunity was afforded, the friends of Order, Morality and rational Piety, would muster in their defence.

I will not conceal that no small part of any encouragement to this undertaking was derived from the prospect of support from Oxford. Mr Canning furnished me with the names of two gentlemen of Christ Church, which the late Dean2 mentioned to him as extremely likely to favour me with occasional assistance: And your admirable little Critique,3 which was in every hand, flattered me with the hope that you, Sir, would view with kindness a work hazarded with similar views, and be induced at some favourable moment to befriend it.

It is more than time to come to the immediate subject of my letter.

How the term rejection came to be applied to Mr Penrose's Article, I cannot conceive. I had not the pleasure of being acquainted with this gentleman; but I read his paper as a friend, and, as a friend, remarked to him that the Introduction appeared to me somewhat too general for the particular point treated on; and that if he would reduce it, so as to preserve a kind of proportion in the Article, it should be immediately inserted. I did not think that such an alteration as I proposed would have fully occupied one morning. —In the tone of my letter there was nothing offensive, I trust, and the request itself could scarcely be construed into any breach of civility.—Of what followed Mr. P. has, indeed, just reason to complain—but not of me. I gave the papers to the Publisher, who is known to Mr. P. and who promised to put them into his hands immediately. My surprise and vexation were extreme when, four months after this period, Mr. P. sent to inquire after the Article, which I thought he had received on the day that it was taken from me! I immediately called on the publisher, and sent Mr. P. an explanatory letter, which, I think, could not offend him, and to which I received a very polite reply, declining (as I understood it) all further communication. [1" space] It is very natural to ask why I never inquired into the fate of these papers:—but having no suspicion of Murray, the thought never occurred to me, and I remained in daily expectation of receiving them again from Mr. P.

With respect to Dr Kidd, I am perfectly innocent. I entertain a sincere regard for him, and have profited by his talents. The review of his work by Mr C.4 was unfortunately sent to Murray; and long before it reached me a report had got into circulation, (how, I never knew,) and was even mentioned to me by Dr Kidd himself, that it was too flattering, and therefore, unfit for insertion. This was not my opinion, and I sent it to the printer; when I discovered, for the first time, that Murray had engaged a person at Edinburgh to review the volumes, under an express stipulation that his Criticism should be inserted; and that it was already in his hands!

I should have thrown up the Review immediately, had I not been restrained by the idea that some service might yet be done to the best & noblest of causes—I insisted however, that he ^(Murray) should interfere no farther; and though he is not yet (as Mr Heber can inform you) what I wish him to be, he is become more modest & tractable. That he ever interfered at all, is owing to the preposterous mode in which the Rev. was established: a publisher being appointed, and some progress made, before an Editor was fixed on. This furnished some plea for his officiousness, which has been, to me, the source of infinite regret.

My anxiety to remove, as far as it is possible, any unfavourable impression which you may have received of me has drawn "all this tediousness" upon you. I cannot however "find in my heart"5 to bestow any more of it, and therefore release you here.

I know not, after what has passed, whether I may yet presume to solicit your assistance—I can only say that if leisure or inclination, now or hereafter, would induce you to honour with me, I shall accept it with pride and thankfulness.—to which I may add—& with the strictest secrecy. We are very far, indeed, from what we might and should be, yet our sale is highly respectable, and our circulation widely extended. But I forget—an exposition (as Bottom says) of tediousness is again coming upon me.6 I therefore conclude with assuring you

that I remain, with the most

sincere respect and esteem

your faithful & obednt

servt Wm. Gifford

Dec. 8th 1809

Revd. Ed. Copleston