William Gifford to Edward Copleston (5/23/1812)

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William Gifford to Edward Copleston
May 23, 1812
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Devon 1149/F107 and F108. 8pp. Date at top: May 23, 1812.


James St

May 23rd 1812


My dear Sir,

I do not only consider your letters as proceeding from "a friendly disposition," a most friendly one, I am happy to think—but as conveying opinions fraught with candour, judgment, and nice discrimination: from which, it must be my own fault, if I do not profit.

Our friend Davison's article is all that you say—and I have heard the judgment of Brougham's friend confirmed by that of others, all well disposed towards our rivals.1 He ^(Mr D.) is now, I believe, engaged on Aristophanes for us:—2 but hereafter I will not venture to mention any specific article to him, but leave him to choose from the whole mass of publications, unless you, who know more of his inclinations than I can ever do, should kindly suggest any work which I might occasionally name to him. I wrote a short letter to thank him; and I must soon trouble him again, to know how soon he thinks his article will be ready, as I am anxious to get to the sea-side to ease a vile cough that shakes me out of my skin.

Mr Phillpotts, I flatter myself will do good. Daubeny is a worthy man—but there were some hounds who follow in his train "to fill up the cry," (such, for instance, as my brother John, (as Canning calls him,) in the AntiJacobin, who require to be checked—their very forward zeal has a mischievous tendency. The Article is surely a very good one. Elmsley's was dullness itself compared to it. 3

You have noticed the besetting sin of poor Southey. Long as the article is,4 it comes to you much abridged, for he sometimes repeats himself. His prose, however, is so good, there are so many bursts of feeling, so many bright gleams of purity and virtue, interspersed amongst it, that people tolerate a great deal of tediousness and rambling from him. His great defect, which, I fear, is radical, is an inability to take a comprehensive view of his subject: it is all detail, & sometimes painful, plodding detail.

Much as I love and admire G. E. I really wish, with you, that our article had fallen into the hands you mention:—but I was not in the least aware, that such an inclination existed.5 As to what he proposes, I shall accept of it with pleasure, as I am confident that the public will of whatever he favours us with. I incline somewhat to his side, and in a former No. got our friend Ireland to check the eagerness of Dealtry & the other disputants, who were growing very fierce.6 Dealtry & his friends were much offended with us at first; but they have since confessed that we were in the right.—Now I am on the subject of confession, I must inform you that Dr Bell, the Editor of Courayer, pleads guilty to the whole of our charge against him,7 and desires me to make his sorrow known for his injudicious publication. He is an old and respectable man, and I am therefore unwilling to put it in print.—To return to your friend—I can rely on his gentleman[-]like treatment of the question.8

Majora canamus. I hear with unfeigned pleasure of your kind intention of taking up Lord Clarendon. The Edin. Rev. have made but awkward work with him—9 They were embarrassed by their former praises of him, & have made rather a clumsy effort to reconcile them with their present language—This is exclusive of the wickedness of their article in some places, and the weakness of it in others. Canning has often talked to me on the subject, in which he is much interested; and recommended the utmost caution in not committing ourselves. He is now, I fancy, on the eve of being in power; but as your ideas and his nearly coincide perhaps, altogether—he will learn with the highest satisfaction, that the business is about to fall into such capable hands. I shall, however, say nothing till I have the pleasure of hearing from you again.

I must again revert to your friend. I would do any thing to secure his co-operation, and most willingly put into his hand any & every work which he would [have] the goodness to select, provided that it was not previously occupied, as was the case with Trotter.10 As to myself, I scarcely know what books to mention. Erskine's speeches, which he would have reviewed admirably, he did not like to take. There is a recent republication of his immortal pamphlet on the war, his prophecy, I think, he loves to call it—might not some good be done with this? It is not sent to the press by Erskine. Or could any thing be done with the halfpenney lives of Horne Tooke?11 Once more, the Letters of Junius are on the eve of appearing with considerable additions—might not this furnish an interesting subject. I mention these popular topicks, because your friend has that peculiar air of the world, & that elegant turn for political satire that render all he says on public characters & events at once pleasing and important.—And apropos—Roscoe is not quite dead. I heard him squeak not long since.12

With regard to travels, Mr Vaux might now do us "yeoman's service". I wish you would have the goodness to urge him to assist us at the present moment. The field is clear, & he may select his subject.13

I thank you for the correction of Biot. I put the article in the hands of a Cambridge man; but the error escaped him. I will transmit it to the writer.14

The Orders in Council were written at the Admiralty,15 & chiefly by my friend Barrow—Croker & Robinson lent their aid, and Canning was kind enough to give me two or three hours revisal of them. Application has been made to Murray by the merchants for leave to republish them: but I do not much like this indulgence, though I have not objected to it. Make no apology for asking me these things—Where I am not restricted I will readily answer you upon all occasions.

Lord ^Nugent Grenville, which I glad to find you pleased with, I only put together.16 Croker read the book over, & with it, sent me much of the matter. Never, I believe, was such a thing produced. I did not notice his Lordship's thefts, which are shameful.

By this time, I have completely exhausted your patience. Ever my dear Sir, most faithfully yours. Wm Gifford.



London May twenty three 1812

The Revd Mr Coppleston 

Oriel College