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IT seems needless, if not impertinent, in an
obscure individual, to say any thing in praise of the Author of the Task. It is of more consequence to in
form the reader of the circumstances that have led to
this publication. About twenty years ago a very dear and venerable friend* introduced me to the truly great ·and amiable Mr. Cowper. This gave rise to a friendship which increased with every repeated interview, and for several years I had the pleasure of spending
an afternoon with him every week. At length this delightful intercourse was terminated, by his removal to
a distant situation, and the painful approaches of that
event which dissolves every social connexion.
* The Reverend John Newton, Rector of St. Mary, Woolnoth, London.
One day amusing myself with the poetical works of
the celebrated Madame Guion, I was struck with the
peculiar beauty of some of her poems, as well as edifi. ed with the piety and devotion of which they are
strongly expressive. I mentioned them to Mr. C; and
partly to amuse a solitary hour, partly to keep in exer
cise the genius of this incomparable man, I requested
him to put a few of the poems into an English dress. Afterward, during my absence upon a journey, I received a letter, in which Mr. C. says, “I have but lit
tle leisure, strange as it may seem.
That little I de
voted for a month after your departure to the transla
tion of Madame Guion. I have made fair copies of all the pieces I have produced on this last occasion, and will put them into your hands when we meet. They
are yours to
as you please, you may take
and leave as you like, for my purpose is alreally served. They have amused me, and I have no further demard upon them.” On my return, Mr. C. presented
me with these translations, to which he added the
a Protestant Lady in France, and the
Poem on Friendship,
The idea of printing them was afterwards sug. gested to Mr. C. and he gave his full consent, intend
ing to revise them before I should send them to press.
Various circumstances prevented him from doing this ; and the poems would probably have still remained unpublished, if it had not been found that several copies of them had already got abroad. The Editor there. fore had reason to believe, that they would otherwise have made their appearance in a state far less correct than if printed from the original Manuscript. Nor can he imagine that even in their present form, they will,
on the whole, tend to diminish the well-deserved repu
tation of their excellent Author.
To infer that the peculiarities of Madame Guion's theological sentiments, were adopted either by Mr. C.
or by the Editor, would be almost as absurd as to sup. pose the inimitable Translator of Homer to have been
a pagan. He reverenced her piety, admired her genius,
and judged that several of her poems would be read with pleasure and edification by serious and candid.
I have taken the liberty to add the Stanzas sub
joined to the Bills of Mortality, which had been pub
lished a few years past at Northampton ; and the Epitaph, which had appeared in a periodical publica
tion. They sufficiently mark the genius of their Author, correspond with the other parts of this small vol
ume, and have not before been printed in a uniform
manner with his poems.
6th June, 1801.