Anna Letitia Barbauld

Poetess Archive: Anna Barbauld's Prose Works

"Letter to ------" (1823)     TEI-encoded version


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Letter to ------

Stoke Newington, Oct. 25, 1823.

1.         ..... The enigma you do me the honour to ask for will accompany this; but I have first to find it; for though I have looked a good deal, I have not yet been able to lay my hands on it. I beg to make proviso that if I should want myself to insert it in any publication, I may be at liberty to do it. Though, truly, that is not very likely; for well do I feel one faculty after another withdrawing, and the shades of evening closing fast around me; and be it so! What does life offer at past eighty (at which venerable age I arrived one day last June); and I believe you will allow that there is not much of new, of animating, of inviting, to be met with after that age. For my own part, I only find that many things I knew, I have forgotten; many things I thought I knew, I find I know nothing about; some things I know, I have found not worth knowing; and some things I would give -- O what would one not give to know? are beyond the reach of human ken. Well, I believe


this is what may be called prosing, and you can make much better use of your time than to read it.

2.         I saw yesterday two boys, modern Greeks, in the costume of their country, introduced by Mr. Bowring, who has the charge of them -- "du Grec -- ah, ma soeur, du Grec; ils parlent du Grec!" I have been reading one or two American novels lately. They are very well, but I do not wish them to write novels yet. Let them explore and describe their new country; let them record the actions of their Washington, the purest character perhaps that history has to boast of; let them enjoy their free, their unexpensive government, number their rising towns, and boast that persecution does not set her bloody foot in any corner of their extensive territories. Then let them kindle into poetry; but not yet, -- not till the more delicate shades and nicer delineations of life are familiar to them, -- let them descend to novels. But, tempted by writing to you, I am running on till my eyes are tired, and perhaps you too. Compliments to Mrs. ----, and all your family. If I find the riddle, I will send it to you; meantime I am, with the truest esteem and friendship,

3.         Your affectionate friend.

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Date: 1825 (revised 01/28/2005) Author: Anna Letitia Barbauld (revised Zach Weir).
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