TO EDWARD BADELEY, ESQ.
My Dear Badeley:
I have not been without apprehension lest, in dedicating to you a number of poetical compositions, I should hardly be making a suitable offering to a member of a grave profession, which is especially employed in rubbing off the gloss with which imagination and sentiment invest matters of everyday life, and in reducing statements of fact to their legitimate dimensions. And, besides this, misgivings have not unnaturally come over me on the previous question; viz., whether, after all, the contents of the volume are of sufficient importance to make it an acceptable offering to any friend whatever.
And I must frankly confess, as to the latter difficulty, that certainly it never would have occurred to me thus formally to bring together under one title effusions which I have ever considered ephemeral, had I not lately found from publications of the day, what 1 never suspected before, that there are critics, and they strangers to me, who think well both of some of my compositions and of my power of composing. It is this commendation, bestowed on m3 to my surprise as well as to my gratification, which has encouraged me just now to republish what I have from time to time written ; and if, in doing so, I shall be found, as is not unlikely, to have formed a volume of unequal merit, my excuse must be, that I despair of discovering any standard by which to discriminate aright between one poetical attempt and another. Accordingly, I am thrown, from the nature of the case, whether I will or no, upon my own judgment, which biased by the associalions of memory and by personal feelings, and measuring, perhaps, by the pleasure of verse-making, the worth of the verse, is disposed either to preserve them all, or to put them all aside.
Here another contrast presents itself between the poetical art and the science of law. Your profession has its definitive authorities, its prescriptions, its precedents, and its principles, by which to determine the claim of its authors on public attention; but what philosopher will undertake to rule matters of taste, or to bring under one idea or method, works so different from each other as those of Homer, yEschylus, and Pindar; of Terence, Ovid, Juvenal, and Martial? What court is sitting, and what code is received, for the satisfactory determination of the poetical pretensions of writers of the day? Whence can we hope to gain a verdict upon them, except from the unscientific tribunals of Public Opinion and of Time? In Postry, as in Metaphysics, a book is of necessity a venture. And now, coming to the suitableness of my offering, I know well, my dear Badeley, how little you will be disposed to criticise what comes to you from me, whatever be its intrinsic value. Less still in this case, considering that a chief portion of the volume grew out of that Religious Movement which you yourself, as well as I, so faithfully followed from first to last. And least of all, when I tell you that I wish it to be the poor expression, long-delayed, of my gratitude, never intermitted, for the great services which you rendered to me years ago, by your legal skill and affectionate zeal, in a serious matter in which I found myself in collision with the law of the land. Those services I have ever desired in some public, however inadequate, way to record ; and now, as time hurries on and opportunities are few, I am forced to ask you to let me acknowledge my debt to you as I can, since I cannot as I would.
We are now, both of us, in the decline of life; may that warm attachment which has lasted between us inviolate for so many years, be continued, by the mercy of God, to the end of our earthly course, and beyond it! I am, my dear Badeley,
J. H. N.
December 21, 18f6.