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To W. W. Currie, aged Twelve Years.
Liverpool, April 23. 1796. MY DEAR WALLACE, I was much pleased with your letter, because it showed that you thought of me when absent, and considered how you might please me; and this is a kind of attention that all men, women, and children like. I intended to have written to you by Wednesday's post, or cart, I believe I should say ; but that day I was obliged to go into the country, and so I lost the opportunity.
I am very glad you like Homer and Cicero, they are the two great classics of ancient days ; the one the first of the Greeks, the other of the Latins. To understand Homer perfectly is to be truly learned; and I hope you will one day be able to take up the book for pleasure, and read it over your tea, as Mr. Shepherd perhaps does, and as I see Mr. Wm. Clarke * doing frequently. Homer gives, I think, too attractive a picture of the heroic character. It was but a foolish thing for the Greeks to go into Asia and fight the Trojans for ten years, because Paris ran away with Helen. Life is but short at the best, and it is a sad thing to see, in all ages
* The intimate friend of Mr. Roscoe, and honourably alluded to in the Preface to Lorenzo de' Medici, p. xvi.
of the world, how men have contrived to make it shorter, by killing each other with swords, and spears, and guns, and bayonets.
It is true, when a man's country is in danger, nothing is more honourable than to arm for its defence. When, in after-ages, the young men of Greece turned out to meet the invading Persians at Marathon, Salamis, and Platea, nothing could be more noble than their principle, or more glorious than their conduct. But their cause was far better than their forefathers' when they fought under the walls of Troy, as you will easily see. However, you may, if you please, explain the difference to me.
I have been reading Mr. Gibbon's history of his own life. He was one of the most learned men in Europe, and a celebrated historian. He wrote the History of the Roman Empire, from the period of its highest rise under Nerva and Trajan, to its decline and fall, at the time of the taking of Constantinople by the Turks. This is a period of 1300 years, I believe, and it connects
ancient with modern history. You will read
I am, my dear Wallace,
JAMES CURRIE. No. 52.
To the same, aged Twelve Years and a half.
(Supposed) October, 1796. MY DEAR WALLACE, I received your letter of Friday this morning, and I read it with a good deal of pleasure. The writing is, on the whole, very much better than usual, and the spelling and grammar are correct. In time you will make an agreeable and pleasant sort of a correspondent.
I am glad you like Homer : all men of learning read and study him. He was a man of a great soul; and it is doubted whether the world ever produced so sublime a poet. They say he was a poor blind man, that wandered about the islands in the Ægean Sea, singing or repeating his verses ; though after his death seven Greek cities contended for the honour of his birth, and his fame has spread throughout the world. But a great man is seldom or never fairly rated by his contemporaries, and a very great man does not always reach the height of his reputation till a century or two after he is dead.
I do not wonder you find the Satires of Horace difficult more difficult than the Odes.
The Satires are very abrupt, and full of quick turns, which it requires some time to get acquainted with. They are not perhaps so pleasing or so poetical as the Odes; but they are generally supposed to be full of good sense, and to show a great acquaintance with life and manners. By and by, you will make them out more easily.
Mr. W. Smyth told me he saw you on Tuesday. He stayed here last night. He is to be with us next Saturday, and says he intends to examine you, so that I hope you will not commit any fault that may make Mr. Shepherd judge it proper to detain
may bring any of your exercises with
have at hand, that we may look them over.
To the same, aged Thirteen Years.
March 17. 1797. MY DEAR SHYLOCK * If it is a long time since I wrote to you,
that is not my fault, but rather my misfortune. My
* The Editor had acted this part in a juvenile play.