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[WILLING to profit by such suggestions as the taste of Goldsmith might throw out, portions of the “Reliques of Ancient Poetry" were submitted to him by his friend Percy, during the progress of that work through the press. Admiration of the style produced one of its frequent effects, imitation ; to which, and to the desire of gratifying the taste of the Countess of Northumberland, we owe this, perhaps the most beautiful Ballad in our own, or in any language. It was written in 1764; and for the pleasure of perusing it in print rather than in manuscript, by the lady who was the immediate cause of its production, a few copies were printed off in the octodecimo form, which are now rarely to be met with. None is to be found, as a communication from the Duke of Northumberland intimates, in the library of Sion House, nor is it in any of the public libraries of London. A copy, however, has been procured, which belonged to the industrious Isaac Reed, to whose name is added the following memorandum :—“Of this Ballad, which is different from the copy printed in Goldsmith's Works, a few copies only were printed." The name also differs from that by which it is now known, as appears in the heading, or title :—“Edwin and Angelina, a Ballad ; by Mr. Goldsmith: printed for the amusement of the Countess of Northumberland.”
The originality of the poem being disputed in the St. James's Chronicle, in 1767, Goldsmith addressed the following Letter to the Editor :
“SIR: “ As there is nothing I dislike much as newspaper controversy, particularly upon trifles, permit me to be as concise as possible in informing a corres-. pondent of yours, that I recommended Blainville's Travels because I thought the book was a good one ; and I think so still. I said, I was told by the bookseller that it was then first published; but in that, it seems, I was misinformed, and my reading was not extensive enough to set me right.
“Another correspondent of yours, accuses me of having taken a Ballad I
published some time ago, from one* by the ingenious Mr. Percy. I do not think there is any great resemblance between the two pieces in question. If there be any, his ballad is taken from mine. I read it to Mr. Percy some years ago ; and he (as we both considered these things as trifles at best) told me, with his usual good-humor, the next time I saw him, that he had taken my plan to form the fragments of Shakspeare into a ballad of his own. He then read me his little Cento, if I may so call it, and I highly approved it. Such petty anecdotes as these are scarcely worth printing; and, were it not for the busy disposition of some of your correspondents, the public should never have known that he owes me the hint of his ballad, or that I am obliged to his friendship and learning for communications of a much more important nature.
I am, sir,
Thirty years after this attempt to detract from the Poet's credit, another and, for the moment, more formidable attack upon his originality appeared; but though no longer able to defend himself, there were friends qualified and willing to vindicate his fame.-See Life, ch. xv.
To trace a work of genius to the first rude draught and follow up its successive steps to perfection, is always interesting : therefore, the variations made in successive editions are now given.]
• "The Friar of Orders Gray,'* Reliques of Ancient Poetry, Vol. I. Book II. No. 18.
“ Turn, gentle Hermit of the dale,
And guide my lonely way,
With hospitable ray.*
“ For here forlorn and lost I tread,
With fainting steps and slow;
Seem lengthening as I go.”
“Forbear, my son," the Hermit cries,
“To tempt the dangerous gloom; For yonder faithless phantom flies
To lure thee to thy doom.
* [The opening stanza originally stood thus:
“Deign, saint-like tenant of the dale,
To guide my nightly way,
With hospitable ray.”]