On page 48 will be found some lines to one of Mrs. Williams’ daughters. The acrostic on page 65 is to another. These would both be Emma Isola’s pupils.
* * * * *
Page 66. Translations from Vincent Bourne.
Vincent Bourne (1695-1747), the English Latin poet, entered Westminster School on the foundation in 1710, and, on leaving Cambridge, returned to Westminster as a master. He was so indolent a teacher and disciplinarian that Cowper, one of his pupils, says: “He seemed determined, as he was the best, so to be the last, Latin poet of the Westminster line.” Bourne’s Poemata appeared in 1734. It is mainly owing to Cowper’s translations (particularly “The Jackdaw”) that he is known, except to Latinists. Lamb first read Bourne in 1815. Writing to Wordsworth in April of that year he says:—“Since I saw you I have had a treat in the reading way which comes not every day. The Latin Poems of V. Bourne which were quite new to me. What a heart that man had, all laid out upon town and scenes, a proper counterpoise to some people’s rural extravaganzas. Why I mention him is that your Power of Music reminded me of his poem of the ballad singer in the Seven Dials. Do you remember his epigram on the old woman who taught Newton the A B C, which after all he says he hesitates not to call Newton’s Principia? I was lately fatiguing myself with going through a volume of fine words by L’d Thurlow, excellent words, and if the heart could live by words alone, it could desire no better regale, but what an aching vacuum of matter—I don’t stick at the madness of it, for that is only a consequence of shutting his eyes and thinking he is in the age of the old Elisabeth poets—from thence I turned to V. Bourne—what a sweet unpretending pretty-mannered matter-ful creature, sucking from every flower, making a flower of every thing—his diction all Latin, and his thoughts all English. Bless him, Latin wasn’t good enough for him—why wasn’t he content with the language which Gay and Prior wrote in.”
On the publication of Album Verses, wherein these nine poems from Vincent Bourne were printed, Lamb reviewed the book in Moxon’s Englishman’s Magazine for September, 1831, under the title “The Latin Poems of Vincent Bourne” (see Vol. I.). There he quoted “The Ballad Singers,” and the “Epitaph on an Infant Sleeping”—remarking of Bourne:—“He is ‘so Latin,’ and yet ‘so English’ all the while. In diction worthy of the Augustan age, he presents us with no images that are not familiar to his countrymen. His topics are even closelier drawn; they are not so properly English, as Londonish. From the streets, and from the alleys, of his beloved metropolis, he culled his objects, which he has invested with an Hogarthian richness of colouring. No town picture by that artist can go beyond his BALLAD-SINGERS; Gay’s TRIVIA alone, in verse, comes up to the life and humour of it.”