It was the present Bishop Dean who showed me the pictures and Ann’s tomb, and consulted me on the new altar-piece. I advised him to have a light octangular canopy, like the cross at Chichester, placed over the table or altar itself, which would have given dignity to it, especially if elevated by a flight of steps; and from the side arches of the octacon, I would have had a semicircle of open arches that should have advanced quite to the seats of the prebends, which would have discovered the pictures; and through the octagon itself you would have perceived the shrine of Edward the Confessor, which is much higher than the level of the choir—but men who ask advice seldom follow it, if you do not happen to light on the same ideas with themselves.
P. S. The Houghton pictures are not lost-but to Houghton and England!(371)
(371) They had been sold to the Empress of Russia in the preceding September, and immediately transferred to that country.-E.
It was but yesterday, Sir, that I received the favour of your letter, and this morning I sent, according to your permission, to Mr. Sheridan the elder, to desire the manuscript of your tragedy;(373) for as I am but just recovering of a fit of the gout, which I had severely for above two months, I was not able to bear the fatigue of company at home; nor could I have had the pleasure of attending to the piece so much as I wished to do, if I had invited ladies to hear it, to whom I must have been doing the honours.
I have read your play once, Sir, rapidly, though alone, and therefore cannot be very particular on the details; but I can say already, with great truth, that you have made a great deal more than I thought possible out of the skeleton of a story.; and have arranged it so artfully, that unless I am deceived by being too familiar with it, it will be -very intelligible to the audience, even if they have not read the original fable; and you have had the address to make it coherent, without the marvellous, though so much depended on that part. In short, you have put my extravagant materials in an alembic, and drawn off only what was rational.
Your diction is very beautiful, often poetic, and yet what I admire, very simple and natural; and when necessary, rapid, concise, and sublime.
If I did not distrust my own self-love, I should say that I think it must be a very interesting piece: and yet I might say so without vanity, so much of the disposition of the scenes is your own. I do not yet know, Sir, what alterations you propose to make; nor do I perceive where the second and fourth acts want amendment. The first in your manuscript is imperfect. If I wished for any correction, it would be to shorten the scene in the fourth act between the Countess, Adelaide, and Austin, which rather delays the impatience of the audience for the