Elegiac Sonnets, and Other Poems, Volume 1, The Ninth Edition
Oh! Time has Changed me since you saw me last,
Published May 15th. 1787. by Cadell and Davies Strand
By CHARLOTTE SMITH.
THE NINTH EDITION.
PRINTED FOR. T. CADELL, JUN. AND W. DAVIES,
IN THE STRAND.
R. Noble, Printer, Old Bailey.
WILLIAM HAYLEY, Esq.
WHILE I ask your protection for these essays, I cannot deny having myself some esteem for them. Yet permit me to say, that did I not trust to your candour and sensibility, and hope they will plead for the errors your judgment must discover, I should never have availed myself of the liberty I have obtained———that of dedicating these simple effusions to the greatest modern Master of that charming talent, in which I can never be more than a distant copyist.
I am, Sir,
Your most obedient
and obliged Servant,
FIRST AND SECOND EDITIONS.
THE little Poems which are here called Sonnets, have, I believe, no very just claim to that title: but they consist of fourteen lines, and appear to me no improper vehicle for a single Sentiment. I am told, and I read it as the opinion of very good judges, that the legitimate Sonnet is ill calculated for our language. The specimens Mr. Hayley has given, though they form a strong exception, prove no more than that the difficulties of the attempt vanish before uncommon powers. Some very melancholy moments have been beguiled by expressing in verse the sensations those moments brought. Some of my friends, with partial indiscretion, have multiplied the copies they procured of several of these attempts, till they found their way into the prints of the day in a mutilated state; which, concurring with other circumstances, determined me to put them into their present form. I can hope for readers only among the few, who, to sensibility of heart, join simplicity of taste.
THIRD AND FOURTH EDITIONS.
THE reception given by the public, as well as my particular friends, to the two first editions of these poems, has induced me to add to the present such other Sonnets as I have written since, or have recovered from my acquaintance, to whom I had given them without thinking well enough of them at the time to preserve any copies myself. A few of those last written, I have attempted on the Italian model; with what success I know not; but I am persuaded that, to the generality of readers, those which are less regular will be more pleasing.
As a few notes were necessary, I have added them at the end. I have there quoted such lines as I have borrowed; and even where I am conscious the ideas were not my own, I have restored them to the original possessors.
IN printing a list of so many noble, literal, and respectable names, it would become me, perhaps, to make my acknowledgments to those friends, to whose exertions in my favour, rather than to any merit of my own, I owe the brilliant assemblage. With difficulty I repress what I feel on this subject; but in the conviction that such acknowledgments would be painful to them, I forbear publicly to speak of those particular obligations, the sense of which will ever be deeply impressed on my heart.
WHEN a sixth edition of these little Poems was lately called for, it was proposed to me to add such Sonnets, or other pieces, as I might have written since the publication of the fifth—Of these, however, I had only a few; and on showing them to a friend, of whose judgment I had a high opinion, he remarked that some of them, particularly "The Sleeping Woodman," and "The Return of the Nightingale," resembled in their subjects, and still more in the plaintive tone in which they are written, the greater part of those in the former Editions—and that, perhaps, some of a more lively cast might be better liked by the public—"Toujours perdrix," said my friend—"Toujours perdrix,' you know, "ne vaut rien."—I am far from supposing that your compositions can be neglected or disapproved, on whatever subject; but perhaps "toujours Rossignols, toujours des chansons tristes ," may not be so well received as if you attempted, what you would certainly execute as successfully, a more cheerful style of composition. "Alas!" replied I, "Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles?" Or can the effect cease, while the cause remains? You know that when in the Beech Woods of Hampshire, I first struck the chords of the melancholy lyre, its notes were never intended for the public ear! It was unaffected sorrows drew them forth: I wrote mournfully because I was unhappy—And I have unfortunately no reason yet, though nine years have since elapsed, to change my tone. The time is indeed arrived, when I have been promised by "the Honourable Men" who, nine years ago, undertook to see that my family obtained the provision their grandfather designed for them,—that "all should be well, all should be settled." But still I am condemned to feel the "hope delayed that maketh the heart sick." Still to receive—not a repetition of promises indeed—but of scorn and insult, when I apply to those gentlemen, who, though they acknowledge that all impediments to a division of the estate they have undertaken to manage, are done away—will neither tell me when they will proceed to divide it, or whether they will ever do so at all. You know the circumstances under which I have now so long been labouring; and you have done me the honour to say, that few Women could so long have contended with them. With these, however as they are some of them of a domestic and painful nature, I will not trouble the Public now; but while they exist in all their force, that indulgent public must accept all I am able to achieve—"Toujours des chansons tristes!"
Thus ended the short dialogue between my friend and me, and I repeat it as an apology for that apparent despondence, which, when it is observed for a long series of years, may look like affectation. I shall be sorry, if on some future occasion, I should feel myself compelled to detail its causes more at length; for, notwithstanding I am thus frequently appearing as an Authoress, and have derived from thence many of the greatest advantages of my life, (since it has procured me friends whose attachment is most invaluable,) I am well aware that for a woman—"The Post of Honor is a Private Station."
London, May 14th , 1792.