Adams, Lord Wellesley, and Milton. John McTavish, the British consul at Baltimore, had sent to Adams a copy of the privately printed Primitiae at Reliquiae of Richard Colley Wellesley, the brother of the Duke of Wellington and a distinguished Indian administrator. Through the offices of McTavish, Adams told Wellesley that he was so delighted by "the volume of the classical pastimes of your early youth, the elegant effusions of your mature age, and the precious reliques of your later days," that he could not help but render Wellesley's Latin lines upon Milton "in the langauge of Milton himself."
The present letter to McTavish covered the missive to Wellesley just quoted, which also provided the Marquess with an autograph copy of Adams's translation as well as permission to print the verses as an appendix to his own work. "It was not random praise or blame that I saw in Lord Wellesley's estimate of the character of Milton and of the age in which he lived. The rescue of the poet's moral character from the shade which detraction had cast over it, claimed my gratitude, and desirous of conveying to you my sense of your kindness in the present of the volume, I knew not how better to express it, than in the attempt to interpret the voice of his Lordship's Roman Muse in the native Anglo-Saxon of the bard himself. With the hope that this effort would be acceptable to you I did not anticipate that you would think it worthy of being communicated to Lord Wellesley, and little expected that he would confer upon it, by his indulgent reception of it a value which I was far from attributing to it myself. His proposal to publish it in a new edition of his poems, in company with his original lines, is not only pleasing to me, but esteemed as a precious privilege. ... To have been permitted to intertwine one sprig of olive in the chaplet of English oak and German laurel wreathed by the hands of Lord Wellesley round the brow of Milton, will I hope and trust be an honour prized by my children's children, ages after all that is mortal of me shall have returned to dust."
The first of Adams's rhymed couplets represents the poem well: "Poor—blind—survivor of his country's shame; | Still, Milton holds his fearless flight to fame." As the Renaissance scholar and Brown professor Leicester Bradner observed, "The picture of the two elderly statesmen exchanging verses and courtly compliments in their declining years, is very pleasant to contemplate and adds a touch to the lives of both men that one is glad not to have missed."
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