Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from William Munford, 28 August 1824

Richmond. Augt 28th 1824.

Dear Sir,

Knowing your attachment to the cause of American literature, and the deep interest you feel in promoting it, I hope I shall not tresspass too much on your valuable time, in requesting you to peruse either the whole, or a part, of a manuscript of mine, which is now ready for the press;—and to give me, in writing, your opinion of it’s merits.—For many years past, I have employed a portion of my leisure hours, in a new “translation of Homer’s Iliad, in English heroic verse without rhyme;—with critical notes;”—and believing that, in this Country, I can find no person as well qualified as yourself to form a correct judgment on the subject, and candidly to express it, I flatter myself that I may be considered excusable, for making this application, even if it should not be convenient or agreeable to you to comply with my request.

I have, indeed, engaged in a great and bold undertaking, and, if I have failed of success, (of which I am not the proper judge,) the declaration of a judicious Critic, may confer on me an important benefit, by preventing the appearance of a work, which probably would meet with no encouragement from the public.—I have endeavoured to express the sense of Homer, more correctly & faithfully than Pope;—more elegantly & energetically than Cowper;—to improve the structure of blank verse, by making it more perspicuous, easy and graceful, than it usually is;—to imitate the harmony, and beautifully varied modulations, of the Homeric numbers;—the majestic simplicity of style, and, above all, the sublimity and poetical fire of the great father of Poetry. If, in all this, I have utterly failed;—it may, at least, be said of me, as of Phaeton,

magnis tamen excidit ausis.”

But if, in any degree, I have succeeded, so as to warm the reader of my translation with a portion of Homer’s fire, the lovers of the venerable Grecian bard, may perhaps be glad to see him, arrayed in a new garb by an American author.—

You will confer a particular favour, by informing me immediately, whether you are willing to peruse the work in question, or a part of it; and (if the latter would be preferred,) what portion of the manuscript, I shall send you?—

I am, Dear Sir, with the utmost respect and esteem, your friend & fellow-citizen,

Wm Munford.

DLC: Papers of Thomas Jefferson.

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