The literary journals of the Rev. Henry Francis Cary, translator of Dante, reveal how easily Gothic novels were intermixed with the classics and foreign works in the reading of a literary gentleman. He began writing for the Gentleman’s Magazine and caught the attention of Anna Seward, who befriended him in the late 1780s, and with whom he corresponded for many years, discussing the latest literary productions. He took orders in 1796 and settled as the priest of Abbots Bromley, Staffordshire, where he began a regular system of keeping a literary journal. He became Assistant Librarian at the British Museum in 1826, and had many literary friends later in life, such as Lamb and Coleridge. When he died in 1844 he was buried beside Samuel Johnson in Westminster Abbey.

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          20 to 22. At Cannock. Read Maximes, &c. du Duc de la Rochefoucauld. They contain much unpleasant truth, some useful and some, perhaps, dangerous instruction. Read Montalbert, a novel, by Charlotte Smith, in three volumes.
          24. Continued Valerius Flaccus, books iv. and v. The Argonauts proceed on their voyage, and Amycus, king of the Bebricians, who cruelly sacrified all who came on his coast, is killed by Pollux. . . .

          5 and 6. Read Hayley’s Life of Milton. A warm but injudicious vindication of the poet’s character from the violent and illiberal aspersions of Johnson. . . .
          11 to 13. Read the Lives of Rafaelle and Michelagnolo in Vasari.
          14. Read Thomson’s Castle of Indolence, with Jane [his wife].
          15. Proceeded in the Voyage du Jeune Anacharsis, with Jane, and read to vol. ii., p. 21.
          16. Translated Dante, Purgatorio, part of the first canto. Continued Anacharsis to p. 41, with Jane. . . .
          26. Began Burke on the Sublime and Beautiful, and read to Part ii., with Jane.
          27. Continued Burke to Part iii., with Jane.
          28. Proceeded in Dante, Purgatorio, canto iii.
          30. Proceeded in Dante, Purgatorio, canto iii. Continued Burke to Part v., with Jane.
          31. Continued and finished Burke on the Sublime and Beautiful, and read Miss Seward’s Monody on Major André, with Jane. – The system of Burke appears to be founded in nature and truth, though erroneous in some of its details, and defective even in its general view. The Platonic idea of mental beauty is too entirely excluded. Perhaps Burke, in his wonderful range of knowledge, has never visited the writings of Plato. . . .

          5. Read the first canto of Falconer’s Shipwreck.
          6. Finished the Shipwreck, a little epic poem, rendered pleasing by the truth of its narrative, its brevity, and language generally animated and sometimes poetical, though too much disfigured by sea-terms. Its unfortunate author was lost twenty-seven years ago in a voyage to the East Indies. The Aurora frigate, in which he sailed, it is feared, perished by fire, with all her crew. Continued Anacharsis to p. 350, with Jane. Proceeded in Dante, Purgatorio, canto iii. . . .
          23. Finished the third part of Henry VI., and began Richard the Third, with Jane. . . .

          5 to 9. At Lichfield with Miss Seward. Read Sappho, and Curan and Argentile, two dramatic pieces, with some other new poems lately published by Mason.
          10. Began Southey’s Joan of Arc, and read the two first books, with Jane. . . .
          13. Concluded Joan of Arc with Jane. About four hundred lines in the second book on ‘preternatural agency,’ by Coleridge, are in the Lucretian manner, and much superior to the rest. The poem on the whole is spirited, and keeps alive the attention, though it contains few passages admirable either for sublimity or beauty. The writer I remember sometimes to have met in company at Oxford. . . .

          15 to June 3. At Cannock. Concluded Travels of Cyrus. Read Ward’s Origin and History of the Law of Nations, from the time of the Greeks and Romans to the Age of Grotius. The author endeavours to confute the notion of a moral principle existing in the human mind, and founds the basis of the law of nations on the influence of Christianity. The work is chiefly estimable for information it contains of curious customs in the middle ages. Read Wood’s Life of Homer; an attempt to assign the reasons of Homer’s superiority over all other poets, in which much learning and ingenuity are displayed, though some of the arguments appear fanciful. The style is quaint and affected. Read The Italian, a new novel by Mrs. Radcliffe, and Julie de Roubigné. These two tales are of a very different cast. The former raises an unmixed sensation of horror, the latter affects the mind with pity and terror. Taste must give the preference to Julie de Roubigné. . . .

June 28 to December 20. – Read Klopstock’s Messiah, and Schiller’s Ghost-Seer in English, and Disobedience, a new novel, with Jane and Mrs. Ormsby. Read Favole di Pignotti; Rabaut de St. Etienne’s Account of the French Revolution; . . .

November 1798 to January 10, 1799. Read Roscoe’s Life of Lorenzo de’ Medici; two volumes of Canterbury Tales by Harriet and Sophia Lee, very amusing, of which Lothaire, the Ghost Story, is the best. Reynolds’ Works; Cowper’s translation of the Odyssey, the twelve last books with Jane, and the twelve first of the Iliad; and concluded Ariosto’s Orlando Furioso and the five supplementary Cantos.

January. Began Montesquieu, L’Esprit des Loix.
          23. Read Lewis’s Castle Spectre, a new play. Continued Montesquieu. Began Smollett’s Count Fathom.
          24, 25. Finished Count Fathom. Continued Montesquieu. . . .

July 28 to December 24. In Wales and Dublin. Read the second volume of Southey’s Poems, Barrington’s History of Henry the Second, Memoires du Chevalier de Grieux. The Midnight Bell, a novel, Hayley’s Triumphs of Temper, most of the Critical Works of Dionysius Halicarnassensis, the Hecuba of Euripides, in Porson’s new edition, the first book of Hobbes’s Leviathan, some of Filicaja’s Poems, Biship Taylor on the Liberty of Prophesying, &c., &c. . . .

[SOURCE: [Memoir of the Rev Henry Francis Cary, 2 vols (London: Edward Moxon, 1847)]

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