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den. I was not so happy as to know him: Virgiliux tantum vidi. Had I been born early enough, I must have known and lov'd him: For I have been affiared, not only by yourself, bat by Mr. Congreve and Sir William Trumbul, that his personal qualities were as amiable as his Poetical, notwithstanding the many libellous misrepresentations of them, against which the former of these Gentlemen has told me he will cne day vindicate him *. I suppose those injuries were began by the violence of Party, but 'tis no doubt they were continued by envy at his success and fame. And those Scriblers who attacked him in his latter times, were only like gnats in a summer's evening, which are never very troublesome but in the finest and most glorious season ; for his fire, like the sun's, shined clearest towards its setting.
You must not therefore imagine, that when you told me my own performances were above those Critics, I was so vain as to believe it; and yet I may not be so humble as to think myself quite below their notice. For critics, as they are birds of prey, have. ever a natural inclination to carrion: and tho' such poor writers as I are but beggars, no beggar is so poor but he can keep a cur, and no author is so beg. garly but he can keep a critic. I am far from thinking the attacks of such people either any honour or dishonour even to me, much less to Mr. Dryden. I
* He since did fo. in his dedication to the Duke of Newcaftlen prefix'd to the duodecimo Edition of Dryden's Plays, 1917,
agtee with you, that whatever lesser Wits have risen since his death, are but like stars appearing when the sun is fet, that twinkle only in his absence, and with the rays they have borrowed from him. Our wit (as you call it) is but reflection or imitation, therefore scarce to be called ours. True Wit, I believe, may be defined a justness of thought, and a facility of expression; or (in the midwives phrase) a perfect conception, with an easy delivery. However, this is far from a complete definition; pray; help me to a better, as, I doubt not, you can,
I am, &c.
Jan. 25, 1704-5: T Have been so busy of late in correcting and tranIscribing some of my madrigals for a great man or two who desired to see them, that I have (with your pardon) omitted to return you an answer to your most ingenious letter : fo feriblers to the public, like bankers to the public, are profuse in their voluntary loans to it, whilst they forget to pay their more private and particular, as more juft debts, to their best and nearest friends. However, I hope, you who have as much good nature as good sense (since they generally are companions) will have patience with a Yox. VIII.
debtor who has an inclination to pay you his obligations, if he had wherewithal ready about him ; and in the mean time should consider, when you have obliged me beyond my present power of returning the favour, that a debtor may be an honeft man, if he but intends to be just when he is able, tho' late. But I should be less just to you, the more I thought I could make a return to so much profuseness of Wit and Humanity together ; which tho' they feldom accompany each other in other men, are in you so equally met, I know not in which you most abound. But so much for my opinion of you, which is, that your Wit and Ingenuity is equalled by nothing but your Judgment, or Modesty, which (though it be to please myself) I must no more offend, than I can do either right
Therefore I will say no more now of them, than that your good wit never forfeited your good judg. ment, but in your partiality to me and inine; so that if it were possible for a hardened scribler to be vainer than he is what you write of me would make me more conceited than what I scrible myself: yet, I must confess, I ought to be more humbled by your praise than exalted, which commends my little fense with so much more of yours, that I am disparaged and disheartened by your commendations ; who give me an example of your wit in the first part of your letter, and a definition of it in the lait ; to make writing well (that is, like you) more difficult to me than ever it was before. Thus the more great and juft your example and definition of wit are, the less I am capable to follow them. Then the best way of fhewing my judgment, after having seen how you write, is to leave off writing; and the best way to fhew my friendship to you, is to put an end to your trouble, and to conclude
Yours, &c. '.
L ETTER III.
March 25, 170;. THEN I write to you, I foresee a long
letter, and ought to beg your patience be. fore hand; for if it proves the longest, it will be of course the worst I have troubled you with. Yet to express my gratitude at large for your obliging le:ter, is not more my duty than my interest; as some people will abundantly thank you for one piece of kindness, to put you in mind of bestowing another. The more favourable you are to me, the more diltin&tly I see my, faults : Spots, and blemishes, you know, are never so plainly discovered as in the brightest sun hine. 'Thus I am mortified by those commendations which were designed to encourage me: for praise to a young wit, is like rain to a tender flower; if it be moderately bestowed, it chears and revives ; but if too lavishly, overcharges and depresies him. Most men in years, as they are geherally d.scouragers of youth, are like old trees, that, being past bearing themselves, will fiffer 119
young plants to flourish beneath them: but as if it were not enough to have out done all your coevals in wit, you will excell them in good-nature too. As for * my green efsays, if you find any pleasure in them, it must be such as a man naturally takes in observing the first shoots and buddings of a tree which he has raised himself: and 'tis impossible they should be esteemed any otherwise, than as we value fruits for being early, which nevertheless are the most infipid, and the worst of the year. In a word, I must blame you for treating me with so much compliment, which is at best but the smoke of friendship. I neither write, nor converse with you, to gain your praise, but your Affection. Be so much my friend as to appear my enemy, and tell me my faults, if not as a young Man, at least as an unexperienced Writer.
I am, &c.
March 29, 1705.
have received, which was more welcome to me than any thing could be out of the country, tho' it were one's rent due that day; and I can find no fault with it, but that it charges me with want of
s Paftorals, v. ritten at sixteen years of age,'