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accounts, for me to interpose in things of this nature; which I never understood well, and now understand somewhat less than ever I did.
But I can deny you nothing; especially since you have had the goodness often, and patiently, to hear what I have faid against rhyme, and in behalf of blank verse; with little discretion perhaps, but, I am sure, without the least prejudice : being myself equally incapable of writing well in either of thofe ways, and leaning therefore to neither side of the question, but as the appearance of reason inclines ine.
Forgive me this error, if it be one; an error of above thirty years standing, and which therefore I shall be very loth to part with. In other matters which relate to polite writing, I shall seldom differ from you: or, if I do, fhall, I hope, have the prudence to conceal my opinion. I am as much as I ought to be, that is, as much as any man can be,
LETTER II. The Bishop of Rochester to Mr. Pope.
Feb. 18, 1717
and came but a few minutes after you had left him, I brought Gorbodoc * with me; and Dr. Arbuthnot telling me he should see you, I deposited the book in his hands : out of which, I think,
* A Tragedy, written in the Reign of Edward the fixth (and much the best performance of that Age) by Sackvil, afterwards Earl of Dorset, and Lord Treasurer to Queen Elizabeth. It was then very scarce, but lately reprinted by R. Dodfley in Pall-mall.
my Lord Bathurst got it before we parted, and from him therefore you are to claim it. If Gorboduc should still miss his way to you, others are to answer for it; I have delivered up my trust. I am not sorry your + Alcander is burnt; had I known your intentions, I would have interceded for the first page, and put it, with your leave, among my curiosities. In truth, it is the only instance of that kind I ever met with, from a person good for any thing else, nay for every thing else to which he is pleas’d to turn himself.
Depend upon it, I shall see you with great pleasure at Bromley; and there is no request you can make to me, that I shall not most readily comply with. I wish you health and happiness of all sorts, and would be glad to be instrumental in any
de.. gree towards helping you to the least share of either. I am always, every where, most affectionately and faithfully
L E T T E R III. The Bishop of Rochester to Mr. Pope.
Bromley, Nov. 8, 1717. Have nothing to say to you on that melancholy
fubject, with an account of which the printed papers have furnish'd me, but what you have already said to yourself. When
you have paid the debt of tenderness you owe to the memory of a Father, I doubt not but you will turn your thoughts towards improving that accident to your own ease and happiness. You
# An Heroic Poem writ at 15 years old,
have it now in your power, to pursue that method of thinking and living which you like best. Give me leave, if I am not a little too early in my applications of this kind, to congratulate you upon it; and to assure you that there is no man living, who wishes you better, or would be more pleas'd to contribute any ways to your satisfaction or fervice.
I return you your Milton, which, upon collation, I find to be revised, and augmented, in several places, as the title page of my third edition pretends it to be. When I see you next, I will Thew you the several passages alter'd, and added by the author, beside what you mentioned to me.
I protest to you, this last perufal of him has given me such new degrees, I will not fay of pleasure but of admiration and astonishment, that I look upon the sublimity of Homer, and the majesty of Virgil with somewhat less reverence than I used to do. I challenge you, with all your partiality, to thew me in the first of these any thing equal to the Allegory of Sin and Death, either as to the greatness and justness of the invention, or the height and beauty of the colouring. What I look'd upon as a rant of Barrow's, I now begin to think a serious truth, and could almost venture to set my hand to it, Hæc quicunque legit, tantum cecinisse putabit
Mæoniden Ranas, Virgilium Culices. But more of this when we meet. When I left the town the D. of Buckingham continued so ill that he receiv'd no messages; oblige me so far as to let me know how he does ; at the same time I shall know how you do, and that will be a double satisfaction to
L E T
L E T T E R IV.
my Father's death, and the desire you express that I should improve this incident to my advantage. I know your Lordship's friendship to me is fo extensive, that you include in that with both my spiritual and my temporal advantage ; and it is what I owe to that friendship, to open my mind unreservedly to you on this head.
It is true, I have lost a parent for whom no gains I could make would be any equivalent. But that was not my only tye: I thank God another still remains (and long may it remain) of the same tender nature : Genitrix eft mihi -and excuse me if I say with Euryalus,
nequeam lacrymas perferre parentis. A rigid divine may call it a carnal tye, but sure it is a virtuous one : at least I am more certain that it is a duty of nature to preserve a good parent's life and happiness, than I am of any speculative point whatever.
Ignaràm hujus quodcunque pericli
Hanc ego, nunc, linquam? For she, my Lord, would think this feparation more grievous than any other, and I, for my part, know as little as poor Euryalus did, of the success of such an adventure, (for an Adventure it is, and no small one, in spite of the most positive divinity.) Whether the change would be to my spiritual advantage, God only knows: this I know, that I mean as well in the religion I now profess, as I
can poslily ever do in another. Can a man who thinks so, justify a change, even if he thought both equally good ? To such an one, the part of
Foyning with any one body of Chriftians might perhaps be easy, but I think it would not be so, to Renounce the other.
Your Lordship has formerly advis'd me to read the best controversies between the Churches. Shall I tell you a secret ? I did so at fourteen years old, (for I loved reading, and my father had no other books) there was a collection of all that had been written on both sides in the reign of King James the second : I warm'd my head with them, and the consequence was, that I found myself a Papist and a Protestant by turns, according to the last book I read * I am afraid most Seekers are in the same case, and when they stop, they are not so properly converted, as outwitted. You see how little glory you would gain by my conversion. And after all, I verily believe your Lordship and I are both of the same religion, if we were thoroughly understood by one another, and that all honest and reasonable christians would be fo, if they did but talk enough together every day; and had nothing to do together, but to serve God, and live in peace with their neighbour.
As to the temporal side of the question, I can have no dispute with you ; it is certain, all the beneficial circumstances of life, and all the shining ones, lie on the part you would invite me to. But if I could bring myself to fancy, what I think you do but fancy, that I have any talents for active life, I want health for it; and besides it is a real
* This is an admirable description of every Reader labouring in religious controversy, without poffeffing principles on which a right judgment of the points in question is to be regulated.