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Wycherly shew'd his, even in this last compliment; tho' I think his request a little hard, for why should he bar her from doubling her Jointure on the same easy terms!
So trivial as these circumstances are, I should not be displeas'd myself to know such trifles, when they concern or characterise any eminent perfonThe wifest and wittiest of men are seldom wiser or wittier than others in these fober moments : At least, our friend ended much in the character he had lived in: and Horace's rule for a play, may as well be apply'd to him as a play-wright,
Servetur ad imum
I am, &c.
Feb. 10, 1715-16. Am just returned from the country, whither
Mr. Rowe accompanied me, and pass'd a week in the forest. I need not tell you how much a man of his turn entertain'd me; but I muft acquaint you there is a vivacity and gaiety of disposition almost peculiar to him, which make it impossible to part from him without that uneasiness which generally fucceeds all our pleasures. I have been just taking a solitary walk by moon-fhine, full of reflections on the transitory nature of all human delights; and giving my thoughts a loose in the contemplation of those satisfactions which probably we may hereafter taste in the company of separate spirits, when we Thall range the walks above, and perhaps gaze on this world åt as vast a distance as we now do on those worlds. The pleasures we are to enjoy in that
conversation must undoubtedly be of a nobler kind, and (not unlikely) may proceed from the discoveries each shall communicate to another, of God and of Nature; for the happiness of minds can surely be nothing but knowledge.
The highest gratification we receive here from company is Mirth, which at the best is but a Auttering unquiet motion, that beats about the breast for a few moments, and after leaves it void and empty. Keeping good company, even the best, is but a less shameful art of losing time. What we here call fcience and study, are little better the greater number of arts to which we apply ourselves are mere groping in the dark; and even the search of our most important concerns in a future being, is but a needless, anxious, and uncertain haste to be knowing, sooner than we can, what without all this folicitude we shall know a little later. We are but curious impertinents in the case of futurity. 'Tis not our business to be guessing what the state of souls shall be, but to be doing what may
make own state happy; we cannot be knowing, but we can be virtuous.
If this be my notion of a great part of that high science, Divinity, you will be so civil as to imagine I lay no mighty Atress upon the rest. Even of my darling poetry I really make no other use, than horses of the bells that gingle about their ears (tho’ now and then they toss their heads as if they were proud of them) only to jog on, a little more merrily.
Your observations on the narrow conceptions of mankind in the point of Friendship, confirm me in what I was so fortunate as at my first knowledge of you to hope, and since so amply to experience. Let me take so much decent pride and dignity upon me, as to tell you, that but for opinions like these which I discovered in your mind, I had never made
the trial I have done ; which has succeeded so much to mine, and, I believe, not less to your satisfaction: for, if I know you right, your pleasure is greater in obliging me, than I can feel on my part, till it falls in my power to oblige you.
Your remark, that the variety of opinions in politics or religion is often rather a gratification, than an objection, to people who have sense enough to consider the beautiful order of nature in her variations ; makes me think you have not construed. Joannes Secundus wrong, in the verse which precedes that which you quote : Bene nota Fides, as I take it, does no way signify the Roman Catholic Religion, tho' Secundus was of it. I think it was a generous thought, and one that flow'd from an exalted mind, That it was not improbable but God might be delighted with the various methods of worshipping him, which divided the whole world *. I am pretty sure you
and I should no more make good Inquisitors to the modern tyrants in faith, than we could have been qualified for Lictors to Procrustes, when he converted refractory members with the rack. In a word, I can only repeat to you what, I think, I have formerly said ; that I as little fear God will
* This was an opinion taken up by the old Fhiloso. phers, as the last support of Paganism against Christianity: And the Missionaries, to both the Indies, tell us, it is the first answer modern barbarians give to the offer made them of the Gospel. But Christians might see that the notion is not only improbable, but impoffible to be true, if the redemption of mankind was purchased by the death of Jesus, which is the gospel idea of his Religion. Nor is there any need of this opinion to discredit persecution. For the iniquity of that practice does not arise from restraining what God permits or delights in, but from usurping a jurisdiction over conscience, which belongs only to his tribunal.
damn a man who has Charity, as I hope that any Prieit can save him without it.
I am, &c.
L E T T E R VI.
March 20, 1715-16. Find that a real concern is not only a hindrance
to speaking, but to writing too: the more time we give ourselves to think over one's own or a friend's unhappiness, the more unable we grow to express the grief that proceeds from it. It is as natural to delay a letter, at such a season as this, as to retard a melancholy visit to a person one cannot relieve. One is alhamed in that circumstance, to pretend to entertain people with trifling, insignificant affectations of sorrow on the one hand, or unseasonable and forced gaieties on the other. 'Tis a kind of profanation of things sacred, to treat fo folemn a matter as a generous voluntary suffering, with compliments, or heroic gallantries. Such a mind as your's has no need of being spirited up into honour, or like a weak woman, praised into an opinion of its own virtue. 'Tis enough to do and suffer what we ought; and men should know, that the noble power of suffering bravely is as far above that of enterprizing greatly, as an unblemished conscience and inflexible resolution are above an accidental flow of spirits, or a sudden tide of blood. If the whole religious business of mankind be included in resignation to our Maker, and charity to our fellow creatures, there are now some people who give us as good an opportunity of practising the one, as themselves have given an instance of the violation of the other. Whoever is really brave, has always this comfort when he is oppress’d, that
he knows himself to be superior to those who injure him: for the greatest power on earth can no sooner do him that injury, but the brave man can make himself greater by forgiving it.
If it were generous to seek for alleviating consolations in a calamity of so much glory, one might fay, that to be ruined thus in the gross, with a whole people, is but like perishing in the general confilagration, where nothing we can value is left behind
Methinks, the most heroic thing we are left capable of doing, is to endeavour to lighten each other's load, and (oppress'd as we are) to succour such are yet more opprefs’d. If there are too many who cannot be assisted but by what we cannot give, our money; there are yet others who
be lieved by our counsel, by our countenance, and even by our chearfulness.
The misfortune of private families, the misunderstandings of people whom diftresses make fufpicious, the coldnesses of relations whom change of religion may disunite, or the neceflities of half-ruin'd eftates render unkind to each other; these at least may be foftened in some degree, by a general well-managed humanity among ourselves; if all those who have your principles of bea lief, had also your sense and conduct. But indeed most of them have given lamentable proofs of the contrary; and it is to be apprehended that they who want fenfe, are only religious through weakness, and good-natured through shame. These are narrow-minded creatures that never deal in essentials, their faith never looks beyond ceremonials, nor their charity beyond relations. As poor as I am, I would gladly relieve any distressed, consciencious French refugee at this instant : what must my concern then be, when I perceive so many anxieties now tearing those hearts, which I have desired a place in, and clouds of melancholy rising on those faces, which I