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order with my colical complaints, so as to make me unealy and dispirited, tho' not to any violent degree. The reception we met with, and the little excursions we made, were every way agreeable. I think the country abounds with beautiful prospects. Sir William Wyndham is at present amusing himself with some real improvements, and a great many visionary castles. We were often entertain'd with sea views and sea fish, and were at some places in the neighbourhood, among which, I was mightily pleased with Dunstar-Castle near Minehead. It stands upon a great eminence, and hath a prospect of that town, with an extensive view of the Bristol Channel, in which are seen two small Islands callid the Steep Holms and Flat Holms, and on t'other side we could plainly distinguish the divisions of fields on the Welsh coast. All this journey I perform’d on horseback, and I am very much difappointed that at present I feel myself so little the better for it. I have indeed followed riding and exercise for three months successively, and really think I was as well without it ; so that I begin to fear the illness I have fo long and so often complain'd of, is inherent in my constitution, and that I have nothing for it but patience *.
As to your advice about writing Panegyric, ’tis. what I have not frequently done. I have indeed done it sometimes against my judgment and inclinations, and I heartily repent of it. And at present, as I have no desire of reward, and see no just reason of praise,
* Mr Gay died the November following at the.Duke of Queens berry's house in London, aged 40 years,
I think I had better let it alone. There are flatterers good enough to be found, and I would not interfere in any Gentleman's profession. I have seen no verses on these sublime occasions ; so that I have no emulation: Let the patrons enjoy the authors, and the authors their patrons, for I know myself unworthy:
L E T T E R XXV.
Mr CLELAND to Mr GAY*.
Decemb. 16. 1731. 1 Am astonish'd at the complaints occasion’d by a late
Epistle to the Earl of Burlington; and I should be afflicted were there the least just ground for them. Had the writer attack'd Vice, at a time when it is not only tolerated but triumphant, and so far from being conceal'd as a Defect, that it is proclaimed with ostentation as a Merit; I fhould have been apprehenfive of the consequence : Had he satirized Gamesters of a hundred thousand pounds fortune, acquir'd by such methods as are in daily practice, and almost universally encouraged: had he over-warmly defended the Religion of his country, against such books as come from every press, are publickly vended in every shop, and greedily bought by almost every rank of men; or had he called our excellent weekly writers by the fanie names which they openly bestow on the greatest men
* This was written by the same band that wrote the Letter to the Publisber, prefixed to the Dunciad.
in the Ministry, and out of the Ministry, for which they are all unpunished, and most rewarded : In any of these cases, indeed, I might have judged him too prefumptuous, and perhaps have trembled for his rashness.
I could not but hope better for this small and mo. dest Epistle, which attacks no one Vice whatsoever ; which deals only in Folly, and not Folly in general, but a single species of it; that only branch, for the opposite excellency to which the Noble Lord to whom it is written inust neceffarily be celebrated. I fancied it might escape censure, especially feeing how tenderly thefe follies are treated, and really less accused than apologized for.
Yet hence the Poor are cloath’d, the Hungry fed,
The Lab'rer bears. Is this such a crime, that to impute it to a man must be a grievous offence? 'Tis an innocent Folly, and much more beneficent than the want of it ; for ill Taste employs more hands, and diffuses expence, more than a good one. Is it a moral defect ? No; it is but a natural one; a want of taste. It is what the best good man living may be liable to. The worthiest Peer may live exemplarily in an ill favour'd house, and and the best reputed citizen be pleased with a vile garden. I thought (I fay) the author had the common liberty to observe a defect, and to compliment a friend for 2 quality that distinguishes him: which I know not
how any quality should do, if we were not to remark that it was wanting in others.
But, they tay, the satire is perfonal. I thought it could not be fo, because all its reflections are on things. His reflections are not on the man, but his house,
garden, &c. Nay, he respects (as one may fay) the Perfons of the Gladiator, the Nile, and the Triton: he is only forry to see them (as he might be to see any of his friends) ridiculous by being in the wrong place, and in bad company. Some fancy, that to say, a thing is Personal, is the same as to say, it is Injutt, not considering, that nothing can be just that is not Personal. “I am afraid that all such writings and discourses as touch no man, will mend no nian.
.” The good natured, indeed, are apt to be alarmed at any thing like satire; and the guilty readily concur with the weak, for a plain reason, because the vicious look upon folly as their frontier :
Jam proximus ardet
Ucalegon. No wonder those who know ridicule belongs to them, find an inward confolation in removing it from themselves as far as they can; and it is never so far, as when they can get it fixed on the best characters. No wonder those who are Food for Satirists should rail at them as creatures of prey; every beast born for our use would be ready to call a man fo.
I know no remedy, unless people in our age would as little frequent the theatres, as they begin to do the churches ; unless comedy were forsaken, fatire silent, and every man left to do what seems good in his own eyes, as if there were no King, no Priest, no Poet, in Ifrael.
But I find myself obliged to touch a point, on which I must be more serious: it well deserves I Tould: I mean the malicious application of the character of Timon, which, I will bodly fay, they would impute to the person the most different in the world from a Man-hater, to the person whose taste and encouragement of wit have often been shewn in the rightest place. The author of that epistle must certainly think so, if he has the same opinion of his own merit as authors generally have ; for he has been distinguished by this very person.
Why, in God's name, must a Portrait, apparently collected from twenty different men, be applied to one only? Has it his eye? no, it is very unlike. Has it his nose or mouth? no, they are totally differing. What then, I beseech you? Why, it has the mole on his chin. Very well; but must the picture therefore be his, and has no other man that blemish?
Could there be a more melancholy instance how much the taste of the public is vitiated, and turns the most falutary and seasonable physic into poison, than if amidst the blaze of a thousand bright qualities in a great man, they should only remark there is a shadow a*bout him; as what eminence is without? I am con