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Binfield in Windsor Forest, Dec. 26. 1704*. T was certainly a great satisfaction to me to see
and converse with a man, whom in his writings
I had so long known with pleasure : but it was a high addition to it, to hear you, at our very
first meeting, doing justice to your dead friend Mr Dryden. I was not so happy as to know him: Virgilium tantum vidi. Had I been born early enough, I must bave known and lov'd him: For I have been assured, not only by yourself, but by Mr Congreve and Sir William Trumbul, that his personal qualities were as amiable as his Poetical, notwithstanding the inany libellous misrepresentations of them, against which the foriner of these Gentlemen has told me he will one day vindicate him.
I suppose those injuries were begun by the violence of Party, but 'tis no doubt
* The Authoi's Age then fix!een.
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 fummer's evening, which are never very troublesome, but in the finest and most glorious feafon ; 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 beggarly 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 agree with you,
that whatever lesler wits have risen fince his death, are but like stars appearing when the fun 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 expreffion ; or (in the midwife's phrase) a perfect conception, with an easy delivery. However, this is far from a complete definition ; pray, help nie to a letter, as, I doubt not, you can.
I am, &c.
L ET TER II.
From Mr W Y C H ERLE Y.
Jan. 25. 1704.5 Have been so busy of late in correcting and tran
fcribing 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 fcriblers 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 just debts, to their best and nearest friends. However, I hope, you who have as much good nature as good sense (fince they generally are companions) will have patience with a 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 honest man, if le 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 cther in other men, are in you lo 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 no:bing but your Judgment or Modesty, thicb (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 judgment, but in your partiality to me and mine ; so that if it were possible for an hardened fcribler 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 fenfe 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 Ictter, and a definition of it in the last ; to make writing well (that is, like you) more difficult to me than ever it was before. Thus the more great and just your example and definition of wit are, the less I am capable to follow them. Then the beft
way Thewing my judgment, after having seen how you write, is to leave off writing; and the best way to few my friendship to you, is to put an end to your trouble, and to conclude
L E T T ER III.
March 25. 17050 HEN I write to you, I foresee a long
letter, and ought to beg your patience before 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 letter, is not more my duty than my intereft; as some people