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but not a rule without exceptions, nor that it ever had been reduced to practice: But this example of one of the most correct and best of their Poets has undeceived me, and confirms your opinion very strongly, and much more than Mr Dryden's authority, who, though he made it a rule, seldom observed it.
L ETTER VII.
June 10. 1709. Have received of the version of Statius, and I
part return you my thanks for your remarks, which I think to be just, except where you cry out (like one in Horace's Art of poetry) pulchre, bene, recte! There I have some fears you are often, if not always,
in the wrong.
One of your objections, namely on that passage,
The last revolving years fall ripen into fate,
may be well grounded, in relation to its not being the exact sense of the words—* Cætera reliquo ordine ducam. But the duration of the Action of Statius's poem may as well be excepted against, as many things besides in him : (which I wonder Bossu has not observ'd); for instead of confining his narration
See the first book of Statius, v. 302.
to one year, it is manifestly exceeded in the very first two books: The narration begins with Oedipus's prayer to the Fury to promote discord betwixt his fons; afterwards the Poet expressly describes their entering into the agreement of reigning a year by turns: and Polynices takes his flight froin Thebes on his brother's refusal to resign the throne. All this is in the firft book; in the next Tydeus is sent ambassador to Eteocles, and demands his relignation in these terms,
Aflriferum velox jam circulus orbem
Exul agit casus. But Boffu himself is mistaken in on particular, relatingto the commencement of the action; saying in book ii. cap. 8. that Statius opens it with Europa's Rape; whereas the Poet, at most, only deliberates whether ne should or not:
Sidonios raptus:? &c. but then expressly passes all this with a longa reiro feries-and says
limes mihi carminis efto Oedipode confufa domus. Indeed, there are numberless particulars blame-worthy in oor author, which I have tried to foften in the verhon: Vol. V.
dubiamque jugo fragor impulit Deten In latus, bar geminis vix fluctibus obftitit Ifthmus,
is most extravagantly hy perbolical: Nor did I ever read a greater piece of tautology than
Vacua cum folus in aula Refpiceres jus omne tuam, cunctosque minores, Et nufquam par stare caput. In the journey of Polynices is some geographical error,
In mediis audit duo littora campis
could hardly be: for the Isthmus of Corinth is full five miles over: And caligantes abrupto fole Mycenas is not consistent with what he tells us, in lib. iv. lin. 305. " that those of Mycenæ came not to the war
at this time, because they were then in confusion “ by the divisions of the brothers, Atreus and Thy“ estes.” Now, from the raising the Greek army against Thebes, back to the time of this journey of Polynices, is (according to Statius's own account)
L E T T E R VIII.
July 17. 1709. HE morning after I parted from you, I found
myself (as I had prophesied) all alone, in an uneasy Stage coach, a doleful change from that
agreeable company I enjoy'd the night before! without the least hope of entertainment but from my
last recourse in such cases, a book. I then began to enter into acquaintance with your Moralists, and had just received from them some cold consolation for the inconveniencies of this life, and the uncertainty of human affairs; when I perceived my vehicle to stop, and heard from the side of it the dreadful news of a sick woman preparing to enter it. 'Tis not easy to guess at my mortification; but being so well fortify'd with philosophy, I stood resign’d with a ftoical constancy to endure the worst of evils, a fick
I was indeed a little comforted to find, by her voice and dress, that she was young and a gentlewoman; but no sooner was her hood rein
inov’d, but I saw one of the finest faces I ever beheld, and, to increase my surprise, heard her filute me by my
I never had more reason to accuse nature for making me short-sighted than now, when I could not recollect I had ever seen those fair
which knew me so well, and was utterly at a lofs how to address inyfelf; till with a great deal of fimplicity and innocence she let me know (even before I dif. cover'd my ignorance) that he was the daughter of one in our neighbourhood, lately marry'd, who baving been confulting her physicians in town, was re. turning into the country, to try what good air and a husband could do to recover her. My father, you must know, has sometimes recommended the study of physic to me, but I never had any ambition to be a doctor till this instant. I ventur*d to preferibe fome fruit (which I happened to have n the coach) which being forbidden her by her doctors, she had the
more inclination to. In short, I tempted, and she eat; nor was I more like the Devil than she like Eve. Hava ing the good success of the 'foresaid Tempter before my eyes, I put on the gallantry of the old ferpent, and in spite of my
evil form accosted her with all the gaiety I was master of; which had so good an effect, thai in less than an hour she grew pleasant, her colour return'd, and she was pleas'd to say my prefcription had wrought an iininediate cure: in a word, I had the pleasantest journey imaginable.
Thus far (methinks.) my letter has something of the air of a romance, tho' it be true. But I hope you will look on what follows as the greatest of truths, that I think ayself extremely obliged by you in all points ; especially for your kind and honourable information and advice in a matter of the utmost concern to me, which I shall ever acknowledge as the highest proof at once of your friendship, justice and sincerity. At the same time be assur’d that gentleman we spoke of, shall never by any al. teration in me discover my knowledge of his mistake; the hearty forgiving of which is the only kind of return I can possibly make him for so many favours: And I may derive this pleasure at least from it, that whereas I must otherwise have been a little uneasy to know my incapacity of returning his obligations, I may now, by hearing his frailty, exercise my gratitude and friendship more than himself either is, or perhaps ever will be sensible of.
Ille meos, primus qui me sibi junxit, amores
Abflulit; ille habeat fecum, servetque fepulchro ! But in one thing, I must confess you have yourself obliged me more than any man, which is that you have thewed me many of my faults, to which as you