« PreviousContinue »
fort of modeft inoffensive people, who neither have sense, 298 LETTERS TO AND make a Fool of him. For as when madmen are found incurable, wise men give them their way, and please them as well as they can; so when those incorrigible things, Poets, are once irrecoverably be-mus'd, the beit
way both to quiet them, and secure yourself from the effects of their frenzy, is to feed their vanity; which indeed, for the most part, is all that is fed in a poet.
You may believe me, I could be heartily glad that all you say were as true, applied to me, as it would be to youríelf, for several weighty reasons; but for none so much as that I might be to you what you deserve ; whereas I can now be no more than is consistent with the finall tho' utmost capacity of, &c. LE TT ER VIII.
Oct. 26, 1705. I
Have now changed the scene from the town to the
country; from Will's coffee-house to Windsor-foreft. I find no other difference than this, betwixt the common town-wits, and the downright country fools ; that the first are pertly in the wrong, with a little more flourish and gayety; and the last neither in the right nor the wrong, but confirm'd in a stupid settled medium betwixt both. However, methinks, these are most in the right, who quietly and easily resign themselves over to the gentle reign of dulness, which the Wits must do at last, tho' after a great deal of noise and resistance.
Ours are a nor pretend to any; but enjoy a jovial sort of dulness : They are commonly known in the world by the name of honest, civil gentlemen : They live, much as they ride, at random; a kind of hunting life, pursuing with earneftness and hazard something not worth the catching; never in the way, nor out of it. I can't but prefer solitude to the company of all these ; for tho' a man's felf may poflibly be the worst fellow to converse with in the world, yet one would think the company of a person
whom we have the greatest regard to and affection for, could not be very unpleasant. As a man in love with a mistress, defires no conversation but hers, fo a man in love with himself (as most men are) may be best pleased with his own. Besides, if the truest and most useful knowledge be the knowledge of ourselves, folitude, conducing most to make us look into ourselves, should be the most instructive state of life. We see nothing more commonly, than men, who for the sake of the circumftantial part and mere outside of life, have been half their days rambling out of their nature, and ought to be sent into solitude to study themselves over again. People are usually spoiled, instead of being taught, at their coming into the world; whereas, by being more conversant with Obscurity, without any pains, they would naturally follow what they were meant for. In a word, if a man be a coxcomb, Solitude is liis best School; and if he be a fool, it is his best Sanctuary. | These are good reasons for my own stay here, but I wish I could give you any for your coming hither, except that I earnestly invite you. And yet I can't help saying I have suffered a great deal of discontent that you do not come, tho'I so little merit that you should.
I must complain of the shortness of your last. Those who have most wit, like those who have most money, are generally most sparing of either.
L E T T E R IX.
Nov. 5, 1705
have always done yours, with no little satisfaction, and am proud to discover by it, that you find fault with the shortness of mine, which I think the best excuse for it: And tho' they (as you fay) who have most wit or money are most sparing of either; there are some who
appear poor to be thought rich, and are poor, which is my case. I cannot but rejoice, that you have undergone so much discontent for want of my company; but if you have a mind to punish me for my fault (which I could not help) defer your coming to town, and you will do it effe&tually. But I know your charity always exceeds your revenge, so that I will not despair of seeing you, and, in return to your inviting me to your forest, invite you to my forest, the town; where the beasts that inhabit, tame or wild, of long ears, or horns, pursue one another either out of love or hatred. You may have the pleature to see one pack of bloodhounds pursue another herd of brutes, to bring each other to their fall, which is their whole sport : Or if you affcet a less bloody chace, you may see a pack of spaniels, called Lovers, in a hot pursuit of a two-legged vixen, who only flies the whole loud pack to be singled out by one dog, who runs mute to catch her up the sooner from the rest, as they are making a noise to the loss of their game. In fine, this is the time for all sorts of sport in town, when those of the country cease; therefore leave your forest of beasts for ours of brutes, called men, who now in full cry (pack'd by the court or country) run down in the house of commons a deserted horned beast of the Court, to the satisfaction of their spectators : Besides (more for your diverfion) you may see not only the two great play-houses of the nation, those of the lords and commons, in dispute with one another; but the two other play-houses in high contest, because the members of one house are remov'd up to t'other, as it is often done by the court for reasons of state. Insomuch that the lower houses, I mean the playhouies, are going to act tragedies on one another without doors, and the Sovereign is put to it (as it often happens in the other two houses) to filence one or both, to kecp peace betiveen them. Now I have told you all the news of the town.
I am, &c.
From Mr. WYCH ERLE Y.
Feb. 5, 1705-6. I
Have receiv'd your kind Letter, with my paper * to
Mr. Dryden corrected. I own you have made more of it by making it less, as the Dutch are said to burn half the spices they bring home, to inhance the price of the remainder, so to be greater gainers by their loss (which is indeed my cafe now.)
You have prun’d my fading laurels of some fuperfluous, sapless, and dead branches, to make the remainder live the longer: th::s, like your master Apollo, you are at once a poet and a phyfician.
Now, Sir, as to my impudent invitation of you to the town, your good nature was the first cause of
confident request; but excuse me, I muft (I fee) say no more upon this subject, since I find you a little too nice to be dealt freely with; tho’you have given me some encouragement to hope, our friendship might be without shyness, or criminal modesty ; for a friend, like a mistress, tho' he is not to be mercenary to be true, yet ought not to refuse a friend's kindness because it is small or trivial : I have told you (I think) what a Spanish lady faid to her poor poetical gallant, that a Queen, if she had to do with a groom, would expect a mark of his kindness from him, tho' it were but his curry-comb. But you and I will dispute this matter when I am so happy as to see you here; and perhaps 'tis the only dispute in which I might hope to have the better of
boldness in inviting you to town, I design’d to leave with you some more of my papers, (since these return so much better out of your hands than they went from mine) for I intended (as I told you formerly) to spend a month or
* The same which was printed in the year 1717, in a miscellany of Bern. Lintot's, and in the posthumous works of Mr. Wycherley.
fix wecks, this summer, near you in the country. You may be assured there is nothing I desire fo much, as an improvement of your friendship.
April 10, 1706. BY one of yours of the laft month, you desire me to se
lect, if possible, fome things from the * first volume of your Miscellanies, which may be alter'd so as to appear again. I doubted your meaning in this; whether it was to pick out the best of those verses (as those on the Idleness of business, on Ignorance, on Laziness, etc.) to make the method and numbers exact, and avoid repetitions ? For tho' (upon reading 'em on this occafion) I believe, they might receive such an alteration with advantage;. yet they would not be changed so much, but any one would know 'em for the same at first light. Or if you mean to improve the worst pieces ? which are such, as to render them very good, would require great addition, and almost the entire new writing of them. Or, lastly, if you mean the middle fort, as the Songs and Love verses ? For these will need only to be shortened, to omit repetition ; the words remaining very little different from what they were before. Pray let me know your mind in this, for I am utterly at a loss. Yet I have try'd what I could do ta fome of the songs, and the poems on Laziness and Ignorance, but can't (even in my own partial judgment) think my alterations much to the purpose. So that I must needs desire you would apply your care wholly at present to those which are yet unpublished, of which there are more than enough to make a considerable volume, of full as good ones, nay, I believe, of better than Vol. I. which I could wish you would defer, at least till you have finish'd these that are yet unprinted,
I send you a sample of fome few of these : namely, the verses to Mr. Waller in his old age ; your new ones
* Printed in folio, in the year 1904.