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is at rest; though I find none without him, for he was
I am, sir,
LETTERS TO AND FROM MR. POPE.
April 30, 1705. I cannot contend with you: therefore, give me leave at once to wave all your compliments, and to collect only this in general from them, that your design is to encourage me. But I separate from all the rest that paragraph or two in which you make me so warm an offer of your friendship. Were I possessed of that, it would put an end to all those speeches with which you now make me blush; and change them to wholesome advices and free sentiments, which might make me wiser and happier. I know it is the general opinion, that friendship is best contracted betwixt persons of equal age; but I have so much interest to be of another mind, that you must pardon me if I cannot forbear telling you a few notions of mine, in opposition to that opinion.
In the first place, it is observable, that the love me bear to our friends, is generally caused by our finding the same dispositions in them, which we feel in ourselves. This is only self-love at the bottom: but the affection betwixt people of different ages cannot well be so, the inclinations of such being commonly various. The friendship of two young men is often occasioned by love of pleasure, each being desirous for his own sake of one to assist or encourage him in the course he pursues; as that of two old men is frequently on the score of some profit, lucre, or design upon others. Now, as a young man, who is less acquainted with the ways of the world, has in all probability less of interest ; and an old man, who may be weary of himself, has, or should have, less of self-love : so the friendship between them is the more likely to be true, and unmixed with too much self-regard. One may add to this, that such a friendship is of greater use and advantage to both: for the old man will probably become agreeable to please the young one, and the young man more discreet and prudent by the help of the old one; so it may prove a cure of those epidemical diseases of age and youth, sourness and madness. I hope you will not need many arguments to convince you of the possibility of this: one alone abundantly satisfies me, and convinces to the heart; which is, that young as I am, and old as you are, I am : Your entirely affectionate &c.
LETTER II. · Mr. Pope to Mr. (afterwards sir Richard) Steel.
July 15, 1712. Dear sir,
' You formerly observed to me, that nothing makes a more ridiculous figure in a man's life, than the disparity we often find in him sick and well: thus one of an unfortunate constitution is perpetually exhibiting a miserable example of the alternate weakness of his mind, and of his body. I have had frequent opportunities of late to consider myself in these different views ;
and, I hope, I have received some advantage by it. If what Waller says be true, that!
The soul's dark cottage, batter'd and decay'd,
Lets in new light through chinks that time has made; : then surely sickness, contributing not less than old age to shake down this scaffolding of the body, may discover the inward structure more plainly. Sickness is a sort of early old age. It teaches us a diffidence in our earthly state, and inspires us with the thoughts of a future, better than a thousand volumes of philosophers and divines. It gives so warning a concussion to those props of our vanity, our strength and youth, that we think of fortifying ourselves within, when there is so little des pendence upon our outworks. Youth, at the very best, is but a betrayer of human life, in a gentler and smoother manner than age. It is like a stream that nourishes a plant upon its bank, and causes it to flourish and blog som to the sight, but at the same time is undermining it at the root in secret. My youth has dealt more fairly and openly with me. It has afforded several prospects of my danger, and given me an advantage not very common to young men, that the attractions of the world have not dazzled me very much; and I begin, where most people end, with a full conviction of the emptiness of all sorts of ambition, and the unsatisfactory nature of all human pleasures. 'When a smart fit of sickness tells me that this poor tenement of my body will fall in a little time, I am even as unconcerned as was that honest Hibernian, who, being in bed in the great storm some years ago, and told the house would tumble over his head, made answer, “What care I for the house? I am only a lodger."
I fancy it is the best time to die when one is in the best humour ; and so excessively weak as I now am, I may say with conscience, that I am not at all uneasy at the thought, that many men, whom I never had any esteem for, are likely to enjoy this world after me. When I reflect what an inconsiderable little atom every single man is, with respect to the whole creation, I think it is a shame to be concerned at the removal of so trivial an animal as I am. The morning after my exit, the sun will rise as bright as ever, the flowers smell as sweet, the plants spring as green; 'the world will proceed in its old-course ; people will laugh as heartily, and marry as fast, as they were used to do. “ The memory of man" (as it is elegantly expressed in the Book of Wisdoin) passeth away as the remembrance of a guest that tarrieth but one day.” There are reasons enough, in the fougth chapter of the same book, to make a young man contented with the prospect of death. “ For honourable age is not that which standeth in length of time, or is measured by number of years. But wisdoin is the gray hair to men ; and an unspotted life is old age. -He was taken away speedily, lest wickedness should alter his understanding, or deceit beguile his
I ain your &c.
. : July 13, 1714. I cannot tell from any thing in your letter, wheth - you received a long one from me about a fortnight since. It was principally intended to thank you