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The occasion of this Epistle is explained in the following letters :
POPE TO ROBERT, EARL OF OXFORD.
FROM MY LORD HARLEY'S IN DOVER STREET.
Oct. 21, 1721. MY LORD,-Your lordship may be surprised at the liberty I take in writing to you, though you will allow me always to remember, that you once permitted me that honour, in conjunction with some others who better deserved it. Yet I hope you will not wonder I am still desirous to have you think me your grateful and faithful servant; but I own I have an ambition yet farther to have others think me so, which is the occasion I give your lordship the trouble of this. Poor Parnell, before he died, left me the charge of publishing these few remains of his. I have a strong desire to make them, their author, and their publisher, more considerable, by addressing and dedicating them all to you. There is a pleasure in bearing testimony to truth; and a vanity perhaps, which at least is as excusable as any vanity can be. I beg you, my lord, to allow me to gratify it, in prefixing this paper
of honest verses to the book. I send the book itself, which I dare say you will receive more satisfaction in perusing, than you can from anything written upon the subject of yourself. Therefore I am a good deal in doubt, whether you will care for such an addition to it. I will only say for it that it is the only dedication I ever writ, and shall be, whether you permit it or not: for I will not bow the knee to a less man than my Lord Oxford, and I expect to see no greater in my time.
After all, if your lordship will tell my Lord Harley that I must not do this, you may depend upon a total suppression of these verses, the only copy whereof I send you. But you never shall suppress, that great, sincere, and entire admiration and respect with which I am, my lord, your most faithful, most obedient, and most humble servant.
ROBERT, EARL OF OXFORD, TO MR. POPE.
BRAMPTON CASTLE, Nov. 6, 1721. SIR,-I received your packet, which could not but give me great pleasure, to see you preserve an old friend in your memory; for it must needs be very agreeable to be remembered by those we highly value. But then how much shame did it cause me, when I read your very fine verses enclosed ? My mind reproached me how far short I came of what your great friendship and delicate pen would partially describe me. You ask my consent to publish it: to what straits does this reduce me? I look back indeed to those evenings I have usefully and pleasantly spent, with Mr. Pope, Mr. Parnell, Dean Swift, the doctor, &c. I should be glad the world know you admitted me to your friendship, and since your affection is too hard for your judgment, I am contented to let the world know how well Mr. Pope can write upon a barren subject. I return you an exact copy of the verses, that I may keep the original, as a testimony of the only error you have been guilty of. I hope very speedily to embrace you in London, and to assure you of the particular esteem and friendship wherewith I am your, &c.