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very ill consequence) meerly that I my self may be thought right, (which is of very little consequence.) I'd be the first to recant, for the benefit of others, and the glory of my self; for (as I take it) when a man owns himself to have been in an error, he does but tell you in other words, that he is wiser than he was. But I have had an advantage by the publishing that book, which ctherwise I should never have known : It has been the occasion of making me friends and open abettors, of several gentlemen of known sense and wit; and of proving to me what I have till now doubted, that my writings are taken fome notice of by the world, or I should never be attack'd thus in particular. I have read that 'twas a custom among the Romans, while a General rode in triumph, to have common soldiers in the streets that rail'd at him and reproach'd him; to put him in mind, that tho' his services were in the main approved and rewarded, yet he had faults enough to keep him humble.
You will see by this, that whoever sets up for wit in these days ought to have the constancy of a primitive christian, and be prepared to suffer martyrdom in the cause of it. But sure this is the first time that a Wit was attack'd for his Religion, as you'll find I am moft zealously in this treatife: and you know Sir, what alarms I have had from the * opposite fide on this account. Have I not reason to cry out with the poor fellow in Virgil,
* See the ensuing Letters,
Quid jam misero mibi denique restat ?
'Tis however my happiness that you, Sir, are impartial,
Jove was alike to 'Latian and to Phrygian,
1. The manner in which Mr. D. takes to pieces several particular lines, detatch'd from their natural places, may shew how easy it is to a caviller to give a new sense, or a new nonsense to any thing. And indeed his constructions are not more wrefted from the genuine meaning, than theirs who objected to the heterodox parts, as they calld 'em.
Our friend the Abbe is not of that fort, who with the utmost candour and freedom has modestly told me what others thought, and fewn himself one (as he very well expresses it) rather of a number than a party. The only difference between us in relation to the Monks, is, that he thinks mok sorts of learning flourish'd among 'em, and I am of opinion that only some sort of learning was barely kept alive by 'em : he believes that in the most natural and obvious sense, that line (A second deluge learning over. run) will be understood of learning in general; and I fancy 'will be understood only (as 'cis meant) of polite learning, criticism, poetry, g c. which is the only learning concern'd in the subject of the Essay. It is true, that the monks did preserve what learning there was, about Nicholas the fifth's time; but those who succeeded fell into the depth of barbarism, or
at least stood at a stay while others tose from thence, infomuch that even Erasmus and Reuchlin could hardly laugh them out of it. i am highly oblig'd to the Abbè's zeal in my commendation, and good. ness in not concealing what he thinks my error. And his teftifying fome efteem for the book just at a time when his brethren rais'd a clamour against it, is an instance of great generosity and candour, which I shall ever acknowledge.
June 18, 1711 IN your last you informed me of the mistaken zeal 1 of some people, who seem to make it no less their business to persuade men they are erroneous, than doctors do that they are fick'; only that they may magnify their own cure, and triumph over an iñaginary distemper. The fimile objected to in my
(Thus wit, like faith, by each man is apply'd To one small felt, and all are damn'd befide.)
plainly concludes at this second line, where stands a full stop : and what follows (Meanly they seek, &c.) speaks only of wit, (which is meant by that blessing, and that sun) for how can the sun of faith be said to
sublime the southern wits, and to ripen the genius's of northern climates? I fear thele gentlemen understand grammar as little as they do criticism : and perhaps out of good nature to the monks, are willing to take from 'em the censure of ignorance, and to have it to themselves. The word they refers (as I am sure I meant, and as I thought every one must have known) to those Critics there spoken of, who are partial to some particular sett of writers, to the prejudice of all others. And the very simile it felf, if twice read, may convince them, that the censure here of damning, lies not on our church at all, unless they call our church one (mall feet : and the caucious words, (by each man) manifestly show it a general reflection on all such (whoever they are) who entertain those narrow and limited notions of the mercy of the Almighty ; which the reformed mini. Iters and presbyterians are as guilty of as any people living.
Yet after all, I promise you Sir, if the alteration of a word or two will gratify any man of sound faith tho'weak understanding, I will (though it were from no other principle than that of common good nature) comply with it. And if you please but to pare ticularize the spot where their objection lies, (for it is in a very narrow compa's) that stumbling-block, tho' it be but a little pebble, shall be removed out of their way. If the heat of these good disputants (who I am afraid being bred up to wrangle in the schools, cannot get rid of the humour all their lives) Tou'd proceed so far as to personal reflections upon me, I afiure you, notwithstanding, I will do or say nothing, however provok'd (for some people can no more provoke than oblige) that is unbecoming the true character of a Catholick, I will set before me the example of that great man, and great saint, Erasmus; who in the midlt of calumny proceeded with all the calmness of innocence, and the unrevenging spirit of primitive christianity. However I wou'd ad vise them to suffer the mention of him to pass unregarded, left I fou'd be forc'd to do that for his reputation which I wou'd never do for my own; I mean, to vindicate so great a light of our church from the malice of past times, and the ignorance of the present, in a language which may extend farther than that in which the trifle about criticism is written. I wilh these gentlemen would be contented with finding fault with me only, who will submit to 'em right or wrong, as far as I only am concerned; I have a greater regard to the quiet of mankind than to disturb it for things of so little consequence as my credit and my sense. A little humility can do' a poet no hurt, and a: little charity would do a priest none : for as St. : Auftin finely says, Ubi charitas, ibi humilitas ; ubi bumilitas, ibi Pax. i.