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schemes of government, our systems of philosophy, our golden worlds of poetry, are all but so many shadowy images, and airy prospects, which arise to us but so much the livelier and more frequent, as we are more overcast with the darkness, and disturb'd with the fumes, of human vanity.
The same thing that makes old men willing to leave this world, makes me willing to leave poetry, long habit, and weariness of the same track. Homer will work a cure upon me; fifteen thousand verses are equivalent to four core years, to make one old in shime : and I shou'd be sorry and alhamed, to go on jugling to the last step, like a waggoner's horle, in the same road, and so leave my Bells to the next filly animal that will be proud of 'em. That man makes a mean figure in the eyes of reason, who is measuring fyllables and coupling rhimes, when he thou'd be mending his own soul, and securing his own immortality. If I had not this opinion, I should be unworthy even of those small and limited parts which God has given me; and unworthy of the friendship of such a man as you. I am
. Your, &c.
July 25, 1714. T Have no better excuse to offer you, that I have
omitted a task r.aturally so pleasing to me as converfing upon paper with you, but that my time and eyes have been wholly employ'd upon Homer, whom I almost fear I Mall find but one way of imitating, which is, in his blindness. I am perpetually afflict
ed with headach's, that very much affect my fight , and indeed since my coming hither I have scarce past an hour agreeably, except that in which I read your letter. I would seriously have you think, you have no man who more truly knows to place a right value on your friendship, than he who least deserves it on all other accounts than his due sense of it. But let me tell you, you can hardly guess what a task you undertake, when you profess your self my friend; there are some Tories who will take you for a Whig, some Whigs who will take you for a Tory, fome Protestants who will esteem you a rank Papist, and some Papists who will account you a Heretick. .
I find by dear experience, we live in an age, where it is criminal to be moderate ; and where no one man can be allowed to be just to all men. The notions of right and wrong are so far strain’d, that perhaps to be in the right so very violently, may be of worse consequence than to be easily and quietly in the wrong. I really wish all men so well, that I am fatisfied but few can with me so ; but if those few are such as tell me they do, I am content, for they are the best people I know: While you believe me what I profess as to religion, I can bear any thing the bigotted may say : while Mr. Congreve likes my poetry, I can endure Dennis and a thousand more like him; while the most honest and moral of each party think'me no ill man, I can easily bear that the most violent and mad of all parties riie up to throw dirt at me.
I must expect an hundred attacks upon the publication of my Homer. Whoever in our times would be a professor of learning above his fellows, ought at the very first to enter the world with the constancy
and resolution of a primitive christian, and be prepared to suffer all sort of publick persecution. It is certainly to be lamented, that if any man does but en. deavour to distinguish himself, or gratify others by his studies, he is immediately treated as a common enemy, instead of being look'd upon as a common friend ; and affaulted as generally, as if his whole design were to prejudice the State or ruin the publick. I will venture to say, no man ever rose to any degree of perfection in writing, but thro'obst inacy, and an inveterate resolution against the stream of mankind : So that if the world has receiv'd any benefit from the labours of the learned, it was in its own despite. For when first they effay their parts, all people in general are prejudiced against new beginners ; and when they have got a little above contempt, then fome particular persons, who were before unfortunate in their own attempts, are sworn foes to them only because they succeed Upon the whole, one may fay of the best writers, that they pay a severe fine for their fame, which it is always in the pow'r of the most worthless part of mankind to levy upon them when they please.
I am, &c.
July 28, 1714. I Am just enter'd upon the old way of life again, I sleep and musing. It is my employment to revive the old of past ages to the present, as it is yours to transmit the young of the present, to the future.
I am copying the great Master in one art, with the same love and diligence with which the Painters hereafter will copy you in another.
Thus I should begin my Epistle to you, if it were a Dedicatory one. But as it is a friendly letter, you are to find nothing mention'd in your own praise but what one only in the world is witness to, your particular good-natur'd offices to me.
I am cut out from any thing but common acknowledgements, or common discourse : The first you wou'd take ill, though I told but half what I ought; so in short the last only remains,
And as for the latt, what can you expect from a man who has not talk'd these five days? who is withdrawing his thoughts as far as he can, from all the present world, its customs and its manners, to be fully pofleft and absorpt in the past ? When people talk of going to Church, I think of sacrifices and libations; when I see the parson, I address him as Chryses priest of Apollo; and instead of the Lord's prayer, I begin
God of the silver Bow, &c.
While you in the world are concerned about the Protestant Succession, I consider only how Menelaus may recover Helen, and the Trojan war be put to a speedy conclusion. I never inquire if the Queen be well or not, but heartily with to be at Hector's funeral. The only things I regard in this life, are whether my friends are well? whether my Transiation go well on ? whether Dennis be writing criticisms? whether any body will answer him, since I don't ? and whether Lintot bę not yet broke?
I am, &c.
To the Jame.
Aug. 16, 1714. I Thank you for your good offices which are numI berless. Homer advances so fast, that he begins to look about for the ornaments he is to appear in, like a modim modern author,
Picture in the front,
I have the greatest proof in nature at present of the amusing power of Poetry, for it takes me up so intirely that I scarce see what passes under my nose, and hear nothing that is said about me. To follow poetry as one ought, one must forget father and mother, and cleave to it alone. My Rêverie has been lo deep, that I have scarce had an interval to think my self uneasy in the want of your company. I now and then just miss you as I step into bed; this minute indeed I want extreamly to see you, the next I shall dream of nothing but the taking of Troy, or the recovery of Briseis.
I fancy no friendship is so likely to prove lasting as ours, because I am pretty sure there never was a friendship of so eafie a nature. We neither of us demand any mighty things from each other ; what Vanity we have expects its gratification from other People. It is not I, that am to tell you what an Artist you are, nor is it you that are to tell