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Bin field in Windsor Forest, Decemb. 26, 1704. * TT was certainly a great satisfaction to me to see and
converse with a Man, whom in his writings I A had so long known with pleasure ; but it was a high addition to it, to hear you, at our very first meeting, doing justice to your dead friend Mr. Dryden. I was not so happy as to know him : Vir. gilium tantum vidi. Had I been born early enough, I must have known and lov'd him: For I have been assured, not only by your self, but by Mr. Congreve and Sir William Trumbul, that his personal Qualities were as amiable as his Poetical, notwithstanding the many libellous misrepresentations of them, against which the former of these Gentle.
* The Autbor's Age then Sixteen.
men has told me he will one-day vindicate him. * I suppose those injuries were begun by the violence of Party, but ’ris no doubt they were continued by envy at his success and fame : And those Scriblers who attacked him in his latter times, were only like gnats in a summer's evening, which are never very troublesome but in the finest and most glorious season ; for his fire, like the sun's fhined clearest towards its setting.
You must not therefore imagine, that when you told me my own performances were above those Critics, I was so vain as to believe it; and yet I may not be so humble as to think my self quite below their notice. For critics, as they are birds of prey, have ever a natural inclination to carrion : and tho' such poor writers as I are but beggars, no beggar is so poor but he can keep a cur, and no author is so beggarly bút he can keep a critic. I am far from thinking the attacks of such people either any honour or dishonour even to me, much less to Mr. Dryden. I agree with you, that whatever lesser Wits have risen since his death, are but like stars appearing when the sun is set, that twinkle only in his absence, and with the rays they have borrowed from him. Our wit (as you call it) is but reflection or imitation, therefore scarce to be called ours. True Wit, I believe, may be defined a juftness of thought, and a facility of expression ; or (in the midwives phrase) a perfect conception, with an easy delivery. However this is far from a compleat definition ; pray help me to a better, as I doubt not you can.
I am, &c. * He since did fo, in his dedication to the Duke of Newcastle, prefix'd to the duodecimo Edition of Dryden's plays, 1717. in
*L ET TER II. From Mr. Wycherley.
Jan. 25, 1704-5. T have been so busy of late in correcting and I transcribing some of my madrigals for a great man or two who defired to see them, that I have (with your pardon) omitted to return you an answer to your most ingenious letter: so scriblers to the public, like bankers to the public, are profuse in their voluntary loans to it, whilft they forget to pay their more private and particular, as more just debts, to their best and nearest friends. However, I hope, you who have as much good-nature as good sense, (lince they generally are companions) will have patience with a debtor who has an inclination to pay you his obligations, if he had wherewithal ready about him; and in the mean time should consider, when you have obliged me beyond my present power of returning the favour, that a debtor may be an honest man, if he but intends to be just when he is able, tho' late. But I should be less just to you, the more I thought I could make a return to so much profuseness of Wit and Humanity together; which tho' they feldom accompany each other in other men, are in you so equally met, I know not in which you most abound. But' so much for my opinion of you, which is, that your Wit and Ingenuity is equalled by nothing but your Judgment, or Modefty, which (tho' it be to please my self) I must no more offend, than I can do either right. .. jitha
* N. B. The Letters thus marked throughout these Volumes, are what Mr. Pope thought fit to reject, and omitted in bis own Edition.
Therefore I will say no more now of them, than that your good wit never forfeited your good judg. ment, but in your partiality to me and mine ; to that if it were possible for a hardened scribler to be vainer than he is, what you write of me would make me more conceited ihan what I scribble my self : yet I must confess 1 ought to be more humbled by your praise than exalted, which commends my little sense with so much more of yours, ihat I am disparaged and disheartened by your commendations; who give me an example of your wit in the first part of your letter, and a definition of it in the Jaft; to make writing well (that is, like you) more difficult to me than ever it was before. Thus the more great and just your example and definition of wit are, the less I am capable to follow them. Then the best way of showing my judgement, after having seen how you write, is to leave off writing; and the beft way to thew my friendship to you, is to put an end to your trouble, and to conclude
.:: LETTER III.
:-1!.: 'March 25, 1705. X HEN I write to you, I foresee a long let
cuter, and ought to beg your patience before. hand; for if it proves the longest, it will be of course the work I have troubled you with. Yet to express my gratitude at large for your obliging letter, is not more my duty than my interest ; as some people will abundantly thank you for one piece of kindness,