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L E T T E R XXII.
. April 1, 1710. I Have had yours of the 30th of the last month, 1 which is kinder than I desire it shou'd be, since it tells me you cou'd be better pleas'd to be fick again in Town in my company, than to be well in the Country without it ; and that you are more impatient to be depriv'd of happiness than of health. Yet, my dear friend, set raillery or compliment aside, I can bear your absence (which procures your health and ease) better than I can your company when you are in pain: for I cannot see you so without being fo too. Your love to the Country I do not doubt, nor do you (I hope) my love to it or you, since there I can enjoy your company without seeing you in pain to give me satisfaction and pleasure; there I can have you without rivals or disturbers; without the too civil, or the too rude; without the noise of the loud, and the censures of the silent; and wou'd rather have you abuse me there with the truth, than at this distance with your compliment: since now, your business of a friend and kindness to a friend, is by finding fault with his faults, and mending them by your obliging severity. I hope (in point of your good nature) you will have no cruel charity for those papers of mine, you are so willing to be troubled with; which I take most infinitely kind of you, and shall acknowledge with gratitude, as long as I live, No friend can do more for his friend than by preserving his reputation (nay not by preserving his
life) life) fince by preserving his life he can only make him live about three core or fourscore years ; but by preserving his reputation, he can make him live as long as the world lasts ; so fave him from damning, when he is gone to the devil. Therefore I pray con. demn me in private, as the Thieves do their accomplices in Newgate, to save them from condemnation by the publick. De mot kindly unmerciful to my poetical faults, and do with my papers, as you country gentlemen do with your trees, flash, cut, and lop-off the excrescencies and dead parts of my wither'd Bayes, that the little remainder may live the longer, and increase the value of them by diminishing the number. I have troubled you with my papers rather to give you pain than pleature, notwithstanding your compliment, which says you take the trouble kindly : such is your generosity to your friends, that you take it kindly to be desired by them to do them a kindness; and you think it done to you, when they give you an opportunity to do it to them. Wherefore you may be sure to be troubled with my letters out of intereft, if not kindness ; fince mine to you will procure yours to me: so that I write to you more for my own fake than yours; less to make you think I write well, than to learn from you to write .better. Thus you see interest in my kindness, which is like the friendlhip of the world, rather to make a friend than be a friend; but I am yours, as a true Plain-dealer.
* LETTER XXIII.
April 11, 1710. TF I can do part of my business at Shrewsbury in I a fortnights time (which I propose to do) I will be soon after with you, and trouble you with my company, for the remainder of the summer : in the mean time I beg you to give vour self the pains of altering, or leaving out what you think superfluous in my papers, that I may endeavour to print such a number of them as you and I shall think fit, about Michaelmas next. In order to which (my dear friend) I beg you to be so kind to me, as to be severe to them; that the criticks may be less so: for I had rather be condemn'd by my friend in private, than expos'd to my foes in publick, the criticks, or common judges, who are made such by having been old offenders themselves. Pray believe I have as much faith in your friendship and fincerity, as I have deference to your judgment; and as the best mark of a friend is telling his friend his faults in private, so the next is concealing them from the publick, 'till they are fit to appear. In the mean time I am not a little sensible of the great kindness you do me, in the trouble you take for me, in put. ting my Rhimes in tune, since good sounds set off often ill sense, as the Italian songs, whose good airs, with the worst words or meaning, make the best mufick ; so by your tuning iny Welch harp, my sough sense may be the less offensive to the nicer ears of those criticks, who deal more in found than sense. Pray then take pity at once both of my readers and
me, in shortning my barren abundance, and increa. sing their patience by it, as well as the obligations I have to you: And since no madrigaller can entertain the head, unless he pleases the ear; and since the crowded Opera's have left the best Comedies with the least audiences, 'tis a sign sound can prevail over sense; therefore soften my words, and strengthen my sense, and
Eris mihi magnus Apollo.
* LETTER XXIV.
April 15, 1710. T Receiv'd your most extream kind letter but just now.
It found me over those papers you mention, which have been my employment ever since Easter-monday : I hope before Michaelmas to have discharg'd my task; which, upon the word of a friend, is the most pleasing one I cou'd be put upon. Since you are so near going into Shropshire, (whither I shall not care to write of this matter, for fear of the miscarriage of any letters) I must desire your leave to give you a plain and sincere account of what I have found from a more serious application to them. Upon comparison with the former volume, I find much more repeated than I till now imagin'd, as well as in the present volume, which, if (as you told me last) you would have me dash over with a line, will deface the whole copy extremely and to a degree that (I fear) may displease you. I have ev'ry where mark'd in the margins the page and line, both in this and the other part. But if you order me not to cross the lines, or would
any any way else limit my commission, you will oblige me by doing it in your next letter; for I am at once equally fearful of sparing you, and of offending you by too impudent a correction. Hitherto however I have croft 'em so as to be legible, because you bade me. When I think all the repetitions are ftruck out in a copy, I sometimes find more upon dipping in the first volume, and the number increases so much, that I believe more shortning will be requisite than you may be willing to bear with, unless you are in good earnest resolv'd to have no thought repeated. Pray forgive this freedom, which as I must be fincere in this case so I cou'd not but take, and let me know if I am to go on at this rate, or if you would prescribe any other method:
I am very glad you continue your resolution of seeing me in my Hermitage this summer; the sooner you return, the sooner I shall be happy, which indeed my want of any company that is entertaining or efteemable, together with frequent infirmities and pains, hinder me from being in your absence. 'Tis. (I am sure) a real truth, that my fickness cannot make me quite weary of my self when I have you with me ; and I shall want no company but yours, when you are here.
You see how freely and with how little care, I talk rather than write to you: this is one of the many advantages of friendship, that one can say to one's friend the things that stand in need of pardon, and at the same time be sure of it. Indeed I do not know whether or no the letters of friends are the worse for being fit for none else to read ! 'tis an argument of the trust reposed in a friend's good nature, when one writes such things to him as require a good portion of it. I have experienced yours fo often and so long, that I D4