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is most extravagantly hyperbolical : Nor did I ever read a greater piece of tautology than
Vacua cum folus in aula
In the journey of Polynices is some geographical error,
- In mediis audit duo litora campis could hardly be ; for the Isthmus of Corinth is full five miles over: And caligantes abrupto sole Mycænas, is not consistent with what he tells us, in lib. 4. lin. 305. “ that those of Mycænæ came not to the war « at this time, because they were then in confusion C by the divisions of the brothers, Atreus and Thy. “ estes.” Now from the raising the Greek army against Thebes, back to the time of this journey of Polynices, is (according to Statius's own account) three years.
* L E T T E R VIII.
July 17, 1709., T HE morning after I parted from you, I found
T myself (as I had prophecy’d) all alone, in an uneafy Stage-coach; a doleful change from that agreeable company I enjoy'd the night before! without the least hope of entertainment but from my last recourse in such cases, a book. I then began to enter into acquaintance with your Moralists, and had just receiv'd from them some cold consolation for the inconveniencies of this life, and the incertainty of human affairs ; when I perceiv'd my vehicle to stop, and heard from
the the side of it the dreadful news of a sick woman pre. paring to enter it. 'Tis not easy to guess at my mortification, but being so well fortify'd with philosophy, I stood resign'd with a ftoical constancy to endure the worit of evils, a fick woman. I was indeed a little comforted to find, by her voice and dress, that she was young and a gentlewoman; but no sooner was her hood remov'd, but I saw one of the finest faces I ever beheld, and to increase my surprize, heard her salute me by my name. I never had more reason to accuse nature for making me short-fighted than now, when I could not recollect I had ever seen those fair eyes which knew me so well, and was utterly at a loss how to address myself ; till with a great deal of fimplicity and innocence she let me know (even before I discover'd my ignorance) that she was the daughter of one in our neighbourhood, lately marry'd, who having been consulting her physicians in town, was returning into the country, to try what good air and a husband cou'd do to recover her. My father, you must know, has sometimes recommended the study of phyfick to me, but I never had any ambition to be a doce tor till this instant. I ventur’d to prescribe fume fruit (which I happen'd to have in the coach) which being forbidden her by her doctors, she had the more inclination to. In short, I tempted, and the eat; nor was I more like the Devil than the like Eve. Having the good success of the 'foresaid Tempter before my eyes, I put on the gallantry of the old serpent, and in pite of my evil form accosted her with all the gaiety I was master of; which had so good effect, that in Jels than an hour she grew pleafant, her colour return'd, and she was pleased to say my prescription had wrought an immediate cure: In a word, I had the pleasanteft Journey imaginable.
Thus far (methinks) my letter has something of the air of a romance, tho' it be true. But I hope you will look on what follows as the greatest of truths, that I think myself extreamly oblig'd by you in all points ;'especially for your kind and honourable information and advice in a matter of the utmost concern to me, which I shall ever acknowledge as the higheft proof at once of your friend thip, justice, and sincerity. At the same time be afl'ur'd, that Gentleman we spoke of, shall never by any alteration in me discover my knowledge of his mistake; the hearty forgiving of which is the only kind of return I can possibly make him for so many favours : And I may derive this pleafure at least from it, that whereas I must otherwise have been a little uneasy to know my incapacity of returning his obligations, I may now, by bearing his frailty, exercise my gratitude and friendship more, than himself either is, or perhaps ever will be sensible of,
Ille meos, primus qui me fibi junxit, amores .*** Abftulit ; ille habeat fecum, Servetque fepulchro !
But in one thing, I must confess you have your self oblig'd me more than any man, which is, that you have shew'd' me many of my faults, to which as you are the more an implacable enemy, by so much the more you are a kind friend to me. I cou'd be proud, in revenge, to find a few flips in your verses, which I read in London, and since in the country, with more application and pleasure : the thoughts are very just, and you are sure not to let them suffer by the versification. If you would oblige me with the trust of any thing of yours, I thou'd be glad to execute any commissions you wou'd give me concerning them. I am here so perfectly at leisure, that nothing would be so agreeable an entertainment to me; but if you will not
afford me that, do not deny me at least the satisfaction of your letters as long as we are absent, if you wou'd not have him very unhappy, who is very sincerely
: Having a vacant space here, I will fill it with a short Ode on Solitude, which I found yesterday by great accident, and which I find by the date was written when I was not twelve years old; that you may perceive how long I have continu'd in my passion for a rural life, and in the same employments of it.
Happy the man, whose wish and care,
A few paternal acres bound,
In bis own ground. Whose herds with milk, whose fields with bread,
Whose flocks Supply him with attire, Whose trees in summer yield him made,
. . . i In winter, fire. Bleft, who can unconcern'dly find
Hours, days, and years side soft away,
Quiet by day.
Together mix'd ; sweet recreation,
Thus, unlamented let me die,
August 19, 1709. TF I were to write to you as often as I think of you, I my letters would be as bad as a rent-charge; but tho’the one be but too little for your good-nature, the other would be too much for your quiet, which is one blessing good-nature should indispensably receive from mankind, in return for those many it gives. I have been inform'd of late, how much I am indebted to to that quality of yours, in speaking well of me in my abfence; the only thing by which you prove your self no.wit or critic : tho' indeed I have often thought, that a friend will show just as much indulgence (and no more) to my faults when I am absent, as he does severity to 'em when I am present. To be very frank with you, Sir, I must own, that where I receiv'd so much civility at first, I could hardly have expected so much sincerity afterwards. But now I have only to wish, that the last were but equal to the first, and that as you have omitted nothing to oblige me, so you would omit nothing to improve me.
I caus'd an acquaintance of mine to enquire twice of your welfare, by whom I have been inform’d, that you have 'left your speculative angle in the Widow's Coffee-house, and bidding adieu for some time to all the Rehearsals, Reviews, Gazettes, &c. have march'd off into Lincolnshire. Thus I find you vary your life in the scene at least, tho' not in the action; for tho' life for the most part, like an old play, be ftill the lame, yet now and then a new scene may make it more entertaining. As for my self, I would not have my life a very regular play, let it be * a good merry farce, a God's name, and a fig for the critical unities! For the generality of men, a true modern life is like
* Tolerable farce, in the Author's own Edit. a God's name cmitted there.