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never be executed by any other; at least I know none of this age that is equal to it besides yourself.
I am at present wholly immersed in country business, and begin to take delight in it. I wish I might hope to see you here some time, and will not despair of it, when you engage in a work that will require solitude and retirement. I am,
FROM MR. ADDISON.
November 2, 1713.
I Have received your letter, and am glad to find that you have laid so good a scheme for your great undertaking. I question not but the 4Prose will require as much care as the Poetry, but the variety will give yourself some relief, and more pleasure to your readers.
You gave me leave once to take the liberty of a friend, in advising you not to content yourself with one half of the nation for your admirers when you might command them all. If I might take the freedom to repeat it, I would on this occasion. I think you are very happy that you are out of the Fray, and I hope all your undertakings will turn to the better account for it.
You see how I presume on your friendship in taking all this freedom with you : but I already fancy that we have lived many years together in an unreserved conversation, and that we may do so many more, is the sincere wish of
4 The notes to his translation of Homer. W.
TO MR. ADDISON.
Your last is the more obliging, as it hints at some little niceties in my conduct, which your candour and affection prompt you to recommend to me, and which (so trivial as things of this nature seem) are yet of no slight consequence, to people whom every body talks of, and every body as he pleases. Tis a sort of Tax that attends an estate in Parnassus, which is often rated much higher than in proportion to the small possession an author holds. For indeed an author, who is once come upon the town, is enjoyed without being thanked for the pleasure, and sometimes ill-treated by those very persons who first debauched him. Yet, to tell you the bottom of my heart, I am no way displeased that I have offended the violent of all parties already; and at the same time I assure you conscientiously, I feel not the least malevolence or resentment against any of those who misrepresent me, or are dissatisfied with me. This frame of mind is so easy, that I am perfectly content with my condition.
As I hope, and would flatter myself, that you know me and my thoughts so entirely as never to be mistaken in either, so 'tis a pleasure to me that you guessed so right in regard to the author of that Guardian you mentioned. But I am sorry to find it has taken air, that I have some hand in those papers, because I write so very few as neither to deserve the credit of such a report with some people, nor the disrepute of it with others. An honest Jacobite spoke to me the sense or nonsense of the weak part of his party very fairly, that the good people took it ill of me, that I writ with Steele, though upon never so indifferent subjects. This, I know, you will laugh at as well as I do; yet I doubt not but many little calumniators and persons of sour dispositions will take occasion hence to bespatter me. I confess I scorn narrow souls, of all parties, and if I renounce my reason in religious matters, I'll hardly do it in any other.
I can't imagine whence it comes to pass that the few Guardians I have written are so generally known for mine: that in particular which you mention I never discovered to any man but the publisher, till very lately: yet almost every body told me of it.
As to his taking a more politic turn, I cannot any way enter into that secret, nor have I been let into it, any more than into the rest of his politics. Though 'tis said he will take into these papers also several subjects of the politer kind, as before: but, I assure you, as to myself, I have quite done with them for the future. The little I have done, and the great respect I bear Mr. Steele as a man of wit, has rendered me a suspected Whig to some of the violent; but (as old Dryden said before me) 'tis not the violent I design to please5.
I generally employ the mornings in painting with Mr. Jervas6, and the evenings in the conversation of such as I think can most improve my mind, of whatever denomination they are. I ever must set the highest value upon men of truly great, that is honest principles, with equal capacities. The best way I know of overcoming calumny and misconstruction, is by a vigorous perseverance in every thing we know to be right, and a total neglect of all that can ensue from it. Tis partly from this maxim that I depend upon your friendship, because I believe it would do justice to my intention in every thing; and give me leave to tell you, that (as the world goes) this is no small assurance I repose in you. I am
TO MR. ADDISON.
December 14, 1713.
I Have been lying in wait for my own imagination, this week, and more, and watching what thoughts came up in the whirl of the fancy, that were worth communicating to you in a letter. But I am at length convinced that my rambling head can produce nothing of that sort; so I must e'en be contented with telling you the old story, that I love you heartily. I have often found by experience, that nature and truth, though never so low or vulgar, are yet pleasing when openly and artlessly represented: it would be diverting to me to read the very letters of an infant, could it write its innocent inconsistencies and tautologies just as it thought them. This makes me hope a letter from me will not be unwelcome to you, when I am conscious I write with more unreservednessthan ever man wrote, or perhaps talked to another. I trust your good-nature with the whole range of my follies, and really love you so well, that I would rather you should pardon me than esteem me; since one is an act of goodness and benevolence, the other a kind of constrained deference.
* But poor Dryden could not say this with truth. How much did he write to please the violent!
* See the Epistle to him in verse, writ about this time. P.
You can't wonder my thoughts are scarce consistent, when I tell you how they are distracted. Every hour of my life my mind is strangely divided; this minute perhaps I am above the stars, with a thousand systems round about me, looking forward into a vast abyss, and losing my whole comprehension in the boundless space of Creation, in dialogues with Whiston and the Astronomers; the next moment I am below all trifles groveling with T * in the very centre of nonsense: now I am recreated with the brisk sallies and quick turns of wit which Mr. Steele in his liveliest and freest humours darts about him; and now levelling my application to the insignificant observations and quirks of Grammar of C * and D *. Good God! what an incongruous animal is man!