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civility, and out of kindness gave me a squeeze by the fore-finger.—I am informed that at Button's your character is made very free with, as to Morals, etc. and Mr. Addison says, that your translation and Tickell's are both very well done, but that the latter has more of Homer.
I am, etc.
Extract from a Letter of Dr. Arbuthnot
to Mr. Pope.
July 9, 1715.
—I congratulate you upon Mr. T * 's first book. It does not indeed want its merit; but I was strangely disappointed in my expectation of a translation nicely true to the Original; whereas in those parts where the greatest exactness seems to be demanded, he has been the least careful, I mean the history of ancient ceremonies and rites, etc. in which you have with great judgment been exact.
I am, etc.
MR. POPE TO THE HONOURABLE JAMES
July 15, 1715.
I Lay hold of the opportunity given me by my Lord Duke of Shrewsbury, to assure you of the continuance of that esteem and affection I have long born you,
and the memory of so many agreeable conversations as we have passed together. I wish it were a compliment to say, such conversations as are not to be found on this side the water: for the Spirit of dissention is gone forth among us: nor is it a wonder that Button's is no longer Button's, when old England is no longer old England, that region of hospitality, society, and good humour. Party affects us all, even the wits, though they gain as little by politics as they do by their wit. We talk much of fine sense, refined sense, and exalted sense; but for use and happiness, give me a little common sense. I say this in regard to some gentlemen, professed Wits of our acquaintance, who fancy they can make Poetry of consequence at this time of day, in the midst of this raging fit of Politics. For they tell me, the busy part of the nation are not more divided about the Whig and Tory, than these idle fellows of the feather about Mr. T * 's and my Translation. I (like the Tories) have the town in general, that is the mob, on my side; but it is usual with the smaller party to make up in industry what they want in number, and that is the case with the little Senate of Cato. However, if our principles be well considered, I must appear a brave Whig, and Mr. T. a rank Tory: I translated Homer for the public in general, he to gratify the inordinate desire of one man only. We have, it seems, a great Turk7 in poetry, who can never bear a brother on the throne; and has his mutes too, a set of nodders, winkers, and whisperers, whose business is to strangle all other offsprings of wit in their birth. The new translator of Homer is the humblest slave he has, that is to say, his first Minister; let him receive the honours he gives me, but receive them with fear and trembling; let him be proud of the approbation of his absolute Lord, I appeal to the people, as my rightful judges and masters; and if they are not inclined to condemn me, I fear no arbitrary highflying proceeding from the small Court-faction at Button's. But after all I have said of this great man, there is no rupture between us. We are each of us so civil and obliging, that neither thinks he is obliged: and I, for my part, treat with him, as we do with the Grand Monarch; who has too many great qualities not to be respected, though we know he watches any occasion to oppress us.
7 He afterward versified this thought, and indeed many others from his letters. Milton did the same from his prose works.
When I talk of Homer, I must not forget the early present you made me of Monsieur de laMotte's book': and I can't conclude this letter without telling you a melancholy piece of news, which affects our very entrails, L * is dead, and soupes are no more! You see I write in the old familiar way. "This is not to the minister, but to the friend8." However, it is some mark of uncommon regard to the minister that I steal an expression from a Secretary of State.
I am, etc.
* Alluding to St. John's Letter to Prior published in the Report of the Secret Committee. W.
TO MR. CONGREVE.
January 16, 1714-15.
Methinks when I write to you, I am making a confession; I have got (I can't tell how) such a custom of throwing myself out upon paper without reserve. You were not mistaken in what you judged of my temper of mind when I writ last. My faults will not be hid from you, and perhaps it is no dispraise to me that they will not: the cleanness and purity of one's mind is never better proved, than in discovering its own fault at first view; as when a stream shews the dirt at its bottom, it shews also the transparency of the water.
My spleen was not occasioned, however, by any thing an abusive angry critic could write of me. I take very kindly your heroic manner of congratulation upon this scandal; for I think nothing more honourable than to be involved in the same fate with all the great and the good that ever lived; that is, to be envied and censured by bad writers.
You do more than answer my expectations of you, in declaring how well you take my freedom, in sometimes neglecting, as I do, to reply to your letters so soon as I ought. Those who have a right taste of the substantial part of friendship, can wave the ceremonial: a friend is the only one that will bear the omission; and one may find who is not so by the very trial of it.
As to any anxiety I have concerning the fate of my Homer, the care is over with me: the world must be the judge, and I shall be the first to consent to the justice of its judgment, whatever it be. I am not so arrant an author as even to desire, that if I am in the wrong, all mankind should be so.
I am mightily pleased with a saying of Monsieur Tourreil; "when a man writes he ought to animate himself with the thoughts of pleasing all the world: but he is to renounce that desire or hope, the very moment the book goes out of his hands."
I write this from Binfield, whither I came yesterday, having passed a few days in my way with my Lord Bolingbroke; I go to London in three days
time, and will not fail to pay a visit to Mr. M ,
whom I saw not long since at my Lord Hallifax's. I hoped from thence he had some hopes of advantage from the present administration: for few people (I think) but I, pay respects to great men without any prospects. I am in the fairest way in the world of being not worth a groat, being born both a Papist and a Poet. This puts me in mind of re-acknowledging your continued endeavours to enrich me. But, I can tell you, 'tis to no purpose, for without the Opes, cequum mi animum ipse parabo.