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gay and agreeable to please the young one; and the young man more discreet and prudent by the help of the old one: so it may prove a cure of those epidemical diseases of age and youth, sourness and madness. I hope you will not need many arguments to convince you of the possibility of this; one alone abundantly satisfies me and convinces to the heart^ which is, that1 young as I am, and old as you are, I am your entirely affectionate, etc.
June 23, 1705.
I Should believe myself happy in your good opinion, but that you treat me so much in a style of compliment. It hath been observed of women, that they are more subject in their youth to be touched with vanity, than men, on account of their being generally treated this way; but the weakest women are not more weak than that class of men, who are thought to pique themselves upon their Wit. The world is never wanting, when a coxcomb is accomplishing himself, to help to give him the finishing stroke.
Every man is apt to think his neighbour overstocked with vanity, yet I cannot but fancy there are certain times, when most people are in a disposition of being informed; and 'tis incredible what a vast good a little truth might do, spoken in such seasons. A small alms will do a great kindness to people in extreme necessity.
1 Mr. Wycherley was at this time about seventy years old, Mr. Pope under seventeen.
I could name an acquaintance of yours, who would at this time think himself more obliged to you for the information of his faults, than the confirmation of his follies. If you would make those the subject of a letter, it might be as long as I could wish your letters always were.
I do not wonder you have hitherto found some difficulty (as you are pleased to say) in writing to me, since you have always chosen the task of commending me: take but the other way, and, I dare engage, you will find none at all.
As for my verses, which you praise so much, I may truly say they have never been the cause of any vanity in me, except what they gave me when they first occasioned my acquaintance with you. But I have several times since been in danger of this vice; as often, I mean, as I received any letters from you. Tis certain, the greatest magnifying glasses in the world are a man's own eyes, when they look upon his own person; yet even in those, I cannot fancy myself so extremely like Alexander the Great, as you would persuade me. If I must be like him, 'tis you will make me so, by complimenting me into a better opinion of myself than I deserve: They made him think he was the son of Jupiter, and you assure me I am a man of parts. But is this all you can say to my honour? you said ten times as much before, when you call'd me your friend. After having made me believe I possess'd a share in your affection, to treat me with compliments and sweet sayings, is like the proceeding with poor Sancho Pancho: they persuaded him, that he enjoyed a great dominion, and then gave him nothing to subsist upon but wafers and marmalade. In our days the greatest obligations you can lay upon a Wit, is to make a fool of him. For as when madmen are found incurable, wise men give them their way, and please them as well as they can; so when those incorrigible things, Poets, are once irrecoverably be-mus'd, the best way both to quiet them, and secure yourself from the effects of their frenzy, is to feed their vanity; which indeed, for the most part, is all that is fed in a Poet. You may believe me, I could be heartily glad that all you say were as true, applied to me, as it would be to yourself, for several weighty reasons; but for none so much as that I might be to you what you deserve; whereas I can now be no more than is consistent with the small though utmost capacity of, etc.
Oct. 26, 1705.
I Have now changed2 the scene from the town to the country; from Will's coffee-house to Windsor Forest. I find no other difference than this, betwixt the common town-wits, and the downright country
* In this Letter he ha& excelled Wycherley in his own way of striving to be always witty and satirical.
fools, that the first are pertly in the wrong, with a little more flourish and gaiety; and the last neither in the right nor the wrong, but confirmed in a stupid settled medium betwixt both. However, methinks, these are most in the right who quietly and easily resign themselves over to the gentle reign of dulness, which the Wits must do at last, though after a great deal of noise and resistance. Ours are a sort of modest inoffensive people, who neither have sense nor pretend to any, but enjoy a jovial sort of dulness: They are commonly known in the world by the name of honest, civil gentlemen: They live much as they ride, at random; a kind of hunting life, pursuing with earnestness and hazard something not worth the catching; never in the way, nor out of it. I can't but prefer solitude to the company of all these; for though a man's self may possibly be the worst fellow to converse with in the world, yet one would think the company of a person whom we have the greatest regard to and affection for, could not be very unpleasant. As a man in love with a mistress, desires no conversation but hers, so a man in love with himself (as most men are) may be best pleased with his own. Besides, if the truest and most useful knowledge be the knowledge of ourselves, solitude conducing most to make us look into ourselves, should be the most instructive state of life.
We see nothing more commonly than men, who for the sake of the circumstantial part and mere outside of life, have been half their days rambling out of their nature, and ought to be sent into solitude to study themselves over again. People are usually spoiled, instead of being taught, at their coming into the world; whereas, by being more conversant with Obscurity, without any pains, they would naturally follow what they were meant for. In a word, if a man be a coxcomb, Solitude is his best School; and if he be a fool, it is his best Sanctuary.
These are good reasons for my own stay here, but I wish I could give you any for your coming hither, except that I earnestly invite you. And yet I can't help saying I have suffered a great deal of discontent that you do not come, though I so little merit that you should.
I must complain of the shortness of your last. Those who have most wit, like those who have most money, are generally most sparing of either.
FROM MR. WYCHERLEY.
Nov. 5, 1705.
Yours of the 26th of October I have received, as I have always done yours, with no little satisfaction, and am proud to discover by it, that you find fault with the shortness of mine, which I think the best excuse for it: And though they (as you say) who have most wit or money are most sparing of either; there are some who appear poor to be thought rich, and are poor, which is my case. I cannot but rejoice that you have undergone so much discontent for want of
VOL. VII. D