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your Swans would come hither, especally that Swan who, like a true modern one, does not sing at all, Dr. Swift. I am (like the rest of the world) a sufferer by his idleness. Indeed I hate that any man should be idle, while I must translate and comment; and I may the more sincerely wish for good poetry from others, because I am become a Person out of the question; for a Translator is no more a Poet, than a Taylor is a Man.
You are, doubtless, persuaded of the validity of that famous verse,
"I'is Expectation makes a Blessing dear:
but why would you make your friends fonder of you than they are? There is no manner of need of it. We begin to expect you no more than Anti-christ; a man that hath absented himself so long from his friends, ought to be put into the Gazette.
Every body here has great need of you. Many faces have died for want of your pencil, and blooming Ladies have withered in expecting your return. Even Frank and Betty (that constant pair) cannot console themselves for your absence; I fancy they will be forced to make their own picture in a pretty babe, before you come home: 'twill be a noble subject for a family-piece. Come then, and having peopled Ireland with a world of beautiful shadows, come to us, and see with that eye (which, like the eye of the world, creates beauties by looking on them); see, I say, how England has altered the airs of all its heads in your absence: and with what sneaking city attitudes our most celebrated personages appear, in the mere mortal works of our
Mr. Fortescue is much yours; Gay commemorates you; and lastly (to climb by just steps and degrees) my Lord Burlington desires you may be put in mind of him. His gardens nourish, his structures rise, his pictures arrive, and (what is far more valuable than all) his own good qualities daily extend themselves to all about him: of whom I the meanest (next to some Italian Fidlers, and English Bricklayers) am a living instance. Adieu.
TO THE SAME.
November 14, 1716,
If I had not done my utmost to lead my life so pleasantly as to forget all misfortunes, I should tell you I reckon your absence no small one; but I hope you have also had many good and pleasant reasons to forget your friends on this side the world. If a wish could transport me to you and your present companions, I could do the same. Dr. Swift, I believe, is a very good landlord, and a chearful host at his own table: I suppose he has perfectly learnt himself, what he has taught so many others, rupta non insanire lagena: else he would not make a proper host for your humble servant, who (you know) though he drinks a glass as seldom as any man, contrives to break one as often. But 'tis a consolation to me, that I can do this, and many other enormities under my own roof.
But that you and I are upon equal terms, in all friendly laziness, and have takert an inviolable oath to each other, always to do what we will; I should reproach you for so long a silence. The best amends you can make for saying nothing to me, is by saying all the good you can of me, which is, that I heartily love and esteem the Dean and Dr. Parnelle.
Gay is yours and theirs. His spirit is awakened very much in the cause of the Dean, which has broke forth in a courageous couplet or two upon Sir Richard Blackmore; he has printed it with his name to it, and bravely assigns no other reason, than that the said Sir Richard has abused Dr. Swift. I have also suffered in the like cause, and shall suffer more unless Parnelle sends me his Zoilus and Book-worm (which the Bishop of Clogher, I hear, greatly extolls)
it will be shortly concurrere Bellum atque Virum 1
love you all, as much as I despise most wits in this dull country. Ireland has turned the tables upon England; and if I have no poetical friend in my own nation, I'll be as proud as Scipio, and say (since I am reduced to skin and bone) Ingrata putrid, ne ossa quidem habeas.
TO THE SAME.
November 29, 1716.
That you have not heard from me of late, ascribe not to the usual laziness of your correspondent, but to a ramble to Oxford, where your name is mentioned with honour, even in a land flowing with Tories. I had the good fortune there to be often in the conversation of Dr. Clarke8: he entertained me with several drawings, and particularly with the original designs of Inigo Jones's Whitehall. I there saw and reverenced some of your first pieces; which future painters are to look upon as we Poets do on the Culex of Virgil and Batrachom. of Homer.
Having named this latter piece, give me leave to ask what is become of Dr. Parnelle and his Frogs9? Oblitusque meorum, obliviscendus et illis, might be Horace's wish, but will never be mine while I have such meorums as Dr. Parnelle and Dr. Swift. I hope the Spring will restore you to us, and with you all the beauties and colours of nature. Not but I congratulate you on the pleasure you must take in being admired in your own country, which so seldom happens to Prophets and Poets; but in this you have the advantage of Poets; you are master of an art that must prosper and grow rich, as long as people love, or are proud of themselves, or their own persons. However, you have stayed long enough, methinks, to have painted all the numberless Histories of old Ogygia. If you have begun to be historical, I recommend to your hand the story which every pious Irishman ought to begin with, that of St. Patrick; to the end you may be obliged (as Dr. P. was when he translated the Batrachomuomachia) to come into England, to copy the frogs, and such other vermin as were never seen in that land since the time of that Confessor.
8 Of All Souls College in Oxford ; a virtuoso and man of taste. The drawings here mentioned he bequeathed to the Library of Worcester College in Oxford.
9 He translated the Batrachom. of Homer, which is printed amongst his Poems. W.
I long to see you a History painter1. You have already done enough for the private; do something for the public; and be not confined, like the rest, to draw only such silly stories as our own faces tell of us. The Ancients too expect you should do them right; those Statues from which you learned your beautiful and noble Ideas, demand it as a piece of gratitude from you, to make them truly known to all nations, in the account you intend to write of their Characters. I hope you think more warmly than ever of that design2.
As to your enquiry about your house, when I come
1 The partiality of friendship must excuse this wish. Jervas had no pretensions, nor any thing like genius, for Historypainting.
2 Mr. Pope used to say he had an acquaintance with three eminent Painters, all men of ingenuity, but without common sense. Instead of valuing themselves on their performances in their own art, where they had merit; the one was deep in military Architecture, without Mathematics; the other in the doctrine of Fate, without Philosophy; and the third in the translation of Don Quixote, without Spanish. W.