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my company: But if you have a mind to punish me for my fault (which I could not help), defer your coming to town, and you will do it effectually. But I know your charity always exceeds your revenge, so that I will not despair of seeing you, and, in return to your inviting me to your forest, invite you to my forest, the town: where the beasts that inhabit, tame or wild, of long ears or horns, pursue one another either out of love or hatred. You may have the pleasure to see one pack of blood-hounds pursue another herd of brutes, to bring each other to their fall, which is their whole sport: Or if you affect a less bloody chace, you may see a pack of spaniels, called lovers, in a hot pursuit of a two-legged vixen, who only flies the whole loud pack to be singled out by one dog, who runs mute to catch her up the sooner from the rest, as they are making a noise to the loss of their game. In fine, this is the time for all sorts of sport in the town, when those of the country cease; therefore leave your forests of beasts for ours of brutes, called men, who now in full cry, (packed by the court or country,) run down in the house of commons a deserted horned beast of the Court, to the satisfaction of their spectators: Besides, (more for your diversion) you may see not only the two great play-houses of the nation, those of the lords and commons, in dispute with one another; but the two other play-houses in high contest, because the members of one house are removed up to t'other, as it is often done by the court for reasons of state. Insomuch that the lower houses, I mean the play-houses, are going to act tragedies on one another without doors, and the Sovereign is put to it (as it often happens in the other two houses) to silence one or both, to keep peace beween them. Now I have told you all the news of the town.
I am, etc.
Feb. 5, 1705-6.
I Have received your kind letter, with my paper* to Mr. Dry den corrected. I own you have made more of it by making it less, as the Dutch are said to burn half* the spices they bring home, to inhance the price of the remainder, so to be greater gainers by their loss (which is indeed my case now). You have pruned my fading laurels of some superfluous, sapless, and dead branches, to make the remainder live the longer; thus, like your master Apollo, you are at once a poet and a physician.
Now, Sir, as to my impudent invitation of you to the town, your good nature was the first cause of my confident request; but excuse me, I must (I see) say no more upon this subject, since I find you a little too nice to be dealt freely with; though you
3 The same which was printed in the year 1717, in a miscellany of Bern. Lintot's, and in the posthumous works of Mr. Wycherley. W.
4 Why not be contented with this first happy allusion, but immediately add another?
have given me some encouragement to hope, our friendship might be without shyness, or criminal modesty; for a friend, like a mistress, though he is not to be mercenary, to be true, yet ought not to refuse a friend's kindness because it is small or trivial: I have told you (I think) what a Spanish Lady said to her poor poetical gallant, that a Queen, if she had to do with a groom, would expect a mark of his kindness from him, though it were but his currycomb. But you and I will dispute this matter when I am so happy as to see you here; and perhaps it is the only dispute in which I might hope to have the better of you.
Now, Sir, to make you another excuse for my boldness in inviting you to town, I designed to leave with you some more of my papers (since these return so much better out of your hands than they went from mine); for I intended (as I told you formerly) to spend a month or six weeks this summer, near you in the country. You may be assured there is nothing I desire so much, as an improvement of your friendship.
April 10, 1706.
By one of yours of the last month, you desire me to select, if possible, some things from the* first volume of your Miscellanies, which may be altered so
* Printed in folio, in the year 1704. P.
as to appear again. I doubted your meaning in this; whether it was to pick out the best of those verses, (as those on the Idleness of business, on Ignorance, on Laziness, etc.) to make the method and numbers exact, and avoid repetitions? For though (upon reading them upon this occasion) I believe, they might receive such an alteration with advantage; yet they would not be changed so much, but any one would know them for the same at first sight. Or if you mean to improve the worst pieces? which are such, as, to render them very good, would require great addition, and almost the entire new writing of them. Or lastly, if you mean the middle sort, as the Songs and Love-verses? For these will need only to be shortened, to omit repetition; the words remaining very little different from what they were before. Pray let me know your mind in this, for I am utterly at a loss. Yet I have tried what I could do to some of the songs, and the poems on Laziness, and Ignorance, but can't (even in my own partial judgment) think my alterations much to the purpose. So that I must needs desire you would apply your care wholly at present to those which are yet unpublished, of which there are more than enough to make a considerable volume, of full as good ones, nay, I believe, of better than any in Vol. I. which I could wish you would defer, at least till you have finished these that are yet unprinted.
I send you a sample of some few of these; namely, the verses to Mr. Waller in his old age; your new ones on the Duke of Marlborough, and two others. I have done all that I thought could be of advantage to them: Some I have contracted, as we do sunbeams, to improve their energy and force; some I have taken quite away, as we take branches from a tree, to add to the fruit; others I have entirely new expressed, and turned more into poetry. Donne (like one of his successors) had infinitely more wit than he wanted versification; for the great dealers of wit, like those in trade, take least pains to set off their goods; while the haberdashers of small wit spare for no decorations or ornaments. You have commissioned me to paint your shop, and I have done my best to brush you up like your neighbours6. But I can no more pretend to the merit of the production, than a midwife to the virtues and good qualities of the child she helps into the light.
The few things I have entirely added, you will excuse; you may take them lawfully for your own, because they are no more than sparks lighted up by your fire: and you may omit them at last, if you think them but squibs in your triumphs.
I am, etc.
• Several of Mr. Pope's lines, very easy to be distinguished, may be found in the Posthumous Editions of Wycherley's Poems; particularly those on Solitude, on the Public, and on the Mixed Life. W.