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FROM MR. WYCHERLEY.
Nov. 11, 1707. I RECEIVED yours of the 9th yesterday, which has (like the rest of your letters) at once pleased and instructed me; so that I assure you, you can no more write too much to your absent friends, than speak too much to the present. This is a truth that all men own, who have either seen your writings, or heard your discourse; enough to make others shew their judgment, in ceasing to write or talk, especially to you, or in your company. However, I speak or write to you, not to please you, but myself; since I provoke your answers; which, whilst they humble me, give me vanity; though I am lessened by you, even when you commend me ; since you commend my little sense with so much more of yours, that you put me out of countenance, whilst you would keep me in it. So that you have found a way (against the custom of great wits) to shew even a great deal of good-nature with a great deal of good sense.
I thank you for the book you promised me, by which I find you would not only correct my lines, but my life.
As to the damned verses I intrusted you with, I hope you will let them undergo your purgatory, to save them from other people's damning them : since the critics, who are generally the first damned in this life, like the damned below, never leave to bring
those above them under their own circumstances. I beg you to peruse my papers, and select what you think best or most tolerable, and look over them again; for I resolve suddenly to print some of them, as a hardened old gamester will (in spite of all former ill usage by fortune) push on an ill hand in expectation of recovering himself ; especially since I have such a Croupier or Second to stand by me as Mr. Pope.
Nov. 20, 1707. MR. ENGLEFYLD being upon his journey to London, tells me I must write to you by him, which I do, not more to comply with his desire, than to gratify my own; though I did it so lately by the messenger you sent hither : I take it too as an opportunity of sending you the fair copy of the poem on Dulness, which was not then finished, and which I should not care to hazard by the common post. Mr. Englefyld is ignorant of the contents, and I hope your prudence will let him remain so, for my sake no less than your own: since, if you should reveal any thing of this nature, it would be no wonder reports should be raised, and there are some (I fear) who would be ready to improve them to my disad
? The original of it in blots, and with figures of the References from copy to copy, in Mr. Pope's hand, is yet extant, among other such Brouillons of Mr Wycherley's Poems, corrected by him. W.
vantage. I am sorry you told the great man, whom you met in the court of requests that your papers were in my hands; no man alive shall ever know any such thing from me; and I give you this warning besides, that though yourself should say I had any ways assisted you, I am notwithstanding resolved to deny it.
The method of the copy I send you is very different from what it was, and much more regular : for the better help of your memory, I desire him to compare it by the figures in the margin, answering to the same in this letter. The poem is now divided into four parts, marked with the literal figures 1. 2. 3. 4. The first contains the Praise of Dulness, and shews how upon several suppositions it passes for 1. religion. 2, philosophy. 3. example. 4. wit. and 5. the cause of wit, and the end of it. The second part contains the Advantages of Dulness; Ist, in Business; and 2dly, at Court, where the similitudes of the Bias of a Bowl, and the Weights of a clock, are directly tending to the subject, though introduced before in a place where there was no mention made of those advantages (which was your only objection to my adding them). The third contains the happiness of Dulness in all stations, and shews in a great many particulars, that it is so fortunate as to be esteemed some good quality or other in all sorts of people; that it is thought quiet, sense, caution, policy, prudence, majesty, valour, circumspection, honesty, &c. The fourth part I have wholly added, as a climax which sums up all the praise, advantage, and happiness, of Dulness in a few words, and strengthens them by the opposition of the disgrace, disadvantage, and unhappiness, of Wit, with which it concludes8.
Though the whole be as short again as at first, there is not one thought omitted, but what is a repetition of something in your first volume, or in this very paper : Some thoughts are contracted, where they seemed encompassed with too many words; and some new expressed or added, where I thought there wanted heightening, (as you'll see particularly in the Simile of the clock-weights',) and the versification throughout is, I believe, such as nobody can be shocked at. The repeated permissions you give me of dealing freely with you, will (I hope) excuse what I have done: for if I have not spared you when I thought severity would do you a kindness, I have not mangled you where I thought there was no ab
8 This is totally omitted in the present Edition : some of the lines are these;
“ Thus Dulness, the safe opiate of the mind,
Unfear’d, unhated, undisturb’d, it lives,” &c. • It was originally thus expressed,
“ As clocks run fastest when most lead is on." in a letter of Mr. Pope's to Mr. Wycherley, dated April 3, 1705, and in a Paper of verses of his, To the Author of a Poem called Successio, which got out in a Miscellany in 1712, three years before Mr. Wycherley died, and two after he had laid aside the whole design of publishing any poems. P.
These two similies of the Bias of a Bowl, and the Weights of a Clock, were at length put into the first book of the Dunciad. And thus we have the history of their birth, fortunes, and final establishment. W.
solute need of amputation. As to particulars, I can satisfy you better when we meet; in the mean time pray write to me when you can, you cannot too often.
FROM MR. WYCHERLEY.
Nov. 22, 1707. You may see by my style, I had the happiness and satisfaction to receive yesterday, by the hands of Mr. Englefyld, your extreme kind and obliging letter, the 20th of this month ; which, like all the rest of yours, did at once mortify me, and make me vain ; since it tells me, with so much more wit, sense, and kindness, than mine can express, that my letters are always welcome to you. So that even whilst your kindness invites me to write to you, your wit and judgment forbid me; since I may return you a letter, but never an answer.
Now, as for your owning your assistance to me, in overlooking my unmusical numbers, and harsher sense, and correcting them both with your genius, or judgment; I must tell you, I always own it (in spite of your unpoetic modesty) who would do with your friendship as your charity; conceal your bounty to magnify the obligation : and even while you lay on your friend the favour, acquit him of the debt : But that shall not serve your turn; I will always