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own, it is my infallible Pope, has, or would redeem me from a poetical damning, the second time; and save my rhymes from being- condemned to the critics' flames to all eternity; but (by the faith you profess) you know your works of supererogation, transferred upon an humble acknowledging sinner, may save even him; having good works enough of your own besides, to ensure yours, and their immortality.
And now for the pains you have taken to recommend my Dulness, by making it more methodical. I give you a thousand thanks; since true and natural dulness is shewn more by its pretence to form and method, as the sprightliness1 of wit by despising both. I thank you a thousand times for your repeated invitations to come to Binfield: You will find, it will be as hard for you to get quit of my mercenary kindness to you, as it would be for me to deserve, or return yours: However, it shall be the endeavour of my future life, as it will be to demonstrate myself
Nov. 29, 1707.
The compliments you make me, in regard of any inconsiderable service I could do you, are very unkind, and do but tell me in other words, that my friend has so mean an opinion of me, as to think I expect acknowledgments for trifles; which upon my faith I shall equally take amiss, whether made to myself, or to any other. For God's sake (my dear friend) think better of me, and believe I desire no sort of favour so much, as that of serving you more considerably than I have been yet able to do.
1 By sprightliness he must mean extravagance of wit. For sober wit, would no more despise method that it would despise words, or any other vehicle it uses, to make itself seen to advantage. W.
I shall proceed in this manner with some others of your pieces; but since you desire I would not deface your copy for the future, and only mark the repetitions; I must, as soon as I have marked these, transcribe what is left on another paper; and in that, blot, altej, and add, all I can devise, for their improvement. For you are sensible, the omission of Repetitions is but one, and the easiest part, of yours and my design; there remaining besides to rectify the Method, to connect the Matter, and to mend the Expression and Versification. I will go next upon the poems of Solitude, on the Public, and on the Mixt Life; the Bill of Fare, the Praises of Avarice, and some others.
I must take notice of what you say of " my pains to make your dulness methodical;" and of your hint, "that the sprightliness of wit despises method." This is true enough, if by wit you mean no more than fancy or conceit; but in the better notion of wit, considered as propriety, surely method is not only necessary for perspicuity and harmony of parts, but gives beauty even to the minute and particular thoughts, which receive an additional advantage from those which precede or follow in their due place. You remember a simile Mr. Dryden" used in conversation, of feathers in the crowns of the wild Indians, which they not only choose for the beauty of their colours, but place them in such a manner as to reflect a lustre on each other. I will not disguise any of my sentiments from you; to methodize in your case, is full as necessary as to strike out; otherwise you had better destroy the whole frame, and reduce them into single thoughts in prose, like Rochefoucault, as I have more than once hinted to you.
FROM MR. WYCHERLEY.
I Have had yours of the 23d of this instant, for which I give you many thanks, since I find by it, that even absence (the usual bane of love or friendship) cannot lessen yours, no more than mine. As to your hearing of my being ill, I am glad, and sorry for the report: In the first place, glad that it was not true; and in the next, sorry that it should give you any disturbance, or concern more than ordinary for me; for which, as well as your concern for my future well-being or life, I think myself most eternally obliged to you; assuring, your concern for either will make me more careful of both. Yet for your sake I love this life so well, that I shall the less think of the other; but it is in your power to ensure my happiness in one and the other, both by your society, and good example, so not only contribute to my felicity here, but hereafter.
* This beautiful simile is worth recording, for its justness and elegance. His poems have not a better.
Now as to your excuse for the plainness of your style, I must needs tell you, that friendship is much more acceptable to a true friend than wit, which is generally false reasoning; and a friend's reprimand often shews more friendship than his compliment: nay love, which is more than friendship, is often seen by our friends' correction of our follies or crimes. Upon this test of your friendship I intend to put you when I return to London, and thence to you at Binfield, which, I hope, will be within a month.
Next to the news of your good health, I am pleased with the good news of your going to print some of your poems, and proud to be known by them to the public for your friend; who intend (perhaps the same way) to be revenged of you for your kindness; by taking your name in vain in some of my future madrigals: yet so as to let the world know, my love or esteem for you are no more poetic than my talent in scribling. But of all the arts of fiction I desire you to believe I want that of feigning friendship, and that I am sincerely
FROM MR. WYCHERLEY.
May 13, 1708.
I HAVE received yours of the first of May. Your pastoral muse outshines in her modest and natural dress all Apollo's court-ladies, in their more artful, laboured, and costly finery. Therefore I am glad to find by your letter you design your country-beauty of a muse shall appear at court and in public : to outshine all the farded, lewd, confident, affected Towndowdies, who aim at being honour'd only to their shame : but her artful innocence (on the contrary) will gain more honour as she becomes public; and, in spite of custom, will bring modesty again into fashion, or at least make her sister-rivals of this age blush for spite, if not for shame. As for my stale, antiquated, poetical puss, whom you would keep in countenance by saying she has once been tolerable, and would yet pass muster by a little licking over; it is true that (like most vain antiquated jades which have once been passable) she yet affects youthfulness in her age, and would still gain a few admirers (who the more she seeks or labours for their liking are but more her contemners). Nevertheless she is resolved henceforth to be so cautious as to appear very little more in the world, except it be as an Attendant on your Muse, or as a foil, not a rival to her wit, or fame: so that let your Country-Gentlewoman appear