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Jacob's ladder5 raise you to immortality, by which others are turned off shamefully to their damnation (for poetic thieves as they are) who think to be saved by others good works, how faulty soever their own are: but the coffee house-wits, or rather anti-wits the critics, prove their judgments by approving your wit; and even the news-mongers and poets will own, you have more invention than they; nay the detractors or the envious, who never speak well of any body (not even of those they think well of in their absence) yet will give you even in your absence their good word; and the critics only hate you, for being forced to speak well of you whether they will or no.
All this is true upon the word of
FROM MR. WYCHERLEY.
Aug. 11, 1709.
My letters, so much inferior to yours, can only make up their scarcity of sense by their number of lines; which is like the Spaniards paying a debt of gold with a load of brass money. But to be a plain dealer, I must tell you I will revenge the raillery of your letters by printing them (as Dennis did mine), without your knowledge too, which would be a revenge upon your judgment for the raillery of your wit; for some dull rogues (that is, the most in the world) might be such fools as to think what you said of me was in earnest: It is not the first time your great wits have gained reputation by their paradoxical or ironical praises: your forefathers have done it, Erasmus and others. For all mankind who know me must confess, he must be no ordinary genius, or little friend, who can find out any thing to commend in me seriously; who have given no sign of my judgment but my opinion of yours, nor mark of my wit, but my leaving off writing to the public now you are beginning to shew the world what you can do by yours: whose wit is as spiritual as your judgment infallible: in whose judgment I have an implicit faith, and shall always subscribe to it to save my works in this world, from the flames and damnation.—Pray, present my most humble service to Sir William Trumbull; for whom and whose judgment I have so profound a respect, that his example had almost made me marry, more than my nephew's ill carriage to me; having once resolved to have revenged myself upon him by my marriage, but now am resolved to make my revenge greater upon him by His marriage.
* If any thing profane can be witty, this allusion is so; but Boileau would never allow that such a union was possible. Though Jacob Tonson, whose miscellany is here meant, was Dryden's favourite Printer, yet they sometimes disagreed. And once Dryden sent him the following severe Lines, not printed in his works, descriptive of his person:
With leering looks, bull-faced, and freckled fair,
FROM MR. WYCHERLEY.
April 1, 1710,
I Have had yours on the 30th of the last month, which is kinder than I desire it should be, since it tells me you could be better pleased to be sick again in Town in • my company, than to be well in the Country without it; and that you are more impatient to be deprived of happiness than of health. Yet, my dear friend, set raillery or compliment aside, I can bear your absence (which procures your health and ease) better than I can your company when you are in pain: for I cannot see you so without being so too. Your love to the Country I do not doubt, nor do you (I hope) my love to it or you, since there I can enjoy your company without seeing you in pain to give me satisfaction and pleasure; there I can have you without rivals or disturbers; without the too civil, or the too rude: without the noise of the loud or the censure of the silent: and would rather have you abuse me there with the truth, than at this distance with your compliment: since now, your business of a friend, and kindness to a friend, is by finding fault with his faults, and mending them by your obliging severity. I hope (in point of your good nature) you will have no cruel charity for those papers of mine, you are so willing to be troubled with; which I take most infinitely kind of you, and shall acknowledge with gratitude, as long as I live.
No friend can do more for his friend than preserving his reputation (nay, not by preserving his life), since by preserving his life he can only make him live about threescore or fourscore years; but by preserving his reputation he can make him live as long as the world lasts; so save him from damning, when he is gone to the devil. Therefore, I pray, condemn me in private, as the thieves do their accomplices in Newgate, to save them from condemnation by the public. Be most "kindly unmerciful to my poetical faults, and do with my papers, as you country-gentlemen do with your trees, slash, cut, and lop off, the excrescences and dead parts of my withered bays, that the little remainder may live the longer, and increase the value of them by diminishing the number. I have troubled you with my papers rather to give you pain than pleasure, notwithstanding your compliment which says you take the trouble kindly: such is your generosity to your friends, that you take it kindly to be desired by them to do them a kindness; and you think it done to you, when they give you an opportunity to do it them. Wherefore you may be sure to be troubled with my letters out of interest, if not kindness; since mine to you will procure yours to me: so that I write to you more for my own sake than yours; less to make you think I write well, than to learn from you to write better. Thus you see interest in my kindness, which is like the friendship of the world, rather to make a friend than be a friend; but I am yours, as a true Plain-dealer.
FROM MR. WYCHERLEY.
April 11, 1710.
If I can do part of my business at Shrewsbury in a fortnight's time (which I propose to do) I will be soon after with you, and trouble you with my company for the remainder of the summer: In the mean time I beg you to give yourself the pains of altering or leaving out what you think superfluous in my papers, that I may endeavour to print such a number of them as you and I shall think fit, about Michaelmas next. In order to which (my dear friend) I beg you to be so kind to me, as to be severe to them: that the critics may be less so; for I had rather be condemned by my friend in private, than exposed to my foes in public, the critics, or common judges, who are made such by having been old offenders themselves. Pray believe I have as much faith in your friendship and sincerity, as I have deference to your judgment; and as the best mark of a friend is telling his friend his faults in private, so the next is concealing them from the public, till they are fit to appear. In the mean time I am not a little sensible of the great kindness you do me, in the trouble you take for me, in putting my Rhimes in tune, since good sounds set off often ill sense, as the Italian songs, whose good airs, with the worst words or meaning, make the best music; so by your tuning my Welsh harp, my rough sense may be the less offen