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sive to the nicer ears of those critics, who deal more in sound than sense. Pray then take pity at once both of my readers and me, in shortening my barren abundance, and increasing their patience by it, aswell as the obligations I have to you: And since no madrigaller can entertain the head unless he pleases the ear; and since the crowded Operas have left the best Comedies with the least audiences, it is a sign sound can prevail over sense; therefore soften my words, and strengthen my sense, and
Eris mihi magnus Apollo.
April 15, 1710.
I Received your most extreme kind letter but just now. It found me over those papers you mention, which have been my employment ever since Easter-Monday: I hope before Michaelmas to have discharged my task; which, upon the word of a friend, is the most pleasing one I could be put upon. Since you are so near going into Shropshire, (whither I shall not care to write of this matter, for fear of the miscarriage of any letters,) I must desire your leave to give you a plain and sincere account of what I have found from a more serious application to them. Upon comparison with the former volume, I find much more repeated than I till now imagined, as well as in the present volume, which, if (as you told me last) you would have me dash over with a
line, will deface the whole copy extremely, and to a degree tha.t (I fear) may displease you. I have every where marked in the margins the page and line, both in this and the other part. But if you order me not to cross the lines, or would any way else limit my commission, you will oblige me by doing it in your next letter; for I am at once equally fearful of sparing you, and of offending you by too impudent a correction. Hitherto however I have crossed them so as to be legible, because you bade me. When I think all the repetitions are struck out in a copy, I sometimes find more upon dipping in the first volume, and the number increases so much, that, I believe, more shortening will be requisite than you may be willing to bear with, unless you are in good earnest resolved to have no thought repeated. Pray forgive this freedom5, which as I must be sincere in this case, so I could not but take; and let me know if I am to go on at this rate, or if you could prescribe any other method.
I am very glad you continue your resolution of seeing me in my hermitage this summer; the sooner you return, the sooner I shall be happy, which indeed my want of any company that is entertaining or esteemable, together with frequent infirmities and pains, hinder me from being in your absence. Tis (I am sure) a real truth, that my sickness cannot make me quite weary of myself when I have you with me; and I shall want no company but yours, when you are here.
4 Which Wycherley could never bring himself to do. His whole behaviour reminds one of what Voltaire has said of his intercourse with the King of Prussia, and the employment he undertook; " Tout ce que j'ai fait, pendant deux ans, pour mettre ses ouvrages de prose et de vers en etat de paraitre, a ete un service dangereux qui deplaisit dans le temps mfime qu'il affectait de m'en remercier avec effusion de cceur." He therefore wishes himself far removed from " les griffes des Rois qui font des vers elde la prose." . ' -: .
You see how freely, and with how little care, I talk rather than write to you: this is one of the many advantages of friendship, that one can say to one's friend the things that stand in need of pardon, and at the same time be sure of it. Indeed I do not know whether or no the letters of friends are the worse for being fit for none else to read. 'Tis an argument of the trust reposed in a friend's good-nature, when one writes such things to him as require a good portion of it. I have experienced yours so often and so long, that I can now no more doubt of the greatness of it, than I hope you do of the greatness of my affection, or of the sincerity with which I am, etc.
FROM MR. WYCHERLEY.
April 27, 1710.
You give me an account in your letter of the trouble you have undergone for me, in comparing my papers you took down with you, with the old printed volume, and with one another, of that bundle you have in your hands; amongst which (you say) you find numerous repetitions of the same thoughts and subjects; all which, I must confess, my want of memory has prevented me from imagining, as well as made me capable of committing; since, of all figures, that of Tautology is the last I would use, or least forgive myself for. But seeing is believing; wherefore I will take some pains to examine and compare those papers in your hands with one another, as well as with the former printed copies, or books of my damned miscellanies; all which (as bad a memory as I have) with a little more pains and care, I think, I can remedy. Therefore I would not have you give yourself more trouble6 about them, which may prevent the pleasure you have, and may give the world in writing upon new subjects of your own, whereby you will much better entertain yourself and others. Now as to your remarks upon the whole volume of my papers ; all that I desire of you is to mark in the margin (without defacing the copy at all) either any repetition of words, matter, or sense, or any thoughts of words too much repeated; which if you will be so kind as to do for me, you will supply my want of memory with your good one, and my deficiencies of sense, with the infallibility of yours; which if you do, you will most infinitely oblige me, who almost repent the trouble I have given you, since so much. Now as to what you call freedom with me, (which you desire me to forgive,) you may be assured I would not forgive you unless you did use it; for I am so far from thinking your
6 Here is the beginning and first stroke of that jealousy and peevishness which he afterward shewed to his young and useful friend. •..••...: ., . >: :.plainness an offence to me, that I think it a charity and an obligation; which I shall always acknowledge, with all sort of gratitude to you for it; who am, &c.
All the news I have to send you, is, that poor Mr. Betterton is going to make his Exit from the stage of this world, the gout being gotten up into his head, and (as the physicians say) will certainly carry him off suddenly.
May 2, 1710.
I Am sorry you persist to take ill at my not accepting your invitation, and to find (if I mistake not) your exception not unmix'd with some suspicion. Be certain I shall most carefully observe your request, not to cross over, or deface the copy of your papers for the future, and only to mark in the margin the Repetitions. But as this can serve no further than to get rid of those repetitions, and no way rectify the Method nor connect the Matter, nor improve the Poetry in expression or numbers, without further blotting, adding, and altering; so it really is my opinion and desire, that you should take your papers out of my hands into your own, and that no alterations may be made but when both of us are present; when you may be satisfied with every blot, as well as every addition, and nothing be put upon the papers but what you shall give your own sanction and assent to, at the same time.