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Do not be so unjust, as to imagine from hence that I would decline any part of this task; on the contrary you know, I have been at the pains of transcribing some pieces, at once to comply with your desire of not defacing the copy, and yet to lose no time in proceeding upon the correction. I will go on the same way, if you please; though truly it is (as I have often told you) my sincere opinion, that the greater part would make a much better figure as Single Maxims and reflections in prose, after the manner of your favourite Rochefoucault, than in verse7: And this, when nothing more is done but marking the repetitions in the margin, will be an easy task to proceed upon, notwithstanding the bad Memory you complain o£ I am unfeignedly, dear Sir, Your, etc.
7 Mr. Wycherley lived five years after, to December 1715, but little progress was made in this design, through his old age, and the increase of his infirmities. However, some of the Verses, which had been touched by Mr. P. with cccvm of these Maxims in Prose, were found among his papers, which having the misfortune to fall into the hands of a Mercenary, were published in 1728, in octavo, under the Title of the Posthumous Works of William Wycherley, Esq. P,
TO AND FROM
W. WALSH8, ESQ.;
From the Year 1705 to 1707.
MR. WALSH TO MR. WYCHERLEY.
April 20, 1705.
I Return you the papers8 you favoured me with, and had sent them to you yesterday morning, but that I thought to have brought them to you last night myself. I have read them over several times with great satisfaction. The Preface is very judicious and very learned; and the verses very tender and easy. The Author seems to have a particular genius for that kind of poetry, and a judgment that much exceeds the years you told me he was of. He has taken very freely from the ancients, but what he has mixed of his own with theirs, is not inferior to what he has taken from them. Tis no flattery at all to say, that Virgil had written nothing so good at his age1. I shall take it as a favour if you will bring me acquainted with him: and if he will give himself the trouble any morning to call at my house, I shall be very glad to read the verses over with him, and give him my opinion of the particulars more largely than I can well do in this letter. I am, Sir, etc.
8 Of Abberley in Worcestershire, Gentleman of the Horse in Queen Anne's reign, Author of several beautiful pieces in Prose* and Verse, and in the opinion of Mr. Dryden (in his postscript to Virgil) the best critic of our nation in his time. P.
9 Mr. Pope's Pastorals. P. VOL. VII. F 1 Sixteen.
MR. WALSH TO MR. POPE.
I Received the favour of your letter2, and shall be very glad of the continuance of a correspondence, by which I am like to be so great a gainer. I hope
2 Walsh, though a feeble and flimsy poet, yet from these letters, and from the Essay on Pastoral, which he gave to Dryden, appears to have been a man of some taste and literature, but of narrow ideas in poetry. He seems to be the first of our critics that attended much to the Italian poets. We ought to esteem him for his early praise and encouragement of Pope, which perhaps contributed to determine Pope to devote himself to the study of Poetry. The best of Walsh's poetry is a Parody on the Fourth Eclogue of Virgil, in which Tories, Nonjurors, and Jacobites, are vigorously attacked and ridiculed; and an Imitation of the Justum et tenacem of Horace, B. 3. Ode 3. in which a speech of King William, from stanza the 4th to the 13th, is given with much energy and force. Some of Addison's best verses are also a translation of this very Ode; and it is remarkable that Oldmixon relates it was he that desired Mr. Addison to give a translation of this Ode; certainly one of his most spirited compositions.
when I have the happiness of seeing you again in London, not only to read over the verses I have now of yours, but more that you have written since; for I make no doubt but any one who writes so well, must write more. Not that I think the most voluminous poets always the best; I believe the contrary is rather true. I mentioned somewhat to you in London of a Pastoral Comedy, which I should be glad to hear you had thought upon since. I find Menage in his observations upon Tasso's Aminta, reckons up fourscore pastoral plays in Italian: And in looking over my old Italian books, I find a great many pastoral and piscatory plays, which, I suppose, Menage reckons together. I find also by Menage, that Tasso is not the first that writ in that kind, he mentioning another before him which he himself had never seen, nor indeed have I. But as the Aminta, Pastor Fido3, and Filli di Sciro of Bonarelli, are the three best, so, I think, there is no dispute but that Aminta is the best of the three: Not but that the discourses in Pastor Fido are more entertaining and copious in several people's opinion, though not so proper for pastoral; and the fable of Bonarelli more surprising. I do not remember many in other languages, that have written in this kind with success. Racan's Bergeries are much inferior to his lyric poems; and the Spaniards are all too full of conceits. Rapin will have the design of pastoral plays to be taken from the Cyclops of Euripides. I am sure there is nothing of this kind in English worth mentioning, and therefore you have that field open to yourself. You see I write to you without any sort of constraint or method, as things come into my head, and therefore use the same freedom with me, who am, etc.
3 It is surprising that Walsh should make no mention of that exquisite Pastoral Comedy, The Faithful Shepherdess, of Beaumont and Fletcher; nor of the Comus of Milton, who in truth has borrowed much from Fletcher.
TO MR. WALSH.
Windsor Forest, July 2, 1706.
I Cannot omit the first opportunity of making you my acknowledgments for reviewing those papers of mine. You have no less right to correct me, than the same hand that raised a tree has to prune it. I am convinced as well as you that one may correct too much; for in poetry as in painting, a man may lay colours one upon another till they stiffen and deaden the piece. Besides, to bestow heightening4 on every part is monstrous: Some parts ought to be lower than the rest; and nothing looks more ridiculous than a work, where the thoughts, however different in their own nature, seem all on a level: Tis like a meadow newly mown, where weeds, grass, and flowers, are all laid even, and appear undistin
4 It is impossible not to stop and admire the good taste and sound judgment of our Author, so well expressed in such early youth. What has Horace, Vida, or Boileau, said better on the difficult subject of correcting, and making every passage uniformly splendid?