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how unsettled in his best part, his soul; and how changing and variable in his frame and body! the constancy of the one shook by every notion, the temperament of the other affected by every blast of wind! What is he altogether7 but one mighty inconsistency; sickness and pain is the lot of one half of him; doubt and fear the portion of the other! What a bustle we make about passing our time, when all our space is but a point! what aims and ambitions are crowded into this little instant of our life, which (as Shakespear finely words it) is rounded with a sleep! Our whole extent of being is no more in the eye of him who gave it, than a scarce perceptible moment of duration. Those animals whose circle of living is limited to three or four hours, as the naturalists tell us, are yet as long-lived and possess as wide a scene of action as man, if we consider him with a view to all Space, and all eternity. Who knows what plots, what achievements a mite may perform in his kingdom of a grain of dust, within his life of some minutes; and of how much less con
1 Addison must have smiled at receiving a letter so full of solemn declamation, and so many trite moralities!
"Addison," says Johnson, "never outsteps the modesty of nature, nor raises merriment or wonder by the violation of truth. His figures neither divert by distortion, nor amaze by aggravation. He copies life with so much fidelity, that he can hardly be said to invent, yet his exhibitions have an air so much original, that it is difficult to suppose them not merely the product of imagination. His prose is the model of the middle style; on grave subjects not formal; on light occasions not grovelling; pure without scrupulosity, and exact without apparent elaboration." Very different, therefore, from the style of Dr. Johnson himself.
sideration than even this, is the life of man in the sight of God, who is from ever and for ever.
Who that thinks in this train, but must see the world, and its contemptible grandeurs, lessen before him at every thought? Tis enough to make one remain stupified in a poize of inaction, void of all desires, of all designs, of all friendships.
But we must return (through our very condition of being) to our narrow selves, and those things that affect ourselves: our passions, our interests flow in upon us, and unphilosophize us into mere mortals. For my part, I never return so much into myself, as when I think of you, whose friendship is one of the best comforts I have for the insignificancy of myself. I am
TO MR. ADDISON.
January 30, 1713-14.
Your letter found me very busy in my grand undertaking, to which I must wholly give myself up for some time, unless when I snatch an hour to please myself with a distant conversation with you and a few others, by writing. Tis no comfortable prospect to be reflecting, that so long a siege as that of Troy lies upon my hands, and the campaign above half over, before I have made any progress. Indeed the
Greek fortification, upon a nearer approach, does not appear so formidable as it did, and I am almost apt to flatter myself, that Homer secretly seems inclined to a correspondence with me, in letting me into a good part of his intentions. There are, indeed, a sort of underling auxiliars to the difficulty of a work, called Commentators and Critics, who would frighten many people by their number and bulk, and perplex our progress under pretence of fortifying their au^ thor. These lie very low in the trenches and ditches they themselves have digged, encompassed with dirt of their own heaping up; but, I think, there may be found a method of coming at the main works by a more speedy and gallant way than by mining under ground, that is, by using the poetical engines, wings, and flying over their heads8.
9 While I am engaged in the fight, I find you are concerned how I shall be paid, and are solicitous that I may not have the ill fate of many discarded Generals, to be first envied and maligned, then perhaps praised, and lastly neglected. The former (the constant attendant upon all great and laudable enterprizes) I have already experienced. Some have said I am not a master in the Greek, who either are so themselves or are not: if they are not, they can't tell; and if they are, they can't without having catechized me. But if they can read, (for, I know, some critics can, and others cannot,) there are fairly lying before them some specimens of my translation from this Author in the Miscellanies, which they are heartily welcome to. I have met with as much malignity another way, some calling me a Tory, because the heads of that party have been distinguishingly favourable to me; some a Whig, because I have been favoured with yours, Mr. Congreve's, and Mr. Craggs's friendship, and of late with my Lord Halifax's patronage. How much more natural a conclusion might be formed, by any good-natured man, that a person who has been well used by all sides, has been offensive to none. This miserable age is so sunk between animosities of Party and those of Religion, that I begin to fear, most men have Politics enough to make (through violence) the best scheme of government a bad one; and Belief enough to hinder their own salvation. I hope, for my own part, never to have more of either than is consistent with common Justice and Charity, and always as much as becomes a Christian and honest man. Though I find it an unfortunate thing to be bred a Papist here, where one is obnoxious to four parts in five, as being so too much or too little; I shall yet be easy under both their mistakes, and be what I more than seem to be, for I suffer for it. God is my witness that I no more envy you Protestants your places and possessions, than I do our Priests, their charity or learning. I am ambitious of nothing but the good opinion of good men, on both sides: for I know that one virtue of a free spirit is worth more than all the virtues put together of all the narrow-souled people in the world.
'There is a strange confusion in this long-continued metaphor: sometimes the fortifications spoken of are to keep the ignorant out; sometimes to let them in; and sometimes only- to quibble with; as in the words [under pretence of fortifying their author.] But it is no matter. The Critics and Commentators are to be abused, and, on such an occasion, any thing serves the turn. W.
9 Throughout all the letters of Pope to Addison, methinks there is a stiffness and study, that seem to shew they did not contain sentiments that flowed freely and unreservedly from his heart. How did Addison feel while he was reading this letter relating to the translation of Homer, if the supposition mentioned above, in the twelfth letter, was well-founded!
TO MR. ADDISON.
October 10, 1714.
I Have been acquainted by1 one of my friends, who omits no opportunities of gratifying me, that you have lately been pleased to speak of me in a manner which nothing but the real respect I have for you can deserve. May I hope that some late malevolences have lost their etfect? Indeed it is neither for me nor my enemies, to pretend to tell you whether I am your friend or not; but if you would judge by probabilities, I beg to know which of your poetical acquaintance has so little interest in pretending to be so? Methinks that no man should question the real friendship of one who desires no real service. I am only to get as much from the Whigs, as I got from the Tories, that is to say, Civility; being neither so proud as to be insensible of any good office, nor so
1 See a Letter from Mr. Jervas, and the Answer to it. No. 22,23. P.
VOL. VII. T