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the master of a vast treasure, who having more than enough for yourself, are forc’d to ebb out
sometimes proceed to acknowledge affection, by the very same degrees by which a lover declares his passion. This last at first confesses esteem, yet owns no passion but admiration. But as soon as he is animated by one kind expression, his look, his style, and his very soul are altered. But as sovereign beauties know very well, that he who confesses he esteems and admires them, implies that he loves them, or is inclin'd to love them; a person of Mr. Dryden's exalted genius, can discern very well, that when we esteem him highly, 'tis respect restrains us, if we say no more. For where great esteem is without affection, 'tis often attended with envy, if not with hate; which passions detract even when they commend, and silence is their highest panegyrick. 'Tis indeed impossible, that I should refuse to love a man, who has so often given me all the pleasure that the most insatiable mind can desire : when at any time I have been dejected by disappointments, or tormented by cruel passions, the recourse to your verses has calm'd my soul, or rais'd it to transports which made it contemn tranquillity. But though you have so often given me all the pleasure I was able to bear, I have reason to complain of you on this account, that you have confined my delight to a narrower compass, Suckling, Cowley, and Denham, who formerly ravish'd me in every part of them, now appear tasteless to me in most; and Waller himself, with all his gallantry, and all that admirable art of his turns, appears three quarters prose to me. Thus 'tis plain, that your Muse has done me an injury; but she has made me amends for it. For she is like those extraordinary women, who, besides the regularity of their charming features, besides their engaging wit, have secret, unaccountable, enchanting graces ;
upon your friends. You have indeed the best right to give them, since you have them in pro
which though they have been long and often enjoy'd, make them always new and always desirable.--I return you my hearty thanks for your most obliging letter. I had been very unreasonable, if I had repin'd that the favour arriv'd no sooner. 'Tis allowable to grumble at the delaying a payment ; but to murmur at the deferring a benefit, is to be impudently ungrateful beforehand. The commendations which you give me, exceedingly sooth my vanity. For you with a breath can bestow or confirm reputation; a whole numberless people proclaims the praise which you give, and the judgments of three mighty kingdoms appear to depend upon yours. The people gave me some little applause before; but to whom, when they are in the humour, will they not give it; and to whom, when they are froward, will they not refuse it ? Reputation with them depends upon chance, unless they are guided by those above them. They are but the keepers, as it were, of the lottery which Fortune sets up for renown; upon which Fame is bound to attend with her trumpet, and sound when men draw the prizes. Thus I had rather have your approbation than the applause of Fame. Her commendation argues good luck, but Mr. Dryden's implies desert. Whatever low opinion I have hitherto had my
self, I have so great a value for your judgment, that, for the sake of that, I shall be willing henceforward to believe that I am not wholly desertless; but that you may find me still more supportable, I shall endeavour to compensate whatever I want in those glittering qualities, by which the world is dazled, with truth, with faith, and with zeal to serve you; qualities which for their rarity, might be objects of wonder, but that men dare not appear to admire them, because their admiration would manifestly
priety; but they are no more mine when I receive them, than the light of the moon can be allowed to be her own, who shines but by the reflexion of her brother. Your own poetry is a more powerful example, to prove that the modern writers may enter into comparison with the ancients, than any which Perrault could produce in France; yet neither he, nor you, who are a better critick, can persuade me, that there is any room left for a solid commendation at this time of day, at least for me.
If I undertake the translation of Virgil, the little which I can perform will shew at least, that no man is fit to write after him, in a barbarous modern tongue. Neither will his machines be of any service to a christian poet. We see how ineffectually they have been try'd by Tasso, and by Ariosto. 'Tis using them too dully, if we only make devils of his gods : as if, for example, I would raise a storm, and make use of Æolus, with this only difference of calling him Prince of the
what invention of mine would there be in
declare their want of them. Thus, Sir, let me assure you that though you are acquainted with several gentlemen, whose eloquence and wit may capacitate them to offer their service with more address to you, yet no one can declare himself, with greater chearfulness, or with greater fidelity, or with more profound respect than
this? or who would not see Virgil thorough me; only the same trick play'd over again by a bungling juggler? Boileau has well observed, that it is an easie matter in a christian poem, for God to bring the Devil to reason. I think I have given a better hint for new machines in my preface to Juvenal; where I have particularly recommended two subjects, one of King Arthur's conquest of the Saxons, and the other of the Black Prince in his conqueșt of Spain. But the Guardian Angels of monarchys and kingdoms are not to be touch'd by every hand: a man must be deeply conversant in the Platonick philosophy, to deal with them; and therefore I may reasonably expect that no poet of our age will presume to handle those machines, for fear of discovering his own ignorance; or if he should, he might perhaps be ingrateful enough not to own me for his benefactour.
After I have, confess'd thus much of our modern heroick poetry,
I cannot but conclude with Mr. Rymer, that our English comedy is far beyond any thing of the Ancients: and notwithstanding our irregularities, so is our tragedy. Shakspeare had a genius for it; and we know, in spite of Mr. Rymer, that genius alone is a greater virtue (if I may
3 Dryden here seems to have had a presentiment of what afterwards happened. See vol. iii. p. 647.
4 Our author has maintained the same opinion in the Dedication of the Third MISCELLANY; and so, I have no doubt, Aristotle would have decided, had he lived in our time.
so call it) than all other qualifications put together. You see what success this learned critick has found in the world, after his blaspheming Shakspeare." Almost all the faults which he has discover'd are truly there; yet who will read Mr. Rymer, or not read Shakspeare ? For my own part I reverence Mr. Rymer's learning, but I detest his ill-nature and his arrogance. I indeed, and such as I, have . reason to be afraid of him, but Shakspeare has not.
There is another part of poetry, in which the English stand almost upon an equal foot with the Ancients; and it is that which we call Pindarique; introduced, but not perfected, by our famous Mr. Cowley: and of this, Sir, you are certainly one of the greatest masters. You have the 'sublimity of sense as well as sound, and know how far the boldness of a poet may lawfully extend. I could wish you would cultivate this kind of Ode; and reduce it either to the same measures which Pindar used, or give new measures of your own. For, as it is, it looks like a vast tract of land newly discover’d: the soil is wonderfully fruitful, but unmanur'd; overstock'd with inhabitants, but almost all savages, without laws, arts, arms, or policy.
I remember, poor Nat. Lee, who was then upon the verge of madness, yet made a sober and a witty answer to a bad poet, who told him, It was an easie thing to write like a madman: No, said he, it is
s In his Short View of Tragedy, 8vo. 1693.,