« AnteriorContinuar »
very difficult to write like a madman, but it is a very easie matter to write like a fool. Otway and he are safe by death from all attacks, but we poor poets militant (to use Mr. Cowley's expression) are at the mercy of wretched scribblers : and when they cannot fasten upon our verses, they fall upon our morals, our principles of state and religion. For my principles of religion, I will not justifie them to you : I know yours are far different. For the same reason I shall say nothing of my principles of state. I believe you in yours follow the dictates of your reason, as I in mine do those of my conscience. If I thought my self in an errour, I would retract it. I am sure that I suffer for them; and Milton makes even the Devil say, that no creature is in love with pain. For my morals betwixt man and man, I am not to be my own judge. I appeal to the world, if I have deceiv'd or defrauded any man; and for my private conversation, they who see me every day can be the best witnesses, whether or no it be blameless and inoffensive. Hitherto I have no reason to complain that men of either party shun my company. I have never been an impudent beggar at the doors of noblemen: my visits have indeed been too rare to be unacceptable; and but just enough to testifie my gratitude for their bounty, which I have frequently received, but always unasked, as themselves will witness.
I have written more than I needed to you on this subject; for I dare say you justifie me to your
self. As for that which I first intended for the principal subject of this letter, which is my friend's passion and his design of marriage, on better consideration I have chang'd my mind : for having had the honour to see my dear friend Wycherly's letter to him on that occasion, I find nothing to be added or amended. But as well as I love Mr. Wycherly, I confess I love my self so well, that I will not shew how much I am inferiour to him in wit and judgment, by undertaking any thing after him. There is Moses and the Prophets in his council. Jupiter and Juno, as the poets tell us, made Tiresias their umpire in a certain merry dispute, which fell out in heaven betwixt them. Tiresias, you know, had been of both sexes, and therefore was a proper judge; our friend Mr. Wycherly is full as competent an arbitrator : he has been a bachelor, and marry'd man, and is now a widower. Virgil says of Ceneus,
- Nunc vir, nunc fæmina, Ceneus, Rursus et in veterem fato revoluta figuram:
Yet I suppose he will not give any large commendations to his middle state : nor as the sailer said, will be fond after a shipwrack to put to sea again. If my friend will adventure after this, I can but wish him a good wind, as being his, and,
My dear Mr. Dennis,
Your most affectionate
. LETTER X.
TO MR. JACOB TONSON.
Wednesday morning. [Probably written in April, 1695.] MR. TONSON, 'Tis now three dayes since I have ended the fourth Eneid; and I ain this morning beginning to transcribe it; as you may do afterwards; for I am willing some few of my friends may see it, and shall give leave to you, to shew your transcription to some others, whose names I will tell you. The paying Ned Sheldon the fifty pounds put me upon this speed; but I intend not so much to overtoil myself, after the sixth book is ended. If the second subscriptions rise," I will take so much the
6 Scarcely any of the letters to Tonson have the date of the year; and it is only from circumstances that we can form any probable conjecture concerning the time when they were written. I am therefore by no means sure that I have in every instance arranged them rightly. As Dryden began his translation of Virgil in the middle of 1694, and here says that he had finished the fourth Æneid, I suppose this letter to have been written in April or May, 1695.-The payment for each Æneid appears to have been fifty pounds.
7 From an advertisement in the London Gazette, No. 3559, Dec. 21, 1699, relative to Collier's “Great Historical Dictionary," it appears to have been the practice to fix a day, after which no subscription for a book should be re
more time, because the profit will incourage me the more; if not, I must make the more hast; yet allways with as much care as I am able. But however, I will not fail in my paines of translating the sixth Eneid with the same exactness as I have performed the fourth: because that book is my greatest favourite. You know money is now very scrupulously receiv’d: in the last which you did me the favour to change for my wife, besides the clip'd money, there were at least forty shillings brass. You may, if you please, come to me at the Coffee-house this afternoon, or at farthest to-morrow, that we may take care together, where and when I may receive the fifty pounds and the guinneys; which must be some time this week.
I am your Servant,
I have written to my Lord Lawderdail, for his decorations. 8
ceived at the price originally proposed; those who subscribed after that day being obliged to pay an advanced price, of which notice was given in the proposals. Non. subscribers, probably, paid still more. Perhaps something of this sort is here alluded to.
8 See the next Note.
TO MR. JACOB TONSON.
Saturday, June the 8th. [f. 1695.) MR. TONSON, 'Tis now high time for me to think of my second subscriptions:' for the more time I have for collecting them, the larger they are like to be. I have now been idle just a fortnight; and therefore might have call’d sooner on you, for the remainder of the first subscriptions. And besides, Mr. Aston will be goeing into Cheshire a week hence, who is my onely help, and to whom you are onely beholding for makeing the bargain betwixt us, which is so much to my loss; but I repent nothing of it that is pass’d, but that I do not find myself capable of translating so great an authour, and therefore feare to lose my own credit, and to hazard your profit, which it wou'd grieve me if you shoud loose, by your too good opinion of my abilities. I expected to have heard of you this week, according to the intimation you gave me of it; but that failing, I must defer it no
9 The first subscribers to our author's translation of Virgil, paid five guineas each. Two of these I suspect Tonson retained, to defray the expence of the copperplates; each of which was dedicated to a subscriber, and decorated with his arms. The second subscription was, I believe, two guineas, and perhaps was an after-thought.