« AnteriorContinuar »
| LETTER XXXVIII.
Nov. 12, 1699. The letter you were pleas’d to direct for me, to be left at the Coffee-house last summer, was a great honour; and your verses' were, I thought, too good to be a woman's: some of my friends, to whom I read them, were of the same opinion. ?Tis not over-gallant, I must confess, to say this of the fair sex; but most certain it is, that they
4 Of this lady a full account has already been given. See vol. i. part i. p. 348–355. This and the two fol. lowing Letters were printed by Curll in the second volume of Pope's LITERARY CORRESPONDENCE, 8vo. 1735, from copies furnished by her. He has not there affixed any date either to this or the next Letter; but prefixed to the Life of Mrs. Thomas, under the title of CORINNA, (“ Memoirs of Pylades and Corinna, 8ve. 1731,) is a short extract from that before us, dated Nov. 12, 1699. With her usual disregard of truth, it is there represented to have been addressed to her in Great Russel-street, Bloomsbury ; though the Letter itself shews that the writer knew no more of her place of residence, than that she lived somewhere near St. Giles's; and Curll has ascertained her residence not to have been then in Russel-street,
S“ A Pastoral Elegy to the memory of the Hon. Cecilia Bew," published afterwards in the Poems of Mrs. Thomas, 8vo. 1727.
generally write with more softness than strength. On the contrary, you want neither vigour in your thoughts, nor force in your expressions, nor harmorly in your numbers; and methinks I find much of Orinda“ in your manner; to whom I had the honour to be related, and also to be known. But I continued not á day in the ignorance of the person to whom I was oblig'd; for, if you remember, you brought the verses to a bookseller's shop, and enquir'd there, how they might be sent to me. There happend to be in the same shop a gentleman, who heareing you speak of me, and seeing a paper in your hand, imagin'd it was a libel against me, and had you watch'd by his servant, till he knew both your name, and where you liv’d, of which he sent me word immediately. Though I have lost his Letter, yet I remember you live some where about St. Giles's, and are an only daughter. You must have pass'd your time in reading much better books than mine; or otherwise you cou'd not have arriv'd to so much knowledge as I find you have. But whether Sylph or Nymph, I know not: those fine creatures, as your
6 Mrs. Catharine Philips, a poetess of the last age, who received from her contemporaries the most extravagant praises, and is now nearly forgotten. She died in her thirty-fourth year, June 22, 1664. Her husband was probably a relation of Sir Riehard Philipps, Baronet, who married our author's aunt.
? She lived with her mother, Mrs. Elizabeth Thomas, (as we learn from Curll,) in Dyot-street, St, Giles's.
VOL. I. PART II.
S LETTERS. author, Count Gabalis, assures us, have a mind to be christen'd, and since you do me the favour to desire a name from me, take that of CORINNA, if you please ; I mean not the lady with whom Ovid was in love, but the famous Theban poetess, who overcame Pindar five times, as historians tell us. I would have call'd you saPHO, but that I hear you are handsomer. Since you find I am not altogether a stranger to you, be pleas'd to make me happier by a better knowledge of you; and in stead of so many unjust praises which you give me, think me only worthy of being,
8 In the “ History of the Rosicrucian Doctrine of Spirits," from which Pope borrowed the machinery of The RAPE OF THE Lock. Le Comte de Gabalis was a fictitious name ; the real author being the Abbé de Vila lars, whose family name was Montfaucon. He was assassinated by one of his relations, on the road from Paris to Lyons, in 1675. His book appeared in 1670.I do not, however, find there any such passage, as that here alluded to. The only one that bears any kind of resemblance to it, is in p. 17 of the English translation, (for I have not the original by me,) where it is said, that these inhabitants of the elements have a desire to unite themselves to mankind.—I suspect that the words" have a mind to be christen'd " relate, not to the Comte de Gabalis, but to Mrs. Thomas; and that a preceding sentence was inadvertently omitted by the original publisher of this letter.
TO MRS. ELIZABETH THOMAS, JUN.
[Nov. 1699.] The great desire which I observe in you to write well, and those good parts which God Almighty and Nature have bestow'd on you, make me not to doubt, that by application to study, and the
" In printing this letter I have followed a transcript which I made some years ago from the original. It is preserved in a small volume in the Bodleian Library, consisting chiefly of Pope's original Letters to Henry Cromwell, which Mrs. Thomas sold to Curll, the bookseller, who published them unfaithfully. It afterwards fell into the hands of Dr. Richard Rawlinson, by whom it was bequeathed to that Library.
In the same volume is the copy of a Letter signed Fon. Dryden, addressed to Mrs. Elizabeth Cleaver, at Dr. Du Moulin's, Canterbury; dated Nov. 24, 1679; giving an account of the death of “ dear Lady Clifford :" but I do not believe it to have been written by our author, because in all his letters that I have seen, he writes either, his Christian name at length, or the initial letter of it, or the first two letters (70.); and he had a kinsman, Jona. than Dryden, fellow of Trinity College in Cambridge, who has thus subscribed his name (Fon. Dryden) to an original letter addressed to Dr. Busby, preserved in the British Museum. The letter on the death of Lady Clifford is of very little value.
reading of the best authors, you may be absolute mistress of poetry. 'Tis an unprofitable art, to those who profess it; but you, who write only for your diversion, may pass your hours with pleasure in it, and without prejudice ; always avoiding (as I know you will, the licence which Mrs. Behn' allow'd her self, of writeing loosely, and giveing, if I may have leave to say so, some scandall to the modesty of her sex. I confess, I am the last man who ought, in justice, to arraign her, who have been my self too much a libertine in most of my poems; which I shou'd be well contented I had time either to purge, or to see them fairly burn'd. But this I need not say to you, who are too well born, and too well principled, to fall into that mire.
In the mean time, I would advise you not to trust too much to Virgil's PASTORALS; for as excellent as they are, yet Theocritus is far before him, both in softness of thought, and simplicity of expression.' Mr. Creech has translated that
Mrs. Thomas had mentioned, in her letter to Dryden, that in her verses she had made Mrs. Behn her model. She meant, she says, to imitate only her numbers.
2 Dr. Johnson differed from our author on this subject, preferring the Pastorals of Virgil to those of Theocritus. “ Virgil,” says that great critick, “wrote, when there had been a larger influx of knowledge into the world, than when Theocritus lived. Theocritus does not abound in description, though living in a beautiful country: the manners painted are coarse and gross. Virgil has much more description, more sentiment, more of nature, and more of art.” Boswell's Life of Johnson, iv, 2. third edit.