Imágenes de páginas


who make it their business to ruin wit; and Montagne, in other places, tells us, what effects he found of their good natures. He describes them such, whose ambition, lust, or private interest, seem to be the only end of their creation. If good accrue to any from them, it is only in order to their own designs, conferred most commonly on the base and infamous ; and never given, but only happening sometimes on well deservers. Dulness has brought them to what they are, and malice

which was so remarkably known by the name of the Rose-Alley Satire,) as his own ? Indeed, he made a few alterations in it; but these were only verbal, and generally for the worse." Spence's ANECDOTES.

The following lines in the State Poems (vol. ii. p. 131) furnish us with a portrait of this nobleman, in which, however, there is probably somewhat of caricature :

“ But let him pass; for here comes stalking on
“ The awful majesty.of stiff King JOHN;
“ With nose cock'd up, and visage like a fury,
“ Or foreman of an Ignoramus jury.

I'll speak not of his slouching looby mien,

Although it be the worst that e’er was seen, s. Because of late his whole design and trade is, With those accomplishments to gain the ladies : “ To whom his laurell’d wit has oped the way; “ Witness the late unparallel'd Essay, “ A work which all admire,--and well they may ; “ For what insipid sot can e'er write ill, “ When Waller, Lee, and Dryden, take the quill."

Pope, as well as Dryden, as I learn from Mr. Spencer made several alterations in the ESSAY ON POETRY.

[ocr errors]


[merged small][ocr errors]

secures them in their fortunes. But somewhat of specious they must have, to recommend themselves to prínces, (for folly will not easily go down in its own natural form with discerning judges,) and diligence in waiting is their gilding of the pill; for that looks like love, though it is only interest. It is that which gains them their advantage over witty men, whose love of liberty and ease makes them willing too often to discharge their burden of attendance on these officious gentlemen. It is true, that the nauseousness of such company is enough to disgust a reasonable man; when he sees he can hardly approach greatness but as a moated castle,-he must first pass through the mud and filth with which it is encompassed. These are they, who, wanting wit, affect gravity, and go by the name of solid men; and a solid man is, in plain English, a solid, solemn fool. Another disguise they have, (for fools as well as knaves take other names, and pass by an alias,) and that is the title of honest fellows. But this honesty of theirs ought to have many grains for its allowance, for certainly they are no farther honest than they are silly : they are naturally mischievous to their power; and if they speak not maliciously or sharply of witty men, it is only because God has not bestowed on them the gift of utterance. They fawn and crouch to men of parts, whom they cannot ruin ; quote their wit when they are present, and when they are absent steal their jest ; but to those who are under them,

and whom they can crush with ease, they shew themselves in their natural antipathy : there they treat wit like the common enemy, and give it no more quarter than a Dutchman' would to an English vessel in the Indies; they strike sail where they know they shall be mastered, and murder where they can with safety."

This, my Lord, is the character of a courtier without wit ; and therefore that which is a satire to other men must be a panegyrick to your Lordship, who are a master of it. If the least of these reflections could have reached your person, no necessity of mine could have made me to have sought so earnestly and so long to have cultivated your kindness. As a poet, I cannot but have made some observations on mankind; the lowness of my fortune has not yet brought me to flatter vice, and it is my duty to give testimony to virtue, It is true your Lordship is not of that nature which either seeks a commendation, or wants it. Your mind has always been above the wretched affectation of popularity. A popular man is, in truth, no better than a prostitute to common fame and to the people ; he lies down to every one he meets for the hire of praise, and his humility is only a disguised ambition. Even Cicero himself, whose eloquence deserved the admiration of mankind, yet by his insatiable thirst of fame he has lessened his character with succeeding ages ; his action

? Our author here alludes to the massacre at Amboyna.

against Catiline may be said to have ruined the consul, when it saved the city; for it so swelled his soul, which was not truly great, that ever afterwards it was apt to be overset with vanity. And this made his virtue so suspected by his friends, that Brutus, whom of all men he adored, refused him a place in his conspiracy. A modern wit has made this observation on him, 8 that coveting to recommend himself to posterity, he begged it as an alms of all his friends, the historians, to remember his consulship: and observe, if you please, the oddness of the event; all their histories are lost, and the vanity of his request stands yet recorded in his own writings. How much more great and manly in your Lordship is your contempt of popular applause, and your retired virtue, which shines only to a few; with whom you live so easily and freely, that you

make it evident you have a soul which is capable of all the tenderness of friendship; and that you only retire yourself from those who are not capable of returning it. Your kindness, where

you haye once placed it, is inviolable;

and it is to that only I attribute my happiness in your love. This makes me more easily forsake an argument on which I could otherwise delight to dwell, I mean-your judgment in your choice of

8 Our author sometimes alludes to observations made by his contemporaries, which it is not easy to trace to their source. I thought it not improbable that this remark might have been made by Cowley ; but his Essays, in which it might be expected to be found, have it not,

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

friends; because I have the honour to be one. After which, I am sure you will more easily permit me to be silent in the care you have taken of my fortune, which you have rescued not only from the power of others, but from my worst of enemies, my own modesty and laziness; which favour, had it been employed on a more deserving subject, had been an effect of justice in your nature ; but, as placed on me, is only charity. Yet withal, it is conferred on such a man as prefers your kindness itself before any of its consequences ; and who values, as the greatest of your favours, those of your love and of your conversation. From this constancy to your friends, I might reasonably assume that your resentments would be as strong and lasting, if they were not restrained by a nobler principle of good nature and generosity ; for certainly it is the same composition of mind, the same resolution and courage, which makes the greatest friendships and the greatest enmities; and he who is too lightly reconciled, after high provocations, may recommend himself to the world for a Christian, but I should hardly trust him for a friend. The Italians have a proverb to that purpose: To forgive the first time, shews me a good catholick; the second time, a fool. To this firmness in all your actions, though you are wanting in no other ornaments of mind and body, yet to this I principally ascribe the interest your merits have acquired you in the Royal Family. A Prince who is constant to himself, and steady in all his

[ocr errors]
« AnteriorContinuar »