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Sincerity, or Justice, for giving you your Due'; who should not let your Modesty be so unjust to your Merit, as to reject what is due to it, and call that. Compliment which is so short of your desert, that it is rather degrading than exalting you. But if Compliment be the Smoak only of Friendship, (as you say) however you must allow there is no Smoak but there is some Fire; and as the Sacrifice of Incense offered to the Gods would not have been half so sweet to others, if it had not been for its Smoak; fo Friendship, like Love, cannot be without some Incense, to perfume the Name it would praise and immortalize. But since you say you do not write to me to gain my Praise, but my Affection, pray how is it possible to have the one without the other? We must admire before we love. You affirm, you would have me so much your Friend as to appear your Enemy, and find out your Faults rather than your Perfections : But (my Friend) that would be so hard to do, that I who love no Difficulties, can't be persuaded to it. Besides, the Vanity of a Scribler is such, that he will never part with his own Judgment to gratify another's; especially when he must take pains to do it: and tho' I am proud to be of your Opinion, when you talk of any Thing, or Man but yourself, I cannot suffer you to murder your Fame, with your own Hand, without oppofing you; especially when you say your last Letter is the worst (since the longest) you have favoured me with; which I therefore think the best, as the Jongest Life (if a good one) is the best, as it yields The more variety, and is the more Exemplary ; 28 a chearful Summer's Day, thoʻlonger than a dull one in the Winter, is less tedious and more entertaining. Therefore let but your Friendship be like your Letter, as lasting as it is agreeable, and it can never be tedious, but more acceptable and obliging to
Mr. Wycherley to Mr. Pope.
April 7, 1705 Have received yours of the fifth, wherein your
Modesty refuses the just Praises I give you, by which you lay Claim to more, as a Bishop gains his Bishoprick, by saying he will not Episcopate ; but I must confess, whilst I displease you by commending you, I please my self; just as Incense is sweeter to the Offerer than the Deity to whom 'tis offered, by his being so much above it : For indeed, every Man partakes of the Praise he gives, when it is so justly given.
As to my enquiry after your Intrigues with the Muses, you may allow me to make it, fince no old Man can give so young, so great, and able a Favourite of theirs, Jealousy. I am, in my Enquiry, like old Sir Bernard Gascoign, who used to say, That when he was grown too old to have his Visits admitted alone by the Ladies, he always took along with him a young Man, to ensure his Welcome to them; who, had he come alone had been rejected, only because his Visits were not scandalous to them. So I am (like an old Rook, who is ruined by Gaming) forced to live on the good Fortune of the pushing young Men, whose Fancies are so vigorous, that they ensure their Success in their Adventures with the Mufes, by their Strength of Imagination.
Your Papers are safe in my Custody (you may be sure) from any one's Theft but my own; for 'tis as dangerous to trust a Scribler with your Wit, as a Gamester with the Custody of your Money.
If you happen to come to Town, you will make it more difficult for me to leave it, who am, dear Mr. Popes
Mr. Pope's Answer.
I Cannot contend with you
April 30, 1705
You must give me leave at once to wave all your Compliments, and to collect only this in general
from them, that your Design is to encourage me. But I separate from all the rest that Paragraph or two, in which you make me so warm an Offer of your Friendship. Were I possessed of That, it would put an End to all those Speeches with which you now make me blush ; and change them to wholsome Advices, and free Sentiments, which might make me wiser and happier. I know 'tis the general Opinion, that Friendship is best contracted betwixt Persons of equal Age; but I have so much Interest to be of another Mind, that you must pardon me if I cannot forbear telling you a few Notions of mine, in opposition to that Opinion.
In the first place 'tis observable, that the Love we bear to our Friends is generally caused by our finding the same Dispositions in them, which we feel in our selves. This is but Self-love at the Bottom: Whereas the Affection betwixt People of different Ages cannot well be such, the Inclinations of such being commonly various. The Friendship of two young Men is often occafioned by Love of Pleasure or Voluptuousness, each being desirous, for his own sake, of one to assist or encourage him in the Courses he pursues; as that of two old Men is frequently on the score of some Profit, Lucre, or Design upon others. Now, as a young Man who is less acquainted with the Ways of the World, has in all probability less of Interest ; and an old Man, who may be
Mr. Wycherley was at this Time about Seventy Lears old, Mr. P'ope under Seventeen,
weary of himself, less of Self-love; fo the Friendfhip between them is the more likely to be true, and unmixed with too much Self-regard. One may add to this, that such a Friendship is of greater Use and Advantage to both; for the old Man will grow gay and agreeable to please the young one ; and the young Man more discreet and prudent by the help of the old one : so it may prove a Cure of those epidemičal Diseases of Age and Youth, Sournefs and Madness. I hope you will not need many Arguments to convince you of the Possibility of this ; One alone abundantly satisfies me, and convinces to the very Heart; which is, that I am, &c.
Mr. Pope to Mr. Wycherley.
Fune 23, 1.705 I Should believe my self happy in your good obia of Compliment. It has been observed of Women, that they are more fubject in their Youth to be touched with Vanity, ihan Men, on Account of their being generally treated this Way ; but the weakest Women are not more so than that weak Class of Men, who are thought to pique themselves upon their Wit. The World is never wanting, when a Coxcomb is accomplishing himself, to help to give him the finishing Stroke.
Every Man is apt to think his Neighbour overstock'd with Vanity, yet I cannot but fancy, there are certain Times, when most people are in a difposition of being informed; and 'tis incredible what a vast Good a little Truth might do, spoken in such Seasons. A very small Alms will do a great Kindness, to People in extream Necessity.
- I could name an Acquaintance of yours, who would at this Time think himself more obliged to you for the Information of his Faults, than the Confirmation of all his Follies. If you would make those the Subject of a Letter, it might be as long as I could wish your Letters always were.
I do not wonder you have hitherto found some difficulty (as you are pleased to say) in writing to me, since you have always chosen the Task of commending me : Take but the other way, and I dare engage you will find none at all.
As for my Verses which you praise so much, I may truly say they had never been the cause of any Vanity in me, except what they gave me when they first occafioned my acquaintance with you. But I have several times since been in Danger of this Vice, as often, I mean, as I received any Letters from you.
'Tis certain, the greatest magnifying Glasses in the World are a Man's own Eyes, when they look upon his own Person; yet even in those, I cannot fancy my self so extremely like Alexander the Great, as you would persuade me. If I must be like him, ?tis you will make me fo, by complimenting me into a better Opinion of my self than I deserve. They made him think he was the Son of Jupiter, and you
I am a Man of Parts. But is this all you can say to my Honour ? You said ten times as much before, when you call'd me your Friend. After having made me believe I poffefs'd a Share in your Affection, to treat me with Compliments and sweet Sayings, is like the Proceeding with poor Sancho Panca : They had persuaded him that he enjoy'd a great Dominion, and then gave him nothing, to subfist upon but Wafers and Marmalade. In our Days, the greatest Obligation, you can lay upon a Wit, is to make a Fool of him. For as when Madmen are found incurable, wise Men give them their Way, and please them as well as they can; fo