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May 10, 1708. YO
OU talk of Fame and Glory, and of the great
Men of Antiquity : Pray tell me, what are all your great dead Men, but so many little living Letters? What a vaft Reward is here for all the Ink wasted by Writers, and all the Blood spilt by Princes? There was in old time one Severus, a Roman Emperor. I dare fay you never calls him by any other Name in your Life: and yet in his days he was styl'd Lucius, Septimius, Severus, Pius, Pertinax, Auguftus, Parthicus, Adiabenicus, Arabicus, Maximus, and what not? What a prodigious Waste of Letters has Time made! What a Number have here dropp'd off, and left the poor surviving Seven unattended ! For my own part, Four are all I have to take Care for ; and I'll be judg'd by you if any Man could live in less Compass? except it were one Monsieur D. and one Romulus *** But these, contray to the common Calamity, came, in process of time, to be callid Monsieur Boileau Despreaux, and Romulus Threepoints. Well, Sir, for the future, I'll drown all high Thoughts in the Lethe of Cowslip-Wine ; as for Fame, Renown, Reputation, take 'em, Critics!
Tradam protervis in mare Criticum.
If ever I seek for Immortality here, may I be dad! for there's not so much Danger in a Poet's being damn'd:
Damnation follows Death in other Men,
November 1, 1708. I Have been so well fatisfy'd with the Country ever
you, thought of the Town, or enquir’d of any one in it besides Mr Whyaberley and yourself. And from him I understand of your Journey this Summer into Leicestershire; from whence I guess you are return'd by this time, to your old Apartment in the Widow's Corner, to your old Bufiness of comparing Critics, and reconciling Commentators; and to the old Di. versions of a lofing Game at Picquet with the Ladies, and a half Play, or a quarter of a Play, at the Theatre; where you are none of the malicious Audience, but the chief of amorous Spectators; and for the Infirmity of one * Sense which there for the most part could only ferve to disgust you, enjoy the Vigour of another which ravishes you.
You know when one Sense is suppreft,
(According to the poetical, not the learned, Dodwell; who has done one thing worthy of eternal Memory; wrote two Lines in his Life that are not Nonsense)! So you have the Advantage of being entertain'd with all the Beauty of the Boxes, without being troubled with any of the Dulness of the Stage. You are so good 'a Critic, that 'tis the greatest Happiness of the modern Poets that you do not hear their Works; and next, that you are not so arrant a Critic, as to damn them (like the reft) without hearing.
But now I talk of those Critics, I have good News to tell you concerning myself, for which I expect you should con
gratulate with me : It is, that beyond all my Expectations, and far above my Demerits, I have been most mercifully repriev'd by the sovereign Power of Jacob Tonfon, from being brought forth to public Punishment; and respited from time to time from the Hands of those barbarous Executioners of the Muses, whom I was just now speaking of. It often happens, that guilty Poets, like other guilty Criminals, when once they are known and proclaim'd, deliver themselves into the Hands of Jurtice, only to prevent others from doing it more to their Disadvantage ; and not out of any Ambition to spread their Fame, by being executed in the Face of the World, which is a Fame but of thort conti
That Poet were a happy Man who cou'd but obtain a Grant to preserve his for ninety-nine Years; for those Names very rarely last so many Days, which are planted either in Jacob Tonfon's, or the Ordinary of Newgate's Miscellanies.
I have an hundred things to say to you, which shall be deferr'd till I have the Happiness of seeing you in Town ; for the Season now draws on, that invites every body thither. Some of them I had communicated to you by Letters before this, if I had not been uncertain where you pass'd your Time the laft Season : So much fine Weather, I doubt not, has given you all the Pleasure you could defire from the Country, and your own Thoughts the best Company in it. But nothing could allure Mr Wyn cherley to our Foreft; he continu'd (as you long since he would) an obftinate Lover of the Town, in spite of friendship and fair Weather. Therefore henceforward, to all those considerable Qualities I know you poffefs'd of, I shall add that of Prophecy. But I still believe Mr Wycherley's Intentions were good, and am fatisfy'd that he promises nothing but with a real Design to perform it :
how much foever his other excellent Qualities are above my Imitation, his Sincerity, I hope, is not ; and it is with the utmost that I am,
Jan. 22, 1708-9. I Had sent you the inclos'd * Papers before this
Time, but that I intended to have brought them myself, and afterwards cou'd find no Opportunity of sending them without suspicion of their miscarrying ; not that they are of the least Value, but for fear somebody might be foolish enough to imagine them fo, and inquisitive enough to discover those Faults which I (by your help) wou'd correct. I therefore beg the Favour of you to let them go no farther than your Chamber, and to be very free of your
Remarks in the Margins, not only in regard to the accuracy, but to the fidelity of the Translation which I have not had time of late to compare with it's Original. And I desire you to be the more severe, as it is much more criminal for me to make another speak Nonsense, than to do it in my own proper Perfon. For your better help in comparing,
be fit to tell you, that this is not an entire Version of the first Book. There is an Omiffion from the 168th Line-am murmura ferpunt plebis agenorea-to the 312th— Interea patriis olim
* This was a Tran Nation of the first Book of Statius, done when the Author was but 14. Years old, as appears by an Advertisement before the first Edition of it in a Miscellany publish'd by B. Lintot, Svo, 1711.
vagns exul ab oris-between these * two, Statius has a Description of the Council of the Gods, and a Speech of Jupiter ; which contain a peculiar Beauty and Majesty, and were left out for no other reason, but because the Consequence of this Machine appears not till the second Book). The Translation goes on from thence to the Words Hic vero ambobus rabiem fortuna cruentam, where there is an odd Ac. count of a Battle at fifty-cuffs between the two Princes on a very slight Occasion, and at a Time when one would think the fatigue of their Journey in fo tempestuous a Night, might have render'd them very unfit for such a Scuffle. This. I had actually translated, but was very ill satisfied with it, even in my own Words, to which an Author cannot but be partial enough of Conscience; it was therefore omitted in this Copy, which goes on above eighty Lines farther, at the Words- Hic primum luftrare oculis, &c.--to the End of the Book.
You will find, I doubt not, that Statius was none of the discreetest Poets, tho' he was the best Versifier next Virgil : In the very Beginning he unluckily betrays his Ignorance in the Rules of Poetry, (which Horace had already taught the Romans) when he asks his Muse, where to begin his Thebaid, and seems to doubt whether it should not be ab ovo Ledæo? When he comes to the Scene of his Poem, and the Prize in dispute between the Brothers, he gives us a very, mean Opinion of it-Pugna eft de paupere regno.---Very different from the Conduct of his Master Virgil, who at the Entrance of his Poem inform his Reader of the Greatness of it's Subject, Tantæ molis erat Romanam condere Gentem,
* These he fince translated, and they are extant in the printed Version.