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December 26, 1704. I
T was certainly a great Satisfaction to me to see I had so long known with Pleasure, but it was a high addition to it, to hear you, at our very first meeting, doing justice to your dead friend Mr. Dryden. I was not so happy as to know him: Virgilium tantum vidi
Had I been born early enough, I must have known and lov'd him: For I have been affured, not only by your self, but by Mr. Congreve and Sir William Trumbul, that his personal Qualities were as amiable as his Poetical, notwithstanding the many libellous Misrepresentations of them, (against which the former of these Gentle
The Author's age then Sixteen
men has told me he will one day vindicate * him.) I suppose those Injuries were begun by the Violence of Party, but 'tis no doubt they were continued by Envy at his success and fame : And those Scriblers who attacked him in his latter times, were only like Gnats in a Summer's Evening, which are never very troublesome but in the finest and most glorious Season; (for his Fire, like the Sun's, shined clearest towards its setting.)
You must not therefore imagine, that when you told me of my own Performances, that they were above those Critics, I was so vain as to believe it; and yet I may not be so humble as to think my self quite below their Notice. For Critics, as they are Birds of Prey, have ever a natural Inclination to Carrion : and tho' such poor writers as I, are but Beggars, however no Beggar is so poor but he can keep a Cur, and no Author is so beggarly but he can keep a Critic. So I am far from thinking the Attacks of such People either any Honour or Disa honour, even to me, much less to Mr. Dryden. I think with you, that whatever lefser Wits have risen since his Death, are but like Stars appearing when the Sun is fet; that twinkle only in his Absence, and with the Rays they have borrowed from him. Our Wit (as you call it) is but reflection or Imitation, therefore scarce to be called ours. True Wit, I believe, may be defined a Justness of Thought, and a Facility of Expression; or (in the Midwives Phrase) a perfect Conception, with an easy Delivery. However, this is far from a compleat Definition; pray help me to a better, as I doubt not you can.
I am, &c.
* He fince did su, in his Dedication to the Duke of Newcastle, prefix'd to Tonson's Duodecimo Edition of Dryden's Plays, 1717,
Mr. Wycherley to Mr. Pope.
Jan. 25, 1704-5.
transcribing some of my Madrigals, for a great Man or two who desired to see them, that I have (with your Pardon) omitted to return you an Answer to your most ingenious Letter : Só Scriblers to the Public, like Bankers to the Public, are pro-fuse in their voluntary Loans to it, whilst they forget to pay their more private and particular, as more just Debts, to their best and nearest Friends. However, I hope, you who have as much Good Nature as Good Sense, (since they generally are Companions) will have Patience with a Debtor, who you think has an Inclination to pay you his Obligations, if he had wherewithal ready about him; and in the mean time should consider, when you have obliged me beyond my present Power of returning the Favour, that a Debtor may be an honest Man, if he but intends to be just when he is able, tho' late. But I should be less just to you, the more I thought I could make a Return to so much Profufeness of Wit and Humanity together ; which tho' they feldom accompany each other, in other Men, are in you so equally met, I know not in which you moft abound. "But so much for my Opinion of you, which is, that your Wit and Ingenuity is equalled by nothing but your Judgment, or Modesty ; which (tho' it be to please myself) I must no more offend, than I can do either right.
Therefore I will fay no more now of them, than that your good Wit never forfeited your good Judgment, but in your Partiality to me and mine; so that if it were possible for a hardened Scribler to be
vainer than he is, what you write of me would make me more conceited, than what I scribble my self; yet I must confess I ought to be more humbled by your Praise, than exalted; which commends my little Sense with so much more of your's, that I am disparaged and disheartened by your Commendations ; who give me an Example of your Wit in the first Part of your Letter, and a Definition of it in the laft; to make writing well (that is, like you) more difficult to me than ever it was before. Thus the more great and just your Example and Definition of Wit are, the less I am capable to follow them. Then the best way of fhewing my Judgment, after having seen how you write; is to leave off writing; and the best way to fhew my Friendship to you, is to put an End to your Trouble, and to conclude
Mr. POPE's Answer. .
March 25, 1795. HEN I write to you, I foresee a long Let
ter, and ought to beg your Patience beforehand; for if it proves the longest, it will be of course the worst I have troubled you with. Yet to express my Gratitude at large for your obliging Letter, is not more my Duty than my Interest ; as some People will abundantly thank you for one Piece of Kindness, to put you in Mind of bestowing another. The more favourable you are to me, the more distinctly I see my Faults. Spots and Blemishes, you know, are never fo plainly discovered as in the brightest Sunshine. Thus I am mortified by those Commendations which were designed to encourage
me : For Praise to a young Wit, is like Rain to a tender Flower ; if it be moderately bestowed, it chears and revives; but if too lavishly, overcharges and depresses him. Most Men in years, as they are generally discouragers of Youth, are like old Trees, that being past bearing themselves, will suffer no young Plants to flourish beneath them : But as if it "were not enough to have out-done all your
Coævals in Wit, you will excel them in Good Nature too. As for my (a) green Esays, if you find any Pleasure in them, it must be such as a Man naturally takes in observing the first Shoots and Buddings of a Tree which he has raised himself : and 'tis impossible they should be esteemed any otherwise, than as we value Fruits for being early, which nevertheless are the most insipid, and the worst of the Year. In a Word, I must blame you for treating me with fo much Compliment, which is at best but the Smoak of Friendship. I neither write, nor converse with you, to gain your Praife, but your Affection. Be so much my Friend as to appear my Enemy, and tell me my Faults, if not as a young Man, at least as an unexperienced Writer.
.I am, &c.
Mr. Wycherley to Mr. Pope.
March 29, 1705. OUR Letter of the Twenty-fifth of March
have received, which was more welcome to me than any thing could be out of the Country, tho' it were one's Rent due that Day; and I can find no Fault with it, but that it charges me with Want of
(a) His Paftorals, written at 16 Years of Age.