Selected English Letters (XV - XIX Centuries)
Author: Various
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This anthology has been compiled with rather mixed motives. First, 'all for our delight'—a rule that editors sometimes observe, and occasionally acknowledge; then, with the desire to interest as large a section of the public as may be. Here is a medley of gay, grave, frivolous, homely, religious, sociable, refined, philosophic, and feminine,—something for every mood, and for the proper study of mankind. We do not hope to satisfy all critics, but we do not anticipate that we shall please none. Our difficulty has been that of choice. Many pleasant companions we have had to pass by; to strike from our list many excellent letters. Those that remain are intended to present as complete a portrait of the writer as space permits. Occasionally it was some feature of the age, some nicety of manners, some contrast in point of view, that obtained inclusion.

Into such an anthology the ordinary reader prefers to dip at random, looking for old friends or new faces, and has his reward. But if he is resolute to read letters in chronological order, he will also, we hope, find in our selection some trace of the development of the Epistolary art, as, rising through earlier naiveties and formalities to the grace and bel air of the great Augustans, it slides into the freer, if less dignified, utterance of an age which, startled by cries of 'Equality' at its birth, has concerned itself less with form than with individuality and sincerity of expression.

Three letters are included of which the originals were penned in Latin. In a few cases the spelling and punctuation have been modernized.

Our best thanks are due to Mr. J.C. Smith, whose kind criticism and inspiring suggestions have been of inestimable service to us in the preparation of this work.

M.D. H.W.


SIR THOMAS MORE, 1478-1535— To Margaret Roper. 'Wyth a cole' from prison.

MARGARET ROPER, 1505-1544— To Sir Thomas More. Reply to the above.

ROGER ASCHAM, 1515-1568— To Lady Jane Grey. A most accomplished maiden. To Lady Clarke. An offer of assistance.

FRANCIS BACON, 1561-1626— To Sir Thomas Bodley. With a copy of his book.

SIR THOMAS BROWNE, 1605-1682— To his son Thomas. Fatherly commendations. To his son Edward. Centenarians.

JOHN MILTON, 1608-1674— To a Cambridge friend. The choice of a profession. To Leonard Philaras. The blind poet.

JOHN EVELYN, 1620-1706— To Samuel Pepys. In retirement at Wotton. To the same. An old man's occupations.

DAME DOROTHY BROWNE, 1621-1685— To her daughter in London. Three interesting postscripts.

GEORGE, LORD BERKELEY, 1628-1698— To Samuel Pepys. Honourable acquittal.

DOROTHY OSBORNE, 1628-1698— To Sir William Temple. Passing the time. To the same. Another pretender. To the same. A disappointing preacher. To the same. The ideal husband. To the same. The growth of friendship. To the same. Wilful woman.

KATHARINE PHILIPS, 1631-1664— To the Honourable Berenice. Yielding to opinion.

JOHN LOCKE, 1632-1704— To William Molyneux. A philosopher's confidences. To Dr. Molyneux. True friendship.

SAMUEL PEPYS, 1633-1703— To George, Lord Berkeley. An explanation. To Mrs. Steward. A wedding in the City. To John Evelyn. Reply to an old friend.

JONATHAN SWIFT, 1667-1745— To Stella. The Dean at home. To Lord Treasurer Oxford. The Dean makes his bow. To Dr. Sheridan. News from the country. To Alexander Pope. Mostly about Gulliver. To John Gay. Enquiries into Mr. Gay's pursuits.

JOSEPH ADDISON, 1672-1719— To Alexander Pope. Translation of Homer. To Mr. Secretary Craggs. A bequest.

SIR RICHARD STEELE, 1672-1729— To Mary Scurlock. An explicit declaration. To the same. A pleasing transport. To the same. A lover betrays himself. To his wife. He proposes an outing. To the same. His greatest affliction. To the same. Four characteristic notes. To the same. The natural slave of beauty.

JOHN GAY, 1685-1732— To Jonathan Swift. Concerning Gulliver.

ALEXANDER POPE, 1688-1744— To William Wycherley. Dryden and his critics. To Joseph Addison. A few thoughts from a rambling head. To Jonathan Swift. Friends to posterity. To the same. A farming friend, and The Dunciad. To the same. An invitation to England.

SAMUEL RICHARDSON, 1689-1761— To Miss Mulso. A discussion on love.

LADY MARY WORTLEY MONTAGU, 1689-1762— To the Countess of Mar. The Viennese court. To Miss Sarah Chiswell. Ingrafting for small-pox. To the Countess of Bristol. The Grand Signior a slave. To the Countess of Mar. The Grand Vizier's lady. To the Countess of Bute. Her grand-daughter's education. To the same. Fielding and Steele.

PHILIP DORMER STANHOPE, EARL OF CHESTERFIELD, 1694-1773— To his son. Dancing. To the same. A good enunciation. To the same. Keeping accounts. To the same. A father's example. To the same. Public speaking. To the same. The new Earl of Chatham.

SAMUEL JOHNSON, 1709-1784— To Bonnet Langton. Postponement of a visit. To Miss Porter. A mother's death. To Joseph Baretti. A letter of counsel. To Mrs. Thrale. Travel in Scotland. To the Earl of Chesterfield. Patronage. To James Boswell. A silent friend. To Mrs. Thrale. A great man's fortitude.

LAURENCE STERNE, 1713-1768— To Miss Lumley. The disconsolate lover. To David Garrick. Le Chevalier Shandy. To Mr. Foley. An adventure on the road.

THOMAS GRAY, 1716-1771— To Richard West. Scenery at Tivoli. To the same. A poet's melancholy. To Horace Walpole. The fate of Selima. To the same. Publication of the Elegy. To the same. At Burnham. To the Rev. William Mason. The Laureateship. To Dr. Wharton. A holiday in Kent.

HORACE WALPOLE, 1717-1797— To Richard West. Floods in the Arno. To Richard Bentley. Pictures, and Garrick. To Lord Lyttelton. Gray's Odes. To George Montagu. At Lady Suffolk's. To Lady Hervey. A quiet life. To the Rev. William Cole. Gray's death. To the Rev. William Mason. The quarrel with Gray. To the Countess of Upper-Ossory. Fashionable intelligence. To the Rev. William Cole. Antiquaries and authors. To the Miss Berrys. Their first meeting.

OLIVER GOLDSMITH, 1728-1774— To his mother. At Cork. To Robert Bryanton. In Scotland. To his uncle Contarine. In Holland. To his brother Henry. Family matters.

WILLIAM COWPER, 1731-1800— To the Rev. John Newton. Escapade of Puss. To the Rev. William Unwin. A laugh that hurts nobody. To the Rev. John Newton. Village politicians. To the same. Village justice. To the same. A candidate's visit. To Lady Hesketh. An acquaintance reopened. To the same. The kindliness of thanks. To the same. Arrival of the desk. To the same. Anticipations of a visit. To the same. Commissions and thanks. To Mrs. Bodham. His mother's portrait.

EDMUND BURKE, 1729-1797— To Matthew Smith. First impressions of London. To James Barry. A friend's infirmities. To Lord Auckland. An old stag at bay. To Mary Leadbeater. His last letter.

EDWARD GIBBON, 1737-1794— To Mrs. Porten. His daily life. To Lord Sheffield. A great work.

FRANCES D'ARBLAY, 1752-1840— To Susan Burney. An excited Unknown. To Samuel Crisp. Mrs. Thrale and Dr. Johnson. To Mrs. Lock. A royal commission.

GEORGE CRABBE, 1754-1832— To Mary Leadbeater. The only survivors. To the same. Comparisons.

WILLIAM BLAKE, 1757-1827— To John Flaxman. Friends 'from eternity'. To Thomas Butts. Trouble in the path. To the same. The wonderful poem. To the same. The poet and William Hayley.

MARY LEADBEATER, 1758-1826— To Edmund Burke. Reply to his last letter. To George Crabbe. She writes to remind him.

ROBERT BURNS, 1759-1796— To Miss Chalmers. Marriage with Jean. To Mr. R. Ainslie. A gauger. To Francis Grose. Witch tales.

WILLIAM WORDSWORTH, 1770-1850— To Sir George Beaumont. A brother's character. To Walter Scott. Dryden. To Lady Beaumont. The destiny of his poems. To Sir George Beaumont. The language of poetry.

SIR WALTER SCOTT, 1771-1832— To his mother. Marriage with Miss Carpenter. To Miss Seward. The Lay of the Last Minstrel. To Lady Louisa Stuart. An amiable blue-stocking. To Robert Southey. Congratulations. To J.B.S. Morritt. A small anonymous sort of a novel. To the same. Acceptance of a baronetcy. To Lord Montagu. Prince Leopold's visit. To Daniel Terry. Progress at Abbotsford. To J.B.S. Morritt. A brave face to the world. To Maria Edgeworth. Time's revenges.

SAMUEL TAYLOR COLERIDGE, 1772-1834— To Charles Lamb. A sympathetic reply. To Joseph Cottle. Literary adventurers. To Josiah Wade. A public example. To Thomas Allsop. Himself and his detractors. To the same. The Great Work described. To the same. Reminiscences.

ROBERT SOUTHEY, 1774-1843— To Joseph Cottle. Question of copyrights. To John May. Waterloo. To Henry Taylor. Anastasius Hope. To Edward Moxon. Recollections of the Lambs.

CHARLES LAMB, 1775-1834— To Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Temporary frenzy. To the same. A friend in need. To the same. The tragedy. To William Wordsworth. The delights of London. To Thomas Manning. At the Lakes. To the same. Dissuasion from Tartary. To Mrs. Wordsworth. Friends' importunities. To Samuel Taylor Coleridge. The famous pigling. To Bernard Barton. A blessing in disguise. To the same. A cold.

WILLIAM HAZLITT, 1778-1830— To Miss Sarah Stoddart. A love-letter. To his son. Marriage, and the choice of a profession. To Charles Cowden Clarke. The Life of Napoleon.

LEIGH HUNT, 1784-1859— To Joseph Severn. A belated letter. To Percy Bysshe Shelley. Outpourings of gratitude. To Horace Smith. Shelley's death. To Mrs. Procter. Accepting an invitation. To a friend. Offence and punishment.

GEORGE GORDON NOEL, LORD BYRON, 1788-1824— To Mr. Hodgson. Travel in Portugal. To Thomas Moore. Announces his engagement. To John Murray. No bid for sweet voices. To the same. The cemetery at Bologna. To the same. In rebellious mood. To Percy Bysshe Shelley. A trio of poets. To Lady Byron. A plain statement of facts. To Mr. Barff. Sympathy with the Greeks.

PERCY BYSSHE SHELLEY, 1792-1822— To T.J. Hogg. His first marriage. To William Godwin. An introduction. To Thomas Hookham. A subscription for Hunt. To Mr. Ollier. An article by Southey. To Mrs. Hunt. Keats and some others. To Leigh Hunt. A literary collaboration.

JOHN KEATS, 1795-1821— To John Hamilton Reynolds. Burns's cottage. To Richard Woodhouse. The poetic character. To Percy Bysshe Shelley. Returning advice. To Charles Brown. A despairing cry.

THOMAS HOOD, 1799-1845— To Charles Dickens. American Notes. To the Manchester Athenaeum. The uses of literature. To Dr. Moir. A humourist to the last. To Sir Robert Peel. A farewell letter.

ROBERT BROWNING, 1812-1889, and ELIZABETH BARRETT BROWNING, 1806-1861— To Leigh Hunt. A joint epistle.

CHARLOTTE BRONTE, 1816-1855— To a friend. Trials of a governess. To William Wordsworth. Thanks for advice. To a friend. At school abroad. To a friend. Curates to tea. To George Henry Lewes. Herself and Miss Austen. To the same. The argument continued. To a friend. Illness and death of Emily Bronte. To Mr. G. Smith. Thackeray and Esmond To the same. Esmond again.





'Wyth a cole' from prison


Myne owne good doughter, our lorde be thanked I am in good helthe of bodye, and in good quiet of minde: and of worldly thynges I no more desyer then I have. I beseche hym make you all mery in the hope of heaven. And such thynges as I somewhat longed to talke with you all, concerning the worlde to come, our Lord put theim into your myndes, as I trust he dothe, and better to, by his holy spirite: who blesse you and preserve you all. Written wyth a cole by your tender loving father, who in his pore prayers forgetteth none of you all, nor your babes, nor your nurses, nor your good husbandes, nor your good husbandes shrewde wyves, nor your fathers shrewde wyfe neither, nor our other frendes. And thus fare ye hartely well for lack of paper.

THOMAS MORE, knight.

Our Lorde kepe me continuallye true, faithfull and playne, to the contrarye whereof I beseche hym hartelye never to suffer me live. For as for longe life (as I have often tolde the Megge) I neyther looke for, nor long for, but am well content to goe, yf God call me hence to morowe. And I thanke our lorde, I knowe no person living, that I woulde had one philippe for my sake: of whiche minde I am more gladde then of all the worlde.

Recommend me to your shrewde wil, and mine other sonnes, and to John Harris my frende, and your selfe knoweth to whome els, and to my shrewde wife above all, and God preserve you all and make and kepe you his servantes all.




Reply to the above


Myne owne moste entierelye beloved father, I thynke my self never hable to geve you sufficiente thankes, for the inestimable coumforte my poore hearte received in the readyng of youre moste lovynge and godlye letter, representing to me, the cleare shynyng bryghtenesse of youre soule, the pure temple of the holy spirite of God, which I doubte not shall perpetuallye reste in you and you in hym. Father, if all the worlde hadde bene geven to me, as I be saved it hadde bene a small pleasure, in comparison of the pleasure I conceived of the treasure of youre letter, whiche thoughe it were written with a cole, is woorthye in myne opinion to be wrytten in letters of golde. Father, what moved them to shytte you uppe againe, we can nothynge heare. But surelye I coniecture that when they considered that you wer of so temperate mind, that you were contented to abyde there all your lyfe with suche libertie, they thought it wer never possible to enclyne you to theyr will, excepte it were by restrayning you from the church, and the companye of my good mother youre deare wyfe and us youre chyldren and bedesfolke. But father this chaunce was not straunge to you. For I shal not forgeat howe you tolde us when we were with you in the gardeyne, that these thinges wer like ynoughe to chaunce you shortlye after. Father I have manye tymes rehearsed to myne owne coumfort and dyvers others, your fashyon and wordes ye hadde to us when we were laste with you: for which I trust by the grace of god to be the better while I live, and when I am departed oute of this frayle life, which I praye God I maye passe and ende in his true obedient service, after the wholesome counsayle and fruitful exaumple of living I have had (good father) of you, whom I pray god geve me grace to folowe: which I shal the better thorow the assistaunce of your devoute prayers, the speciall staye of my frayltie. Father I am sory I have no lenger laysure at this time to talke with you, the chief comfort of my life, I trust to have occasion to write again shortly. I trust I have your daily prayer and blessing.

Your most loving obedient daughter and bedeswoma Margaret Roper, which daily and howrely is boude to pray for you, for whom she prayeth in this wise, that our lord of his infinite mercye geve you of hys hevenly comfort, and so to assist you with hys speciall grace, that ye never in any thing declyne from hys blessed will, but live and dye his true obedient servaunt. Amen.



To Lady Jane Grey

A most accomplished maiden

Augsberg, 18 Jan. 1551.

Most Illustrious Lady,

In this long travel of mine, I have passed over wide tracts of country, and seen the largest cities, I have studied the customs, institutes, laws, and religion of many men and diverse nations, with as much diligence as I was able: but in all this variety of subjects, nothing has caused in me so much wonder as my having fallen upon you last summer, a maiden of noble birth, and that too in the absence of your tutor, in the hall of your most noble family, and at a time when others, both men and women, give themselves up to hunting and pleasures, you, a divine maiden, reading carefully in Greek the Phaedo of the divine Plato; and happier in being so occupied than because you derive your birth, both on your father's side, and on your mother's, from kings and queens! Go on then, most accomplished maiden, to bring honour on your country, happiness on your parents, glory to yourself, credit to your tutor, congratulation to all your friends, and the greatest admiration to all strangers!

O happy Elmar in having such a pupil, and happier still you, in having such a tutor ... I ask two things of you, my dear Elmar, for I suppose you will read this letter, that you will persuade the Lady Jane to write me a letter in Greek as soon as possible; for she promised she would do so ... I have also lately written to John Sturm, and told him that she had promised. Take care that I get a letter soon from her as well as from you. It is a long way for letters to come, but John Hales will be a most convenient letter-carrier and bring them safely....


An offer of assistance

[London], 15 Jan. 1554.

Your remarkable love of virtue and zeal for learning, most illustrious lady, joined with such talents and perseverance, are worthy of great praise in themselves, and greater still because you are a woman, but greatest of all because you are a lady of the court; where there are many other occupations for ladies, besides learning, and many other pleasures besides the practice of the virtues. This double praise is further enhanced by the two patterns that you have proposed to yourself to follow, the one furnished you by the court, the other by your family. I mean our illustrious queen Mary, and your noble grandfather, Thomas More—a man whose virtues go to raise England above all other nations....

I am led to write thus not altogether by my admiration of you, but partly by my own wish and more from the nature of my own office. It was I who was invited some years ago from the University of Cambridge by your mother, Margaret Roper—a lady worthy of her great father, and of you her daughter—to the house of your kinsman, Lord Giles Alington, to teach you and her other children the Greek and Latin tongues; but at that time no offers could induce me to leave the University. It is sweet to me to bear in mind this request of your mother's, and I now not only remind you thereof, but would offer you, now that I am at court, if not to fulfil her wishes, yet to do my best to fulfil them, were it not that you have so much learning in yourself, and also the aid of those two learned men, Cole and Christopherson, so that you need no help from me, unless in their absence you make use of my assistance, and if you like, abuse it.

I write thus not because of any talents I possess (for I know they are very small) but because of my will (which I know is very great), and because of the opportunity long wished for and now granted me. For by favour of that great bishop the Lord Stephen of Winchester, I have been fetched away from the University to serve our illustrious queen at court, and that too in such a post, that I can there follow the same mode of life for the discharge of my duties as I did at the University for study. My office is to write Latin letters for the queen, and I hope I shall fulfil that office, if not with ability, yet faithfully, diligently, and unblameably ... Farewell, most accomplished lady!



To Sir Thomas Bodley

With a copy of his book

[Nov. 1605.]


I think no man may more truly say with the Psalm Multum incola fuit anima mea, than myself. For I do confess, since I was of any understanding, my mind hath in effect been absent from that I have done; and in absence are many errors which I do willingly acknowledge; and amongst the rest this great one that led the rest; that knowing myself by inward calling to be fitter to hold a book than to play a part, I have led my life in civil causes; for which I was not very fit by nature, and more unfit by the preoccupation of my mind. Therefore calling myself home, I have now for a time enjoyed myself; whereof likewise I desire to make the world partaker. My labours (if I may so term that which was the comfort of my other labours) I have dedicated to the King; desirous, if there be any good in them, it may be as the fat of a sacrifice, incensed to his honour: and the second copy I have sent unto you, not only in good affection, but in a kind of congruity, in regard of your great and rare desert of learning. For books are the shrines where the saint is, or is believed to be; and you having built an Ark to save learning from deluge, deserve propriety in any new instrument or engine, whereby learning should be improved or advanced.




Fatherly commendations

[c. 1667.]

I Receaved yours, and would not deferre to send vnto you before you sayled, which I hope will come vnto you; for in this wind, neither can Reare-admirall Kempthorne come to you, nor you beginne your voyage. I am glad you like Lucan so well. I wish more military men could read him; in this passage you mention, there are noble straynes; and such as may well affect generous minds. Butt I hope you are more taken with the verses then the subject, and rather embrace the expression then the example. And this I the rather hint unto you, because the like, though in another waye, is sometimes practised in the king's shipps, when, in desperate cases, they blowe up the same. For though I know you are sober and considerative, yet knowing you also to be of great resolution; and having also heard from ocular testimonies with what vndaunted and persevering courage you have demeaned yourself in great difficulties; and knowing your captaine to bee a stout and resolute man; and with all the cordiall friendshippe that is between you; I cannot omitt my earnest prayers vnto God to deliver you from such a temptation. Hee that goes to warre must patiently submitt vnto the various accidents thereof. To bee made prisoner by an vnequall and overruling power, after a due resistance, is no disparagement; butt upon a carelesse surprizall or faynt opposition; and you have so good a memorie that you cannot forgett many examples thereof, even of the worthiest commanders in your beloved Plutark. God hath given you a stout, butt a generous and mercifull heart withall; and in all your life you could never behold any person in miserie butt with compassion and relief; which hath been notable in you from a child: so have you layd up a good foundation for God's mercy; and, if such a disaster should happen, Hee will, without doubt, mercifully remember you. How euer, let God that brought you in the world in his owne good time, lead you through it; and in his owne season bring you out of it; and without such wayes as are displeasing vnto him. When you are at Cales, see if you can get a box of the Jesuits' powder at easier rate, and bring it in the bark, not in powder. I am glad you haue receaued the bill of exchange for Cales; if you should find occasion to make vse thereof. Enquire farther at Tangier of the minerall water you told mee, which was neere the towne, and whereof many made use. Take notice of such plants as you meet with, either upon the Spanish or African coast; and if you knowe them not, putt some leaves into a booke, though carelessely, and not with that neatenesse as in your booke at Norwich. Enquire after any one who hath been at Fez; and learne what you can of the present state of that place, which hath been so famous in the description of Leo and others. The mercifull providence of God go with you. Impellant animae lintea Thraciae.



15 Dec. [1679.]


Some thinck that great age superannuates persons from the vse of physicall meanes, or that at a hundred yeares of age 'tis either a folly or a shame to vse meanes to liue longer, and yet I haue knowne many send to mee for their seuerall troubles at a hundred yeares of age, and this day a poore woeman being a hundred and three yeares and a weeke old sent to mee to giue her some ease of the colick. The macrobii and long liuers which I haue knowne heere haue been of the meaner and poorer sort of people. Tho. Parrot was butt a meane or rather poore man. Your brother Thomas gaue two pence a weeke to John More, a scauenger, who dyed in the hundred and second yeare of his life; and 'twas taken the more notice of that the father of Sir John Shawe, who marryed my Lady Killmorey, and liueth in London, I say that his father, who had been a vintner, liued a hundred and two yeares, or neere it, and dyed about a yeere agoe. God send us to number our dayes and fitt ourselves for a better world.




The choice of a profession



Besides that in sundry other respects I must acknowledge me to profit by you whenever we meet, you are often to me, and were yesterday especially, as a good watchman to admonish that the hours of the night pass on (for so I call my life, as yet obscure and unserviceable to mankind), and that the day with me is at hand, wherein Christ commands all to labour, while there is light. Which because I am persuaded you do to no other purpose than out of a true desire that God should be honoured in every one, I therefore think myself bound, though unasked, to give you account, as oft as occasion is, of this my tardy moving, according to the precept of my conscience, which I firmly trust is not without God. Yet now I will not strain for any set apology, but only refer myself to what my mind shall have at any time to declare herself at her best ease.

But if you think, as you said, that too much love of learning is in fault, and that I have given up myself to dream away my years in the arms of studious retirement, like Endymion with the moon, as the tale of Latmus goes; yet consider that if it were no more but the mere love of learning—whether it proceed from a principle bad, good, or natural—it could not have held out thus long against so strong opposition on the other side of every kind. For, if it be bad, why should not all the fond hopes that forward youth and vanity are fledge with, together with gain, pride, and ambition, call me forward more powerfully than a poor, regardless, and unprofitable sin of curiosity should be able to withhold me; whereby a man cuts himself off from all action, and becomes the most helpless, pusillanimous, and unweaponed creature in the world, the most unfit and unable to do that which all mortals most aspire to—either to be useful to his friends or to offend his enemies? Or, if it be to be thought a natural proneness, there is against that a much more potent inclination inbred, which about this time of a man's life solicits most—the desire of house and family of his own; to which nothing is esteemed more helpful than the early entering into credible employment, and nothing more hindering than this affected solitariness. And though this were enough, yet there is to this another act, if not of pure, yet of refined nature, no less available to dissuade prolonged obscurity—a desire of honour and repute and immortal fame, seated in the breast of every true scholar; which all make haste to by the readiest ways of publishing and divulging conceived merits—as well those that shall, as those that never shall, obtain it. Nature, therefore, would presently work the more prevalent way, if there were nothing but this inferior bent of herself to restrain her. Lastly, the love of learning, as it is the pursuit of something good, it would sooner follow the more excellent and supreme good known and presented, and so be quickly diverted from the empty and fantastic chase of shadows and notions, to the solid good flowing from due and timely obedience to that command in the Gospel set out by the terrible seasing of him that hid the talent.

It is more probable, therefore, that not the endless delight of speculation, but this very consideration of that great commandment, does not press forward, as soon as many do, to undergo, but keeps off, with a sacred reverence and religious advisement how best to undergo—not taking thought of being late, so it give advantage to be more fit; for those that were latest lost nothing, when the master of the vineyard came to give each one his hire. And here I am come to a stream-head, copious enough to disburden itself, like Nilus, at seven mouths into an ocean. But then I should also run into a reciprocal contradiction of ebbing and flowing at once, and do that which I excuse myself for not doing—'preach and not preach.' Yet, that you may see that I am something suspicious of myself, and do take notice of a certain belatedness in me, I am the bolder to send you some of my nightward thoughts some while since, because they come in not altogether unfitly, made up in a Petrarchian stanza, which I told you of:

How soon hath Time, the subtle thief of youth, Stol'n on his wing my three-and-twentieth year! My hasting days fly on with full career, But my late spring no bud or blossom shew'th. Perhaps my semblance might deceive the truth That I to manhood am arrived so near; And inward ripeness doth much less appear That some more timely-happy spirits endu'th. Yet be it less, or more, or soon, or slow, It shall be still in strictest measure even To that same lot, however mean or high, Toward which Time leads me, and the will of Heaven. All is, if I have grace to use it so, As ever in my great taskmaster's eye.

By this I believe you may well repent of having made mention at all of this matter; for, if I have not all this while won you to this, I have certainly wearied you of it. This, therefore, alone may be a sufficient reason for me to keep me as I am, lest having thus tired you singly, I should deal worse with, a whole congregation, and spoil all the patience of a parish; for I myself do not only see my own tediousness, but now grow offended with it, that has hindered me thus long from coming to the last and best period of my letter, and that which must now chiefly work my pardon, that I am your true and unfeigned friend.


The blind poet[1]

Westminster, 28 Sept. 1654.

I have always been devotedly attached to the literature of Greece, and particularly to that of your Athens; and have never ceased to cherish the persuasion that that city would one day make me ample recompense for the warmth of my regard. The ancient genius of your renowned country has favoured the completion of my prophecy in presenting me with your friendship and esteem. Though I was known to you only by my writings, and we were removed to such a distance from each other, you most courteously addressed me by letter; and when you unexpectedly came to London, and saw me who could no longer see, my affliction, which causes none to regard me with greater admiration, and perhaps many even with feelings of contempt, excited your tenderest sympathy and concern. You would not suffer me to abandon the hope of recovering my sight; and informed me you had an intimate friend at Paris, Dr. Thevenot, who was particularly celebrated in disorders of the eyes, whom you would consult about mine, if I would enable you to lay before him the causes and the symptoms of the complaint. I will do what you desire, lest I should seem to reject that aid which perhaps may be offered me by Heaven. It is now, I think, about ten years since I perceived my vision to grow weak and dull; and at the same time I was troubled with pain in my kidneys and bowels, accompanied with flatulency. In the morning, if I began to read, as was my custom, my eyes instantly ached intensely, but were refreshed after a little corporeal exercise. The candle which I looked at, seemed as it were encircled with a rainbow. Not long after the sight in the left part of the left eye (which I lost some years before the other) became quite obscured, and prevented me from discerning any object on that side. The sight in my other eye has now been gradually and sensibly vanishing away for about three years; some months before it had entirely perished, though I stood motionless, everything which I looked at seemed in motion to and fro. A stiff cloudy vapour seemed to have settled on my forehead and temples, which usually occasions a sort of somnolent pressure upon my eyes, and particularly from dinner till the evening. So that I often recollect what is said of the poet Phineas in the Argonautics:

A stupor deep his cloudy temples bound, And when he walked he seemed as whirling round, Or in a feeble trance he speechless lay.

I ought not to omit that while I had any sight left, as soon as I lay down on my bed and turned on either side, a flood of light used to gush from my closed eyelids. Then, as my sight became daily more impaired, the colours became more faint and were emitted with a certain inward crackling sound; but at present, every species of illumination being, as it were, extinguished, there is diffused around me nothing but darkness, or darkness mingled and streaked with an ashy brown. Yet the darkness in which I am perpetually immersed seems always, both by night and day, to approach nearer to white than black; and when the eye is rolling in its socket, it admits a little particle of light, as through a chink. And though your physician may kindle a small ray of hope, yet I make up my mind to the malady as quite incurable; and I often reflect, that as the wise man admonishes, days of darkness are destined to each of us, the darkness which I experience, less oppressive than that of the tomb, is, owing to the singular goodness of the Deity, passed amid the pursuits of literature and the cheering salutations of friendship. But if, as is written, 'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth from the mouth of God,' why may not any one acquiesce in the privation of his sight, when God has so amply furnished his mind and his conscience with eyes? While He so tenderly provides for me, while He so graciously leads me by the hand, and conducts me on the way, I will, since it is His pleasure, rather rejoice than repine at being blind. And, my dear Philaras, whatever may be the event, I wish you adieu with no less courage and composure than if I had the eyes of a lynx.

[Footnote 1: From the Latin.]




In retirement at Wotton

Wotton, 2 Aug. 1692.

I have been philosophizing and world-despising in the solitudes of this place, whither I am retired to pass and mourn the absence of my worthiest friend. Here is wood and water, meadows and mountains, the Dryads and Hamadryads; but here's no Mr. Pepys, no Dr. Gale. Nothing of all the cheer in the parlour that I taste; all's insipid, and all will be so to me, till I see and enjoy you again. I long to know what you do, and what you think, because I am certain you do both what is worthy the knowing and imitation. On Monday next will Mr. Bentley resume his lecture, I think, at Bow Church: I fear I shall hardly get through this wilderness by that time. Pray give him your wonted confidence if you can, and tell him how unhappily I am entangled. I hope, however, to get home within this fortnight, and about the end of October to my hyemation in Dover Street. My son is gone with the Lord Lieutenant, and our new relation, Sir Cyril Wych, into Ireland: I look they should return wondrous statesmen, or else they had as well have stayed at home. I am here with Boccalini, and Erasmus's Praise of Folly, and look down upon the world with wondrous contempt, when I consider for what we keep such a mighty bustle. O fortunate Mr. Pepys! who knows, possesses, and enjoys all that's worth the seeking after. Let me live among your inclinations, and I shall be happy.


An old man's occupations

Wotton, 22 July, 1700.

I could no longer suffer this old servant of mine to pass and repass so near Clapham without a particular account of your health and all your happy family. You will now inquire what I do here? Why, as the patriarchs of old, I pass the days in the fields, among horses and oxen, sheep, cows, bulls, and sows, et cetera pecora campi. We have, thank God! finished our hay harvest prosperously. I am looking after my hinds, providing carriage and tackle against reaping time and sowing. What shall I say more? Venio ad voluptates agricolarum, which Cicero, you know, reckons amongst the most becoming diversions of old age; and so I render it. This without: now within doors, never was any matron more busy than my wife, disposing of our plain country furniture for a naked old extravagant house, suitable to our employments. She has a dairy, and distaffs, for lac, linum, et lanam, and is become a very Sabine. But can you thus hold out? Will my friend say; is philosophy, Gresham College, and the example of Mr. Pepys, and agreeable conversation of York Buildings, quite forgotten and abandoned? No, no! Naturam expellas furca tamen usque recurret. Know I have been ranging of no fewer than thirty large cases of books, destined for a competent standing library, during four or five days wholly destitute of my young coadjutor, who, upon some pretence of being much engaged in the mathematics, and desiring he may continue his course at Oxford till the beginning of August, I have wholly left it to him. You will now suspect something by this disordered hand; truly I was too happy in these little domestic affairs, when, on the sudden, as I was about my books in the library, I found myself sorely attacked with a shivering, followed by a feverish indisposition, and a strangury, so as to have kept, not my chamber only, but my bed, till very lately, and with just so much strength as to scribble these lines to you. For the rest, I give God thanks for this gracious warning, my great age calling upon me sarcinam componere every day expecting it, who have still enjoyed a wonderful course of bodily health for forty years....




Three interesting postscripts

[Norfolk, 28 June, c. 1679.]


I have received all the things, to the great content of the owners, who returne you many thankes. Thay ar indeed very well chose things of all sorts: and I give you many thanks for the troble you have had with them: I sent you Tomey's scurt and long slevs of his ould cott; I hope you have them. On Mr. Felden it seemes took it last Wadinsday, and sayd hee would deliver it him selfe. Wee dayly wish for the new cloths; all our linen being worne out but shefts, and Tomey would give all his stock to see his briches. I bless God wee ar all well as I hope you ar. Tomey presents his dutty, your sisters all love and services.

[4 July.]


I must troble you once more abought my cosen Tenoson. She would macke a manto gown of the grene and whight silke you sent down for a peticot, but she wants two yards, and as much slit grene sarsinat as will line it in sight. I pray send nurs to gett it and lett mee know what it com to, and I will send you the mony. I sayes my Cossen Cradock might send it me by the choch for she would have it as sonne as possible. I bless God wee ar all in helth, and Tomey much longing for his briches.

[5 July.]

Tomey have received his cloues, and is much delighted, and sends you and his mother and grandmother dutty and thanckes, and meanes to war them carfully.




Honourable Acquittal

Berkeley House, 23 Feb. 1677-8.


Though I thank you for the favour of your letter, yet I confess myself both much surprised and troubled to receive a letter from you upon such an occasion: so is my wife, who professes herself wholly innocent of any crime of charging you in thought, word, or deed, and hopes you will do her that right to believe so of her. My daughter Berkeley says she expressed some trouble that the friend she recommended had not success, and that she was told the Commissioners of the Navy did report they had given the same recommendations of the person she proposed, as they did of him that was accepted, for the lieutenant's place; which my daughter, supposing to be true, wondered the more he lost the preferment: but, by the copies enclosed in your's, it appears her Ladyship was very much misinformed. As for Mrs. Henrietta, she is extremely troubled in saying any thing that gave you offence; and though she did not in the least intend it, yet she begs your pardon. And now, my good friend, though I am not under any accusation, and therefore need not say any thing to vindicate myself, yet give me leave, upon this occasion, to assure you, that there is no person has a better opinion of you than myself, nor is more sensible of your particular civilities to me; which I should be very glad to make a return of when in my power to serve you: and give me leave to add further, without flattery to you, and with great sincerity, that I believe our gracious master, His Majesty, is so fortunate in employing you in his service, that, if he should lose you, it would be very difficult for His Majesty to find a successor so well qualified in all respects for his service, if we consider both your integrity, vast abilities, industry, and zealous affections for his service; and, if His Majesty were asked the question, I will hold ten to one His Majesty declares himself of my opinion; so will I believe all that know you, more especially our fellow-traders that are so conversant with you and obliged by you.

This is asserted as a great truth by, Sir, your very affectionate and hearty friend and Servant.

[Footnote 1: Cf. Letter on p. 45.]




Passing the time

[No date; c. 1653.]

I have been reckoning up how many faults you lay to my charge in your last letter, and I find I am severe, unjust, unmerciful, and unkind! O me! how should one do to mend all those! 'Tis work for an age, and I fear that I shall be so old before I am good, that 'twill not be considerable to any body but myself whether I am so or not.... You ask me how I pass my time here. I can give you a perfect account, not only of what I do for the present, but what I am likely to do this seven years if I stay here so long. I rise in the morning reasonably early, and before I am ready I go round the house till I am weary of that, and then into the garden till it grows too hot for me. I then think of making me ready; and when that's done I go into my father's chamber; from thence to dinner, where my cousin Molle and I sit in great state in a room and at a table that would hold a great many more. After dinner we sit and talk till Mr. P. comes in question, and then I am gone. The heat of the day is spent in reading or working; and about six or seven o'clock I walk out into a common that lies hard by the house, where a great many young wenches keep sheep and cows, and sit in the shade singing of ballads; I go to them, and compare their voices and beauty to some ancient shepherdesses that I have read of, and find a vast difference there; but, trust me, I think these are as innocent as those could be. I talk to them, and find they want nothing to make them the happiest people in the world but the knowledge that they are so. Most commonly, while we are in the middle of our discourse, one looks about her, and spies her cows going into the corn, and then away they all run as if they had wings at their heels. I that am not so nimble stay behind, and when I see them driving home their cattle think it is time for me to return too. When I have supped I go into the garden, and so to the side of a small river that runs by it, where I sit down and wish you with me (you had best say this is not kind, neither). In earnest, it is a pleasant place, and would be more so to me if I had your company, as I sit there sometimes till I am lost with thinking; and were it not for some cruel thoughts of the crossness of my fortune, that will not let me sleep there, I should forget there were such a thing to be done as going to bed. Since I writ this, my company is increased by two, my brother Harry, and a fair niece, my brother Peyton's daughter. She is so much a woman that I am almost ashamed to say I am her aunt, and so pretty, that if I had any design to gain a servant I should not like her company; but I have none, and therefore I shall endeavour to keep her here as long as I can persuade her father to spare her, for she will easily consent to it, having so much of my humour (though it be the worst thing in her) as to like a melancholy place, and little company.... My father is reasonably well, but keeps his chamber still; but will hardly, I am afraid, ever be so perfectly recovered as to come abroad again.


Another pretender

[No date; c. 1653.]

I could tell you such a story (it is too long to be written), as would make you see what I never discovered in my life before, that I am a valiant lady. In earnest, we have had such a skirmish and upon so foolish an occasion, as I cannot tell which is strangest. The Emperor and his proposals began it; I talked merrily on it till I saw my brother put on his sober face, and could hardly then believe he was in earnest. It seems he was; for when I had spoke freely my meaning it wrought so with him, as to fetch up all that lay upon his stomach: all the people that I had ever in my life refused were brought again upon the stage, like Richard the Third's ghosts, to reproach me withal, and all the kindness his discoveries could make I had for you was laid to my charge; my best qualities, if I have any that are good, served but for aggravations of my fault, and I was allowed to have wit, and understanding, and discretion, in all other things, that it might appear I had none in this. Well, 'twas a pretty lecture, and I grew warm with it after a while. In short, we came so near to an absolute falling out that 'twas time to give over, and we said so much then that we have hardly spoken a word together since. But 'tis wonderful to see what courtesies and legs pass between us, and as before we were thought the kindest brother and sister, we are certainly now the most complimental couple in England: it is a strange change, and I am very sorry for it, but I'll swear I know not how to help it....


A disappointing preacher

[No date; c. 1653.]

... God forgive me, I was as near laughing yesterday where I should not: would you believe that I had the grace to go to hear a sermon upon a week-day? In earnest, 'tis true, and Mr. Marshall was the man that preached, but never any body was so defeated. He is so famed that I expected rare things from him, and seriously I listened to him at first with as much reverence and attention as if he had been St. Paul. And what do you think he told us? why, that if there were no kings, no queens, no lords, no ladies, no gentlemen or gentlewomen in the world, it would be no loss at all to God Almighty: this he said over some forty times, which made me remember it, whether I would or not. The rest was much at this rate, entertained with the prettiest odd phrases, that I had the most ado to look soberly enough for the place I was in that ever I had in my life. He does not preach so always, sure; if he does, I cannot believe his sermons will do much towards the bringing anybody to heaven more than by exercising their patience; yet I'll say that for him, he stood stoutly for tithes, though in my opinion few deserve them less than he, and it may be he would be better without them. Yet you say you are not convinced that to be miserable is the way to be good; to some natures I think it is not; but there are many of so careless and vain a temper that the least breath of good fortune swells them with so much pride, that if they were not put in mind sometimes by a sound cross or two that they are mortal, they would hardly think it possible; and though it is a sign of a servile nature, when fear produces more of reverence in us than love, yet there is more danger of forgetting one's self in a prosperous fortune than in the contrary; and affliction may be the surest though not the pleasantest guide to heaven. What think you, might I not preach with Mr. Marshall for a wager?...


The ideal husband

[No date; c. 1653.]

There are a great many ingredients must go to the making me happy in a husband. My cousin F. says our humours must agree, and to do that he must have that kind of breeding that I have had, and used to that kind of company; that is, he must not be so much a country gentleman as to understand nothing but hawks and dogs, and be fonder of either than of his wife; nor of the next sort of them, whose time reaches no farther than to be justice of peace, and once in his life high sheriff, who reads no book but statutes, and studies nothing but how to make a speech interlarded with Latin, that may amaze his disagreeing poor neighbours, and fright them rather than persuade them into quietness. He must not be a thing that began the world in a free school, was sent from thence to the university, and is at his farthest when he reaches the inns of court; has no acquaintance but those of his form in those places; speaks the French he has picked out of old laws, and admires nothing but the stories he has heard of the revels that were kept there before his time. He must not be a town gallant neither, that lives in a tavern and an ordinary; that cannot imagine how an hour should be spent without company unless it be in sleeping; that makes court to all the women he sees, thinks they believe him, and laughs and is laughed at equally. Nor a travelled Monsieur, whose head is feathered inside and outside, that can talk of nothing but of dances and duels, and has courage enough to wear slashes, when every body else dies with cold to see him. He must not be a fool of no sort, nor peevish, nor ill-natured, nor proud, nor courteous; and to all this must be added, that he must love me, and I him, as much as we are capable of loving. Without all this his fortune, though never so great, would not satisfy me, and with it a very moderate one would keep me from ever repenting my disposal....


The growth of friendship

[No date; c. 1653.]

... I must find you pleased and in good humour; merry as you were wont to be, when we first met, if you will not have me show that I am nothing akin to my cousin Osborne's lady. But what an age it is since we first met, and how great a change it has wrought in both of us! if there had been as great a one on my face, it would be either very handsome or very ugly. For God's sake, when we meet, let us design one day to remember old stories in, to ask one another by what degrees our friendship grew to this height 'tis at. In earnest, I am lost sometimes in thinking of it, and though I can never repent of the share you have in my heart, I know not whether I gave it you willingly or not at first. No; to speak ingenuously, I think you got an interest there a good while before I thought you had any, and it grew so insensibly and yet so fast, that all the traverses it has met with since have served rather to discover it to me than at all to hinder it.


Wilful woman

[No date; c. 1653.]

I was carried yesterday abroad to a dinner that was designed for mirth, but it seems one ill-humoured person in the company is enough to put all the rest out of tune, for I never saw people perform what they intended worse, and could not forbear telling them so; but to excuse themselves and silence my reproaches they all agreed to say that I spoiled their jollity by wearing the most unseasonable looks that could be put on for such an occasion. I told them I knew no remedy but leaving me behind them; that my looks were suitable to my fortune though not to a feast. Fie, I am got into my complaining humour that tires myself as well as every body else, and which (as you observe) helps not at all; would it would leave me and that I should not always have occasion for it, but that's in nobody's power, and my Lady Talmash, that says she can do whatever she will, cannot believe whatsoever she pleases. 'Tis not unpleasant, methinks, to hear her talk how at such a time she was sick, and the physicians told her she would have the small-pox and showed her where they were coming out upon her, but she bethought herself that it was not at all convenient for her to have them at that time; some business she had that required her going abroad, and so she resolved she would not be sick nor was not. Twenty such stories as these she tells, and then falls into discourses of the strength of reason and power of philosophy till she confounds herself and all that hear her. You have no such ladies in Ireland.... My poor Lady Vavasor is carried to the Tower, and her situation could not excuse her, because she was acquainted by somebody that there was a plot against the Protector, and did not discover it. She has told now all that was told her, but vows she will never say from whence she had it; we shall see whether her resolutions are as unalterable as those of my Lady Talmash. I wonder how she behaved herself when she was married; I never yet saw anybody that did not look simply and out of countenance, nor ever knew a wedding well designed but one, and that was of two persons who had time enough I confess to contrive it, and nobody to please in it but themselves. He came down into the country where she was upon a visit, and one morning married her; as soon as they came out of the church, they took coach and came for the town, dined at an Inn by the way, and at night came into lodgings that were provided for them, where nobody knew them, and where they passed for married people of seven years' standing. The truth is I could not endure to be Mrs. Bride in a public wedding, to be made the happiest person on earth; do not take it ill, for I would endure it if I could, rather than fail, but in earnest I do not think it were possible for me; you cannot apprehend the formalities of a treaty more than I do, nor so much the success of it. Yet in earnest your father will not find my brother Peyton wanting in civility (though he is not a man of much compliment unless it be in his letters to me), nor an unreasonable person in any thing so he will allow him, out of his kindness to his wife, to set a higher value upon his sister than she deserves. I know not how he may be prejudiced upon the business, but he is not deaf to reason when it is civilly delivered, and is as easily gained with compliance and good usage as any body I know, but no other way; when he is roughly used he is like me ten times the worse for it. I make it a case of conscience to discover my faults to you as fast as I know them, that you may consider what you have to do: my aunt told me no longer ago than yesterday, that I was the most wilful woman that ever she knew, and had an obstinacy of spirit nothing could overcome. Take heed, you see I give you fair warning. I have missed a letter this Monday, what is the reason? By the next I shall be gone into Kent, and my other journey is laid aside, which I am not displeased at, because it would have broken our intercourse very much. Here are some verses of Cowley's; pray tell me how you like them. It is only a piece taken out of a new thing of his. The whole is very long, and is a description of, or rather a paraphrase upon, the friendships of David and Jonathan. 'Tis I think the best I have seen of his, and I like the subject because it is that I would be perfect in. Adieu!




Yielding to opinion

Priory of Cardigan, 25 June

Your Ladyship's last favour from Coll. P——'s was truly obliging, and carried so much of the same great soul of yours, which loves to diffuse itself in expressions of friendship to me, that it merits a great deal more acknowledgement than I am able to pay at my best condition, and am less now when my head aches, and will give me no leave to enlarge, though I have so much subject and reason; but really if my heart ached too, I could be sensible of a very great kindness and condescension in thinking me worthy of your concern, though I visibly perceive most of my letters have lost their way to your Ladyship. I beseech you be pleased first to believe I have written every post; but, secondly, since I came, and then to enquire for them, that they may be commended into your hands, where alone they can hope for a favourable residence; I am very much a sharer by sympathy, in your Ladyship's satisfaction in the converse you had in the country, and find that to that ingenious company Fortune hath been just, there being no person fitter to receive all the admiration of persons best capable to pay them, than the great Berenice....

And now (madam) why was that a cruel question, When will you come to Wales? 'Tis cruel to me, I confess, that it is yet in question, but I humbly beg your Ladyship to unriddle that part of your letter, for I cannot understand why you, madam, who have no persons alive to whom your birth hath submitted you, and have already by your life secured to yourself the best opinion the world can give you, should create an awe upon your own actions, from imaginary inconveniences: Happiness, I confess, is two-faced, and one is opinion; but that opinion is certainly our own; for it were equally ridiculous and impossible to shape our actions by others' opinions. I have had so much (and some sad) reason to discuss this principle, that I can speak with some confidence, That none will ever be happy, who make their happiness to consist in, or be governed by the votes of other persons. I deny not but the approbation of wise and good persons is a very necessary satisfaction; but to forbear innocent contentments, only because it's possible some fancies may be so capricious as to dispute whether I should have taken them, is, in my belief, neither better nor worse than to fast always, because there are some so superstitious in the world, that will abstain from meat, upon some score or other, upon every day in the year, that is, some upon some days, and others upon others, and some upon all. You know, madam, there is nothing so various as vulgar opinion, nothing so untrue to itself. Who shall then please since none can fix it? 'Tis heresy (this of submitting to every blast of popular extravagancy) which I have combated in persons very dear to me; Dear madam, let them not have your authority for a relapse, when I had almost committed them; but consider it without a bias, and give sentence as you see cause; and in that interim put me not off (Dear madam) with those chimeras, but tell me plainly what inconvenience is it to come? If it be one in earnest, I will submit, but otherwise, I am so much my own friend, and my friend's friend, as not to be satisfied with your Ladyship's taking measure of your actions by others' opinion, when I know too that the severest could find nothing in this journey that they could condemn, but your excess of charity to me, and that censure you have already supported with patience, and (notwithstanding my own consciousness of no ways deserving your sufferance upon that score) I cannot beg you to recover the reputation of your judgement in that particular, since it must be my ruin. I should now say very much for your most obliging commands to me, to write, and should beg frequent letters from your Ladyship with all possible importunity, and should by command from my Lucasia excuse her last rudeness (as she calls it) in giving you account of her honour for you under her own hand, but I must beg your pardon now, and out-believing all, I can say upon every one of these accounts, for really, madam, you cannot tell how to imagine any person more to any one, than I am,

Madam, Your Ladyship's most faithful servant, and passionate friend, ORINDA




A philosopher's confidences

Oates, 26 April, 1695.


You look with the eyes, and speak the language of friendship, when you make my life of much more concern to the world than your own. I take it, as it is, for an effect of your kindness, and so shall not accuse you of compliment; the mistakes and over-valuings of good-will being always sincere, even when they exceed what common truth allows. This on my side I must beg you to believe, that my life would be much more pleasant and useful to me, if you were within my reach, that I might sometimes enjoy your conversation, and, upon twenty occasions, lay my thoughts before you, and have the advantage of your judgement. I cannot complain that I have not my share of friends of all ranks, and such, whose interest, assistance, affection, and opinions too, in fit cases, I can rely on. But methinks, for all this, there is one place vacant, that I know nobody that would so well fill as yourself; I want one near me to talk freely with, de quolibet ente; to propose to the extravagancies that rise in my mind; one with whom I would debate several doubts and questions, to see what was in them. Meditating by one's self, is like digging in the mine; it often, perhaps, brings up maiden earth, which never came near the light before; but whether it contains any metal in it, is never so well tried as in conversation with a knowing judicious friend who carries about with him the true touchstone, which is love of truth in a clear-thinking head. Men of parts and judgement the world usually gets hold of, and by a great mistake (that their abilities of mind are lost, if not employed in the pursuit of wealth or power) engages them in the ways of fortune and interest, which usually leave but little freedom or leisure of thought for pure disinterested truth. And such who give themselves up frankly, and in earnest to the full latitude of real knowledge, are not everywhere to be met with. Wonder not, therefore, that I wish so much for you in my neighbourhood; I should be too happy in a friend of your make, were you within my reach. But yet I cannot but wish that some business would once bring you within distance; and it is a pain to me to think of leaving the world without the happiness of seeing you.

I do not wonder that a kinsman of yours should magnify civilities that scarce deserve the name; I know not wherein they consisted, but in being glad to see one that was in any way related to you, and was himself a very ingenious man; either of those was a title to more than I did, or could show him. I am sorry I have not yet had an opportunity to wait on him in London; and I fear he should be gone before I am able to get thither. This long winter, and cold spring, has hung very heavy upon my lungs, and they are not yet in a case to be ventured in London air, which must be my excuse for not waiting upon him and Dr. Ashe yet.

The third edition of my essay has already, or will be speedily, in the press. But what perhaps will seem stranger, and possibly please you better, an abridgement is now making (if it be not already done) by one of the university of Oxford, for the use of young scholars, in the place of the ordinary system of logic. From the acquaintance I had of the temper of that place I did not expect to have it get much footing there. But so it is, I some time since received a very civil letter from one, wholly a stranger to me there, concerning such a design; and by another from him since, I conclude it near done. He seems to be an ingenious man, and he writes sensibly about it, but I can say nothing of it till I see it; and he, of his own accord, has offered that it shall be wholly submitted to my opinion, and disposal of it. And thus, sir, possibly that which you once proposed may be attained to, and I was pleased with the gentleman's design for your sake.

You are a strange man, you oblige me very much by the care you take to have it well translated, and you thank me for complying with your offer. In my last, as I remember, I told you the reason why it was so long before I writ, was an expectation of an answer from London, concerning something I had to communicate to you: it was in short this; I was willing to know what my bookseller would give for a good latin copy; he told me, at last, twenty pounds. His delay was, because he would first have known what the translator demanded. But I forced him to make his proposal, and so I send it to you, to make what use of it you please. He since writ me word, that a friend of his at Oxford would, in some time, be at leisure to do it, and would undertake it. I bid him excuse himself to him, for that it was in hands I approved of, and some part of it now actually done. For I hope the essay (he was to show you the next week after you writ to me last) pleased you. Think it not a compliment, that I desire you to make what alterations you think fit. One thing particularly you will oblige me and the world in, and that is, in paring off some of the superfluous repetitions, which I left in for the sake of illiterate men, and the softer sex, not used to abstract notions and reasonings. But much of this reasoning will be out of doors in a latin translation. I refer all to your judgement, and so am secure it will be done as is best.

What I shall add concerning enthusiasm, I guess, will very much agree with your thoughts, since yours jump so right with mine, about the place where it is to come in, I having designed it for chap. 18, lib. iv, as a false principle of reasoning often made use of. But, to give an historical account of the various ravings men have embraced for religion, would, I fear, be besides my purpose, and be enough to make an huge volume.

My opinion of P. Malebranche agrees perfectly with yours. What I have writ concerning 'seeing all things in God', would make a little treatise of itself. But I have not quite gone through it, for fear I should by somebody or other be tempted to print it. For I love not controversies, and have a personal kindness for the author. When I have the happiness to see you, we will consider it together, and you shall dispose of it.

I think I shall make some other additions to be put into your latin translation, and particularly concerning the 'connection of ideas', which has not, that I know, been hitherto considered, and has, I guess, a greater influence upon our minds than is usually taken notice of. Thus, you see, I make you the confident of my reveries; you would be troubled with a great many more of them, were you nearer.


True friendship

Oates, 27 Oct. 1698.


Death has, with a violent hand, hastily snatched from you a dear brother. I doubt not but, on this occasion, you need all the consolation can be given to one unexpectedly bereft of so worthy and near a relation. Whatever inclination I may have to alleviate your sorrow, I bear too great a share in the loss, and am too sensibly touched with it myself, to be in a condition to discourse with you on this subject, or do any thing but mingle my tears with yours. I have lost, in your brother, not only an ingenious and learned acquaintance, all that the world esteemed; but an intimate and sincere friend, whom I truly loved, and by whom I was truly loved: and what a loss that is, those only can be sensible who know how valuable, and how scarce, a true friend is, and how far to be preferred to all other sorts of treasure. He has left a son, who I know was dear to him, and deserved to be so as much as was possible, for one of his age. I cannot think myself wholly incapacitated from paying some of the affection and service that was due from me to my dear friend, as long as he has a child, or a brother, in the world. If, therefore, there be any thing, at this distance, wherein I, in my little sphere, may be able to serve your nephew or you, I beg you, by the memory of our deceased friend, to let me know it, that you may see that one who loved him so well, cannot but be tenderly concerned for his son, nor be otherwise than I am, Sir, etc.




An explanation

Derby House, 22 Feb. 1677-8


I am greatly owing to your Lordship for your last favour at St. John's, and did, till now, reckon myself under no less a debt to my Ladies for the honour at the same time done me, in their commands touching Mr. Bonithan. But, my Lord, I have lately had the misfortune of being undeceived in the latter, by coming to know the severity with which some of my Ladies are pleased to discourse of me in relation thereto. I assure your Lordship, I was so big with the satisfaction of having an opportunity given me by my Ladies at once of obliging them, paying a small respect to you, and doing a good office to a deserving gentleman, that I did not let one day pass before I had bespoke and obtained His Majesty's and Royal Highness's promise of favour in Mr. Bonithan's behalf: and was so far afterwards from failing him in my further assistances with Captain Trevanion and others, that I took early care to secure him a lieutenancy, by a commission actually signed for him by the King, in the ship Stavereene, relying upon the character Captain Trevanion had given me of his capacity to abide the examination, established by the King, upon the promotion of lieutenants; which was not only the most I should have done in the case of a brother, but more than ever I did in any man's case before, or, for his sake, do think I shall ever do again. True it is, my Lord, that when, upon his examination by the officers of the Navy, he was found not so fully qualified for the office of lieutenant as was requisite, I did with all respect, and to his seeming satisfaction, advise him to pass a little longer time in the condition he was then in, under a stricter application of himself to the practice of navigation. And, in pursuance of my duty to the King, I did acquaint him also with Mr. Bonithan's present unreadiness; and had, therefore, a command given me for conferring the commission prepared for him upon another, who, upon examination, at the same time with Mr. Bonithan, was found better qualified for it. As to what I understand my Ladies are pleased to entertain themselves and others with, to my reproach, as if money had been wanting in the case, it is a reproach lost upon me, my Lord, who am known to be so far from needing any purgation in the point of selling places, as never to have taken so much as my fee for a commission or warrant to any one officer in the Navy, within the whole time, now near twenty years, that I have had the honour of serving His Majesty therein—a self-denial at this day so little in fashion, and yet so chargeable to maintain, that I take no pride, and as little pleasure, in the mentioning it, further than it happily falls in here to my defence against the mistake the Ladies seem disposed to arraign me by on this occasion. Besides that, in the particular case of this gentleman, Lieut. Beele, who enjoys the commission designed for Mr. Bonithan, he is one whose face I never saw either before or since the time of his receiving it, nor know one friend he has in the world to whom he owes this benefit, other than the King's justice and his own modest merit: which, having said, it remains only that I assure your Lordship what I have so said, is not calculated with any regard to, much less any repining at, the usage the Ladies are pleased to show me in this affair, for 'tis fit I bear it, but to acquit myself to your Lordship in my demeanour towards them, as becomes their and, my Lord,

Your Lordship's most obedient Servant.


A wedding in the city

20 Sept. 1695.


You are very good, and pray continue so, by as many kind messages as you can, and notices of your health, such as the bearer brings you back my thanks for, and a thousand services. Here's a sad town, and God knows when it will be a better, our losses at sea making a very melancholy exchange at both ends of it; the gentlewomen of this, to say nothing of the other, sitting with their arms across, without a yard of muslin in their shops to sell, while the ladies, they tell me, walk pensively by, without a shilling, I mean a good one, in their pockets to buy. One thing there is indeed, that comes in my way as a Governor, to hear of, which carries a little mirth with it, and indeed is very odd. Two wealthy citizens that are lately dead, and left their estates, one to a Blue Coat boy, and the other to a Blue Coat girl, in Christ's Hospital. The extraordinariness of which has led some of the magistrates to carry it on to a match, which is ended in a public wedding; he in his habit of blue satin, led by two of the girls, and she in blue, with an apron green and petticoat yellow, all of sarsnet, led by two of the boys of the house, through Cheapside to Guildhall Chapel, where they were married by the Dean of St. Paul's, she given by my Lord Mayor. The wedding dinner, it seems, was kept in the Hospital Hall, but the great day will be tomorrow, St Matthew's; when, so much I am sure of, my Lord Mayor will be there, and myself also have had a ticket of invitation thither, and if I can, will be there too, but, for other particulars, I must refer you to my next, and so,

Dear madam, Adieu.

Bow Bells are just now ringing, ding dong, but whether for this, I cannot presently tell; but it is likely enough, for I have known them ring upon much foolisher occasions, and lately too.


Reply to an old friend

Clapham, 7 Aug. 1700.

I have no herds to mind, nor will my Doctor allow me any books here. What then, will you say, too, are you doing? Why, truly, nothing that will bear naming, and yet I am not, I think, idle; for who can, that has so much of past and to come to think on, as I have? And thinking, I take it, is working, though many forms beneath what my Lady and you are doing. But pray remember what o'clock it is with you and me; and be not now, by overstirring, too bold with your present complaint, any more than I dare be with mine, which, too, has been no less kind in giving me my warning, than the other to you, and to neither of us, I hope, and, through God's mercy, dare say, either unlooked for or unwelcome. I wish, nevertheless, that I were able to administer any thing towards the lengthening that precious rest of life which God has thus long blessed you, and, in you, mankind, with; but I have always been too little regardful of my own health, to be a prescriber to others. I cannot give myself the scope I otherwise should in talking now to you at this distance, on account of the care extraordinary I am now under from Mrs. Skinner's being suddenly fallen very ill; but ere long I may possibly venture at entertaining you with something from my young man in exchange—I don't say in payment, for the pleasure you gratify me with from yours, whom I pray God to bless with continuing but what he is! and I'll ask no more for him.




The Dean at home

London, 16 Jan. 1710-11.

O faith, young women, I have sent my letter N. 13, without one crumb of an answer to any of MD's; there is for you now; and yet Presto ben't angry faith, not a bit, only he will begin to be in pain next Irish post, except he sees MD's little handwriting in the glass frame at the bar of St. James's Coffee-house, where Presto would never go but for that purpose. Presto's at home, God help him, every night from six till bed time, and has as little enjoyment or pleasure in life at present as anybody in the world, although in full favour with all the ministry. As hope saved, nothing gives Presto any sort of dream of happiness, but a letter now and then from his own dearest MD. I love the expectation of it, and when it does not come, I comfort myself, that I have it yet to be happy with. Yes faith, and when I write to MD, I am happy too; it is just as if methinks you were here, and I prating to you, and telling you where I have been: Well, says you, Presto, come, where have you been to-day? come, let's hear now. And so then I answer; Ford and I were visiting Mr. Lewis, and Mr. Prior, and Prior has given me a fine Plautus, and then Ford would have had me dine at his lodgings, and so I would not; and so I dined with him at an eating-house; which I have not done five times since I came here; and so I came home, after visiting Sir Andrew Fountaine's mother and sister, and Sir Andrew Fountaine is mending, though slowly.

17. I was making, this morning, some general visits, and at twelve I called at the coffee-house for a letter from MD; so the man said he had given it to Patrick; then I went to the Court of requests and treasury to find Mr. Harley, and after some time spent in mutual reproaches, I promised to dine with him; I stayed there till seven, then called at Sterne's and Leigh's to talk about your box, and to have it sent by Smyth; Sterne says he has been making inquiries, and will set things right as soon as possible. I suppose it lies at Chester, at least I hope so, and only wants a lift over to you.... Well, so I came home to read my letter from Stella, but the dog Patrick was abroad; at last he came, and I got my letter; I found another hand had superscribed it; when I opened it, I found it written all in French, and subscribed Bernage: faith, I was ready to fling it at Patrick's head. Bernage tells me, he had been to desire your recommendation to me to make him a captain; and your cautious answer, 'That he had as much power with me as you,' was a notable one; if you were here, I would present you to the ministry as a person of ability. Bernage should let me know where to write to him; this is the second letter I have had without any direction; however, I beg I may not have a third, but that you will ask him, and send me how I shall direct to him. In the meantime, tell him, that if regiments are to be raised here, as he says, I will speak to George Granville, secretary at war, to make him a captain; and use what other interest I conveniently can. I think that is enough, and so tell him, and do not trouble me with his letters when I expect them from MD; do you hear, young women, write to Presto.

18. I was this morning with Mr. Secretary St. John, and we were to dine at Mr. Harley's alone, about some business of importance; but there were two or three gentlemen there. Mr. Secretary and I went together from his office to Mr. Harley's, and thought to have been very wise; but the deuce a bit: the company stayed, and more came, and Harley went away at seven, and the secretary and I stayed with the rest of the company till eleven; I would then have had him come away, but he was in for it; and though he swore he would come away at that flask, there I left him. I wonder at the civility of these people; when he saw I would drink no more, he would always pass the bottle by me, and yet I could not keep the toad from drinking himself, nor he would not let me go neither, nor Masham, who was with us. When I got home, I found a parcel directed to me, and opening it, I found a pamphlet written entirely against myself, not by name, but against something I writ: it is pretty civil, and affects to be so, and I think I will take no notice of it; it is against something written very lately; and indeed I know not what to say, nor do I care; and so you are a saucy rogue for losing your money to-day at Stoyte's; to let that bungler beat you, my Stella, are not you ashamed? well, I forgive you this once, never do so again; no, noooo. Kiss and be friends, sirrah.—Come, let me go sleep, I go earlier to bed than formerly; and have not been out so late these two months; but the secretary was in a drinking humour. So good night, myownlittledearsaucyinsolentrogues.

19. Then you read that long word in the last line, no faith have not you. Well, when will this letter come from our MD? to-morrow or next day without fail; yes faith, and so it is coming. This was an insipid snowy day, and I dined gravely with Mrs. Vanhomrigh, and came home, and am now got to bed a little after ten; I remember old Culpepper's maxim:

Would you have a settled head, You must early go to bed: I tell you, and I tell it again, You must be in bed at ten.

20. And so I went to-day with my new wig, o hoao, to visit Lady Worsley, whom I had not seen before, although she was near a month in town. Then I walked in the Park to find Mr. Ford, whom I had promised to meet, and coming down the Mall, who should come towards me but Patrick, and gives me five letters out of his pocket. I read the superscription of the first, Pshoh, said I; of the second, pshoh again; of the third, pshah, pshah, pshah; of the fourth, a gad, a gad, a gad, I am in a rage; of the fifth and last, O hoooa; ay marry this is something, this is our MD, so truly we opened it, I think immediately, and it began the most impudently in the world, thus; Dear Presto, we are even thus far. Now we are even, quoth Stephen, when he gave his wife six blows for one. I received your ninth four days after I had sent my thirteenth. But I'll reckon with you anon about that, young women. Why did not you recant at the end of your letter when you got your eleventh? tell me that, huzzies base, were we even then, were we, sirrah? but I will not answer your letter now, I will keep it for another time. We had a great deal of snow to-day, and it is terrible cold....

21. Morning. It has snowed terribly all night, and is vengeance cold. I am not yet up, but cannot write long; my hands will freeze. Is there a good fire, Patrick? Yes, sir, then I will rise; come take away the candle. You must know I write on the dark side of my bedchamber, and am forced to have a candle till I rise, for the bed stands between me and the window, and I keep the curtains shut this cold weather. So pray let me rise, and, Patrick, here, take away the candle.—At night. We are now here in high frost and snow, the largest fire can hardly keep us warm. It is very ugly walking, a baker's boy broke his thigh yesterday. I walk slow, make short steps, and never tread on my heel. It is a good proverb the Devonshire people have:

Walk fast in snow, In frost walk slow, And still as you go, Tread on your toe:

When frost and snow are both together, Sit by the fire and spare shoe leather.

22. Morning. Starving, starving, uth, uth, uth, uth, uth.—Do not you remember I used to come into your chamber, and turn Stella out of her chair, and rake up the fire in a cold morning, and cry uth, uth, uth? O faith, I must rise, my hand is so cold I can write no more....

26, 27, 28, 29, 30. I have been so lazy and negligent these last four days, that I could not write to MD. My head is not in order, and yet it is not absolutely ill, but giddyish, and makes me listless; I walk every day, and hope I shall grow better. I wish I were with MD; I long for spring and good weather, and then I will come over. My riding in Ireland keeps me well. I am very temperate, and eat of the easiest meats as I am directed, and hope the malignity will go off; but one fit shakes me a long time. I dined to-day with Lord Mountjoy, yesterday at Mr. Stone's in the city, on Sunday at Vanhomrigh's, Saturday with Ford, and Friday I think at Vanhomrigh's, and that's all the journal I can send MD; for I was so lazy while I was well that I could not write. I thought to have sent this to-night, but it is ten, and I'll go to bed, and write on the other side to Parsivol to-morrow, and send it on Thursday; and so good night my dears, and love Presto, and be healthy, and Presto will be so too.


The Dean makes his bow

1 July, 1714.


When I was with you, I have said more than once, that I would never allow quality or station made any real difference between men. Being now absent and forgotten, I have changed my mind: you have a thousand people who can pretend they love you, with as much appearance of sincerity as I, so that, according to common justice, I can have but a thousandth part in return of what I give. And this difference is wholly owing to your station. And the misfortune is still the greater, because I always loved you just so much the worse for your station: for, in your public capacity, you have often angered me to the heart, but, as a private man, never once. So that, if I only look toward myself, I could wish you a private man to-morrow: for I have nothing to ask; at least nothing that you will give, which is the same thing: and then you would see whether I should not with much more willingness attend you in a retirement, whenever you please to give me leave, than ever I did at London or Windsor. From these sentiments I will never write to you, if I can help it, otherwise than as to a private person, or allow myself to have been obliged to you in any other capacity.

The memory of one great instance of your candour and justice, I will carry to my grave; that having been in a manner domestic with you for almost four years, it was never in the power of any public or concealed enemy to make you think ill of me, though malice and envy were often employed to that end. If I live, posterity shall know that, and more; which, though you, and somebody that shall be nameless, seem to value less than I could wish, is all the return I can make you. Will you give me leave to say how I would desire to stand in your memory? As one, who was truly sensible of the honour you did him, though he was too proud to be vain upon it; as one, who was neither assuming, officious, nor teasing; who never wilfully misrepresented persons or facts to you, nor consulted his passions when he gave a character; and lastly, as one, whose indiscretions proceeded altogether from a weak head, and not an ill heart. I will add one thing more, which is the highest compliment I can make, that I never was afraid of offending you, nor am now in any pain for the manner I write to you in. I have said enough; and, like one at your levee, having made my bow, I shrink back into the crowd.


News from the country

25 Jan. 1724-5.

I have a packet of letters, which I intended to send by Molly, who has been stopped three days by the bad weather; but now I will send them by the post to-morrow to Kells, and enclosed to Mr. Tickell there is one to you, and one to James Stopford.

I can do no work this terrible weather; which has put us all seventy times out of patience. I have been deaf nine days, and am now pretty well recovered again.

Pray desire Mr. Stanton and Worral to continue giving themselves some trouble with Mr. Pratt; but let it succeed or not, I hope I shall be easy.

Mrs. Johnson swears it will rain till Michaelmas. She is so pleased with her pick-axe, that she wears it fastened to her girdle on her left side, in balance with her watch. The lake is strangely overflown, and we are desperate about turf, being forced to buy it three miles off: and Mrs. Johnson (God help her!) gives you many a curse. Your mason is come, but cannot yet work upon your garden. Neither can I agree with him about the great wall. For the rest, vide the letter you will have on Monday, if Mr. Tickell uses you well.

The news of this country is, that the maid you sent down, John Farelly's sister, is married; but the portion and settlement are yet a secret. The cows here never give milk on midsummer eve.

You would wonder what carking and caring there is among us for small beer and lean mutton, and starved lamb, and stopping gaps, and driving cattle from the corn. In that we are all-to-be-Dingleyed.

The ladies' room smokes; the rain drops from the skies into the kitchen; our servants eat and drink like the devil, and pray for rain, which entertains them at cards and sleep; which are much lighter than spades, sledges, and crows. Their maxim is,

Eat like a Turk, Sleep like a dormouse; Be last at work, At victuals foremost.

Which is all at present; hoping you and your good family are well, as we are all at this present writing &c.

Robin has just carried out a load of bread and cold meat for breakfast; this is their way; but now a cloud hangs over them, for fear it should hold up, and the clouds blow off.

I write on till Molly comes in for the letter. O, what a draggletail will she be before she gets to Dublin! I wish she may not happen to fall upon her back by the way.

I affirm against Aristotle, that cold and rain congregate homogenes, for they gather together you and your crew, at whist, punch, and claret. Happy weather for Mrs. Maul, Betty, and Stopford, and all true lovers of cards and laziness.


Far from our debtors, No Dublin letters, Not seen by our betters.


A companion with news, A great want of shoes; Eat lean meat, or choose; A church without pews. Our horses astray, No straw, oats, or hay; December in May, Our boys run away, All servants at play.

Molly sends for the letter.


Mostly about Gulliver

Dublin, 17 Nov. 1726.

I am just come from answering a letter of Mrs. Howard's, writ in such mystical terms, that I should never have found out the meaning, if a book had not been sent me called Gulliver's Travels, of which you say so much in yours. I read the book over, and in the second volume observed several passages which appear to be patched and altered, and the style of a different sort, unless I am mistaken. Dr. Arbuthnot likes the projectors least; others, you tell me, the flying island; some think it wrong to be so hard upon whole bodies or corporations, yet the general opinion is, that reflections on particular persons are most to be blamed; so that in these cases, I think the best method is to let censure and opinion take their course. A bishop here said, that book was full of improbable lies, and for his part, he hardly believed a word of it; and so much for Gulliver.

Going to England is a very good thing, if it were not attended with an ugly circumstance of returning to Ireland. It is a shame you do not persuade your ministers to keep me on that side, if it were but by a court expedient of keeping me in prison for a plotter; but at the same time I must tell you, that such journeys very much shorten my life, for a month here is very much longer than six at Twickenham.

How comes friend Gay to be so tedious? Another man can publish fifty thousand lies sooner than he can publish fifty fables.... Let me add, that if I were Gulliver's friend, I would desire all my acquaintance to give out that his copy was basely mangled and abused, and added to, and blotted out by the printer; for so to me it seems in the second volume particularly.



Enquiries into Mr. Gay's pursuits

Dublin, 4 May, 1732.

I am now as lame as when you writ your letter, and almost as lame as your letter itself, for want of that limb from my lady duchess, which you promised, and without which I wonder how it could limp hither. I am not in a condition to make a true step even on Amesbury Downs, and I declare that a corporeal false step is worse than a political one: nay, worse than a thousand political ones, for which I appeal to courts and ministers, who hobble on and prosper without the sense of feeling. To talk of riding and walking is insulting me, for I can as soon fly as do either. It is your pride or laziness, more than chair-hire, that makes the town expensive. No honour is lost by walking in the dark; and in the day you may beckon a blackguard boy under a gate, near your visiting place, (experto crede,) save elevenpence, and get half-a-crown's worth of health. The worst of my present misfortune is, that I eat and drink, and can digest neither for want of exercise; and, to increase my misery, the knaves are sure to find me at home, and make huge void spaces in my cellars. I congratulate with you for losing your great acquaintance; in such a case, philosophy teaches that we must submit, and be content with good ones. I like Lord Cornbury's refusing his pension, but I demur at his being elected for Oxford; which, I conceive, is wholly changed; and entirely devoted to new principles; so it appeared to me the two last times I was there. I find by the whole cast of your letter, that you are as giddy and as volatile as ever: just the reverse of Mr. Pope, who has always loved a domestic life from his youth. I was going to wish you had some little place that you could call your own, but, I profess I do not know you well enough to contrive any one system of life that would please you. You pretend to preach up riding and walking to the duchess, yet from my knowledge of you after twenty years, you always joined a violent desire of perpetually shifting places and company, with a rooted laziness, and an utter impatience of fatigue. A coach and six horses is the utmost exercise you can bear; and this only when you can fill it with such company as is best suited to your taste, and how glad would you be if it could waft you in the air to avoid jolting; while I, who am so much later in life, can, or at least could, ride five hundred miles on a trotting horse. You mortally hate writing, only because it is the thing you chiefly ought to do; as well to keep up the vogue you have in the world, as to make you easy in your fortune. You are merciful to everything but money, your best friend, whom you treat with inhumanity. Be assured I will hire people to watch all your motions, and to return me a faithful account. Tell me, have you cured your absence of mind? can you attend to trifles? can you at Amesbury write domestic libels to divert the family and neighbouring squires for five miles round? or venture so far on horseback, without apprehending a stumble at every step? can you set the footmen a-laughing as they wait at dinner? and do the duchess's women admire your wit? in what esteem are you with the vicar of the parish? can you play with him at backgammon? have the farmers found out that you cannot distinguish rye from barley, or an oak from a crab-tree? You are sensible that I know the full extent of your country skill is in fishing for roaches or gudgeons at the highest.

I love to do you good offices with your friends, and therefore desire you will show this letter to the duchess, to improve her grace's good opinion of your qualifications, and convince her how useful you are likely to be in the family. Her grace shall have the honour of my correspondence again when she goes to Amesbury. Hear a piece of Irish news; I buried the famous General Meredyth's father last night in my cathedral, he was ninety-six years old; so that Mrs. Pope may live seven years longer. You saw Mr. Pope in health, pray is he generally more healthy than when I was among you? I would know how your own health is, and how much wine you drink in a day? My stint in company is a pint at noon, and half as much at night; but I often dine at home like a hermit, and then I drink little or none at all. Yet I differ from you, for I would have society, if I could get what I like, people of middle understanding, and middle rank.





Translation of Homer

26 Oct. 1713.

I was extremely glad to receive a letter from you, but more so upon reading the contents of it. The work you mention will, I dare say, very sufficiently recommend itself when your name appears with the proposals: and if you think I can any way contribute to the forwarding of them, you cannot lay a greater obligation upon me, than by employing me in such an office. As I have an ambition of having it known that you are my friend, I shall be very proud of showing it by this or any other instance. I question not but your translation will enrich our tongue, and do honour to our country; for I conclude of it already from those performances with which you have obliged the public. I would only have you consider how it may most turn to your advantage. Excuse my impertinence in this particular, which proceeds from my zeal for your ease and happiness. The work would cost you a great deal of time, and, unless you undertake it, will, I am afraid, never be executed by any other; at least I know none of this age that is equal to it besides yourself.

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