Page images
PDF
EPUB

*

health. If he regains ftrength enough to come over, (and he is better within a few weeks), I shall nurfe her in this farm with all the care and tenderness poffible. If he does not, I must pay her the laft duty of friendfhip where ever she is, though I break through the whole plan of life which I have formed in my mind. I am most faithfully and affectionately yours.

[ocr errors]

LETTER

XLVII.

Lord BOLINGBROKE to Dr SWIFT.

that

my

Adieu.

Jan. 1730-31. wife las been returned from abroad about a month, and that her health, though feeble and precarious, is better than it has been these two years. She is much your fervant; and as fhe has been her own physician with fome fuccefs, imagines fhe could be yours with the fame. Would to

God you was within her reach. She would, I believe, prefcribe a great deal of the medicina animi, without having recourfe to the books of Trismegiftus. Pope and I fhould be her principal apothecaries in the course of the cure; and though our beft botanists complain, that few of the herbs and fimples which go to the compofition of these remedies, are to be found at present in our foil, yet there are more of them here than in Ireland; befides, by the help of a little chymistry, the moft noxious juices may become falubrious, and rank poifon a fpecific.Pope is now in my library with me, and writes to the world, to the prefent and to future ages, whilft I begin this letter which he is to finish to you. What good he will do to mankind, I know not; this comfort he may be fure of; he cannot do lefs than you have done before him. I have sometimes thought, that if preachers, hangmen, and moral writers keep vice at a stand, or fo much as retard the progrefs of it, they do as much as human nature admits. A real reformation is not to be brought about by ordi

* Lord Bolingbroke's feat at Dawley in Middlefex. Warb.

VOL. VIII.

K

nary

nary means; it requires thofe extraordinary means which become punishments as well as leffons. National corruption must be purged by national calamities.Let us hear from you. We deferve this attention, because we defire it, and because we believe that you de fire to hear from us.

[ocr errors]

LETTER

XLVIII.

Lord BOLINGBROKE to Dr SWIFT.

March 29. Have delayed feveral pofts anfwering your letter of

about a project which concerns us both, but me the moft, fince the fuccefs of it would bring us together. It has been a good while in my head, and at my heart; if it can be fet a-going, you shall hear more of it. I was ill in the beginning of the winter for near a week, but in no danger, either from the nature of my diftemper, or from the attendance of three phyficians. Since that bilious intermitting fever, I have had, as I had before, better health than the regard I have paid to health deferves. We are both in the decline of life, my dear Dean, and have been fome years going down the hill; let us make the paffage as fmooth as we can. Let us fence against phyfical evil by care, and the use of those means which experience must have pointed out to us; let us fence against moral evil by philofophy. I renounce the alternative you propose. But we may, nay, (if we will follow nature, and do not work up imagination against her plaineft dictates), we fhall of course grow every year more indifferent to life, and to the affairs and interefts of a fyftem out of which we are foon to go. This is much better than ftupidity. The decay of paffion ftrengthens philofophy; for paffion may decay, and ftupidity not fucceed. Paffions (fays Pope, our divine, as you will fee one time or other) are the gales of life. Let us not complain that they do not blow a ftorm. What hurt does age do us, in fubduing what we toil to fubdue all our lives? It is now fix in

the

the morning. I recal the time, (and am glad it is over), when about this hour I used to be going to bed, furfeited with pleafure, or jaded with business: my head often full of fchemes, and my heart as often full of anxiety. Is it a misfortune, think you, that I rise at this hour refreshed, ferene, and calm? that the paft, and even the prefent affairs of life, ftand like objects at à diftance from me, where I can keep off the disagreeable fo as not to be strongly affected by them, and from whence I can draw the others nearer to me! Paffions in their force would bring all thefe, nay even future contingencies, about my ears at once, and reafon would but ill defend me in the fcuffle.

you

I leave Pope to speak for himself; but I must tell how much my wife is obliged to you. She fays the would find ftrength enough to nurse you, if you was here; and yet, God knows, she is extremely weak. The flow fever works under, and mines the constitution: we keep it off fometimes; but fill it returns, and makes new breaches before nature can repair the old ones. I am not afhamed to fay to you, that I admire her more every hour of my life. Death is not to her the king of terrors; the beholds him without the leaft. When the fuffers much, fhe wishes for him as a deliverer from pain; when life is tolerable, she looks on him with diflike, because he is to feparate her from those friends to whom she is more attached than to life itfelf. fhall not stay for my next, as long as you have for this letter; and in every one Pope fhall write fomething much better than the fcraps of old philofophers, which were the prefents, munufcula, that Stoical fop Seneca ufed to fend in every epiftle to his friend Lucilius.

You

P. S. My Lord has fpoken juftly of his lady: why not I of my mother? Yesterday was her birthday, now entering on the ninety-first year of her age; her memory much diminished, but her fenfes very little hurt, her fight and hearing good; fhe fleeps not ill, eats moderately, drinks water, fays her prayers; this is all she does. I have reafon to thank God for continuing fo long to me a very good and tender parent, and for allowing me to exercile for fome years thofe cares which

K 2

are

are now as neceffary to her as hers have been to me.. An object of this fort daily before one's eyes, very much foftens the mind; but perhaps may hinder it from the willingness of contracting other ties of the like do meftic nature, when one finds how painful it is even to enjoy the tender pleafures. I have formerly made fome strong efforts to get and to deferve a friend perhaps it were wiler never to attempt it; but live extempore, and look upon the world only as a place to pafs through, just pay your hofts their due, difperfe a little charity,. and hurry on. Yet am I just now writing (or rather planning) a book, to make mankind look upon this life with comfort and pleafure, and put morality in good humour.- And just now too I am going to fee one I love very tenderly; and to-morrow to entertain feveral civil people, whom if we call friends, it is by. the courtefy of England. Sic, fic juvat ire fub um bras. While we do live, we must make the best of life, Cantantes licet ufque (minus via lædat) eamus,.

as the fhepherd faid in Virgil, when the road was long. and heavy. I am your's.

LETTER

XLIX.

Lord BOLINGBROKE to Dr SWIFT.

OU may

affure yourself, that if you come over this

YOU fpring, you will find me not only got back into the

babits of ftudy, but devoted to that hiftorical task which you have fet me thefe many years. I am in hopes of fome materials which will enable me to work in the whole extent of the plan I propofe to myself. If they are not to be had, I muft accommodate my plan to this deficiency. In the mean time Pope has given me more trouble than he or I thought of; and you will be furprifed to find, that I have been partly drawn by him, and partly by myfelf, to write a pretty large volume upon a very grave and very important fubject; that I have ventured to pay no regard whatever to any authority except facred authority; and that I have ventured

to

to ftart a thought, which muft, if it is pufhed as fuccefffully as I think it is, render all your metaphysical theology both ridiculous and abominable. There is an expreffion in one of your letters to me, which makes me believe you will come into my way of thinking on this fubject; and yet I am perfuaded, that divines and freethinkers would both be clamorous againft it, if it was to be fubmitted to their cenfure, as I do not intend that it hall. The paffige I mean, is that where you fay, that you told Dr** the grand points of Chriftianity ought to be taken as infallible revelations *, &c.

It has happened, that whilst I was writing this to you, the Doctor came to make me a vifit from London, where I heard he was arrived fome time ago. He was in hafte to return, and is, I perceive, in great hafte to print. He left with me eight differtations †, a small part, as I understand, of his work; and defired me to perufe, confider, and obferve upon them against Monday next, when he will come down again. By what I have read of the two firft, 1.find myfelf unable to ferve him. The principles he reafons upon, are begged in a difputation of this fort; and the manner of reafoning is by no means clofe and conclufive.

The fole ad

vice I could give him in confcience, would be that which he would take ill, and not follow. I will get rid of this talk as well as I can; for I efteem the man, and fhould be forry to difoblige him where I cannot ferve him.

As to retirement and exercife, your notions are true. The first fhould not be indulged fo much as to render us favage, nor the laft neglected fo as to impair health. But I know men, who, for fear of being favage, live with all who will live with them, and who, to preferve their health, faunter away half their time. Adieu. Pope calls for the paper.

P. S. I hope what goes before will be a frong mo

*In this maxim all bigotted divines and free-thinking politicians agree; the one for fear of disturbing the established religion; the other left that disturbance fhould prove injurious to their administration of government. Warb.

† Revelation examined with candor.

[blocks in formation]
« PreviousContinue »