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of no ill confequence to the union; and will fearce ever unloose the focial ties of love, veneration, and efteem. Thus the friendship be tween Atticus and Hortenfius, although they were of different fects, one a Stoic and the other an Epicurean, fubfifted, like Mr Pope's and Dr Swift's, firm and constant to the laft; when that of Antho ny, Lepidus, and Auguftus, continued no longer than while it was fubfervient to their views of intereft. Catiline fays, Idem velle, ac idem nolle, ca demum amicitia eft. This often attends a vitious confpiracy; and perhaps an agreement fo perfectly mutual, is fcarce to be met with in any other inftance. Emulation generally breaks the chain of friendship between poets. They are running with the utmost eager. nefs to the fame goal: no wonder, if, in the race, they endeavour to trip up each other's heels.
As I have often reverted in my mind certain particulars relating to my two poetical friends, I have always thought, that the circumftance of their purfuing different roads in poetry, and living in different kingdoms, was probably one of the happieft incidents in their lives. Such a feparation prevented all perfonal diffenfions, and fix. ed them in a correfpondence, that conftantly tended to establish their endearments; when, perhaps, a refidence near each other might have had a very contrary effect. It is much easier to rectify any mistake, or to cool any animofity that may have arifen, in a letter, than to recal a paffionate verbal answer, efpecially if uttered with all the actions and vehemence of anger. The impreffion of such a scene remains long upon the mind of the perfon offended, and the old adage is tranfpofed, Vox audita manet, litera fcripta perit. Few men can fubmit to contradiction. Swift was certainly not of the number; and therefore I am perfwaded, that his diftance from his English friends proved a strong incitement to their mutual affection. But I muft again repeat, that, throughout the long feries of letters which have been publifhed, not the leaft altercations appear to have happened between Swift and Pope.
In all Swift's writings, you will find his own peculiar vein of humour. The fame liberty of expreffion would have been improper and abfurd in any other writer; but it produced the confequences which he defired. His feeming arrogance gained him more favour, than the humility and affected benevolence of others. His raillery and freedom of cenfure, are conveyed in a manner more prevalent, and perhaps often more agreeable, than flattery. He feldom praised, but where merit was confpicuous. A fingle ftroke of his pen pleased more, and gave more honour, than a long flattering dedication from any other author. His flyle was mafterly, correct, and strong; never diffusive, yet always clear; and if we confider it in comparison with his predeceffors, he has outdone them all, and is one, perhaps the chief, of those few select English writers, who have excelled in elegance and propriety of language.
Lord Bacon is the firft author who has attempted any style that can be relishable to the prefent age; for I must own, that I think Swift, and his cotemporaries, have brought our language to the utmoft degree of perfection, without the help of a Longinus, a Quintilian, or even of a dictionary, or a grammar. Lord Bacon has writ
ten with an infinite fund of knowledge: every fcience that he treats upon, is difcuffed by him with the greatest learning and dignity and he fhews himself at once a philofopher, an hiftorian, a politician, and a divine: but his dialect (for that demands our prefent attention) is quibbling and pedantic; and never more fo than when he condefcends to flatter his royal master, and the minions of that court.
Confider the profaical works of Milton, you will find them more nervous than elegant; more diftinguifhed by the ftrength of reafon, than by the rules of rhetoric; his diction is harfh, his periods tedious; and when he becomes a profe writer, the majefly that attends his poetry, vanishes, and is entirely loft. Yet, with all his faults, and exclufive of his character as a poet, he must ever remain the only learned author of that tastelefs age in which he flourished: and it is probable, that his great attention to the Latin language might have rendered him lefs correct, than he otherwife would have been, in his native tongue.
Harrington has his admirers; he may poffibly have his merits, but they flow not in his ftyle. A later writer, of the fame republican principles, has far excelled him; I mean Algernon Sydney, whofe difcourfes concerning government are admirably written, and contain great hiftorical knowledge, and a remarkable propriety of diction; fo that his name, in my opinion, ought to be much higher established in the temple of literature, than I have hitherto found it placed.
Lord Clarendon is an hiftorian whose dignity of expreffion has juftly given him the preference to any of our biographical authors. But his periods are the periods of a mile. His parentheses imbarrafs the fenfe of his narration, and certain inaccuracies appearing throughout his works, are delivered with a formality that renders them ftill more confpicuous.
Among our English writers, few men have gained a greater ́character for elegance and correctnefs, than Sprat Bishop of Rochefter, and few men have deferved it lefs. When I have read his works, I have always wondered from whence fuch a piece of good fortune might have arifen; and could only attribate it to Mr Cowley, who, in a very delicate copy of verfes, has celebrated his friend Dr Sprat for eloquence, wit, and a certain candid ftyle, which the poet compares to the river Thames gliding with an even current, and displaying the moft beautiful appearances of nature. Poets and painters have their favourites, whom they tranfmit to pofterity in what colours and at titudes they pleafe. But I am mistaken, if, upon a review of Sprat's works, his language will not fooner give an idea of one of the infignificant tottering boats upon the Thames, than of the fmooth noble current of the river itself.
Sir William Temple is an eafy, careless, incorrect writer, elegantly negligent, politely learned, and engagingly familiar.
Thus I have curforily mentioned fome of the brightest fons of Fame among our English authors, only to point out the preference due to Dr Swift. But he is not intitled alone to the olive garland: he has had his coadjutors in the victory. The triumvirate, to whom we owe an elegance and propriety unknown to our forefathers, are SWIFT, ADDISON, and BOLINGBROKE. At the fight of such
names, n difpute can arife in preferring the English moderns to the English ancients. The prefent century, and indeed all future generations, may be congratulated upon the acquifition of three fuch men.
But to return more closely to Swift: He has perfectly ftudied the drama of human life, and particularly the tendency and irregularities of its different characters. He has chofen to recommend virtue, by representing vice in a difagreeable and ridiculous light. As his tem. per was naturally full of acrimony, a certain innate severity, runs throughout all his letters. In the advice which he offers to his friends, and in the general account which he gives of his own conduct, he is too close an œconomift. This parfimony proceeded from a defire of being independent; and fince that was the caufe, he will be forgiven, or at least excufed by all honest men.
Mr Pope had different talents from his friend Swift. His imagination was fine and delicate; his fancy was ever on the wing. In his earlier time of life, his way of thinking was diffufive, and confequently his judgment was unconfined. As that judgment ripened with years, he fhewed the full ftrength of it in his Ethic epiftles, and his Efay on man. There the poet has almoft yielded to the philofopher; and his moral fyftem has charmed more by the force of truth and reason, than even by the numbers with which he adorned it.
I cannot avoid thinking, that, in this particular branch of learning, Mr Pope owed the exertion of his talents to Lord Bolingbroke, who had ftudied the procedure and limits of the human understanding, as exactly as Swift had confidered the irregularities of the paffions in different characters of the human fpecies. Lord Bolingbroke had early made himself master of books and men: but, in his first career of life, being immerfed at once in business and pleasure, he ran through a variety of fcenes in a furprifing and eccentric manner. When his paffions fubfided by years and difappointments, and when he improved his rational faculties by more grave ftudies and reflection, he fhone out in his retirement with a luftre peculiar to himself; though not feen by vulgar eyes. The gay ftatefman was changed into a philofopher equal to any of the fages of antiquity. The wif dom of Socrates, the dignity and cafe of Pliny, and the wit of Ho race, appeared in all his writings and converfation.
To declare my opinion of the whole collection of letters in this volume, I own it has not anfwered my expectation. The index at the beginning will make one hope for great treasures, from the illutrious names that are there inferted: but he will fearce find any remarkable inftructions of morality, or even the common reafonings and refinements that might naturally arife from fo high a class of men, in the ordinary current of their thoughts. What is more furprifing, he will feldom difcover any keen ftrokes of fatire, or any inftantaneous fallies of vivacity. I have often heard Swift say, "When "I fit down to write a letter, never lean upon my elbow, till I' "have finished it." By which expreffion he meant, that he never ftudied for particular phrafes, or polifhed paragraphs. His letters, therefore are the truer reprefentations of his mind. They are writ ten in the warmth of his affections; and when they are confidered in the light of kindness and fincerity, they illuftrate his character to a
very high degree. Throughout his various correfpondence you will difcover very strong marks of an anxious, benevolent friend: and, to my great pleasure, I find the mifanthrope often loft in the goodnatured man. Read his letters to Mr Gay, and you will be of my fentiment; read alfo thofe to Dr Sheridan, and you will be farther. confirmed in that opinion. We may compound therefore to lose fatire and raillery, when we gain humanity and tenderness in their Atead. Yet, even in fome of his highest scenes of benevolence, his expreffions are delivered in fuch a manner, as to feem rather the effects of haughtiness than of good-nature. But you must never look upon him as a traveller in the common road. He must be viewed through a camera obfcura, that turns all objects the contrary way. When he appears moft angry, he is most pleased; when most humble, he is most affuming. Such was the man, and in such variega ted colours must he be painted.
The letters from Lord Bolingbroke are written with an elegance. and politeness that distinguish them from all the reft. We fee they were not intended for the prefs; but how valuable are the most carc lefs ftrokes of fuch a pen ?
Gay's letters have nothing in them striking or recommendatory. His fentiments are thofe of an honeft, indolent, good-natured man.. He loved Swift to a degree of veneration: and the friendship was returned with great fincerity. Swift writes to him in the same strain as he would have written to a fon; and feems to diftinguish him as the. correfpondent to whom he has not the least grain of referve. In the several accounts which he gives of his fituation at Dublin, and the idle manner of his paffing his time there, he writes fometimes in an ironical, and fometimes in a contrary style.
I should have been much pleased, in finding fome of Dr Arbuth not's letters among this collection. Although he was justly celebrated for wit and learning, there was an excellence in his character more. amiable than all his other qualifications: I mean the excellence of his heart. He has fhewed him felf equal to any of his cotemporaries in humour and vivacity; and he was fuperior to most men in acts of humanity and benevolence: his very farcafms are the fatirical strokes of good-nature: they are like flaps of the face given in jeft, the ef fects of which may raise blushes, but no blackness will appear after the blows. He laughs as jovially as an attendant upon Bacchus, but continues as fober and confiderate as a difciple of Socrates. He is feldom ferious, except in his attacks upon vice; and then his fpirit rifes with a manly ftrength, and a noble indignation. His epitaph upon Charters (allowing one fmall alteration, the word permitted inftead of connived at) is a complete and masterly compofition in its kind. No man exceeded him in the moral duties of life: a merit ftill more to his honour, as the ambitious powers of wit and genius are feldom fubmiffive enough to confine themselves within the limitations of morality. In his letter to Mr Pope †, written as it were upon his deathbed, he difcovers fuch a noble fortitude of mind at the approach of his diffolution, as could only be inspired by a clear cons * See this epitaph in vol. 6. p. 202. † See Pope's works, vol. 8. let, 47.
fcience, and the calm retrospect of an uninterrupted feries of virtue. The Dean laments the lofs of him with a pathetic fincerity. "The "death of Mr Gay and the Doctor [Arbuthnot] hath been terrible "wounds near my heart. Their living would have been a great "comfort to me, although I fhould never have feen them; like a fum of money in a bank, from which I should receive at least an"nual intereft, as I do from you, and have done from Lord Boling. "broke." I have chofen this last quotation, not more in honour of Swift's tenderness and affection to thofe whom he esteemed, than with a defign of specifying to you as fine a groupe of friends, [Bo lingbroke, Swift, Pope, Arbuthnot, Gay], as have appeared fince the Auguftan age. As their letters were not intended for the public, perhaps I was unreasonable in looking for medals, and not being contented with the common current fpecies. In our prejudices of favour or averfion we are apt to be deceived by names: nor can it be doubt. ed, that fuch writers might have furnished us with familiar letters, very different from those which have been collected in this volume. They are filled indeed (efpecially in the correfpondence between Swift and Pope) with the strongest expreffions of mutual esteem; but those expreffions are repeated too often. When friendship has fubfifted fo long, that time cannot increase, nor words improve it, the commerce of affection between friends ought to be carried on in a style that neither finks below politeness, nor rifes into forced compliments. I cannot avoid obferving the epiftolary concifenefs that was in fashion among the ancients, especially their conclufive fentences, Vale; or a gain, Si valeas, bene eft; valeo: which I own feems preferable to our method of loading every letter with compliments, not only to wives and children, but to uncles, aunts, and coufins: and, of confequence, every relation that is not particularly named, is particularly affronted. It will appear too minute a criticifin to affirm, that the English language is not well adapted for epiftolary writings. Be that as it may, it is certainly inferior to the French; which engages, and perhaps improves us by a fucceffive flow of phrafes that are peculiar to that nation. Madame de Sevigne has filled four volumes of letters, all addreffed to her daughter: they contain nothing, except different fcenes of maternal fondnefs; yet, like a claffic, the oftener they are read, the more they are relifhed. Monfieur de Peliffon has published three volumes of letters, which he calls Lettres hiftoriques, and which are little elfe than materials for a gazette. They inform
us at what time the Grand Monarque arofe, when he went to bed, at what hour he dined, and what he faid while he was at fupper: yet all thefe trifles are told in fo agreeable a manner, and appear fo natural and eafy, that I can scarce think the skill of Ovid greater, who, in his Fafti, has turned the Roman calendar into elegant poetry, and has verified a fet of old almanacks. I need not mention Voiture, or
Balzac; and perhaps it was wrong to turn aside into the Roman and the French territories, when I ought to have confined myself to the British iflands. But I love to wander about with you, and, in writing as in walking, to peep into every corner that may afford us en tertainment. Orrery.
See Swift's letter to Pope, May 12. 1735, p. 171.