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For, since 'twas mine, the white hath lost its hue,
Fairest Valentine, the unfeigned wish of your humble votary,
JOHN DRYDEN TO JOHN WILMOT, EARL OF
ROCHESTER. MY LORD,
Tuesday (July, 1673]. I HAVE accused myself this month together for not writing to you. I have called myself by the names I deserved, of upmannerly and ungrateful: I have been uneasy and taken up the resolutions of a man who is betwixt sin and repentance, convinced of what he ought to do, and yet unable to do better. At the last I deferred it so long, that I almost grew hardened in tbe neglect; and thought I had suffered so much in your good opinion, that it was in vain to hope I could redeem it. So dangerous a thing it is to be in. clined to sloth, that I must confess once for all, I was ready to quit all manner of obligations, and to receive, as if it were my due, the most hand. some compliment, couched in the best language I have read, and this too from my lord of Rochester, without showing myself sensible of the favour. If your lordship could condescend so far to say all those things to me, which I ought to have said to you, it might reasonably be concluded that you had enchanted me to believe those praises, and that I owned them in my silence. It was this consideration that moved me at last to put off my idleness. And now the shame of seeing myself overpaid so much for an ill dedi. cation, has made me almost repent of my address. I find it is not for me to contend any way with your lordship, who can write better on the meanest subject, than I can on the best. I have only engaged myself in a new debt, when I had hoped to cancel a part of the old one; and should either have chosen some other patron, whom it was in my power to have obliged by speaking better of him than he deserved, or have made your lordship only a hearty dedication of the respect and honour I had for you, without giving you the occasion to conquer me, as you have done, at my own weapon.
My only relief is, that what I have written is public, and I am so much my own friend as to conceal your lordship's letter ; for that which would have given vanity to any other poet, has only given me confusion.
You see, my lord, how far you have pushed me : I dare not own the honour you have done me, for fear of showing it to my own disadvantage. You are that rerum natura of your own Lucretius:
Ipsa suis pollens opibus, nihil indiga nostri.
and have all the happiness of an idle life, joined with the good nature of an active. Your friends in town are ready to envy the leisure you have given yourself in the country ; though they know you are only their steward, and that you treasure up but so much health as you intend to spend on them in winter. In the meantime you have withdrawn yourself from attendance, the curse of courts ; you may think on what you please, and that as little as you please ; for, in my opinion, thinking itself is a kind of pain to a witty man: he finds so much more in it to disquiet than to please him. But I hope your lordship will not omit the occasion of laughing at the great duke of Buckingham, who is so uneasy to himself by pursuing the honour of lieutenantgeneral, which flies him, that he can enjoy nothing he possesses ; though at the same time he is so unfit to command an army, that he is the only man in the three nations who does not know it: yet he still piques himself, like his father, to find another Isle of Rhé in Zealand ; thinking this disappointment an injury to him, which is indeed a favour, and will not be satisfied but with his own ruin and with ours. 'Tis a strange quality in a man to love idleness so well as to destroy his estate by it; and yet at the same time to pursue so violently the most toilsome and most unpleasant part of business. These observations would soon run into lampoon, if I had not forsworn that dangerous part of wit ; not so much out of good nature, but lest, from the inborn vanity of poets, I should show it to others, and betray myself to a worse mischief than what VOL. V.
I do to my enemy. This has been lately the case of Ethereza; who translating a satire of Boileau's, and changing the French names for English, read it so often, that it came to their ears who were concerned ; and forced him to leave off the design, ere it was half finished. Two of the verses I remember:
I call a spade a spade; Eaton a bully ;
Frampton a pimp; and brother John a cully. But one of his friends imagined these names not enough for the dignity of a satire, and changed them thus :
I call a spade a spade ; Dunbar, a bully;
Brounckard, a pimp; and Aubrey Vere, a cully. Because I deal not in satire, I have sent your lordship a prologue and epilogue which I made for our players, when they went down to Oxford. I hear they have succeeded ; and by the event your lordship will judge how easy 'tis to pass any thing upon an university, and how gross flattery the learned will endure. If your lordship had been in town, and I in the country, I durst not have entertained you with three pages of a letter ; but I know they are very ill things that can be tedious to a man who is fourscore miles from Covent Garden. 'Tis upon this confidence that I dare almost promise to entertain you with a thousand bagatelles every week, and not to be serious in any part of my letter but that wherein I take leave to call myself your lordship's most obedient servant,
JOHN DRYDEN TO LAURENCE HYDE, EARL
OF ROCHESTER. MY LORD,
[Perbaps August, 1683.] I KNOW not whether my Lord Sunderland has interceded with your lordship for half a year of my salary ; but I have two other advocates, my extreme wants, even almost to arresting, and my ill health, which cannot be repaired without immediate retiring into the country. A quarter's allowance is but the Jesuits' powder to my de. cease ; the fit will return a fortnight hence. If I durst, I would plead a little merit, and some hazards of my life from the common enemies ; my refusing advantages offered by them, and neglecting my beneficial studies, for the king's service : but I only think I merit not to starve. I never applied myself to any interest contrary to your lordship’s; and on some occasions, perhaps not known to you, have not been unserviceable to the memory and reputation of my lord, your father. After this, my lord, my conscience assures me I may write boldly, though I cannot speak to you. I have three sons growing to man's estate; I breed them all up to learning, beyond my fortune ; but they are too hopeful to be neglected, though I want. Be pleased to look upon me with an eye of compassion : some small employment would render my condition easy. The king is not unsatisfied of me; the duke has often promised me his assistance; and your lord. ship is the conduit through which their favours pass : either in the customs, or the appeals of