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house be often so molested, you will have reason to be weary of it, before the ending of the year; and wish Cotterstock were planted in a desert, a hundred miles off from any poet.—After I had lost the happiness of your company, I could expect no other than the loss of my health, which followed, according to the proverb, that misfortunes seldom come alone. I had no woman to visit but the parson's wife ; and she who was intended by nature as a helpmate for a deaf husband, was somewhat of the loudest for my conversation ; and for other things, I will say no more than that she is just your contrary, and an epitome of her own country. My journey to London was yet more unpleasant than my abode at Tichmarsh; for the coach was crowded up with an old woman, fatter than any of my hostesses on the road. Her weight made the horses travel very heavily ; but to give them a breathing time, she would often stop us, and plead some necessity of nature, and tell us—we were all flesh and blood : but she did this so frequently, that at last we conspired against her; and that she might not be inconvenienced by staying in the coach, turned her out in a very dirty place, where she was to wade up to the ankles, before she could reach the next hedge. When I was rid of her, I came sick home, and kept my house for three weeks together; but, by advice of my doctor, taking twice the bitter draught, with senna in it, and losing at least twelve ounces of blood, by cupping on my neck, I am just well enough to go abroad in the afternoon; but am much afflicted that I have you a companion of my sickness : though I 'scaped with one cold fit of an ague, and yours, I fear, is an intermitting fever. Since I heard nothing of your father, whom I left ill, I hope he is recovered of his real sickness, and that your sister is well of her's, which was only in imagination. My wife and son return you their most humble service, and I give mine to my cousin Steward. Madam, your most obliged and most obedient servant,
JOHN DRYDEN TO MRS. STEWARD. MADAM,
Dec. 12–98. ALL my letters being nothing but acknowledg. ments of your favours to me, 'tis no wonder if they are alike: for they can but express the same thing, I being eternally the receiver, and you the giver. I wish it were in my power to turn the scale on the other hand, that I might see how you, who have so excellent a wit, could thank on your side. Not to name myself or my wife, my son Charles is the great commender of your last received present: who being of late somewhat indisposed, uses to send for some of the same sort, which we call here marrow puddings, for his supper ; but the taste of yours has so spoiled his markets here, that there is not the least comparison betwixt them. You are not of an age to be a sibyl, and yet I think you are a prophetess ; for the direction on your basket was for him; and he is likely to enjoy the greatest part of them : for I always think the young are VOL. v.
more worthy than the old, especially since you are one of the former sort, and that he mends upon your medicine.-I am very glad to hear my cousin, your father, is coming or come to town; perhaps this air may be as beneficial to him as it has been to me; but you tell me nothing of your own health, and I fear Cotterstock is too aguish for this season. My wife and son give you their most humble thanks and service; as I do mine to my cousin Steward, and am, madam, your most obliged, obedient servant,
JOHN DR YDEN,
JOHN DRYDEN TO MRS. STEWARD, MADAM,
Candlemas Day, 1698 [-9]. : Old men are not so insensible of beauty as, it may be, you young ladies think. For my own part, I must needs acknowledge that your fair eyes had made me your slave before I received your fine presents. Your letter puts me out of doubt that they have lost nothing of their lustre, because it was written with your own hand; and not hearing of a fever or an ague, I will please myself with the thoughts that they have wholly left you. I would also flatter myself with the hopes of waiting on you at Cotterstock some time next summer ; but my want of health may perhaps hinder me. But if I am well enough to travel as far northward as Northamptonshire, you are sure of a guest, who has been too well used not to trouble you again.
My son, of whom you have done me the favour
to inquire, mends of his indisposition very slowly; the air of England not agreeing with him hitherto so well as that of Italy. The Bath is proposed by the doctors, both to him and me : but we have not yet resolved absolutely on that journey; for that city is so close and so ill situated, that perhaps the air may do us more harm than the waters can do us good : for which reason we intend to try them here first; and if we find not the good effect which is promised of them, we will save ourselves the pains of going thither. In the mean time, betwixt my intervals of physic and other remedies which I am using for my gravel, I am still drudging on: always a poet, and never a good one. I pass my time sometimes with Ovid, and sometimes with our old English poet, Chaucer; translating such stories as best please my fancy; and intend besides them to add somewhat of my own : so that it is not impossible, but ere the summer be passed, I may come down to you with a volume in my hand, like a dog out of the water, with a duck in his mouth.-As for the rarities you promise, if beggars might be choosers, a part of a chine of honest bacon would please my appetite more than all the marrow puddings ; for I like them better plain ; having a very vulgar stomach. My wife and your cousin, Charles, give you their most humble service, and thanks for your remembrance of them. I present my own to my worthy cousin, your husband, and am, with all respect, madam, your most obliged servant,
JOHN DRYDEN TO MRS. STEWARD. MADAM,
March the 4th, 1698 [-9). I HAVE reason to be pleased with writing to you, because you are daily giving me occasions to be pleased. The present which you made me this week I have received ; and it will be part of the treat I am to make to three of my friends about Tuesday next: my cousin Dryden, of Chesterton, having been also pleased to add to it a turkey hen with eggs, and a good young goose; besides a very kind letter, and the news of his own good health, which I value more than all the rest; he being so noble a benefactor to a poor and so undeserving a kinsman, and one of another persuasion in matters of religion. Your inquiry of his welfare, and sending also mine, have at once obliged both him and me. I hope my good cousin Stewart will often visit him, especially before hunting goes out, to be a comfort to him in his sorrow for the loss of his dear brother, who was a most extraordinary well patured man, and much my friend. Exercise, I know, is my cousin Dryden's life, and the oftener he goes out will be the better for his health. We poor Catholicks daily expect a most severe proclamation to come out against us; and at the same time are satisfied that the king is very unwilling to persecute us, considering us to be but a handful, and those disarmed; but the Archbishop of Canterbury [Tennison] is our heavy enemy, and heavy indeed he is in all respects.