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· This day was played a revived comedy of Mr. Congreve’s, called The Double Dealer, which was never very taking. In the play bill was printed, “ Written by Mr. Congreve; with several expressions omitted.” What kind of expressions those were, you may easily guess, if you have seen the Monday's Gazette, wherein is the king's order for the reformation of the stage ; but the printing an author's name in a play bill is a new manner of proceeding, at least in EngJand.- When any papers of verses in manuscript, which are worth your reading, come abroad, you shall be sure of them ; because, being a poetess yourself, you like those entertainments. I am still drudging at a book of Miscellanies, which I hope will be well enough; if otherwise, three score and seven may be pardoned. Charles is not yet so well recovered as I wish him; but I may say, without vanity, that his virtue and sobriety have made him much beloved in all companies. Both he and his mother give you their most humble acknowledgments of your remembering them. Be pleased to give mine to my cousin Stewart, who am both his and your most obliged, obedient servant,
You may see I was in haste by writing on the wrong side of the paper.
JOHN DRYDEN TO THE RIGHT HON. CHARLES
[October, 1699.) THESE verses* had waited on you with the former, but that they wanted that correction which I have given them, that they may the better endure the sight of so great a judge and poet. I am now in fear that I have purged them out of their spirit; as our Master Busby used to whip a boy so long, till he made him a confirmed blockhead. My cousin Dryden saw them in the country; and the greatest exception he made to them was, a satire against the Dutch valour in the last war. He desired me to omit it (to use his own words) " out of the respect he had to his sovereign.” I obeyed his commands, and left only the praises, which I think are due to the gallantry of my own countrymen. In the description which I have made of a parliament man, I think I have not only drawn the features of my worthy kinsman, but have also given my own opinion of what an Englishman in parliament ought to be ; and deliver it as a memorial of my own principles to all posterity. I have consulted the judgment of my unbiased friends, who have some of them the honour to be known to you; and they think there is nothing which can justly give offence in that part of the poem. I say not this to cast a blind on your judgment (which I could not do, if I endeavoured it), but
• The Epistle to his cousin, John Dryden, Esq. of Ches. to assure you, that nothing relating to the public shall stand without your permission : for it were to want common sense to desire your patronage, and resolve to disoblige you: and as I will not hazard my hopes of your protection, by refusing to obey you in anything I can perform with my conscience and my honour, so I am very confident you will never impose any other terms on me. My thoughts at present are fixed on Homer : and by my translation of the first Iliad, I find him a poet more according to my genius than Virgil, and consequently hope I may do him more justice, in his fiery way of writing ; which, as it is liable to more faults, so it is capable of more beauties than the exactness and sobriety of Virgil. Since 'tis for my country's honour as well as for my own, that I undertake this task, I
favour, who am, sir, your most obedient servant,
JOHN DRYDEN TO MRS. STEWARD.
Nov. 7th, 1699. Even your expostulations are pleasing to me; for though they show you angry, yet they are not without many expressions of your kindness ; and therefore I am proud to be so chidden. Yet I cannot so far abandon my own defence, as to confess any idleness or forgetfulness on my part. What has hindered me from writing to you, was neither ill health, nor a worse thing, ingrati
tude ; but a flood of little businesses, which yet are necessary to my subsistence, and of which I hoped to have given you a good account before this time': but the court rather speaks kindly of me, than does any thing for me, though they promise largely ; and perhaps they think I will advance as they go backward, in which they will be much deceived : for I can never go an inch beyond my conscience and my honour. If they will consider me as a man who has done my best to improve the language, and especially the poetry, and will be content with my acquiescence under the present government, and forbearing satire on it, that I can promise, because I can perform it: but I can neither take the oaths, nor forsake my religion : because I know not what church to go to, if I forsake the Catholic ; they are all so divided amongst themselves in matters of faith, necessary to salvation, and yet all assuming the name of Protestants. May God be pleased to open your eyes, as he has opened mine! Truth is but one; and they who have once heard of it can plead no excuse if they do not embrace it. But these are things too serious for a trifling letter.
If you desire to hear any thing more of my affairs, the earl of Dorset and your cousin Montague have both seen the two poems, to the duchess of Ormond, and my worthy cousin Dryden, and are of opinion that I never writ better. My other friends are divided in their judgments, which to prefer ; but the greater part are for those to my dear kinsman ; which I have corrected with so much care, that they will now be worthy of his sight, and do neither of us any dishonour after our death.
There is this day to be acted a new tragedy, made by Mr. Hopkins, and, as I believe, in rhyme. He has formerly written a play in verse, called Boadicea, which you fair ladies liked; and is a poet who writes good verses without knowing how or why; I mean, he writes naturally well, without art, or learning, or good sense. Congreve is ill of the gout at Barnet Wells. I have had the honour of a visit from the earl of Dorset, and dined with him.- Matters in Scotland are in a high ferment, and next door to a breach betwixt the two nations ; but they say from court, that France and we are hand and glove. 'Tis thought the king will endeavour to keep up a standing army, and make the stir in Scotland his pretence for it: my cousin Dryden, and the country party, I suppose will be against it; for when a spirit is raised, 'tis hard conjuring him down again.—You see I am dull by my writing news ;; but it may be, my cousin Creed may be glad to hear what I believe is true, though not very pleasing. I hope he recovers health in the country, by his staying so long in it. My service to my cousin Steward and all at Oundle. I am, fair cousin, your most obedient servant,