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TO MR. JACOB TONSON.
The copy money for translating the Æneid was fifty pounds for each Book. The rising of the second subscription seems to allude to the practice of fixing a day, after which no subscriptions were to be received except on payment of an advanced price. The first subscribers to Dryden's Virgil paid five guineas; a plate was dedicated to each of them, and ornamented with his arms.
In the subsequent letters there occur several allusions to these arrangements, and to the transference of names from the higher to the lower class.
Wednesday morning. MR. Tonson, [Probably written in April 1695.] It is now three dayes since I have ended the fourth Eneid; and I am this morning beginning to transcribe it, as you may do afterwards; for I am willing some few of my friends may see it, and shall give leave to you, to shew your transcription to some others, whose names I will tell you. The paying Ned Sheldon the fifty pounds put me upon this speed; but I intend not so much to overtoil myself, after the sixth book is ended. If the second subscriptions rise, I will take so much the more time, because the profit will incourage me the more; if not, I must make the more baste; yet always with as much care as I am able. But however, I will not fail in my paines of translating the sixth Eneid with the same exactness as I have performed the fourth : because that book is my greatest favourite. You know money is now very scrupulously receiv'd : in the last which you did me the favour to change for my wife, besides the clip'd money, there were at least forty shillings brass. You may, if you please, come to me at the Coffee-house this afternoon, or at farthest to-morrow, that we may take care together, where and when I may receive the fifty pounds and the guinneys; which must be some time this week.
I am your Servant,
John DRYDEN. I have written to my Lord Lawderdail, for his decorations. *
TO MR. JACOB TONSON. MR. Tonson. Saturday, June the 8th, [f. 1695.] 'Tis now high time for me to think of my second subscriptions; for the more time I have for collecting them, the larger they are like to be. I have now been idle just a fortnight; and therefore might have called sooner on you, for the remainder of the first subscriptions. And besides, Mr. Aston will be goeing into Cheshire a week hence, who is my onely help, and to whom you are onely beholding for makeing the bargain betwixt us, which is so much to my loss; but I repent nothing of it that is passed, but that I do not find myself capable of translating so great an author, and therefore feare to lose my own credit, and to hazard your profit, which it wou'd grieve me if you should loose, by your too good opinion of my abilities. I expected to have heard of you this week, according to the intimation you gave me of it; but that failing, I must defer it no longer than till the ensueing week, because Mr. Aston will afterwards be gone, if not sooner.
* One of the subscribers of the higher class. were probably his armorial bearings.
Be pleased to send me word what day will be most convenient to you; and be ready with the price of paper, and of the books. No matter for any dinner; for that is a charge to you, and I care not for it. * Mr. Congreve may be with us, as a common friend; for as you know him for yours, I make not the least doubt, but he is much more mine; send an immediate answer, and you shall find me ready to do all things wch become
TO MR. JACOB TONSON.
This is onely to acquaint you, that I have taken my place in the Oundel coach for Tuesday next; and hope to be at London on Wednesday night. I had not confidence enough to hope Mr. Southern and Mr. Congreve would have given me the favour of their company for the last foure miles; but since they will be so kind to a friend of theirs, who so truely loves both them and you, I will please
* It was an ancient British custom, and prevailed in Scotland within these forty years, to finish all bargains, contracts, and even consultations, at a tavern, that the parties might not, according to the ancient Caledonian phrase, part dry-lippd. The custom between authors and booksellers seems to have been universal ; and the reader may recollect, that the supposed poisoning of the celebrated Edmund Curl took place at a meeting of this kind.
myself with expecting it, if the weather be not so bad as to hinder them.
I assure you I lay up your last kindnesses to me in my heart; and the less I say of them, I charge them to account so much the more; being very sensible that I have not hitherto deserved them. Haveing been obliged to sit up all last night almost out of civility to strangers, who were benighted, and to resign my bed to them, I am sleepy all this day; and if I had not taken a very lusty pike that day, they must have gone supperless to bed, foure ladyes and two gentlemen; for Mr. Dudley and I were alone, with but one man and no mayd in the house.—This time I cannot write to my wife; do me the favour to let her know I received her letter, am well, and hope to be with her on Wednesday next, at night. No more but that
I am very much
TO MR. JACOB TONSON.
October the 29th, [f. 1695.] SOME kind of intercourse must be carryed on betwixt us, while I am translating Virgil. Therefore I give you notice, that I have done the seaventh Eneid in the country ; * and intend some few days hence, to go upon the eight : when that is finished, I expect fifty pounds in good silver; not such as I have had formerly. I am not obliged
* At Burleigh, the seat of John, the fifth Earl of Exeter.
to take gold,* neither will I ; nor stay for it beyond four-and-twenty houres after it is due. I thank you for the civility of your last letter in the country; but the thirty shillings upon every book remains with me. You always intended I should get nothing by the second subscriptions, as I found from first to last. And your promise to Mr. Congreve, that you had found a way for my benefit, which was an encouragement to my paines, came at last, for me to desire Sir Godfrey Kneller and Mr. Closterman to gather for me. I then told Mr. Congreve, that I knew you too well to believe you meant me any kindness : and he promised me to believe accordingly of you, if you did not. But this is past; and you shall have your bargain, if I live and have my health. You may send me word what you have done in my business with the Earl of Derby: and I must have a place for the Duke of Devonshyre. Some of your friends will be glad to take back their three guinneys. The Countess of Macclesfield gave her money to Will Plowden before Christmas ; but he remembered it not, and payd it not in. Mr. Aston tells me, my Lord Derby expects but one book. I find, my Lord Chesterfield and my Lord Petre are both left out; but my Lady Macclesfield must have a place, if I can possibly : and Will Plowden shall pay you in three guinneys, if I can obtain so much favour from you.+ I desire neither excuses nor reasons from you : for I am but too well satisfyed already.
* Both the gold and silver coin were at this time much depreciated ; and remained in a fluctuating state till a new coinage took place.
+ From inspecting the plates of Dryden's Virgil, it appears, that the Earl of Derby had one inscribed to him, as had Lord Chesterfield. But this wrathful letter made no farther impression on the mercantile obstinacy of Tonson; and neither the Duke of Devonshire, Lord Petre, nor Lady Macclesfield, obtained