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The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift/Volume 14/Letter: Pope to Swift - 17

APRIL 12, 1730.

THIS is a letter extraordinary, to do and say nothing but recommend to you, (as a clergyman, and a charitable one) a pious and a good work, and for a good and an honest man: moreover he is above seventy, and poor, which you might think included in the word honest. I shall think it a kindness done myself, if you can propagate Mr. Wesley's subscription for his Commentary on Job, among your divines, (bishops excepted, of whom there is no hope) and among such as are believers, or readers of Scripture. Even the curious may find something to please them, if they scorn to be edified. It has been the labour of eight years of this learned man's life; I call him what he is, a learned man, and I engage you will approve his prose more than you formerly could his poetry. Lord Bolingbroke is a favourer of it, and allows you to do your best to serve an old tory, and a sufferer for the church of England, though you are a whig, as I am.

We have here some verses in your name, which I am angry at. Sure you would not use me so ill as to flatter me? I therefore think it is some other weak Irishman.

P. S. I did not take the pen out of Pope's hands, I protest to you. But since he will not fill the remainder of the page, I think I may without offence. I seek no epistolary fame, but am a good deal pleased to think that it will be known hereafter that you and I lived in the most friendly intimacy together. Pliny writ his letters for the publick[1], so did Seneca, so did Balsac, Voiture, &c. Tully did not, and therefore these give us more pleasure than any which have come down to us from antiquity. When we read them, we pry into a secret which was intended to be kept from us. That is a pleasure. We see Cato, and Brutus, and Pompey and others, such as they really were, and not such as the gaping multitude of their own age took them to be, or as historians and poets have represented them to ours. That is another pleasure. I remember to have seen a procession at Aix la Chapelle, wherein an image of Charlemagne is carried on the shoulders of a man, who is hid by the long robe of the imperial saint. Follow him into the vestry, you see the bearer slip from under the robe, and the gigantick figure dwindles into an image of the ordinary size, and is set by among other lumber. I agree much with Pope, that our climate is rather better than that you are in, and perhaps your publick spirit would be less grieved, or oftener comforted, here than there. Come to us therefore on a visit at least. It will not be the fault of several persons here, if you do not come to live with us. But great good will, and little power, produce such slow and feeble effects as can be acceptable to Heaven alone, and heavenly men. I know you will be angry with me, if I say nothing to you of a poor woman, who is still on the other side of the water in a most languishing state of health. If she regains strength enough to come over, (and she is better within a few weeks) I shall nurse her in this farm with all the care and tenderness possible. If she does not, I must pay her the last duty of friendship wherever she is, though I break through the whole plan of life which I have formed in my mind. Adieu.

I am most faithfully and affectionately yours.

  1. A just and sensible criticism on epistolary wriiings, which we should bear in our minds whilst we are reading this collection of letters.