The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift/Volume 14/Letter: Pope to Swift - 21

MAY 28, 1733.

I HAVE begun two or three letters to you by snatches, and been prevented from finishing them by a thousand avocations and dissipations. I must first acknowledge the honour done me by lord Orrery, whose praises are that precious ointment Solomon speaks of, which can be given only by men of virtue: all other praise, whether from poets or peers, is contemptible alike: and I am old enough and experienced enough to know, that the only praises worth having, are those bestowed by virtue for virtue. My poetry I abandon to the criticks, my morals I commit to the testimony of those who know me: and therefore I was more pleased with your libel, than with any verses I ever received. I wish such a collection of your writings could be printed here, as you mention going on in Ireland. I was surprised to receive from the printer that spurious piece called, The Life and Character of Dr. Swift, with a letter telling me the person who "published it had assured him the dedication to me was what I would not take ill, or else he would not have printed it." I cannot tell who the man is, who took so far upon him as to answer for my way of thinking; though had the thing been genuine, I should have been greatly displeased at the publisher's part, in doing it without your knowledge.

I am as earnest as you can be, in doing my best to prevent the publishing of any thing unworthy of Mr. Gay; but I fear his friends partiality. I wish you would come over. All the mysteries of my philosophical work shall then be cleared to you, and you will not think that I am merry enough, nor angry enough: It will not want for satire, but as for anger I know it not; or at least only that sort of which the Apostle speaks, "Be ye angry and sin not."

My neighbour's writings have been metaphysical, and will next be historical. It is certainly from him only, that a valuable history of Europe in these later times can be expected. Come, and quicken him; for age, indolence, and contempt of the world, grow upon men apace, and may often make the wisest indifferent whether posterity be any wiser than we. To a man in years, health and quiet become such rarities, and consequently so valuable, that he is apt to think of nothing more than of enjoying them whenever he can, for the remainder of life; and this I doubt not has caused so many great men to die without leaving a scrap to posterity.

I am sincerely troubled for the bad account you give of your own health. I wish every day to hear a better, as much, as I do to enjoy my own, I faithfully assure you.