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The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift/Volume 14/Letter: Pope to Swift - 24


SEPT. 15, 1734.


I HAVE ever thought you as sensible as any man I knew, of all the delicacies of friendship; and yet I fear (from what lord B. tells me you said in your last letter) that you did not quite understand the reason of my late silence. I assure you it proceeded wholly from the tender kindness I bear you. When the heart is full, it is angry at all words that cannot come up to it; and you are now the man in all the world I am most troubled to write to, for you are the friend I have left whom I am most grieved about. Death has not done worse to me in separating poor Gay, or any other, than disease and absence in dividing us. I am afraid to know how you do, since most accounts I have give me pain for you, and I am unwilling to tell you the condition of my own health. If it were good, I would see you; and yet if I found you in that very condition of deafness, which made you fly from us while we were together, what comfort could we derive from it? In writing often I should find great relief, could we write freely; and yet when I have done so, you seem by not answering in a very long time, to feel either the same uneasiness I do, or to abstain from some prudential reason. Yet I am sure, nothing that you and I would say to each other, (though our whole souls were to be laid open to the clerks of the postoffice) could hurt either of us so much, in the opinion of any honest man or good subject, as the intervening, officious, impertinence of those goers between us, who in England pretend to intimacies with you, and in Ireland to intimacies with me. I cannot but receive any that call upon me in your name, and in truth they take it in vain too often. I take all opportunities of justifying you against these friends, especially those who know all you think and write, and repeat your slighter verses. It is generally on such little scraps that witlings feed; and it is hard the world should judge of our housekeeping from what we fling out to the dogs, yet this is often the consequence. But they treat you still worse, mix their own with yours, print them to get money, and lay them at your door. This I am satisfied was the case in the Epistle to a Lady; it was just the same hand (if I have any judgment in style) which printed your Life and Character before, which you so strongly disavowed in your letters to lord Carteret, myself, and others. I was very well informed of another fact which convinced me yet more; the same person who gave this to be printed, offered to a bookseller a piece in prose of yours, as commissioned by you, which has since appeared and been owned to be his own. I think (I say once more) that I know your hand, though you did not mine in the Essay on Man. I beg your pardon for not telling you, as I should, had you been in England: but no secret can cross your Irish Sea, and every clerk in the postoffice had known it. I fancy, though you lost sight of me in the first of those essays, you saw me in the second. The design of concealing myself was good, and had its full effect: I was thought a divine, a philosopher, and what not? and my doctrine had a sanction I could not have given to it. Whether I can proceed in the same grave march like Lucretius, or must descend to the gayeties of Horace, I know not, or whether I can do either? but be the future as it will, I shall collect all the past in one fair quarto this winter, and send it you, where you will find frequent mention of yourself. I was glad you suffered your writings to be collected more completely than hitherto, in the volumes I daily expect from Ireland; I wish it had been in more pomp, but that will be done by others: yours are beauties, that can never be too finely dressed, for they will ever be young. I have only one piece of mercy to beg of you; do not laugh at my gravity, but permit me to wear the beard of a philosopher, till I pull it off, and make a jest of it myself. It is just what my lord Bolingbroke is doing with metaphysicks. I hope, you will live to see, and stare at the learned figure he will make, on the same shelf with Locke and Malbranche.

You see how I talk to you (for this is not writing) if you like I should do so, why not tell me so? if it be the least pleasure to you, I will write once a week most gladly: but can you abstract the letters from the person who writes them, so far, as not to feel more vexation in the thought of our separation, and those misfortunes which occasion it, than satisfaction in the nothings he can express? If you can, really and from my heart, I cannot. I return again to melancholy. Pray however tell me, is it a satisfaction? that will make it one to me: and we will think alike, as friends ought, and you shall hear from me punctually just when you will.

P. S. Our friend who is just returned from a progress of three months, and is setting out in three days with me for the Bath, where he will stay till toward the midde of October, left this letter with me yesterday, and I cannot seal and dispatch it till I have scribbled the remainder of this page full. He talks very pompously of my metaphysicks, and places them in a very honourable station. It is true I have writ six letters and a half to him on subjects of that kind, and I propose a letter and a half more, which would swell the whole up to a considerable volume. But he thinks me fonder of the name of an author than I am. When he and you, and one or two other friends have seen them satis magnum theatrum mihi estis, I shall not have the itch of making them more publick. I know how little regard you pay to writings of this kind: but I imagine that if you can like any such, it must be those that strip metaphysicks of all their bombast, keep within the sight of every well constituted eye, and never bewilder themselves while they pretend to guide the reason of others. I writ to you a long letter sometime ago, and sent it by the post. Did it come to your hands? or did the inspectors of private correspondence stop it, to revenge themselves of the ill said of them in it? vale & me ama.