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Swift to Mr. Gay.
languages, and religions. Neither could anything be more obliging than your kind remembrance of me in so many places. As to your ten lustres, I remember when I complained in a letter to Prior that I was fifty years old, he was half angry in jest, and answered me out of Terence – Ista commemoratio est quasi exprobratio. How then ought I to rattle you, when I have a dozen years more to answer for, all monastically passed in this country of liberty and delight, and money and good company! I go on answering your letter. . . . And yet, my Lord, I pretend to value money as little as you ; and I will call five hundred witnesses (if you will take Irish witnesses) to prove it. I renounce your whole philosophy, because it is not your practice. . . . But, in the meantime, do not brag-retrenchments are not your talent. ... I wish you could learn arithmetic, that three and two make five, and will never make more. ... My Lord, I hate and love to write to you ; it gives me pleasure, and kills me with melancholy. The d take stupidity, that it will not come to supply the want of philosophy.
THE SAME TO MR. GAY.
DUBLIN, March 19, 1729. I deny it. I do write to you according to the old stipulation ; for, when you kept your old company, when I writ to one, I writ to all. But I am ready to enter into a new bargain, since you are got into a new world, and will answer all your letters. You are first to present my most humble respects to the Duchess of Queensberry, and let her know that I never dine without thinking of her ; although it be with some difficulty that I can obey her when I dine with forks that have but two prongs, and when the sauce is not very consistent. You must likewise tell her Grace that she is a general toast among all honest folks here ; and particularly at the Deanery, even in the face of my Whig subjects. . . . (After an
allusion to Pope, etc.) I ride and walk whenever good weather invites, and am reputed the best walker in this town and five miles round. I writ lately to Mr. Pope. I wish you had a little villakin in his neighbourhood ; but you are yet too volatile, and any lady with a coach and six horses would carry you to Japan.
Born in 1672—five years after the author of Gulliver,--Joseph Addison terminated his comparatively short career at the age of fortyseven. Only a few of his letters appear to have been preserved. Although most of them were written at an early period of his life, they exhibit many evidences of that delightful humour which is more fully developed in the classic pages of the Spectator,—now, unfortunately, too little known. For sweetness of expression, propriety of treatment, and dignity of tone, the language of Addison can hardly be surpassed.
Whoever wishes,' says Dr. Johnson, 'to attain an English style, familiar but not coarse, and elegant but not ostentatious, must give his days and nights to the volumes of Addison.'
In the capacity of Secretary of State, it has been said that he was a better man of business than Prior, but still a bad one. His business letters, however, which are extant, are clear and concise, as well as graceful, and certainly do not 46
Letter from Blois
justify the reproach of Pope, that he could not issue an order without losing his time in quest of fine expressions.'
JOSEPH ADDISON TO MR. CONGREVE.
DEAR SIR,-I was very sorry to hear in your last letter that you were so terribly afflicted with the gout, though for your comfort I believe you are the first English poet that has been complimented with the distemper. I was myself at that time sick of a fever, which I believe proceeded from the same cause ; but at present I am so well recovered that I can scarce forbear beginning my letter with Tully's preface, Si vales bene est, ego quidem valeo. You must excuse me for giving you a line of Latin now and then, since I find myself in some danger of losing the tongue, for I perceive a new language, like a new mistress, is apt to make a man forget all his old ones. I assure you I met with a very remarkable instance of this nature at Paris, in a poor Irishman that had lost the little English he had brought over with him, without being able to learn any French in its stead. I asked him what language he spoke ; he very innocently answered me, ‘No language, Monsieur,' which, as I afterwards found, were all the words he was master of in both tongues. I am at present in a town where all the languages in Europe are spoken except English, which is not to be heard, I believe, within fifty miles of the place. My greatest diversion is to run over in my thoughts the variety of noble scenes I was entertained with before I came hither. I don't believe, as good a poet as you are, that you can make finer landscapes than those about the King's houses, or, with all your descriptions, build a more magnificent palace than Versailles.
to Mr. Congreve.
I am, however, so singular as to prefer Fontainebleau to all the rest. It is situated among rocks and woods, that give you a fine variety of savage prospects. The King has humoured the genius of the place, and only made use of so much art as is necessary to help and regulate nature without reforming her too much. . . . But I begin to talk like Dr. Lister. To pass, therefore, from works of nature to those of art : in my opinion, the pleasantest part of Versailles is the gallery. Every one sees on each side of it something that will be sure to please him, for one of them commands a view of the finest garden in the world, and the other is wainscoted with looking-glass. The history of the present King to the year 16,1 is painted on the roof by Le Brun, so that his Majesty has actions enough by him to furnish another gallery much longer than the first. He is represented with all the terror and majesty that you can imagine in every part of the picture, and sees his young face as perfectly drawn in the roof as his present one in the side. The painter has represented his Most Christian Majesty under the figure of Jupiter throwing thunderbolts, and striking terror into the Danube and Rhine, that lie astonished and blasted with lightning a little above the cornice. I believe by this time you are afraid I shall carry you from room to room, and lead you through the whole palace ; truly, if I had not tired you already I could not forbear showing you a staircase that they say is the noblest in its kind ; but after so tedious a letter, I shall conclude with the petition to you, that you would deliver the enclosed to Mr. Montague, for I am afraid of interrupting him with my impertinence when he is engaged in more serious affairs. Tu faciles aditus et mollia tempora nôvis.--I am, etc.
Blois, iobr, 1699.
1 The sixteenth year of his reign is supposed to be meant.
Lady Mary Wortley Montagu.
Familiarly acquainted with both Addison and Pope was Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, the eldest daughter of Evelyn Pierrepoint, Earl (afterwards Duke) of Kingston, who appears to have received a classical education. At the age of twenty-two (1712), she married Mr. Edward Wortley Montagu,' ambassador to Constantinople, whom she accompanied to the East; and on her journey, and during her residence in the Levant, she wrote those celebrated letters which form one of the most delightful books in the English language. Keep my letters,' she writes to one of her correspondents, 'they will be as good as Madame de Sévigné's forty years hence ;' and her prediction has been amply fulfilled. It has been alleged that the essential difference between these two celebrated letterwriters is this, that 'the Frenchwoman speaks out of the abundance of her heart, and the Englishwoman out of the clearness of her head.' Probably many of her numerous admirers will not altogether concur in the opinion expressed by Leigh Hunt in his apostrophe to Lady Mary : Loveable, indeed, thou wert not, what
1 Son of the Hon. Sydney Montagu, and grandson of the Earl of Sandwich.