« PreviousContinue »
ter supply the place. You have altered it to its advantage; but there is still something a little embarrassed here and there in the expression. I rejoice to find you apply (pardon the use of so odious a word) to the history of your own times. Speak, and spare not. Be as impartial as you can; and, after all, the world will not believe you are so, though you should make as many protestations as Bishop Burnet. They will feel in their own breast, and find it very possible to hate fourscore persons, yea, ninety and nine: so you must rest satisfied with the testimony of your own conscience. Somebody has laughed at Mr. Dodsley, or at me, when they talked of the bat: I have nothing more, either nocturnal or diurnal, to deck his miscellany with. We have a man here that writes a good hand; but he has little failings that hinder my recommending him to you.* He is lousy, and he is mad : he sets out this week for Bedlam; but if you insist upon it, I don't doubt he will pay his respects to you. I have seen two of Doctor Middleton's unpublished works. One is about forty-four pages in quarto against Dr. Waterland, who wrote a very orthodox book on the Importance of the Doctrine of the Trinity, and insisted, that Christians ought to have no communion with such as differ from them in fundamentals. Middleton enters no farther into the doctrine itself than to shew, that a mere speculative point can never be called a fundamental; and that the earlier fathers, on whose concurrent tradition Waterland would build, are
As an amanuensis.
so far, when they speak of the three persons, from agreeing with the present notion of our church, that they declare for the inferiority of the Son, and seem to have no clear and distinct idea of the Holy Ghost at all. The rest is employed in exposing the folly and cruelty of stiffness and zealotism in religion, and in shewing that the primitive ages of the church, in which tradition had its rise, were (even by confession of the best scholars and most orthodox writers) the era of nonsense and absurdity. It is finished, and very well wrote; but has been mostly incorporated into his other works, particularly the Inquiry: and for this reason I suppose he has writ upon it, This wholly laid aside. The second is in Latin, on Miracles; to shew, that of the two methods of defending Christianity-one from its intrinsic evidence, the holiness and purity of its doctrinesthe other from its external, the miracles said to be wrought to confirm it: the first has been little attended to by reason of its difficulty; the second much insisted upon, because it appeared an easier task; but that it can in reality prove nothing at all. “ Nobilis illa quidem defensio (the first) quam si obtinere potuissent, rem simul omnem expediisse, causamque penitus vicisse viderentur. At causæ hujus defendendæ labor cum tanta argumentandi cavillandique molestia conjunctus ad alteram, quam dixi, defensionis viam, ut commodiorem longe et faciliorem, plerosque adegit ego vero istiusmodi defensione religionem nostram non modo non confirmari, sed dubiam potius suspectamque reddi existimo.” He then proceeds to consider miracles in general, and afterwards
those of the pagans, compared with those of Christ.' I only tell you the plan, for I have not read it out (though it is short); but you will not doubt to what conclusion it tends. There is another thing, I know not what, I am to see.
As to the Treatise on Prayer; they say it is burnt indeed. Adieu !
Your pen was too rapid to mind the common form of a direction, and so, by omitting the words near Windsor, your letter has been diverting itself at another Stoke near Aylesbury, and came not to my hands till to-day. The true original chairs were all sold, when the Huntingdon broke; there are nothing now but Halsey-chairs, not adapted to the squareness of a Gothic dowager's rump.
And by the way, I do not see how the uneasiness and uncomfortableness of a coronation-chair can be any objection with you: every chair that is easy is modern, and unknown to our ancestors. As I remember, there were certain low chairs, that looked like ebony, at Esher, and were old and pretty. Why should not Mr. Bentley improve upon them?—I do not wonder at Dodsley. You have talked to him of six odes, for so you are pleased to call every thing I write, though it be but a receipt to make apple-dumplings. He has reason to gulp when he finds one of them only a long story. I don't know but I may send him very soon (by your hands) an ode to his own, tooth, a high Pindaric upon stilts, which one must be a better scholar than he is to understand a line of, and the very best scholars will understand but a little matter here and there. It wants but seventeen lines of having an end, I don't say of being finished. As it is so unfortunate to come too late for Mr. Bentley, it may appear in the fourth volume of the Miscellanies, provided you don't think it execrable, and suppress it. Pray, when the fine book is to be printed, * let me revise the press, for you know.you can't; and there are a few trifles I could wish altered.
I know not what you mean by hours of love, and cherries, and pine-apples. I neither see nor hear any thing here, and am of opinion that is the best way. My compliments to Mr. Bentley, if he be with you.
I am yours ever.
I desire you would not shew that epigram I repeated to you,t as mine. I have heard of it twice already as coming from you.
I AM obliged to you for Mr. Dodsley's book ;£ and, having pretty well looked it over, will (as you desire) tell you my opinion of it. He might, methinks, have spared the graces in his frontispiece, if he chose to be economical, and dressed his authors in a little more decent raiment --not in whited-brown paper and distorted characters, like an old ballad. I am ashamed to see myself; but the company keeps me in countenance: so to begin with Mr. Tickell. This is not only a state-poem (my ancient aversion), but a state-poem on the peace of Utrecht. If Mr. Pope had wrote a panegyric on it, one could hardly have read him with patience: but this is only a poor short-winded imitator of Addison, who had himself not above three or four notes in poetry, sweet enough indeed, like those of a German flute, but such as soon tire and satiate the ear with their frequent return. Tickell has added to this a great poverty of sense, and a string of transitions that hardly become a school-boy. However, I forgive him for the sake of his ballad,* which I always thought the prettiest in the world. All there is of M. Green here has been printed before: there is a profusion 'of wit every where; reading would have formed his judgment, and harmonized his verse, for even his wood-notes often break out into strains of real poetry and music. The School-mistress is excellent in its kind, and masterly; and (I am sorry to differ from you, but) London is to me one of those few imitations, that have all the ease and all the spirit of an original. The same man'st verses at the opening of Garrick's theatre are far from bad. Mr. Dyer (here you will despise me highly) has
* The edition of bis Odes, printed at Strawberry-hill. + The epigram here alluded to cannot be ascertained with certainty.
His Collection of Poems.