1710 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Thomas D'Urfey

Alexander Pope to Henry Cromwell, 10 April 1710; Works of Pope, ed. Elwin and Courthope (1871-1889) 6:91-93.



April 10, 1710.

SIR, — I had written to you sooner, but that I made some scruple of sending profane things to you in Holy Week. Besides, our family would have been scandalised to see me write, who take it for granted I write nothing but ungodly verses; and they say here so many prayers, that I can make but few poems; for in this point of praying I am an occasional conformist. So, just as I am drunk or scandalous in town, according to my company, I am for the same reason grave and godly here. I assure you I am looked upon in the neighbourhood for a very sober and well-disposed person, no great hunter indeed, but a great esteemer of the noble sport, and only unhappy in my want of constitution for that and drinking. They all say 'tis pity I am so sickly, and I think 'tis pity they are so healthy; but I say nothing that may destroy their good opinion of me. I have not quoted one Latin author since I came down, but have learned without book a song of Mr. Thomas Durfey's, who is your only poet of tolerable reputation in this country. He makes all the merriment in our entertainments, and but for him there would be so miserable a dearth of catches that I fear they would "sans ceremonie" put either the parson or me upon making some for them. Any man, of any quality, is heartily welcome to the best toping-table of our gentry, who can roundly hum out some fragments or rhapsodies of his works; so that, in the same manner as it was said of Homer to his detractors — What! dares any man speak against him who has given so many men to eat? — (Meaning the rhapsodists who lived by repeating his verses), so may it be said of Mr. Durfey to his detractors — Dares any one despise him who has made so many men drink? Alas, sir! this is a glory which neither you nor I must ever pretend to. Neither you, with your Ovid, nor I, with my Statius, can amuse a whole Board of justices and extraordinary squires, or gain one hum of approbation, or laugh of admiration. These things, they would say, are too studious; they may do well enough with such as love reading, but give us your ancient poet Mr. Durfey. It is mortifying enough, it must be confessed; but, however, let us proceed in the way that nature has directed us. "Multi multa sciunt, sed nemo omnia," as it is said in the almanack. Let us communicate our works for our mutual comfort; send me elegies, and you shall not want heroics. At present I only have these arguments in prose to the Thebaid, which you claim by promise, as I do your translation of "Pars me Sulmo tenet," and the Ring. The rest I hope for as soon as you can conveniently transcribe them, and whatsoever orders you are pleased to give me shall be punctually obeyed.

Dear sir, I give you my thanks for abundance of civility and good-nature shown to me in town on all occasions, and desire you to believe me always sensible of the favours of my friends, which I never forget, any more than I do my friends themselves. It is the chief of my pleasures here to be assured of their welfare, and I envy the town for nothing else but their continuing in it. You will oblige me by giving my service to those at the coffee-house that have so little to employ their thoughts as to inquire of me; and pray, when you see Mr. Balam, do the same, who, you told me, was so obliging as to intend me his company before I left London. I am in great impatience of the favour of a line from you, which will be at all times extremely welcome to, sir, your very faithful and obliged servant.