1699 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Elizabeth Thomas

John Dryden to Elizabeth Thomas, 1699; Miscellania. In Two Volumes (1727) 1:149-51.



Madam,

The Letter you were pleased to direct for me, to be left at the Coffee-house last Summer, was a great Honour; and your Verses were, I thought, too good to be a Woman's; some of my Friends to whom I read them were of the same Opinion. 'Tis not over gallant, I must confess, to say this of the fair Sex; but most certain it is, that they generally write with more Softness than Strength. On the contrary, you want neither Vigour in your Thoughts, nor Force in your Expressions, nor Harmony in your Numbers, and methinks I find much of ORINDA in your Manner (to whom I had the Honour to be related, and also to be known.) But I continued not a Day in the Ignorance of the Person to whom I was obliged; for, if you remember, you brought the Verses to a Bookseller's Shop, and enquired there, how they might be sent to me. There happened to be in the same Shop a Gentleman, who hearing you speak of me, and seeing a Paper in your Hand, imagined it was a Libel against me, and had you watched by his Servant, till he knew your Name, and where you lived, of which he sent me word immediately. Tho' I have lost his Letter, yet I remember you live some where about St. Giles's, and are an only Daughter. You must have passed your Time in Reading much better Books than mine; or otherwise you could not have arrived at so much Knowledge as I find you have. But whether Sylph or Nymph I know not; Those fine Creatures, as your Author Count Gabalis assures us have a mind to be christened, and since you do me the Favour to desire a Name from me, take that of CORINNA if you please; I mean not the Lady with whom OVID was in Love, but the famous Theban Poetess, who overcame PINDAR five Times, as Historians tell us. I wou'd have call'd you SAPHO, but that I hear you are handsomer. Since you find I am not altogether a Stranger to you, be pleased to make me happier by a better Knowledge of you; and instead of so many unjust Praises which you give me, think me only worthy of being,

Madam,

Your most humble Servant,

and Admirer,

JOHN DRYDEN.