1712 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Sir Charles Sedley

Richard Steele to Alexander Pope, 1 June 1712; Works of Pope, ed. Elwin and Courthope (1871-1889) 6:389-90.



June 1, 1712.

I am at a solitude, a house between Hampstead and London, wherein Sir Charles Sedley died. This circumstance set me a thinking and ruminating upon the employments in which men of wit exercise themselves. It was said of Sir Charles, who breathed his last in this room,

Sedley has that prevailing gentle art,
Which can with a resistless charm impart
The loosest wishes to the chastest heart;
Raise such a conflict, kindle such a fire
Betwixt declining virtue and desire;
That the poor vanquished maid dissolves away
In dreams all night, in sighs and tears all day.

This was a happy talent to a man of the town; but I dare say, without promising to make uncharitable conjectures on the author's present condition, he would rather have had it said of him that he had prayed,

O thou my voice inspire,
Who touched Isaiah's hallowed lips with fire!

You have expressed it [in the Messiah eclogue] with a good and pious, but not so exalted and poetical a spirit as the prophet, The Lord God will wipe away tears from off all faces. If you agree with me in this, alter it by way of paraphrase or otherwise, that when it comes into a volume it may be amended. Your poem is already better than the Pollio. I am your, &c.