1717 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. Thomas Parnell

Alexander Pope to Thomas Parnell, 6 July 1717; Works of Pope, ed. Elwin and Courthope (1871-1889) 7:465-67.



July 6, [1717].

DEAR SIR, — I write to you as a friend, without apology or study, without intending to appear anything but what I am, and without so much as thinking I stand in need of any excuses or ceremonies for doing so. If it were otherwise, how many pretty things might be said for my silence, and what ingenious turns might be given to yours, — that as soon as you have obliged a man you quite forget it, and that I know nothing is so ungrateful to you as thanks. To tell you that your translation of the Batrachomuomachia is an excellent piece is no more than everybody now knows, and to say that I like it still the better, and am more in your debt than the rest of the world, because it was done at my desire, is no more than you know already; and to acquaint you that there is not one man of any taste who does not approve the whole, verse and prose, is (after all that modesty may fancy it thinks) no more than what you must needs give a good guess at.

The other pieces you entrusted to my care lie preserved with the same veneration as relics, but I look upon them with greater pleasure when I reflect that the owner of them is yet living, though indeed you live to me, but as a saint or separated spirit whose sight I must never enjoy, though I am always sure of his good offices. It is through your mediation that Homer is to be saved, — I mean my Homer, and if you could yet throw some hours away, rather upon me than him, in suggesting some remarks upon his 13th, 14th, 15th, and 16th books, it would be charitable beyond expression; for I am very backward in this year's task, through the interruption of many different cares and distractions, to which none but as intimate and tender a friend as you ought to be privy. I could unload upon you with much comfort and confidence, but the very things I complain of prevent my seeing you in Ireland, which else I had done this summer.

I have, before I was aware, run into my own affairs too far when I only meant to have told you the reason that your poems are not published. The present violent bent to politics and earnest animosities of parties, which grow within one another so fast, that one would think even every single heart was breeding a worm to destroy itself, — these have left no room for any thought but those of mischief to one another. The muses are all run mad and turned bacchanals, and a poet now may be like Amphion and sing with the stones about his ears. This is my case whose works my bookseller would publish at such a juncture that I take it to be tempting Providence. I send them you all, and I think them but a poor return for those fine lines you allowed me to print in the front of them.

I must never forget my obligations to the Dean of St. Patrick's, and I hope you never omit to acquaint him with all that esteem, affection, and remembrance, which there is no putting upon paper, and which can only be felt in the heart. You will also put Dr. Ellwood and Mr. Ward in mind of me, each of whom I have desired by Mr. Jervas to accept of all I am worth — that is to say my poems.

Gay is going for France next week in company with the late Secretary Pulteney. I remain within four miles of London, a man of business and poetry, from both which I pray to be delivered. I am always the same in one respect — that is, always yours most sincerely.