1741 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Alexander Pope

George Lyttelton to Alexander Pope, 7 November 1741; Works of Pope, ed. Elwin and Courthope (1871-1889) 9:184-86.



LONDON, 7 Nov., 1741.

DEAR SIR, — I received your obliging letter with that pleasure and pride I always feel in every mark of your friendship. As much a courtier as I am, I have no higher ambition than to deserve your esteem, and that of a few honest men more, among whom I desire you to tell Mr. [Ralph] Allen I reckon him, though he is so little in my way that I cannot cultivate his friendship as I wish to do. I envy you the quiet and happiness you enjoy at his house, where you are escaped from the vice, the folly, and the noise of the world, almost as much as if you were dead and in the region of pure and happy spirits. What a different scene am I forced to sit in! But I won't recall even your thoughts to it. I will only tell you that I am well, and that I have lately heard from Mr. Warburton, who desires me to acquaint you that he has dropped his dispute with Dr. Middleton, as you advised him to do; though he has convinced me he could well have maintained it if he had not loved peace and friendship better than victory, which is a temper of mind so becoming in a divine, and so rare in an author, that I think you should express your approbation of it the first time you write to him. If the person who told you not to suffer me to forget him was Lord Bolingbroke, I beg you would say in your answer that I gave a letter two months ago to Mr. Brindsden to be conveyed to him, which by those words to you I should apprehend he has not received. If you add that I always remember his lordship with the highest veneration and kindest regards, you will do me but justice. I wish he was in England upon many accounts, but for nothing more than to exhort and animate you not to bury your excellent talents in a philosophical indolence, but to employ them, as you have often done, in the service of virtue. The corruption and hardship of the present age is no excuse, for your writings will last to ages to come, and do good a thousand years hence if they can't now: but I believe they would be of great present benefit. Some sparks of public virtue are yet alive which such a spirit as yours might blow into a flame, among the young men especially; and even granting an impossibility of reforming the public, your writings may be of use to private society. The moral song may steal into our hearts and teach us to be as good sons as good friends, as beneficent, as charitable as Mr. Pope, and sure that would be serving your country, though you can't raise her up such ministers or such senators as you desire. In short, my dear friend, though I am far from supposing that if you don't write you live in vain, though the influence of your virtues is felt among all your friends and acquaintance, and the whole circle of society within which you live, yet as your writings will have a still more extensive and permanent influence, as they will be an honour to your country at a time when it has hardly anything else to be proud of, and may do good to mankind in better ages and countries if not in this, I would have you write till a decay of your parts, or at least weakness of health, shall oblige and authorize you to lay down your pen. But though in my zeal for your glory I tell you this, I shall love and esteem you just as well, whether you mind it or not. I have long since forgot the author in the companion and friend, and though I shall read whatever you write with a great deal of pleasure, and feel a sort of pride for you in hearing it praised, I had rather you should tell me, as you do in your last letter, that you are happy and satisfied than be told you had written the finest thing in the world. I was last night at West's. He and his wife are much yours. I wish I could write to you longer. I feel those same outgoings of the soul which you speak of very strong in me now, and should like to prate to you through a page or two more; but here are people breaking in upon me, so I can only assure you I am most sincerely, dear sir, your very affectionate, humble servant.