1765 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Edward Jerningham

Lord Chesterfield to Edward Jerningham, 12 August 1765; Lewis Bettany, Edward Jerningham and his Friends (1919) 40-41.



I do not know whether I can with decency acknowledge the favour of your Poetical letter of the 7th. But Men, as well as Women, are very apt to break through decency when desire is very strong; as mine, I assure you, is to thank you for it. Could I give you as good as you bring, my thanks should be conveyed to you in Rhyme and Metre; but the Muses, who never were very propitious to me when I was young, would now laugh at, and be as deaf as I am, to the invocation of a Septuagenary Invalid. Accept then my humblest thanks, in humble prose, for your very good verses upon a very indifferent subject; which, should you be reproached with, you may very justly make the same answer that your Predecessor, Waller, did to King Charles after the Restoration. The King accused him of having made finer verses in praise of Oliver Cromwell than of himself; to which he agreed, saying that fiction was the soul of Poetry. Am I not generous to help you out of that scrape at my own expence?