1696 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. Isaac Watts

John Hughes to Isaac Watts, 30 May 1696; Duncombe, Letters of Eminent Persons (1772; 1773) 1:10-12.



Though nothing could be more acceptable to me than your last letter, yet I wish you had employed the former part of it on a better subject, and not in loading me with compliments as unexpected as undeserved. The poison is the more dangerous because the less suspected, for you have shown such an extreme address, that seeming to say little, you have said all. I thought, after that free confession I have made, your friendship would have restrained you from tempting my vanity with such unnecessary praises on a trifle I owned myself too much inclined to be fond of; nay, to deal freely, I found my infirmity at that time so prevailing, that I could hardly persuade myself at first that you complimented. But I will leave this subject, since to be over-obstinate in refusing praise is not always an argument of modesty, any more than a man's declaiming against himself in company, only because he would be contradicted. I give you many thanks for that testimony of your gratitude, as you are pleased to call it, and though I must own it a little incorrect, yet you may believe me, if I tell you that I think it has some beauties which deserve a particular admiration. As for your request, that I would criticise on it, I hope you will excuse me, when I have declared to you, that I have neither judgment nor ill-nature enough for such an undertaking. Perhaps too there is a grain of policy in the case, and I am unwilling to destroy the good opinion you seem to have of my abilities, by putting me on such an attempt. In hopes that you will not, on your part, neglect this paper correspondence between us, nor fail to make me an expected return, I here send you some verses that were written some time ago, and given, together with a drawing, to a lady who is a great admirer of those two sister-arts. I should tell you, that, in some of the lines, I have imitated the incomparable Waller; but a little ambition, you know, is necessary to poets, and though I have reason enough to expect the same success, that Horace prophecies of the imitators of Pindar, yet I have sometimes been inclined to fancy the design, and some of the verses, particularly the six last, not altogether unlike him.