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"So, when I am wearied with wandering all day,
To thee, my delight, in the evening I come:
They were but my visits, but thou art my home!
And let us like Horace and Lydia agree;
As he was a poet sublimer than me.” If Prior read Horace, did not Thomas Moore study Prior? Love and pleasure find singers in all days. Roses are always blowing and fading-to-day as in that pretty time when Prior sang of them, and of Chloe lamenting their decay —
“She sighed, she smiled, and to the flowers
Pointing, the lovely moralist said :
See yonder what a change is made !
And that of Beauty are but one :
Both fade at evening, pale and gone.
The amorous youth around her bowed :
I saw, and kissed her in her shroud.
Such I, alas, may be to-morrow:
The justice of thy Chloe's sorrow.”
1“ PRIOR TO SIR THOMAS HANMER
Aug. 4, 1709. “DEAR SIR, - Friendship may live, I grant you, without being fed and cherished by correspondence; but with that additional benefit I am
spoke slightingly of Prior's verses, enjoyed them more than he was willing to own. The old moralist had
of opinion it will look more cheerful and thrive better : for in this case, as in love, though a man is sure of his own constancy, yet his happiness depends a good deal upon the sentiments of another, and while you and Chloe are alive, 't is not enough that I love you both, except I am sure you both love me again ; and as one of her scrawls fortifies my mind more against affliction than all Epictetus, with Simplicius's comments into the bargain, so your single letter gave me more real pleasure than all the works of Plato. ... I must return my answer to your very kind question concerning my health. The Bath waters have done a good deal towards the recovery of it, and the great specific, Cape caballum, will, I think, confirm it. Upon this head I must tell you that my mare Betty grows blind, and may one day, by breaking my neck, perfect my cure : if at Rixham fair any pretty nagg that is between thirteen and fourteen hands presented himself, and you would be pleased to purchase him for me, one of your servants might ride him to Euston, and I might receive him there. This, sir, is just as such a thing happens. If you hear, too, of a Welch widow, with a good jointure, that has her goings and is not very skittish, pray, be pleased to cast your eye on her for me too. You see, sir, the great trust I repose in your skill and honour, when I dare put two such commissions in your hand. ..." - The Hanmer Correspondence, p. 120.
“FROM MR. PRIOR
“ Paris, Ist-12th May, 1714. “ MY DEAR LORD AND FRIEND, Matthew never had so great occasion to write a word to Henry as now: it is noised here that I am soon to return. The question that I wish I could answer to the many that ask, and to our friend Colbert de Torcy (to whom I made your compliments in the manner you commanded) is, what is done for me ; and to what I am recalled? It may look like a bagatelle, what is to become of a philosopher like me? but it is not such : what is to become of a person who had the honour to be chosen, and sent hither as intrusted, in the midst of a war, with what the Queen designed should make the peace; returning with the Lord Bolingbroke, one of the greatest men in England, and one of the finest heads in Europe (as they say here, if true or not, n'importe); having been left by him in the greatest character (that of Her Majesty's Plenipotentiary), exercising that power conjointly with the Duke of Shrewsbury, and solely after his departure ; having here received more distinguished honour than any Minister, except an Ambassador, ever did, and some which were never given to any but who had that character; having had all the success that could be expected; having (God be thanked !) spared no pains, at a time when at home the peace is
studied them as well as Mr. Thomas Moore, and defended them, and showed that he remembered them
voted safe and honourable at a time when the Earl of Oxford is Lord Treasurer and Lord Bolingbroke First Secretary of State ? This unfortunate person, I say, neglected, forgot, unnamed to anything that may speak the Queen satisfied with his services, or his friends concerned as to his fortune.
“Mr. de Torcy put me quite out of countenance, the other day, by a pity that wounded me deeper than ever did the cruelty of the late Lord Godolphin. He said he would write to Robin and Harry about me. God forbid, my lord, that I should need any foreign intercession, or owe the least to any Frenchman living, besides the decency of behaviour and the returns of common civility: some say I am to go to Baden, others that I am to be added to the Commissioners for settling the commerce. In all cases I am ready, but in the meantime, dic aliquid de tribus capellis. Neither of these two are, I presume, honours or rewards, neither of them (let me say to my dear Lord Bolingbroke, and let him not be angry with me,) are what Drift may aspire to, and what Mr. Whitworth, who was his fellow-clerk, has or may possess. I am far from desiring to lessen the great merit of the gentleman I named, for I heartily esteem and love him; but in this trade of ours, my lord, in which you are the general, as in that of the soldiery, there is a certain right acquired by time and long service. You would do anything for your Queen's service, but you would not be contented to descend, and be degraded to a charge, no way proportioned to that of Secretary of State, any more than Mr. Ross, though he would charge a party with a halbard in his hand, would be content all his life after to be Serjeant. Was my Lord Dartmouth, from Secretary, returned again to be Commissioner of Trade, or from Secretary of War, would Frank Gwyn think himself kindly used to be returned again to be Commissioner? In short, my lord, you have put me above myself, and if I am to return to myself, I shall return to something very discontented and uneasy. I am sure, my lord, you will make the best use you can of this hint for my good. If I am to have anything, it will certainly be for Her Majesty's service, and the credit of my friends in the Ministry, that it be done before I am recalled from home, lest the world may think either that I have merited to be disgraced, or that ye dare not stand by me. If nothing is to be done, fiat voluntas Dei. I have writ to Lord Treasurer upon this subject, and having implored your kind intercession, I promise you it is the last remonstrance of this kind that I will ever make. Adieu, my lord; all honour, health, and pleasure to you.
“Yours ever, MATT." “P.S. - Lady Jersey is just gone from me. We drank your healths together in usquebaugh after our tea: we are the greatest friends alive. Once more adieu. There is no such thing as the Book of Travels'
very well too, on an occasion when their morality was called in question by that noted puritan, James Boswell, Esq., of Auchinleck.)
In the great society of the wits, John Gay deserved to be a favourite, and to have a good place. In his set all were fond of him. His success offended nobody. He missed a fortune once or twice. He was talked of for court favour, and hoped to win it; but the court favour jilted him. Craggs gave him some South Sea Stock;
you mentioned; if there be, let friend Tilson send us more particular account of them, for neither I nor Jacob Tonson can find them. Pray send Barton back to me, I hope with some comfortable tidings.” — Bolingbroke's Letters.
1“ I asked whether Prior's poems were to be printed entire ; Johnson said they were. I mentioned Lord Hales' censure of Prior in his preface to a collection of sacred poems, by various hands, published by him at Edinburgh a great many years ago, where he mentions these impure tales, which will be the eternal opprobrium of their ingenious author.' JOHNSON : ‘Sir, Lord Hales has forgot. There is nothing in Prior that will excite to lewdness. If Lord Hales thinks there is, he must be more combustible than other people.' I instanced the tale of 'Paulo Purganti and his wife.' JOHNSON : ‘Sir, there is nothing there but that his wife wanted to be kissed, when poor Paulo was out of pocket. No, sir, Prior is a lady's book. No lady is ashamed to have it standing in her library.'” — BOSWELL's Life of Johnson.
2 Gay was of an old Devonshire family, but his pecuniary prospects not being great, was placed in his youth in the house of a silk-mercer in London. He was born in 1688 — Pope's year, and in 1712 the Duchess of Monmouth made him her secretary. Next year he published his “Rural Sports,” which he dedicated to Pope, and so made an acquaintance, which became a memorable friendship.
'Gay,” says Pope, “was quite a natural man, — wholly without art or design, and spoke just what he thought and as he thought it. He dangled for twenty years about a court, and at last was offered to be made usher to the young princesses. Secretary Craggs made Gay a present of stock in the South Sea year; and he was once worth 20,000l., but lost all again. He got about 400l. by the first ‘Beggar's Opera, and 1,100l. or 1,2001. by the second. He was negligent and a bad manager. Latterly, the Duke of Queensbury took his money into his keeping, and let him only have what was necessary out of it, and, as he lived with them, he could not have occasion for much. He died worth upwards of 3,000l.” – POPE. Spence's Anecdotes.
and at one time Gay had very nearly made his fortune. But Fortune shook her swift wings and jilted him too: and so his friends, instead of being angry with him, and jealous of him, were kind and fond of honest Gay. In the portraits of the literary worthies of the early part of the last century, Gay's face is the pleasantest perhaps of all. It appears adorned with neither periwig nor nightcap (the full dress and negligée of learning, without which the painters of those days scarcely ever pourtrayed wits), and he laughs at you over his shoulder with an honest boyish glee artless sweet humour. He was so kind, so gentle, so jocular, so delightfully brisk at times, so dismally wobegone at others, such a natural good creature that the Giants loved him. The great Swift was gentle and sportive with him,' as the enormous Brobdingnag maids of honour were with little Gulliver. He could frisk and fondle round Pope, and sport, and bark, and caper, without offending the most thin-skinned of poets
1 "Mr. Gay is, in all regards, as honest and sincere a man as ever I knew.” – SWIFT, To Lady Betty Germaine, Jan. 1733.
2 “Of manners gentle, of affections mild;
In wit a man; simplicity, a child;
POPE's Epitaph on Gay.
Fables, " The Hare and many Friends."