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blessing to the age in which you live. You have ever used these advantages for the service of your country, with a beautiful disregard to what is usually thought a man's greatest interest. All men of sense give you, in their real sentiments and just conceptions of your merit, much greater honours than could be purchased from the gaudy affluence of such things as are the admiration and first pursuit of common men.
Many circumstances render it inconvenient to say much of the present I now make you; but if I had, instead of forining the character of an Englishman from my own conceptions, drawn it from the gentleman to whom I am now speaking, it had been much easier to have defended it. I do not by this application design to involve you in a dispute in favour of these writings; you undertook it, with great humanity, when it was most useful to me, and I cannot but do those who have condemned them the justice to mention to the world this strong circumstance against these papers, that your eloquence has been ineffectual in their defence. However, no one can blame me for being proud
* In the House of Commons, on the question for his expulsion, “ Mr. Steele chose to make his appearance near the bar * of the House; and I will not forget to mention one circumstance “ in this scer that very much sweetened his affiliation, which was, “ that he had the honour to stand between Mr. Stanhope and Mr. • Walpole, who had condescended to take upon chem the parts of s his advocates.” Apology, p. 234.
that so good and great a man condescended, in places wherein they have been censured, to be
Your Queen and country have your great qualifications in store for their glory and service, whenever you are called to their assistance in the field, the cabinet, or the senate. In the talents of each place you have few equals in ability, even among those who are practised only in one of them, and much fewer in a disinterested integrity in exerting that ability. Your generous conduct with relation to the fortunes as well as the lives of your enemies, over whom you have had the right of conquest, has gained 'you the most eligible fame, that of justice and moderation. This generous conduct has made every man you ever commanded love you as a comrade, and every fellow-subject you have served (and you have served every fellow-subject) esteem you as a friend. The world, which is in arrear to your virtue, never speaks of you without wishing you honour in proportion to what you have done for your country's glory, and wishing you wealth in proportion to what you have refused, to augment that glory.
I am, Sir, with the greatest gratitude and refpect, your most obliged and most humble servant,
LETTER CCCCXXXI *.
To Mr. CONGREVET.
(1714.] Y name, as publisher of the following
Miscellanies, I am senfible, is but a light recommendation of them to the publick; but the town's opinion of them will be raised, when it sees them addressed to Mr. Congreve. If the patron is but known to have a taste for what is presented to him, it gives an hopeful idea of the work; how much more, when he is an acknowledged master of the art he is detired to
* Prefixed to Steele's collection of “ Poetical Miscellanies.”
f Mr. William Congreve was born in Staffordfliire in 1672. His father being a steward in the Burlington family, he was bred in Ireland. Soon after the Revolution, he was entered of the Middle Temple ; but, the law proving too severe a study for his inclination, he early distinguifhed himself as a dramatic writer. His first comedy, “ The Old Bachelor," came out in 1693 ; and that munificent patron of wit, the Earl of Halifax, soon after made him a Commissioner of the Hackney-coaches, gave him a place in the Pipe-office, and another in the Cuftoms, worth 600l. a year. He continued writing with success till 1698, when he seems to have quitted the stage in disgust. Under the ministry of the Earl of Oxford, he was continued in office, though almoft blind, through the friendship of Dr. Swift; and the latter years of his life were spent in case and retirement. He became at last quite blind; and, dying Jan. 19, 1728-9, was buried with great pomp in Westminster-abbey, where an ele. gant monument was erected to his memory at the expence of Henrietta Duchess of Marlborough, to whom he bequeathed the greater part
of his fortune. See Southern's account of Congreve, from an autograph paper in the British Museum, in the late edition of the TATLER wich Notes, vol. VI. note, p. 471, feq. Dd
favour?. Your just success in the various parts of Poetry, will make your approbation of the following sheets a favour to many ingenious gentlemen, whose modesty wants the sanction of such an authority. Men of your talents oblige the world, when they are ftudious to produce in others the fimilitude of their excellencies. Your great discerning in distinguishing the characters of mankind, which is manifested in your Comedies, renders your good opinion a just foundation for the esteem of other men.
I know, indeed, no argument against these collections, in comparison of any other Tonson has heretofore printed; but that there are in it no verses of yours. That gentle, free, and easy faculty, which also in fongs, and fhort poems *, you pos. sess above all others, diftinguishes itself whereever it appears. I cannot but instance your inimitable “ Doris," which excels, for politeness, fine raillery, and courtly satire, any thing we can meet with in any language.
Give me leave to tell you, that when I confider your capacity this way, I cannot enough applaud the goodness of your mind, that has given so few exainples of these severities, under the temptation of so great applause as the ill-natured world bestows on them, though addressed with: out any mixture of
your delicacy * Dr. Johnson was of a different opinion. “The petty poems “ of Congreve,” he says, “are fèidom worth the cost of crisi. ( cisin.”. See Atterbury's Letters, vol. IV. p. 215.
I cannot leave my favourite «Doris" withbut taking notice how much that short performance discovers a true knowledge of life. « Doris" is the character of a libertine woman of condition, and the 'satire is worked up accordingly; for people of quality are seldom touched with any representation of their vices but in a light which makes them ridiculous.
As much as I esteem you for your excellent writings, by which you are an honour to our nation, I chuse rather, as one that has passed many happy hours with you, to celebrate that easy condescenfion of mind, and command of a pleasant imagination, which give you the uncommon praise of a man of wit, always to please, and never to offend. No one, after a joyful evening, can reflect upon an expression of Mr. Congreve's that dwells upon him with pain.
In a man capable of exerting himself any way, this (whatever the vain and ill-natured may think of the matter) is an excellence above the brightest fallies of imagination.
The reflection upon this most equal, amiable, and correct behaviour, which can be observed only by your intimate acquaintance, has quite diverted me from acknowledging your several excellencies as a writer ; but to dwell particularly on those subjects would have no very good effect upon the following performances of myD d 2