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It is convenient to make it a rule not to let one's friends forget little circumstances, whereby such cross purposes sometimes happen; but when they do happen between friends, they are to be made matter of mirth.
The gentleman that writ you the letter, which you sent to me, is an extraordinary man, and the fittest in the world to go on with that inquiry. Pray let him, at any rate, get the precise time, the persons present, and the minutes of the register taken of their proceed. ings; and this without noise, or seeming concern to have them, as much as may be; and I would beg you not to talk of this matter, till we have got the whole matter of fact, which will be a pleasant story, and of good use.
I wish the books you mentioned, were not gone to the press, and that they might not be printed; for when they are printed, I am sure they will get abroad; and then it will be too late to wish it had not been so. However if the fates will have it so, and their printing cannot be avoided; yet, at least, let care be taken to conceal his name. I doubt not of his reasoning right, and making good his points; but what will that boot, if he and his family should be disturbed, or diseased?
I shall, as you desire, send Moliere, and Le Clerc, back to you, by the first opportunity. I am, with perfect sincerity and respect, &c.
To the same.
Oates, 28 February, 1703-4. I SAW the packet was exactly well made up, and I knew the books in it were well bound; whereupon I let it alone, and was likely to have sent it back to you unopened; but my good genius would not suffer me to lose a letter of yours in it, which I value more than all the books it accompanied. Since my last therefore to you, I opened the packet, and therein found yours of the 16th instant, which makes me love and value you, if it were
* Mr. Bold's Treatises mentioned in the preceding letter.
possible, more than I did before; you having therein, in short, so well described, wherein the happiness of a rational creature in this world consists; though there are very few that make any other use of their half employed and undervalued reason, but to bandy against it. It is well, as you observe, that they agree as ill with one another, as they do with common sense. For when, by the influence of some prevailing head, they all lean one way; truth is sure to be born down, and there is nothing so dangerous, as to make any inquiry after her; and to own her, for her own sake, is a most unpardonable crime.
You ask me, how I like the binding of Moliere, and Le Clerc. You will wonder to hear me say, not at all; but you must take the other part of my answer, which is, nor do I dislike it. It is probable, that this yet doth not satisfy you, after you have taken such especial care with your binder, that they should be exactly well done. Know then, that upon moving the first book, having luckily espied your letter, I only just looked into it to see the Paris print of Moliere; and, without so much as taking it out of the paper it was wrapped up in, cast my eye upon the cover, which looked very fine, and curiously done, and so put it up again, hasting to your letter. This was examining, more than enough, of books whose binding you had told me you had taken care of; and more than enough, for a man who had your letter in his hand unopened.
Pray send me word what you think or hear of Dr. Pitt's last book*. For as for the first of the other authors you mention†, by what I have seen of him. ready, I can easily think his arguments not worth your reciting. And as for the other, though he has parts, yet that is not all which I require in an author I am covetous of, and expect to find satisfaction in.
The Antidote; or the Preservative of Health and Life, and the Restorative of Physic to its Sincerity and Perfection; &c. By R. Pitt, M. D. Fellow and Censor of the College of Physicians, &c. Lond. 1704, 8vo.
+ The grand Essay; or a Vindication of Reason and Religion, against the Imposture of Philosophy, &c. Lond. 1701, in 8vo.
Pray, forget not to write to your friend in Oxford, to the purpose I mentioned in my last to you. I am,
To the same.
Oates, 6 March, 1703-4.
WERE you of Oxenford itself, bred under those sharp heads, which were for damning my book, because of its discouraging the staple commodity of the place; which in my time was called hogs-shearing, (which is, as I hear, given out for the cause of their decree); you could not be a more subtle disputant than you are. You do every thing that I desire of you, with the utmost care and concern; and because I understand and accept it so, you contend that you are the party obliged. This, I think, requires some of the most refined logic to make good; and if you will have me believe it, you must forbid me too to read my own book, and oblige me to take to my help more learned and scholastic notions. But the mischief is, I am too old to go to school again; and too resty now to study arts, however authorized, or wherever taught, to impose upon my own understanding. Let me therefore, if you please, be sensible of your kindness; and I give you leave to please yourself, with my interpreting them as I ought, as much as you think fit. For it would be hard in me to deny you so small a satisfaction, where I receive so great and real advantage.
To convince you, that you are not like to lose what you so much value, and is all you can expect in our commerce, I put into your hands a fresh opportunity of doing something for me, which I shall have reason to take well. I have this day sent back the bundle of books. I have taken what care I can to secure them from any harm, that might threaten them in the carriage. For I should be extremely vexed that books, so curiously finished by your care, should be in the least injured, or lose any thing of their perfect beauty, till they came to the hands, for whom they are designed.
You have, you see, by your kind offer drawn upon yourself a farther trouble with them, which was designed for my cousin King. But he setting out for the circuit to-morrow morning, I must beg you, that may be my excuse for taking this liberty with you. Moliere's works are for the countess of Peterborough, which I desire you to present to her from me, with the enclosed for her, and my most humble service. I am in truth, &c.
To the same.
Oates, 13 March, 1703-4.
If the disputers of this world were but half so good at doing as you, the mart of logic and syllogisms would no doubt be the only place for the young fry "ad capiendum ingenii cultum;" (pardon, I beseech you, this scrap of Latin; my thoughts were in a place that authorises it, and one cannot chop logic half so well in unlearned modern vulgar languages.) But the traders in subtilty have not your way of recommending it, by turning it into substantial solidity, whereby you prevail so much on me, that I can scarce avoid being persuaded by you, that when I send you of a jaunt beyond Piccadilly, you are the person obliged, and I ought to expect thanks of you for it. Excuse me, I intreat you, if, for decency's sake, I stop a little short of that; and let it satisfy you, that I believe, nay such is the power of your logic, that I cannot help believing, that you spare no pains for your friends, and that you take a pleasure in doing me kindness. All that remains for me to ask of you, is to do me this right in your turn, to believe I am not insensible of your favours, and know how to value such a friend.
Though you saw not my lady, when you delivered Moliere and my letter at her house; yet had you no message from her? Or did you not go in, or stay, when you heard she was indisposed?
Mr. Le Clerc's Harmony is for Mr. Secretary John
ston's lady. The book sent to his lodgings, with a note to inform him, that it is for his lady from me, will do the business; so that, for this errand, I am glad your servant is sufficient without sending you; for you must give me leave sometimes on such occasions to be a little stingy, and sparing of my favours.
I perceive, by the enclosed you did me the favour to send me, that those worthy heads are not yet grown up to perfect infallibility. I am sorry, however, that their mighty thoughts wanted utterance. However, I would very gladly know the true matter of fact, and what was really proposed, resolved, or done; this, if possible, I would be assured of, that I might not be mistaken in what gratitude I ought to have.
You baulked my having the bishop of St. Asaph's* sermon, by telling my cousin King, that I care not for sermons; and, at the same time, you send my lady plays. This has raised a dispute between her ladyship and me, which of us two it is, you think best of. Methinks you are of opinion, that my lady is well enough satisfied with the unreformed stage; but that I should be glad, that some things were reformed in the pulpit itself. The result is, that my lady thinks it necessary for you to come, and appease these broils you have raised in the family. I am, &c.
To the same.
Oates, 21 March, 1703-4. GIVE me leave to tell you, sir, that you are mistaken in me. I am not a young lady, a beauty, and a fortune. And unless you thought me all this, and designed your addresses to me; how is it possible you should be afraid you acquitted not yourself well in my commission beyond Piccadilly? Your waiting in the parlour a quarter of an hour was more than any reasonable man could de
* Dr. George Hooper.