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I', Mrs. Starari
47. Tu Mrs. Steward
48. To Mrs. Steward
THE RIGHT HONOURABLE
EARL OF CHESTERFIELD, &c.*
have too much injured my great author, 10 exI cannot begin my address to your lordship pect he should intercede for me. I would have better than in the words of Virgil:
translated him; but, according to the literal
French and Italian phrases, I sear I have traQuod optanti divům promittere nemo duced him. It is the fault of many a well-meanAuderet, volvenda dies, en, attulit ultro.
ing man, to be officious in a wrong place, and Seven years together I have concealed the do a prejudice where he had endeavoured to do a longing which I had to appear before you: a service. Virgil wrote his Georgics in the full time as tedious as Æneas passed in his wan- strength and vigour of his age, when his judgdering voyage, before he reached the promised ment was at the height, and before his fancy Italy. But I considered, that nothing which my was declining. He had (according to our meanness could produce was worthy of your homely saying) his full swing at this poem, bepatronage. At last this happy occasion offered, ginning it about the age of thirty-five, and of presenting to you the best poem of the best scarce concluding it before he arrived at forty. poet
. If I balked this opportunity, I was in It is observed, both of him and Horace, (and I despair of finding such another; and, if I took believe it will hold in all great poets,) that, it, I was still uncertain whether you would though they wrote before with a certain heat of vouchsafe to accept it from my hands. It was genius which inspired them, yet that heat was a bold venture which I made, in desiring your not perfectly digested. There is required a permission to lay my unworthy labours at your continuance of warmth, to ripen the best and feet. But my rashness has succeeded beyond noblest fruits. Thus Horace, in his First and my hopes; and you have been pleased not to Second Book of Odus, was still rising, but came suffer an old man to go discontented out of the not to his meridian till the Third ; after which, world, for want of that protection, of which he his judgment was an overpoise to his imaginahad been so long ambitious. I have known a tion: he grew too cautious to be bold enough; gentleman in disgrace, and not daring to appear for he descended in his Fourth by slow degrees, before King Charles the Second, though he and, in his Salires and Epistles, was more a much desired it: at length he took the confi- philosopher and a critic than a poet. In the dence to attend a fair lady to the court, and told beginning of summer, the days are almost at a his majesty, that, under her protection, he had stand, with little variation of length or shortpresumed to wait on him. With the same ness, because at that time the diurnal motion of humble confidence, I present myself before your the sun partakes more of a right line than of a lordship, and, attending on Virgil, hope a gra- spiral. The same is the method of nature in cious reception. The gentleman succeeded, be the frame of man. He seems at forty to be fully cause the powerful lady was his friend; but I in his summer tropic; somewhat before, and
· Philip Stanhope, second Earl of Chesterfield, horn in 1634. He was a man of considerable talent and political activity ; was active in forwarding the Restoration; and enjoyed at the court of Charles II. several offices, but was now retired. He died in 1713.
somewhat after, he finds in his soul but small the clearer in declining. The blaze is not so increases or decays. From fifty to three-score, fierce as at the first; but the smoke is wholly the balance generally holds even, in our colder vanished ; and your friends, who stand about climates: for he loses not much in fancy; and you, are not only sensible of a cheerful warmth, judgment, which is the effect of observation, but are kept at an awful distance by its sorce. still increases. His succeeding years afford In my small observations of mankind, I have him little more than the stubble of his own har ever found, that such as are not rather too full vest : yet, if his constitution be healthful, his of spirit when they are young, degenerate to mind may still retain a decent vigour; and the dulness in their age. Sobriety in our riper gleanings of that Ephraim, in comparison with years is the effect of a well-concocted warmin: others, will surpass ihe vintage of Abiezer. I but, where the principles are only phlegm, what have called this somewhere, by a bold metaphor, can be expected from the waterish matter, but a green old age; but Virgil has given me his an insipid manhood, and a stupid old infancyauthority for the figure
discretion in leading-strings, and a confirmed Jam senior; sed cruda Deo, viridisque senectus.
Ignorance on crutches? Virgil, in his Third
Georgic, when he describes a colt, who promiAmong those few who enjoy the advantage of ses a courser for the race, or for the field of bata latier spring, your lordship is a rare example; tie, shows him the first to pass the bridge, which who, being now arrived at your great climacte trembles under him, and io stem the corrent of ric, yet give no proof of the least decay of your the flood. His beginnings must be in rashness excellent judgment and comprehension of all -a noble fault; but time and experience will things which are within the compass of human correct that error, and tame it into a deliberato understanding. Your conversation is as easy and well-weighed courage, which knows both to as it is instructive; and I could never observe be cautious and to dare, as occasion offers. the least vanity, or the least assuming, in any Your lordship is a man of honour, not only so thing you said, but a natural unaffected modesty, unstained, but so unquestioned, that you are the full of good sense, and well digested; a clear- living standard of that heroic virtue; so truly ness of notion, expressed in ready and unstudied such, that if I would Hatter you, I could not words. No man has complained, or even can, It takes not from you, that you were born with that you have discoursed too long on any subo principles of generosity and probity; but it udds ject; for you leave us in an eagerness of learn- to you, that you have cultivated nature, and ing more; pleased with what we hear, but not made those principles the rule and measure of satisfied, because you will not speak so much all your actions. The world knows this, withas we could wish. I dare not excuse your out my telling; yet poels have a right of rem Jordship from this fault; for, though it is none cording it to all posterity: in you, it is one to all who have the happiness of being known to you. I must confess, the
Dignum laude virum Musa vetat mori. critics make it one of Virgil's beauties, that, Epaminondas, Lucullus, and the two first Cehaving said what he thoughi convenient, he al sars, were not esteemed the worse commanders, ways left somewhat for the imagination of his for having made philosophy and the liberal arts readers to supply; that they might gratify their their study. Cicero might have been their fancies, by finding more in what he had written, equal, but that he wanted courage. To have than at first they could; and think they had add- both these virtues, and to have improved them ded to his thought, when it was all there before both with a softness of manners and a sweethand, and he only saved himself the expense of ness of conversation—few of our nobility can words. However it was, I never went from fill that character. One there is, and so conyour lordship, but with a longing to return, or spicuous by his own light, that he needs not without a hearty curse to him who invented ceremonies in the world, and put me on the
Digito monstrari, et dicier, “Hic est !" necessity of withdrawing, when it was my inte. To be nobly born, and of an ancient family, is rest, as well as my desire, to have given you a in the extrenies of fortune, either good or bad; much longer trouble. I cannot imagine, (if for virtue and descent are no inheritance. A your lordship will give me leave to speak my long series of ancestors shows the native with ihoughts,) but you have had a more than ordi great advantage at the first; but, if he any way nary vigoor in your youth ; for too much of heat degenerate from his line, the least spot is visiis required ai first, that there may not too little ble on ermine. But, to preserve this whiteness be lefi al last. A prodigal fre is only capable in its original purity, you, my lord, have, liks of large remains; and yours, my lord, still burns that ermine, forsaken the common track or busi