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net." He is the subject of the following admirable letter, which deserves to be published entire, especially as the mutilated copy, communicated to Mr. Gutch, is rendered unintelligible by the several strange mistakes that appear upon cousulting the original, with which it has been cole lated, and from which a correct transcript is now conveyed to you by
Grande Bretagne. To Mrs. West, to the care of the Post-House at Epsom, Surry.
Lions, 12 Jan. 1739, N. S. THIS will come to your hands sooner than the last I wrote; that went by a private hand, inclosed to Dick; probably the bearer may stay by the way: it contained an old story, to divert you and Molly; which, when read, pray burn. I received yesterday your lovg one, with two blank pages: I agree your paper is better than ours, but yet not so much as to make it worth the postage: you see how insatiable I am; I wish you had filled up those blank pages. I often think about my friend Dick, and last night dreamed of him. This letter is written on purpose for him, to whom therefore pray communicate it. You have said not one word of him to me a great while, from whence I conclude two things, that he is pretty well, but does not study the law: if he did, your satisfaction, and his too, would make me hear it soon enough. Young people do not see far; and, what is worse, they care not to be advised by those who do. They will not be the better for our experience. I say to myself frequently, what would I give to be twenty again, with the knowledge of the world which I have now? He is at that age, and my knowledge is at his service: why cannot we together produce what I figure to myself possible, if I was at that age? I have often considered his aversion to the law, and grieve at it, because it is a natural, almost sure, way of advancing himself: his father's name so much esteemed, his friends and mine, and his own parts, altogether could not have failed. He has no fortune; I mean, scarce sufficient to keep him clean, unless in retirement, which, I know (though perhaps he does not) he will never choose; for his own sake and his family's I hope he will not. What then can he do? my case and his were much the same. I had buť small expectations of fortune, and perhaps pretty good parts: these soon recommended me to the best company, that is, in plain English, they were pleased, and I was flat. tered. Wbat then? Why then, says my poor father (who was an excellent mathematician, but who knew no more of the world than his son), my boy shall qualify bimself for the grand monde, and he shall get into great places, and so forth. I was therefore put to Italian, French, and every thing that is called modern polite literature; and with the improvemnents of dancing, fencing, riding, drawing, fortification, beraldry, music, and what not, I was to be made as fine a gentleman as any body living. Poor mistaken man! Instead of giving me a profession, any knowledge that was useful, and absolutely necessary to mankind, I was to be furnished only with the superfluities of life; and, without a fortune, was to be taught to live as if I had one, and create a relish, a habit of living, which, if I did not succeed, must make me miserable. Well
, but with these accomplishments for foreign employs, I could not fail-few people of small fortunes were so fit for them ; this all agreed to. But, as something more than Greek, Latin, French, Italian, &c. was necessary to qualify a man for these employments, I was shut up for two years, and, by the direction of a very great and wise man, was recommended to the reading of English History, then the History of Europe in general, then Douat's Civil Law, then Grotius, Puffendorf, and many more very dry, but necessary authors; and, last of all, to study four folio volumes of treatises. All this, I was convinced, was necessary, absolutely so, to a man who is to treat (or to serve those who are to treat) with foreign courts. This labour gone through with pretty good success, the next thing was to find a patron. This was not easily done. My great friends were not used to hear me speak of want'ing employment; they liked iny wit and my odes. However, they kept smiling, on for some time, till my father's pockets grew low, and dress and chair-bire became too expensive. Luckily a patron was found; one who understood what wit and parts were, and excelled himself in that way; but who well knew that was not enough: I was therefore to convince him that I had more material furniture in my head. I succeeded in this too, from the pains I had taken in those two years. We went abroad together; bis own weight in the world, his prodigious virtue and goodness, and his near relation to the first minister, gave me reason to expect all the advantages that could attend so flattering a beginning in public business. What hindered ? why, the cominonest thing upon earth; my patron was turned out, and consequently Mr. Secretary was to seek for another. With better
Juck than ordinary, in two years more another was found, envoy at the same court. Two or three great men's warm recommendations procured me his excellency’s favour; and my little boat was set afloat again: the gale was prosperous, the weather fine for a whole twelvemonth (an age, I can assure you, in human affairs.) What's the matter why, a mighty ordinary matter; the envoy died. These changes astonished me. I was a young man, and did not think that people were to die, or be turned out; but my father was older, and might have heard that such strange things did sometimes happen. What was to be done now; no money, my former patron in disgrace! friends, that were in favour, not able to serve me, or not willing; that is, cold, timid, careful of themselves, and indifferent to a man whose disappointments made him less agreeable. (For want of success, you must know, is always a fault in the eye of most men, though it be owing to accidents ever so foreign to your merit.) In this condition, that is, in want of every thing but a fine coat and laced shirt (the remains of former lux. ury), I languished on for three long melancholy years; sometimes a little elated; a smile, a kind hint, a downright promise, dealt out to me from those in whom I had placed some silly hopes, now and then brought a little refreshment; but that never lasted, and to say nothing of the agony of being reduced to talk of one's misfortunes and one's wants, and that basest, lowest of all conditions, the slavery of borrowing, to support an idle, useless being, my time for those three years was unhappy beyond description. What would I have given then for a profession! How often did I accuse my father's ignorance of the world! My Greek and my wit, my Italian and my dancing, even my laborious disagreeable study of Grotius and the treatises, were now of no use to me. In this wretched situation, retired eighteen miles from London into an obscure village, in debt to tailors, butchers, drapers, and chandlers' shops, one fine morning I received a letter from a school-fellow, whom I loved from my soul, acquainting me that he had the day before kissed the king's hand for a very great employment, and desiring me to come to town, and to consider which of the considerable places he now had to bestow would be most agreeable to me, that he might put me into possession of it immediately. Guess at my joy and gratitude; I can express neither, any more than my grief, except by the tears which are now in my eyes, because that friend is no more. His love and my good fortune were so great, that he overlooked my unfita ness for any place under him (from my ignorance of the
law,) and obliged me to take the best he had to give, which was full 1000l. a year. Once again I forgot that men were mortal. His youth and my own, I imagined, promised us riches and pleasures for many years to come: it was permitted that he should die too. I end my history of myself here. You and Dick both know but too well the sequel of it. What I mean by telling it him is plain. It is, to make him sensible that without the knowledge of something that mankind cannot be without, no wit, no parts, no friends, no patrons, can secure him from want, and the terrible consequence of it, contempt. He cannot easily set out in life with more bopes of success than I did. He may be more fortunate, but it is ten thousand to one he is not. And what led me into this particular way of thinking at present is, that supposing the law would not please him, I was imagining, if Sir R. lived, he migbt possibly get to be secretary to some minister at a foreign court. But even this cannot be ob. tained without that necessary knowledge I have been speaking of; as troublesome, as disagreeable to the full, as the law. of England; and as remote and different from wit and poetry, and those pursuits with which he hath too long amused, or rather abused, his good parts. And my intent was to shew him, that supposing he had obtained this previous acquaintance with the civil law and the law of nations, and bad got to be king's secretary to the first embassy in Europe, he would not be in half so comfortable, so easy a condition to a man of sense, who knows what this world is, as if he was in a three pair of stairs chamber at the Temple, in à way only of getting 2001. a year. If he thinks my case particular, he does not know (as how should he?) what passes about the court, where, besides the changeableness of things, there is not one place of any kind for which there are not five hundred competitors; many of whom are as well and better qualified than he can be these two years, let him study ever so hard. In short, all places are, from the accidents I have related, so extremely precarious; the attend. ance about them is so mean and unmanly; refusals and delays are so insupportable; and the loss of them, when obtained, so dreadful to one who has not a good foundation in his own fortune, that he must be weak who should propose that pursuit to a friend. It is for this reason I have troubled you and him with this account of my own mistakes, that I may deter him from falling into them; and that I may use this one effort more to convince bim, that any useful prop fession is infinitely better than a thousand patrons. God knows how zealous I am for his success in the world, and how grieved I am when I recollect, that he is now near twenty-two, and has not yet read one book (since at Eton) for which he, or his family, will ever be the better as long as he lives. I love him, dearly love him, and therefore these pains, and this plainness. Why does not his uncle* second my intreaties, and engage hiin to fix? He cannot take Dick's honest regard for me ill, surely; besides, be said be did not. If he did, I should be sorry indeed, since his ad. herence to me cannot be agreeable to me any longer than it is useful to himself: and I am of no use to him, if I cannot influence his conduct in a matter so plain, so true, and so important, as this. For God's sake do what you can (but, witla that tenderness which is so natural to you towards your children) to engage him to hearken to me, before it is too late. Help me to do him good : desire him to add my years, my experience, to his own parts, and I will, with my life, an-, swer for his success. But tell him, that his parts will be his ruin, if he will not submit them to the conduct of those who have gone through a good part of the road of life to him utterly unknown, and therefore dangerous.
See how far my love has carried me! I will not be so full of words again soon, God knows they come from a heart, most sincerely, most gratefully disposed to do all sorts of good in my poor power to you and
I rejoice at what you say in your letter of some comforts and conveniences you meet with at present at Epsom. May they and greater ever accompany you! My sincere love io Molly and Dick. You need not burn this letter. I will answer your long agreeable letter another time.
XXXIII. The Rev. G. Costard, of Twickenham, to his Sister,
containing Reflections on the Language of Tragedy, &c.
Wad. Coll. Dec. 21, 1732. OXFORD not affording any thing worth your knowledge, and having observed in you a particular taste for tragedy ; because I would not have you, like the generality of mankind, approve without reason, and dislike they know not why, I thought I could not employ this opportunity better than in sending you some scattered thoughts upon that subject, which may be of use towards the conducting your
* Mr. Mitchell, who married Mrs. West's sister.