A Letter to Anthony Collins, Esq.
Oates, 4 May, 1703.
NONE of your concerns are of indifference to me. You may from thence conclude I take part in your late great loss. But I consider you as a philosopher, and a christian; aud so spare you the trouble of reading from me, what your own thoughts will much better suggest to you.
You have exceedingly obliged me, in the books of yours that you have sent me, and those of mine you have been at so much trouble about. I received but just now the packet, wherein they and your obliging letter were; that must be my excuse for so tardy a return of my thanks.
I am overjoyed with an intimation I have received also, that gives me hopes of seeing you here the next week. You are a charitable good friend, and are resolved to make the decays and dregs of my life the pleasantest part of it. For I know nothing calls me so much back to a pleasant sense of enjoyment, and makes my days so gay and lively, as your good company. Come then, and multiply happy minutes upon, and rejoice here in the good you do me. For I am, with a perfect esteem and respect,
Your most humble and most obedient servant,
To the same.
Oates, 3 June, 1703.
IT is not enough to have heard from my cousin King that you got safe to town, or from others that you were since well there. I am too much concerned in it, not to inquire of yourself, how you do. Besides that I owe you my thanks, for the greatest favour I can receive, the confirmation of your friendship, by the visit I lately received from you. If you knew what satisfaction I feel spread over my mind by it, you would take this acknowledgment as coming from something beyond civility; my heart goes with it, and that you may be sure of; and so useless a thing as I am have nothing else to offer you.
As a mark that I think we are past ceremony, I here send you a new book in quires, with a desire you will get it bound by your binder. In the parts of good binding, besides folding, beating, and sewing, will I count strong pasteboards, and as large margins as the paper will possibly afford; and, for lettering, I desire it should be upon the same leather blacked, and barely the name of the author, as, in this case, Vossius.
Pardon this liberty, and believe me with perfect sincerity and respect, &c.
To the same.
Oates, 18 June, 1703.
IT would be strange, if after all those marks of friendship and esteem I have received from you, in the little time I have had the honour of your acquaintance, I should quarrel with you; and should repay the continuance of your good offices, employed even in things beneath you, with grumbling at you; and yet this I can hardly forbear to do. Do not, I beseech you, take this to be altogether ill-nature, but a due estimate of what I enjoy in you. And, since upon just measures I count it the great treasure of my life, I cannot with patience hear you talk of condescension in me, when I stick not to waste your time in looking after the binding of my books. If you please let us live upon fairer terms; and when you oblige me, give me leave to be sensible of it. And pray remember, that there is one Mr. Collins, with whom, if I desire to live upon equal terms, it is not that I forget how much he is superiour to me, in many things wherein he will always have the precedency; but I assume it upon the account of that friendship that is between us; friendship levelling all inequalities between those whom it joins, that it may leave nothing that may keep them at a distance, and hinder a perfect union and enjoyment.
This is what I would be at with you; and were I not in earnest in it, out of a sincere love of you, I would not be so foolish to rob myself of the only way wherein I might pretend to enter the lists with you. I am old and useless, and out of the way; all the real services are then like to be on your side. In words, expressions, and acknowledgment, there might have been perhaps some room to have made some offers of holding up to you. But I desire that nothing of the court guise may mix in our conversation. Put not, I beseech you, any thing into your letters to make me forget how much I am obliged to you by the liberty you allow me to tell you that I am, &c.
To the same.
Oates, 24 June, 1703.
MR. BOLD , who leaves us to-day, intends to see you; and I cannot forbear going, as far as I can, to make the third in the company. Would my health second my desires, not only my name, and a few words of friendship, should go with him to you; but I myself would get to horse; and had I nothing else to do in town, I should think it worth a longer journey than it is thither, to see and enjoy you. But I must submit to the restraints of old age, and expect that happiness from your charity.
It is but six days since, that I writ to you; and see here another letter. You are like to be troubled with me. If it be so, why do you make yourself beloved? Why do you make yourself so necessary to me? I thought myself pretty loose from the world, but I feel you begin to fasten me to it again. For you make my life, since I have had your friendship, much more valuable to me than it was before.
You thanked me in your last, for the employment I gave you; I wish I do not make you repent it; for you are likely to have my custom. I desire you would do me the favour to get me Dr. Barrow’s English works, bound as Vossius’s Etymologicum was. I am in no manner of haste for them, and therefore you may get them from your bookseller in quires, when you go to his shop upon any other occasion; and put them to your binder at leisure. I have them for my own use already; these are to give away to a young lady here in the country. When they are bound, I desire your binder would pack them up carefully, and cover them with paper enough to keep their corners and edges from being hurt in the carriage. For carriers are a sort of brutes, and declared enemies to books. I am, &c.
To the same.
Oates, 9 July, 1703.
YOURS, of the 30th of June, I received just now, and cannot forbear a moment to tell you, that if there were any thing in my last letter, that gave you an occasion, after having mentioned disguise, to say, you “have made use of no way to show your esteem of me, but still your heart went with it,” I am very sorry for it. For, however I might think the expressions in your letter above what I could deserve, yet my blaming your excess of civility to me tended not to any doubt of the sincerity of your affection. Had I not been secure of that, I could not have talked to you with the same freedom I did, nor have endeavoured to persuade you, that you were lodged so near my heart as you are. Though my friendship be of very little value, or use; yet being the best thing I have to give, I shall not forwardly bestow it, where I do not think there is worth and sincerity; and therefore, pray, pardon me the forwardness wherewith I throw my arms about your neck; and holding you so, tell you, you must not hope, by any thing that looks like compliment, to keep me at a civiler, and more fashionable distance.
You comply with me, I see, by the rest of your letter; and you bear with my treating you with the familiarity of an established friendship. You pretend you have got the advantage by it. I wish it may be so; for I should be very glad there were any thing, wherein I could be useful to you. Find it out, I beseech you; and tell me of it, with as little ceremony and scruple, as you see I use with you.
The New Testament, you mention , I shall be glad to see, since Mr. Bold has told you how desirous I was to see it. I have expected one of them from Holland ever since they have been out; and so I hope to restore it to you again in a few days.
The other book, you mentioned , I have seen; and am so well satisfied, by his 5th section, what a doughty ’squire he is like to prove in the rest, that I think not to trouble myself to look farther into him. He has there argued very weakly against his adversary, but very strongly against himself.
But this will be better entertainment for you when we meet, than matter for a letter, wherein I make it my business to assure you, that I am, &c.
To the same.
Oates, 10 September, 1703.
YOURS of the 7th, which I just now received, is the only letter I have a long time wished for, and the welcomest that could come; for I longed to hear that you were well, that you were returned, and that I might have the opportunity to return you my thanks for the books you sent me, which came safe; and to acknowledge my great obligations to you for one of the most villainous books, that, I think, ever was printed . It is a present that I highly value. I had heard something of it, when a young man in the university; but possibly should never have seen this quintessence of railing, but for your kindness. It ought to be kept as the pattern and standard of that sort of writing, as the man he spends it upon, for that of good temper, and clear and strong arguing. I am, &c.
To the same.
Oates, 1 October, 1703.
YOU are a good man, and one may depend upon your promise. This makes me pass my days in comfortable hopes, when I remember you are not far off. I have your word for it, and that is better than city-security. But for fear villainous business should impertinently step in again, between you and your kind purposes to us here; give me leave to beg the favour of you, that if you write again, before I have the happiness to see you, you will do me the favour to send me a note of what you have laid out for me, that I may pay you that part of the debt I am able, of what I owe you, and may not have so much to interrupt the advantages I am to reap from your conversation, when you honour me with your company, as an apology to be made, if I am not out of your debt before we meet.
Doth Mr. Le Clerc’s New Testament make any noise amongst the men of letters or divinity in your town? The divines of Brandenburg or Cleve have got the king of Prussia to prohibit it in his dominions; and the Walloon divines in Holland are soliciting the same at the Hague, but it is thought will not prevail . I have not yet heard what are the exceptions made in particular, either by the one, or the other. If there be need of authentic interpreters of the word of God, what is the way to find them out? That is worth your thinking of, unless you would have every one interpret for himself; and what work would that make? Betwixt these two, find something if you can; for the world is in want of peace, which is much better than everlasting Billingsgate.
I thought not to have troubled you with hard questions, or any thing that should have required a serious thought, any farther than what day you should pitch on to come hither. But everlasting wrangilng, and calling of names, is so odious a thing, that you will pardon me, if it puts me out of temper a little. But I think of you, and some few such as you in the world, and that reconciles me to it; or else it would not be worth staying in an hour. I am, &c.
A Letter to the Lady Calverley in Yorkshire.
WHATEVER reason you have to look on me, as one of the slow men of London, you have this time given me an excuse for being so; for you cannot expect a quick answer to a letter, which took me up a good deal of time to get to the beginning of it. I turned and turned it on every side; looked at it again and again, at the top of every page; but could not get into the sense and secret of it, till I applied myself to the middle.
You, madam, who are acquainted with all the skill and methods of the ancients, have not, I suppose, taken up with this hieroglyphical way of writing for nothing; and since you were going to put into your letter things that might be the reward of the highest merit, you would, by this mystical intimation, put me into the way of virtue, to deserve them.
But whatever your ladyship intended, this is certain, that, in the best words in the world, you gave me the greatest humiliation imaginable. Had I as much vanity as a pert citizen, that sets up for a wit in his parish, you have said enough in your letter to content me; and if I could be swoln that way, you have taken a great deal of pains to blow me up, and make me the finest gaudy bubble in the world, as I am painted by your colours. I know the emperors of the East suffer not strangers to appear before them, till they are dressed up out of their own wardrobes; is it so too in the empire of wit? and must you cover me with your own embroidery, that I may be a fit object for your thoughts and conversation? This, madam, may suit your greatness, but doth not at all satisfy my ambition. He, who has once flattered himself with the hopes of your friendship, knows not the true value of things, if he can content himself with these splendid ornaments.
As soon as I had read your letter, I looked in my glass, felt my pulse, and sighed; for I found, in neither of those, the promises of thirty years to come. For at the rate I have hitherto advanced, and at the distance, I see, by this complimental way of treatment, I still am, I shall not have time enough in this world to get to you. I do not mean to the place where you now see the pole elevated, as you say, 54 degrees. A post-horse, or a coach, would quickly carry me thither. But when shall we be acquainted at this rate? Is that happiness reserved to be completed by the gossiping bowl, at your grand-daughter’s lying-in?
If I were sure that, when you leave this dirty place, I should meet you in the same star where you are to shine next, and that you would then admit me to your conversation, I might perhaps have a little more patience. But, methinks, it is much better to be sure of something, than to be put off to expectations of so much uncertainty. If there be different elevations of the pole here, that keep you at so great a distance from those who languish in your absence; who knows but, in the other world, there are different elevations of persons? And you, perhaps, will be out of sight, among the seraphims, while we are left behind in some dull planet. This the high flights of your elevated genius give us just augury of, whilst you are here. But yet, pray take not your place there before your time; nor keep not us poor mortals at a greater distance than you need. When you have granted me all the nearness that acquaintance and friendship can give, you have other advantages enough still to make me see how much I am beneath you. This will be only an enlargement of your goodness, without lessening the adoration due to your other excellencies.
You seem to have some thoughts of the town again. If the parliament, or the term, which draw some by the name and appearance of business; or if company, and music meetings, and other such entertainments, which have the attractions of pleasure and delight, were of any consideration with you; you would not have much to say for Yorkshire, at this time of the year. But these are no arguments to you, who carry your own satisfaction, and I know not how many worlds always about you. I would be glad you would think of putting all these up in a coach, and bringing them this way. For though you should be never the better; yet there be a great many here that would, and amongst them
The humblest of your ladyship’s servants,
A Letter to Anthony Collins, Esq.
Oates, October 29, 1703.
YOU, in yours of the 21st, say a great many very kind things: and I believe all that you say; and yet I am not very well satisfied with you. And how then is it possible to please you? will you be ready to say. Think that I am as much pleased with your company, as much obliged by your conversation, as you are by mine; and you set me at rest, and I am the most satisfied man in the world. You complain of a great many defects; and that very complaint is the highest recommendation I could desire, to make me love and esteem you, and desire your friendship. And if I were now setting out in the world, I should think it my great happiness to have such a companion as you, who had a true relish of truth, would in earnest seek it with me, from whom I might receive it undisguised, and to whom I might communicate what I thought true freely.
Believe it, my good friend, to love truth, for truth’s sake, is the principal part of human perfection in this world, and the seed-plot of all other virtues; and if I mistake not, you have as much of it as ever I met with in any body. What then is there wanting to make you equal to the best; a friend for any one to be proud of? Would you have me take upon me, because I have the start of you in the number of years, and be supercilious, conceited, for having in a long ramble travelled some countries, which a young voyager has not yet had time to see, and from whence one may be sure he will bring larger collections of solid knowledge?
In good earnest, Sir, when I consider how much of my life has been trifled away in beaten tracts, where I vamped on with others, only to follow those that went before us; I cannot but think I have just as much reason to be proud, as if I had travelled all England, and (if you will) France too, only to acquaint myself with the roads, and be able to tell how the highways lie, wherein those of equipage, and even the herd too, travel.
Now, methinks, (and these are often old men’s dreams,) I see openings to truth, and direct paths leading to it; wherein a little industry and application would settle one’s mind with satisfaction, even in those matters which you mention, and leave no darkness or doubt, even with the most scrupulous. But this is at the end of my day, when my sun is setting. And though the prospect it has given me be what I would not, for any thing, be without; there is so much irresistible truth, beauty, and consistency, in it; yet it is for one of your age, I think I ought to say for yourself, to set about it, as a work you would put into order, and oblige the world with.
You see whither my just thoughts of you have led me; and that I shall have no quarrel with you, if you will cease to set me, as you do, on the higher ground, and to think that I have not as much pleasure and satisfaction from your company as you have from mine. If I were able to live in your neighbourhood in town, I should quickly convince you of that; and you escape being haunted by me only by being out of my reach. A little better acquaintance will let you see that, in the communication of truth, between those who receive it in the love of it, he that answers, is no less obliged, than he who asks the question; and therefore you owe me not those mighty thanks you send me, for having the good luck to say something that pleased you. If it were good seed, I am sure it was soon in good ground, and may expect great increase.
I think you have a familiar, ready to dispatch what you undertake for your friends. How is it possible else, you should so soon procure for me Kircher’s Concordance? “Show me the man, and I will show you his cause;” will hold now-a-days almost in all other cases, as well as that of πϱοσϰυνεῖν ; and yet they must be all thought lovers and promoters of truth. But my letter is too long already, to enter into so copious a subject.
I am, &c.
To the same.
Oates, Nov. 16, 1703.
IF I ask you, how you do; it is because I am concerned for your health. If I ask you, whether you have sent me any books since you went to town; it is not that I am in haste for them, but to know how the carrier uses me. And if I ask, whether you are of Lincoln’s-Inn; it is to know of what place you write yourself, which I desire you to tell me in your next, and what good new books there are. I am, &c.
To the same.
Oates, Nov. 17, 1703.
THE books I received from you to-night, with the kind letter accompanying them, far more valuable than the books, give matter of enlarging myself this evening. The common offices of friendship, that I constantly receive from you, in a very obliging manner, give me scope enough, and afford me large matter of acknowledgment. But when I think of you, I feel something of nearer concernment that touches me; and that noble principle of the love of truth, which possesses you, makes me almost forget those other obligations, which I should be very thankful for to another.
In good earnest, sir, you cannot think what a comfort it is to me to ahve found out such a man; and not only so, but I have the satisfaction that he is my friend. This gives a gusto to all the good things you say to me, in your letter. For though I cannot attribute them to myself, (for I know my own defects too well,) yet I am ready to persuade myself you mean as you say; and to confess the truth to you, I almost loathe to undeceive you, so much do I value your good opinion.
But to set it upon the right ground, you must know that I am a poor ignorant man, and, if I have any thing to boast of, it is that I sincerely love and seek truth, with indifferency whom it pleases or displeases. I take you to be of the same school, and so embrace you. And if it please God to afford me so much life as to see you again, I shall communicate to you some of my thoughts tending that way.
You need not make any apology for any book that is not yet come. I thank you for those you have sent me; they are more, I think, than I shall use; for the indisposition of my health has beaten me almost quite out of the use of books; and the growing uneasiness of my distemper makes me good for nothing. I am, &c.
To the same.
Oates, January 24, 1703-4.
TILL your confidence in my friendship, and freedom with me, can preserve you from thinking you have need to make apologies for your silence, whenever you omit a post or two, when in your kind way of reckoning, you judge a letter to be due; you know me not so well as I could wish; nor am I so little burthensome to you as I desire. I could be pleased to hear from you every day; because the very thoughts of you, every day, afford me pleasure and satisfaction. But I beseech you to believe, that I measure not your kindness by your opportunities of writing; nor do suspect that your friendship flattens, whenever your pen lies a little still. The sincerity you profess, and I am convinced of, has charms in it, against all the little phantoms of ceremony. If it be not so, that true friendship sets one free from a scrupulous observance of all those little circumstances, I shall be able to give but a very ill account of myself to my friends; to whom, when I have given possession of my heart, I am less punctual in making of legs, and kissing my hand, than to other people to whom that out-side civility is all that belongs.
I received the three books you sent me. That which the author sent me deserves my acknowledgment more ways than one; and I must beg you to return it. His demonstrations are so plain, that, if this were an age that followed reason, I should not doubt but his would prevail. But to be rational is so glorious a thing, that two-legged creatures generally content themselves with the title; but will not debase so excellent a faculty, about the conduct of so trivial a thing, as they make themselves.
There never was a man better suited to your wishes than I am. You take a pleasure in being troubled with my commissions; and I have no other way of commerce with you, but by such importunities. I can only say, that, were the tables changed, I should, being in your place, have the same satisfaction; and therefore confidently make use of your kind offer. I therefore beg the favour of you to get me Mr. Le Clerc’s “Harmony of the Evangelists” in English, bound very finely in calf, gilt, and lettered on the back, and gilt on the leaves. So also I would have Moliere’s works (of the best edition you can get them) bound. These books are for ladies; and therefore I would have them fine, and the leaves gilt as well as the back. Moliere of the Paris edition, I think is the best, if it can be got in London in quires. You see the liberty I take. I should be glad you could find out something for me to do for you here. I am perfectly, &c.
To the same.
Oates, Feb. 7, 1703-4.
IT is with regret I consider you so long in Essex, without enjoying you any part of the time. Essex, methinks, (pardon the extravagancy, extraordinary passions and cases excuse it,) when you are to go into it, should all be Oates; and your journey be no whither, but thither. But land and tenements say other things, whilst we have carcases that must be clothed and fed; and books, you know, the fodder of our understandings. cannot be had without them. What think you? are not those spirits in a fine state that need none of all this luggage; that live without ploughing and sowing; travel as easy as we wish; and inform themselves, not by a tiresome rummaging in the mistakes and jargon of pretenders to knowledge, but by looking into things themselves?
Sir, I forgot you had an estate in the country, a library in town, friends every-where, amongst which you are to while away, as pleasantly, I hope, as any one of this our planet, a large number of years (if my wishes may prevail) yet to come; and am got, I know not how, into remote visions, that help us not in our present state, though they show us something of a better. To return therefore to myself and you, I conclude, by this time, you are got to town again, and then, in a little time, I shall hear from you. I am, &c.
To the same.
Oates, Feb. 21, 1703-4.
I MUST acknowledge it as an effect of your zeal to serve me, that you have sent me Le Clerc’s Harmony, and Moliere’s works, by the Bishop-Stortford coach; and I return you my thanks as much as if it exactly answered my purpose. I ought not to think it strange, that you in town, amidst a hurry of business, should not keep precisely in mind my little affairs; when I here, where I have nothing to disturb my thoughts, do so often forget. When I wrote to you to do me the favour to get these books for me carefully bound, I think I made it my request to you, I am sure I intended it, to write word when they were done, and then I would acquaint you how they were to be disposed of; for the truth is, they were to be disposed of in town. But whether I only meant this, and said nothing; or you forgot it; the matter is not much. I expect to receive the books to-morrow, and shall do well enough with them.
I should not have taken notice of this to you at all, did I not intend it for an excuse for an ill-mannered thing, very necessary in business, which perhaps you will find me use with you for the future; which is, to repeat the little circumstances of business which are apt to be forgotten in every letter till the danger be over. This, if you observe to do, will prevent many cross accidents in your affairs; I assure it you upon experience.
I desire you to stop your hand a little, and forbear putting to the press the two discourses you mention . They are very touchy subjects at this time; and that good man, who is the author, may, for aught I know, be crippled by those, who will be sure to be offended at him, right or wrong. Remember what you say, a little lower in your letter, in the case of another friend of yours, “that in the way of reason they are not to be dealt with.”
It will be a kindness to get a particular account of those proceedings ; but therein must be contained the day, the names of those present, and the very words of the order or resolution; and to learn, if you can, from whence it had its rise. When these particulars are obtained, it will be fit to consider what use to make of them. In the mean time I take what has been done, as a recommendation of that book to the world, as you do; and I conclude, when you and I meet next, we shall be merry upon the subject. For this is certain, that because some men wink, or turn away their heads, and will not see, others will not consent to have their eyes put out. I am, &c.
To the same.
Oates, Feb. 24, 1703-4.
YOU know me not yet as you ought, if you do not think I live with you with the same confidence I do with myself, and with the same sincerity of affection too. This makes me talk to you with the same freedom I think; which though it has not all the ceremony of good breeding, yet it makes amends with something more substantial, and is of better relish in the stomach. Believe it, therefore, that you need not trouble yourself with apologies for having sent the books hither. You have obliged me as much by it, as you could by any thing of that nature, which I had desired; neither need you be concerned for the future. 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 proceedings; 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 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 borne 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 already, 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.
Pray, forget not to write to your friend in Oxford, to the purpose I mentioned in my last to you. I am, &c.
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 entreat 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 Johnston’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 demand of you; and if either of us ought to be troubled in the case, it is I, because you did so much; and not you, because you did so little. But the reality of your friendship has so blended our concerns into one, that you will not permit me to observe, whether I do, or receive the favour, in what passes between us; and I am almost persuaded by you to believe, that sitting here by the fire I trudge up and down for you in London. Give me leave however to thank you, as if you had delivered Mr. Le Clerc’s Harmony to Mr. Secretary Johnston for me, and sent me the two bibles, which I received.
As for the rummaging over Mr. Norris’s late book , I will be sworn, it is not I have done that; for however I may be mistaken in what passes without me, I am infallible in what passes in my own mind; and I am sure, the ideas that are put together in your letter out of him, were never so in my thoughts, till I saw them there. What did I say, “put ideas together?” I ask your pardon, it is “put words together without ideas;” just as I should suspect I did, if I should say you disparaged a very good straight ruler I had, if you told me it would not enable me to write sense, though it were very good and useful, to show me whether I writ straight or no.
Men of Mr. Norris’s way seem to me to decree, rather than to argue. They, against all evidence of sense and reason, decree brutes to be machines, only because their hypothesis requires it; and then with a like authority, suppose, as you rightly observe, what they should prove: viz. that whatsoever thinks, is immaterial. Cogitation, says Mr. Norris, “is more excellent than motion, or vegetation; and therefore must belong to another substance than that of matter, in the idea whereof, motion and vegetation are contained.” This latter part, I think, would be hard for him to prove, viz. “that motion and vegetation are contained in the idea of the substance of matter.” But to let that pass at present; I ask, whether if this way of arguing be good, it will not turn upon him thus: “If the idea of a spirit does not comprehend motion and vegetation; then they must belong to another substance than a spirit: and therefore are more excellent than cogitation, or the affections of a spirit.” For if its greater excellency proves any mode or affection to “belong to another substance;” will not its “belonging to another substance,” by the same rule, prove it to be more excellent? But this is only to deal with these men of logic and subtilty, in their own way, who use the term “excellent,” to prove a material question by, without having, as you remark, a clear and determined idea of what they mean by more or less excellent.
But not to waste your time, in playing with the arguments of men, that examine not strictly the meaning of the words they use; I will show you the fallacy whereby they impose on themselves; for such talkers commonly cozen themselves, as well as others. Cogitation, say they, “is not comprehended in the idea of extension and solidity;” for that is it which they mean, when they say, the “idea of matter:” from whence they conclude right, that “cogitation belongs not to extension or solidity; or is not included in either of them, or both together;” but this is not the consequence that they draw, but infer a conclusion that is not contained in the premises, and is quite besides them; as Mr. Norris, if he would make use of syllogism to its proper purpose, might see. Extension, and solidity, we have the ideas of; and see, that cogitation has no necessary connexion with them, nor has any consequential result from them; and therefore is not a proper affection of extension and solidity, nor doth naturally belong to them; but how doth it follow from hence, that it may not be made an affection of, or be annexed to that substance, which is vested with solidity and extension? Of this substance we have no idea that excludes cogitation, any more than solidity. Their conclusion, therefore, should be the exclusion of cogitation from the substance of matter, and not from the other affections of that substance. But they either overlook this, which is the true state of that argument, or else avoid to set it in its clear light; lest it show too plainly, that their great argument either proves nothing, or, if it doth, it is against them.
What you say about my Essay of Human Understanding, that nothing can be advanced against it, but upon the principle of innate ideas, is certainly so; and therefore all who do not argue against it, from innate ideas, in the sense I speak of innate ideas; though they make a noise against me, yet at last they so draw and twist their improper ways of speaking, which have the appearance and sound of contradiction to me, that at last they state the question so, as to leave no contradiction in it to my Essay; as you have observed in Mr. Lee , Mr. Lowde , and Mr. Norris in his late treatise. It is reward enough for the writing my book, to have the approbation of one such a reader as you are. You have done me and my book a great honour, in having bestowed so much of your thoughts upon it. You have a comprehensive knowledge of it, and do not stick in the incidents: which I find many people do; which, whether true or false, make nothing to the main design of the Essay, that lies in a little compass; and yet I hope, may be of great use to those who see and follow that plain and easy method of nature, to carry them the shortest and clearest way to knowledge. Pardon me this vanity; it was with a design of inquiring into the nature and powers of the understanding, that I writ it; and nothing but the hope that it might do some service to truth and knowledge, could excuse the publishing of it.
I know not, whether I ever showed you an occasional sketch of mine, about “seeing all things in God.” If I did not, if it please God I live to see you here again, I will show it you ; and some other things. If you will let me know before-hand, when you design us that favour; it will be an addition to it. I beg your pardon for holding you so long from better employment. I do not, you see, willingly quit your conversation. If you were nearer me, you would see it more, for I am, &c.
To the same.
Oates, 3 April, 1704.
IN good sooth, sir, you are an obstinate lover; there is no help for it, you must carry your point. Only give me leave to tell you, that I do not like the puling fit you fall into, at the lower end of the page; where you tell me, “I have given you an argument against presuming so far again upon the liberty I allow you.” That is to say, you may give me books, you may buy books for me, you may get books bound for me, you may trudge up and down with them on my errand to ladies; but my book you may not presume to read, use your judgment about, and talk to me freely of; though I know nobody that understands it so well, nor can give me better light concerning it. Away with this squeamishness, I beseech you; and be assured, that among the many good offices you daily do for me in London, there is none whereby I shall reap so much profit and pleasure, as your studying for me; and let us both, without scruple or reserve, help one another the best we can, in the way to truth and knowledge. And whenever you find me presume, that I know all that belongs to the subject of my own book, and disdain to receive light and instruction from another, though of much lower form than you; conclude that I am an arrant coxcomb, and know nothing at all.
You will see by the enclosed, that I can find business for you at Oxford, as well as at London. I have left it open, that you may read it before you seal and deliver it. In it you will see what he writ to me, on that affair. He is well acquainted with them in the university; and if he has not, may be prevailed on by you to fish out the bottom of that matter, and inform you in all the particulars of it. But you must not take his conjectures for matter of fact; but know his authors, for any matter of fact he affirms to you. You will think I intend to engage you in a thousand disputes with him; quite the contrary. You may avoid all dispute with him; if you will but say after him; though you put him upon things that show you question all he says.
If Mr. Wynne of Jesus-College, who epitomised my book , be in the university, it is like you will see him, and talk to him of the matter. Pray, give him my service. But be sure, forget me not, with all manner of respect, to Mr. Wright, for whom I have, as I ought, a very peculiar esteem.
I hope you will be pleased with me: for you see I have cut out work for you; and that is all that is left for me to do, to oblige you. I am, &c.
To the same.
Oates, 19 May, 1704.
NOTHING works so steadily and effectually as friendship. Had I hired a man to have gone to town in my business, and paid him well, my commissions would not have been so soon, nor so well dispatched, as I find, by yours of the 16th, they have been by you. You speak of my affairs, and act in them with such an air of interest and satisfaction, that I can hardly avoid thinking, that I oblige you with employing you in them. It is no small advantage to me, to have found such a friend, at the last scene of my life; when I am good for nothing, and am grown so useless, that I cannot but be sure that, in every good office you do me, you can propose to yourself no other advantage but the pleasure of doing it.
Every one here finds himself obliged, by your late good company. As for myself, if you had not convinced me by a sensible experiment, I could not have believed I could have had so many happy days together. I shall always pray that yours may be multiplied. Could I, in the least, contribute any thing thereunto, I should think myself happy in this poor decaying state of my health; which, though it affords me little in this world to enjoy, yet I find the charms of your company make me not feel the want of strength, or breath, or any thing else.
The bishop of Glocester came hither the day you went from hence, and in no very good state of health. I find two groaning people make but an uncomfortable concert. He returned yesterday, and went away in somewhat a better state. I hope he got well to town.
Enjoy your health, and youth, whilst you have it, to all the advantages and improvements of an innocent and pleasant life; remembering that merciless old age is in pursuit of you, and when it overtakes you, will not fail, some way or other, to impair the enjoyments both of body and mind. You know how apt I am to preach. I believe it is one of the diseases of old age. But my friends will forgive me, when I have nothing to persuade them to, but that they should endeavour to be as happy as it is possible for them to be; and to you I have no more to say, but that you go on in the course you are in. I reflect often upon it, with a secret joy, that you promised I should, in a short time, see you again. You are very good, and I dare not press you. But I cannot but remember how well I passed my time, when you were here. I am, &c.
To the same.
Oates, 25 May, 1704.
WHEN you come to my age, you will know that, with us old fellows, convenient always carries it before ornamental. And I would have as much of the free air when I go abroad in it , as is possible. Only I ask whether those, which fall back, so as to give as free a prospect behind as before, be as easily managed, and brought over you again, in case of need, as in a shower; as one that falls back, upon two standing corner pillars? And next, whether that which falls back so well, doth, when it is drawn up over you, come so far over your head, when it is erected, as to shelter it from the dew, without shutting you up from the free open air? For I think sometimes in the evening of a warm day to sit abroad in it, to take the fresco; but would have a canopy over my head, to keep the dew off. If this be so, I am plainly, and without balancing, for that which falls flattest. One question more, and I have done. Pray what place is there for a footman in any of them? Most of my time being spent in sitting, I desire special care may be taken, in making the seat broad enough, and the two cushions soft, plump, and thick enough.
You know I have great liking to be canonical; but I little thought, that you, of all others, was the man to make me so. I shall love it the better for your sake; and wish that canonical were ready, that you might have the handselling of it hither speedily. If I did not take you for myself, as you have taught me to do, I should not be thus free with you. Count me in your turn all yourself, except my age and infirmities, those I desire to keep to myself; all the rest of me is yours.
To the same.
Oates, 26 May, 1704.
MY letter yesterday went away without an answer to one of your demands; and that was, whether I would have any brass on the harness? To which, give me leave to tell you, that, in my whole life, I have been constantly against any thing that makes a show; no maxim being more agreeable to my condition and temper, than “qui bene latuit bene vixit.” I like to have things substantially good of their kind, and useful, and handsomely made, and fitly adapted to their uses; for, if either were necessary, I had rather be taken notice of for something that is fashionably gaudy, than ridiculously uncouth, or for its poorness and meanness remarkable. Therefore, if you please, let the harness, and all the whole accoutrements be of as good materials, and as handsomely made and put together as may be; but for ornaments of brass, or any such thing, I desire it may be spared.
One question more comes into my mind to ask you, and that is, whether the back of those, that fall down so flat, are so made that, when it is up, one may lean and loll against it at one’s ease, as in a coach or a chariot; for I am grown a very lazy fellow, and have now three easy chairs to lean and loll in, and would not be without that relief in my chaise.
You see I am as nice as a young fond girl, that is coming into the world, with a face and a fortune, as she presumes, to command it. Let not this, however, deter you; for I shall not be so hard to be pleased. For what you do will be as if I did it myself. I am, &c.
To the same.
Oates, 29 May, 1704.
HOW should I value the chaise you take so much ains about, if I could hope I could have your company with me abroad in it, every two or three days. However, it wears the signature of your friendship, and so will always have something in it to please me.
I know not whether it be worth while to clog it with any thing, to make a place for a footman. That must, I suppose, make it bigger and heavier, which I would avoid; and I think, upon the whole matter, there will be no great need of it. But when I hear from you again, I shall know that. In the mean time, all the rest, I think, is resolved; for, I suppose of course, you will choose a cloth for the lining of a dust colour; that is the proper colour for such a priest as you mention in your letter.
If poor Psalmanassar be really a convert from paganism (which I would be glad to be assured of); he has very ill luck, not to herd any-where among the variety of sorts that are among us. But I think it so, that the parties are more for doing one another harm, than for doing any body good. I am, &c.
To the same.
Oates, 9 June, 1704.
I MIGHT number my days (and it is a pleasant sort of almanac) by the kindnesses I receive from you. Your packet I received, and have reason to thank you for all the particulars in it; however, you thought fit to prepare me for being disappointed, in the binding my Greek Testament. There is nothing in it that offends me, but the running of his paring knife too deep into the margin; a knavish and intolerable fault in all our English book-binders.
Books seem to me to be pestilent things, and infect all that trade in them; that is, all but one sort of men, with something very perverse and brutal. Printers, binders, sellers, and others that make a trade and gain out of them; have universally so odd a turn and corruption of mind, that they have a way of dealing peculiar to themselves, and not conformed to the good of society, and that general fairness that cements mankind.
Whether it be, that these instruments of truth and knowledge will not bear being subjected to any thing but those noble ends, without revenging themselves on those who meddle with them to any other purpose, and prostitute them to mean and misbecoming designs; I will not inquire. The matter of fact, I think, you will find true; and there we will leave it to those who sully themselves with printer’s ink, till they wholly expunge all the candour that nature gives, and become the worst sort of black cattle.
To the same.
Oates, June 29, 1704.
IF the chaise you have had so much trouble about gives me as much satisfaction afterwards, as it will in the first service I shall receive from it; the conquerors of the world will not ride in their triumphant chariots with more pleasure, than I shall in my little tumbrel. It will bring me what I prefer to glory. For, methinks, he understands but little of the true sweetness of life, that doth not more relish the conversation of a worthy and ingenuous friend in retirement, than the noise and rout of the crowd in the streets, with all their acclamations and huzzas. I long, therefore, that the machine should be dispatched; and expect it as greedily as a hungry merchant doth a ship from the East-Indies, which is to bring him a rich cargo. I hope the coachmaker doth not live far from you; for if he be a slow man of London, I would have him quickened once a day, that he may make as much haste as if the satisfaction of two lovers depended on his dispatch. In the mean time, give me leave to desire you to bestow some of your spare hours on the epistles to the Corinthians, and to try whether you can find them intelligible or no. You will easily guess the reason of this ; and when I have you here, I hope to convince you it will not be lost labour; only permit me to tell you, you must read them with something more than an ordinary application.
The samples you have sent me , I must conclude, from the abilities of the author, to be very excellent. But what shall I be the better for the most exact and best proportioned picture that ever was drawn, if I have not eyes to see the correspondence of the parts? I confess the lines are too subtile for me, and my dull sight cannot perceive their connections. I am not envious, and therefore shall not be troubled, if others find themselves instructed with so extraordinary and sublime a way of reasoning. I am content with my own mediocrity. And though I call the thinking faculty in me, mind; yet I cannot, because of that name, equal it in any thing to that infinite and incomprehensible being, which, for want of right and distinct conceptions, is called mind also, or the eternal mind. I endeavour to make the best use I can of every thing; and therefore, though I am in despair to be the wiser for these learned instructions; yet I hope I shall be the merrier for them, when you and I take an air in the calash together. I am, &c.
To the same.
Oates, July 23, 1704.
THE gentlemen you speak of, have a great deal of reason to be pleased with the Discourse you mention; there being nothing ever writ in their strain and way more perfectly than it is; and it may stand for a pattern to those that have a mind to excel in their admirable use of language and method of talking; if, at least, there be any need of a pattern to those, who so naturally, and by a peculiar genius of their own, fall into that, which the profane illiterate vulgar, poor wretches, are strangers to, and cannot imitate. But more of this to make us merry, when the chaise brings us together.
I now every moment wish the chaise done; not out of any impatience I am for the machine, but for the man; the man, I say, that is to come in it. A man, that has not his fellow; and, to all that, loves me. If I regret my old age, it is you that make me, and call me back to the world just as I was leaving it, and leaving it as a place that has very little valuable in it; but who would not be glad to spend some years with you? Make haste, therefore, and let me engross what of you I can. I am, &c.
To the same.
Oates, August 2, 1704.
THOUGH I cannot, by writing, make you a surer title to myself than you have already; yet I cannot forbear to acknowledge, under my hand and seal, the great sense I have of the late favour you did me. Whether that, or any thing else, will be able to add any duration to my mouldering carcase, I cannot say; but this I am sure, your company and kindness have added to the length of my life, which, in my way of measuring, doth not lie in counting of minutes, but tasting of enjoyments. I wish the continuance and increase of yours, without stint, and am, &c.
To the same.
Oates, August 11, 1704.
KIND and good-natured friends do, like you, bestow their favours, and thank those that receive them. I was never more obliged, nor better entertained, than by your company here; and you heap upon me your acknowledgments, as if I had made a journey to London for your sake, and there done you I know not how many courtesies. This, however, has the effect you could wish upon me. I believe all that you would have me. And since one naturally loves as well those that one has done good to, as those whom one has received good from; I leave it to you, to manage the account as you please. So the affection and good-will between us doth but increase, whose hands lay most fuel on the fire, that warms us both, I shall not be nicely solicitous; since I am sure you cannot impute to me more than I really wish, but at the same time know that wishing in me is all, for I can do just nothing. Make no apologies to me, I beseech you, for what you said to me about the digression . It is no more, but what I find other people agree with you in; and it would afford as much diversion as any hunting you could imagine, had I strength and breadth enough to pursue the chace.
But of this we may, perhaps, have better opportunity to talk, when I see you next. For this I tell you beforehand, I must not have you be under any restraint to speak to me, whatever you think fit for me to do; whether I am of the same mind or no. The use of a friend is to persuade us to the right, not to suppose always that we are in it. I am, &c.
To the same.
Oates, August 16, 1704.
WHICH way soever I turn myself, I meet on all sides your friendship, in all manner of shapes, and upon all sorts of occasions, besetting me. Were I as averse, as I am pleased, with my happiness in your kindness; I must, however, yield to so powerful and constant attacks . But it is past that time of day. I have long since surrendered myself to you. And I am as certainly in your coach, as count Tallard in the duke of Marlborough’s, to be disposed as you please; only with this difference, that he was a prisoner of war against his will; I am your captive, by the soft, but stronger, force of your irresistible obligations, and with the consent and joy of my own mind.
Judge then, whether I am willing my shadow should be in possession of one with whom my heart is; and to whom all that I am, had I any thing besides my heart, worth the presenting, doth belong. Sir Godfrey, I doubt not, will make it very like. If it were possible for his pencil to make a speaking picture, it should tell you every day how much I love and esteem you; and how pleased I am to be, so much as in effigy, near a person with whom I should be glad to spend an age to come. I am, &c.
To the same.
Oates, September 11, 1704.
HE that has any thing to do with you, must own that friendship is the natural product of your constitution; and your soul, a noble soil, is enriched with the two most valuable qualities of human nature, truth and friendship. What a treasure have I then in such a friend, with whom I can converse, and be enlightened about the highest speculations! When one hears you upon the principles of knowledge, or the foundations of government, one would hardly imagine your thoughts ever descended to a brush, or a curry-comb, or other such trumpery of life; and yet, if one employ you but to get a pair of shoe-buckles, you are as ready and dexterous at it, as if the whole business of your life had been with nothing but shoe-buckles.
As to my lady’s picture, pray, in the first place, see it, and tell me how you like it. In the next place, pray get Sir Godfrey to write upon it, on the back-side, lady Masham, 1704; and on the back-side of mine, John Locke, 1704. This he did on Mr. Molyneux’s and mine, the last he drew; and this is necessary to be done, or else the pictures of private persons are lost in two or three generations; and so the picture loses of its value, it being not known whom it was made to represent.
To the same.
Oates, October 1, 1704.
TO complete the satisfaction I have lately had here, there has been nothing wanting but your company. The coming of his father-in-law , joined with the straitness of the lodging in this house, hindered me from having my cousin King and you together; and so cut off one part of the enjoyment, which you know is very valuable to me. I must leave it to your kindness and charity, to make up this loss to me. How far the good company I have had here has been able to raise me into a forgetfulness of the decays of age, and the uneasiness of my indisposition, my cousin King is judge. But this I believe he will assure you, that my infirmities prevail so fast on me, that, unless you make haste hither, I may lose the satisfaction of ever seeing again a man, that I value in the first rank of those that I leave behind me .
To the same. [Directed thus:]
For ANTHONY COLLINS, Esq.
To be delivered to him after my decease.
Oates, August 23, 1704.
BY my will, you will see that I had some kindness for * * * *. And I knew no better way to take care of him, than to put him, and what I designed for him, into your hands and management. The knowledge I have of your virtue, of all kinds, secures the trust which, by your permission, I have placed in you; and the peculiar esteem and love I have observed in the young man for you, will dispose him to be ruled and influenced by you, so that of that I need say nothing.
But there is one thing, which it is necessary for me to recommend to your especial care and memory * * * * * *
May you live long and happy in the enjoyment of health, freedom, content, and all those blessings which providence has bestowed on you, and your virtue entitles you to. I know you loved me living, and will preserve my memory now I am dead. All the use to be made of it is, that this life is a scene of vanity, that soon passes away; and affords no solid satisfaction, but in the consciousness of doing well, and in the hopes of another life. This is what I can say upon experience; and what you will find to be true, when you come to make up the account. Adieu; I leave my best wishes with you.