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Copy of an original letter from John Dryden,
Esq. to his sons in Italy, from a MS. in the
Lambeth Library, marked No. 933, p. 56. (Superscribed)
“Al illustrissimo Sigre. “Carlo Dryden Camariere “d'Honore A.S.S.
“ In Roma, “Franca per Mantoua.
Sept. the 3d, our style. “ Dear Sons,
Being now at Sir William Bowyer's in the country, I cannot write at large, because I find myself somewhat indisposed with a cold, and am thick of hearing, rather worse than I was in town, I am glad to find, by your letter of July 26th, your style, that you are both in health ; but wonder you should think me so negligent as to forget to give you an account of the ship in which your parcel is to come. I have written to you two or three letters concerning it, which I have sent by safe hands, as I told you, and doubt not but you have them before this can arrive to you. Being out of town, I have forgotten the ship's name, which your mother will inquire, and put it into her letter, which is joined with mine. But the master's name I remember: he is called Mr. Ralph Thorp ; the ship is bound to Leghorn, consigned to Mr. Peter and Mr. Thomas Ball, merchants. I am of your opinion, that by Tonson's means almost all our letters have miscarried for this last year. But, however, he has missed of his design in the dedica. tion, though he had prepared the book for it; for, in every figure of Æneas he has caused him to be drawn like King William, with a hooked nose. After my return to town, I intend to alter a play of Sir Robert Howard's, written long since, and lately put into my hands; it is called “The Con. quest of China by the Tartars." It will cost me six weeks study, with the probable benefit of a
hundred pounds. In the mean time I am writing a song for St. Cecilia's Feast, who, you know, is the patroness of music. This is troublesome, and no way beneficial; but I could not deny the stewe ards of the feast, who came in a body to me to desire that kindness, one of them being Mr. Bridge man, whose parents are your mother's friends. I hope to send you thirty guineas between Michael. mas and Christmas, of which I will give you an account when I come to town. I remember the counsel you give me in your letter; but dissembllog, though lawful in some cases, is not my talent; yet, for your sake, I will struggle with the plain openness of my nature, and keep in my just resent ments against that degenerate order. In the mean time, I flatter not myself with any manner of hopes, but do my duty, and suffer for God's sake; being assured, before-hand, never to be rewarded, though the times should alter, Towards the latter end of this month, September, Charles will begin to recover his perfect health, according to his nam tivity, which, casting it myself, I am sure is true, and all things hitherto have happened accordingly to the very time that I predicted them : I hope at the same time to recover more health, according to my age, Remember me to poor Harry, whose prayers I earnestly desire. My Virgil succeeds in the world beyond its desert or my expectation. You know the profits might have been more; but neither my conscience nor my honour would suffer me to take them ; but I never can repent of my constancy, since I am thoroughly persuaded of the justice of the cause for which I suffer. It has pleased God to raise up many friends to me amongst my enemies, though they who ought to have been my friends are negligent of me. I am called to dinner, and cannot go on with this letter, which I desire you to excuse; and am “Your most affectionate father,
ED DMUND Smith is one of those lucky writers
who have, without much labour, attained high reputation, and who are mentioned with reverence rather for the possession than the exertion of uncommon abilities.
Of his life little is known; and that little claims no praise but what can be given to intellectual excellence seldom employed to any virtuous purpose. His character, as given by Mr. Oldisworth with all the partiality of friendship, which is said by Dr. Burton to shew “ what fine things one man of parts can say of another," and which, however, comprises great part of what can be known of Mr. Smith, it is better to transcribe at once than to take by pieces. I shall subjoin such little memorials as accident has enabled me to collect.
Mr. EDMUND SMITH was the only son of an eminent merchant, one Mr. Neale, by a daughter of the famous Baron Lechmere. Some misfortunes of his father, which were soon followed by his death, were the occasion of the son's being left very young in the hands of a near relation (one who married Mr. Neale's sister) whose name was Smith.
This gentleman and his lady treated him as their own child, and put him to Westminster School, under the care of Dr. Busby; whence, after the loss of his faithful and generous guardian (whose name he assumed and retained) he was removed to Christ church, in Oxford, and there by his aunt handsomely maintained till her death; after which
he continued a member of that learned and inge nious society till within five years of his own; though, some time before his leaving Christ-church, he was sent for by his mother to Worcester, and owned and acknowledged as her legitimate son ; which had not been mentioned, but to wipe off the aspersions that were ignorantly cast by some on his birth. It is to be remembered, for our. Author's honour, that, when at Westminster election he stood a candidate for one of the universities, he so signally distinguished himself by his conspicuous performances, that there arose no small contention between the representative electors of Trinity Col: lege, in Cambridge, and Christ-church, in Oxon, which of those two royal societies should adopt him as their own. But the electors of Trinity College having the preference of choice that year, they resolutely elected him; who yet, being invited at the same time to Christ-church, chose to accept of a studentship there. Mr. Smith's perfections, as well natural as acquired, seem to have been formed upon Horace's plan, who says, in his “Art of Poetry,"
-Ego nec studium sine divite vena, Nec rude quid profit video ingenium; alterius sic Altera poscit opem res, et conjurat amice.
He was endowed by nature with all those excellentand necessary qualifications which are previous to the accomplishment of a great man. His memory was large and tenacious, yet by a curious felicity chiefly susceptible of the finest impressions it received from the best authors he read, which it always preserved in their primitive strength and amiable order.
He had a quickness of apprehension and vivacity of understanding 'which easily took in and surmounted the most subtle and knotty parts of ma thematics and metaphysics. His wit was prompt
and flowing, yet solid and piercing ; his taste delicate, his head clear, and his way of expressing his thoughts perspicuous and engaging. I shall say nothing of his person, which yet was so well turned, that no neglect of himself in his dress could render it disagreeable ; insomuch that the fair sex, who observed and esteemed him, at once commended and reproved him by the name of the handsome sloven. An eager but generous and noble emulation grew up with him; which (as it were a rational sort of instinct) pushed him upon striving to excel in every art and science that could make him a credit to his College, and that college the ornament of the most learned and polite University; and it was his happiness to have several contemporaries and fellow-students who exercised and excited this virtue in themselves, and others thereby becoming so deservedly in favour with this age, and so good a proof of its nice discernment. His judgment, na turally good, soon ripened into an exquisite fine ness and distinguishing sagacity, which, as it was active and busy, so it was vigorous and manly, keeping even paces with a rich and strong imagination, always upon the wing, and never tired with aspiring. Hence it was, that, though he writ as young as Cowley, he had no puerilities; and his earliest productions were so far from having any thing in them mean and trifling, that, like the ju. nior compositions of Mr. Stepney, they may make grey authors blush. There are many of his first essays in oratory, in epigram, elegy, and epique, still handed about the University in manuscript, which shew a masterly hand; and, though maimed and injured by frequent transcribing, make their way into our most celebrated miscellanies, where they shine with uncommon lustre. Besides those verses in the Oxford books which he could not help setting his name to, several of his compositions came abroad under other names, which his own siugular modesty and faithful silence strove in