After all this, the very absurdity to which he would reduce me, is none at all. For his only drives at this. That if his argument be true, I must then acknowledge that there are degrees in impossibilities. Which I easily grant him, without dispute. And if I mistake not, ARISTOTLE and the School are of my opinion. For there are some things which are absolutely impossible, and others which are only so, ex parte. As, ’tis absolutely impossible for a thing to be and not to be, at the same time: but, for a stone to move naturally upward, is only impossible ex parte materiae; but it is not impossible for the First Mover to alter the nature of it.
His last assault, like that of a Frenchman, is most feeble. For where I have observed that “None have been violent against Verse; but such only as have not attempted it, or have succeeded ill in their attempt” [pp. 503, 539, 561, 578], he will needs, according to his usual custom, improve my Observation into an Argument, that he might have the glory to confute it.
But I lay my observation at his feet: as I do my pen, which I have often employed, willingly, in his deserved commendations; and, now, most unwillingly, against his judgement. For his person and parts, I honour them, as much as any man living: and have had so many particular obligations to him, that I should be very ungrateful, if I did not acknowledge them to the World.
But I gave not the first occasion of this Difference in Opinions. In my Epistle Dedicatory, before my Rival Ladies [pp. 487-493], I said somewhat in behalf of Verse: which he was pleased to answer in his Preface to his Plays [pp. 494-500]. That occasioned my reply in my Essay [pp. 501-572]: and that reply begot his rejoinder in his Preface to The Duke of LERMA [pp. 573-578]. But, as I was the last who took up arms; I will be the first to lay them down. For what I have here written, I submit it wholly to him [p. 561]; and, if I do not hereafter answer what may be objected to this paper, I hope the World will not impute it to any other reason, than only the due respect which I have for so noble an opponent.
Relations with JOHN MILTON.
I mentioned, before, that, when I was a boy, I made some good progress in learning; and lost it all again before I came to be a man: nor was I rightly sensible of my loss therein, until I came amongst the Quakers. But then, I both saw my loss, and lamented it; and applied myself with the utmost diligence, at all leisure times, to recover it: so false I found that charge to be, which, in those times, was cast as a reproach upon the Quakers, that “they despised and decried all human learning” because they denied it to be essentially necessary to a Gospel Ministry; which was one of the controversies of those times.