Pope, in a letter dated September 1, 1718, sent Lady Mary a copy of his verses.
ON JOHN HUGHES AND SARAH DREW
When Eastern lovers fear’d the fun’eral
On the same pile the faithful pair expire!
Here pitying Heav’n that virtue mutual found,
And blasted both, that it might neither wound.
Hearts so sincere th’ Almighty saw well pleas’d,
Sent his own lightning and the victims seiz’d.
Think not by vig’rous judgment seiz’d,
A pair so faithful could expire;
Victims so pure Heav’n saw well pleas’d,
And snatch’d them in celestial fire.
Live well, and fear no sudden fate:
When God calls virtue to the grave;
Alike ’tis justice, soon or late,
Mercy alike to kill or save.
Virtue unmov’d can hear the call.
And face the flash that melts the ball.
These verses she acknowledged in a letter which, written while on the homeward path, she sent from Dover, where she arrived at the beginning of November.
“I have this minute received a letter of yours, sent me from Paris. I believe and hope I shall very soon see both you and Mr. Congreve; but as I am here in an inn, where we stay to regulate our march to London, bag and baggage, I shall employ some of my leisure time in answering that part of yours that seems to require an answer.
“I must applaud your good nature, in supposing that your pastoral lovers (vulgarly called haymakers) would have lived in everlasting joy and harmony, if the lightning had not interrupted their scheme of happiness. I see no reason to imagine that John Hughes and Sarah Drew were either wiser or more virtuous than their neighbours. That a well-set man of twenty five should have a fancy to marry a brown woman of eighteen, is nothing marvellous; and I cannot help thinking, that, had they married, their lives would have passed in the common track with their fellow parishioners. His endeavouring to shield her from the storm, was a natural action, and what he would have certainly done for his horse, if he had been in the same situation. Neither am I of opinion, that their sudden death was a reward of their mutual virtue. You know the Jews were reproved for thinking a village destroyed by fire more wicked than those that had escaped the thunder. Time and chance happen to all men. Since you desire me to try my skill in an epitaph, I think the following lines perhaps more just, though not so poetical as yours: