I beg your pardon, but it is more difficult for you to please me, than any body. I interest myself in your success and your glory. You must be perfect in all parts, in nature, simplicity, and character, as well as in the most charming poetry, or I shall not be content. If I dared, I would beg you to trust me with your plots, before you write a line. When a subject seizes you, your impetuosity cannot breathe till you have executed your plan. You must be curbed, as other poets want to be spurred. When your sketch is made, you must study the characters and the audience. It is not flattering you to say, that the least you have to do is to write your play.
(287) Now first printed.
(288) “The Law of Lombardy;” see ant`e, p. 170, letter 123.-E.
Thank you much, dear sir, for the sight of the book, which I return by Mr. Essex It is not new to me that Burnet paid his court on the other side in the former part of his life* nor will I insist that he changed On conviction, which might be said, and generally is, for all converts, even those who shift their principles the most glaringly from interest. Duke Lauderdale,(289) indeed, was such a dog, that the least honest man must have been driven to detest him, however connected with him. I doubt Burnet could not be blind to his character, when he wrote the dedication. In truth, I have given up many of my saints, but not on the accusations of such wretches as Dalrymple(290) and Macpherson;(291) nor can men, so much their opposites, shake my faith in Lord Russel and Algernon Sidney. I do not relinquish those that scaled their integrity with their blood, but such as have taken thirty pieces of silver.
I was sorry you said we had any variance. We have differed in sentiments, but not in friendship. Two men, however unlike in principles, may be perfect friends, when both are sincere in their opinions as we are. Much less shall we quarrel about those of our separate parties, since very few on either side have been so invariably consistent as you and I have been; and therefore we are more sure of each other’s integrity, than that of men whom we know less and who did vary from themselves. As you and I are only speculative persons, and no actors, it would be very idle to squabble about those that do not exist. In short, we are, I trust, in as perfect good humour with each other as we have been these forty years.
Pray do not hurry yourself about the anecdotes of Mr. Baker, nor neglect other occupations on that account. I shall certainly not have time to do any thing this year. I expect the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester in a very few days, must go to town as soon as they arrive, and shall probably have not much idle leisure before next summer.
It is not very discreet to look even so far forward, nor am I apt any longer to lay distant plans. A little sedentary literary amusement is indeed no very lofty castle in the air, if I do lay the foundation in idea seven or eight months beforehand.