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EARL of ABINGDON, &c.

MY LORD,

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HE commands, with which you honoured

some months ago, are now performed: they had been sooner ; but betwixt ill health, some business, and many troubles, I was forced to defer them till this time.' Ovid, going to his banishment, and writing from on shipboard to his friends, excused the faults of his poetry by his misfortunes; and told them, that good verses never flow but from a serene and composed fpirit. Wit, which is a kind of Mercury, with wings fastened to his head and heels, can fly but slowly in a damp air. I therefore chofe rather to obey you late than ill : if at least I am capable of writing any thing, at any time, which is worthy your perusal and your patronage. I cannot say that I have escaped from a lipwreck; but have only gained a rock by hard swimming; where I may pant

Ι a while and gather breath: for the doctors give me a sad assurance, that my disease never took its leave of any man, but with a purpose to return. However, my lord, I have laid hold on the interval, and managed the small stock, which age has left me, to the bett advantage, in performing this inconsiderable ser-, vice to my lady's memory. We, who are priests of Apollo, have not the inspiration when we please; but must wait until the God comes rushing on us,

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and invades us with a fury, which we are not able to refift: which gives us double strength while the fit continues, and leaves us languishing and spent, at its departure. Let me not seem to boast, my lord, for I have really felt it on this occasion, and prophefied beyond my natural power. Let me add, and hope to be believed, that the excellency of the subject contributed much to the happiness of the execution; and that the weight of thirty years was taken off me, while I was writing. I swam with the tide, and the water under me was buoyant. The reader will easily observe, that I was transported by the multitude and variety of my fimilitudes ; which are generally the product of a luxuriant fancy, and the wantonness of wit. Had I called in my judgement to my assistance, I had certainly retrenched many of them. But I defend them not; let them pass for beautiful faults amongst the better fort of critics : for the whole poem, though written in that which they call Heroic verse, is of the Pindaric nature, as well in the thought as the expression; and, as such, requires the same grains of allowance for it. It was intended, as your lordfhip fees in the title, not for an elegy, but a panegyric: a kind of hypothesis, indeed, if a heathen word may be applied to

а a chriftian use. And on all occafions of praise, if we take the ancients for our patterns, we are bound by prescription to employ the magnificence of words, and the force of figures, to adorn the fublimity of thoughts. Isocrates amongst the Grecian orators, and Cicero, and the younger Pliny, amongst the Romans, have left us their precedents for our security : for I think I need not mention the inimita: ble Pindar, who ftretches on these pinions out of fight, and is carried upward, as it were, into another world.

This, at least, my lord, I may justly plead, that, if I have not performed fo well as I think I have, yet I have used my best endeavours to excel myself. One disadvantage I have had; which is, never to have known or feen my lady: and to draw the lineaments of her mind, from the description, which I have received from others, is for a painter to set himself at work without the living original before him: which, the more beautiful it is, will be so much the more difficult for him to conceive, when he has only a relation given him of such and such features by an acquaintance or a friend, without the nice touches, which give the best resemblance, and make the graces of the picture. Every artist is apt enough to flatter himself and I amongft the rest) that their own ocular obfervations would have difcovered more perfections, at least others, than have been delivered to them: tho’I have received mine from the best hands, that is, from persons who nei. ther want a just understanding of my lady's worth, nor a due veneration for her

memory. Doctor Donne, the greatest wit, tho' not the greatest poet of our nation, acknowledges, that he had never seen Mrs. Drury, whom he has made immortal in his admirable Anniversaries. I have had the same fortune, tho't have not succeeded to the fame genius. However, I have followed his footsteps in the design of his panegyric; which was to raise an emulation in the living, to copy out the example of the dead. And therefore it was, that I once intended to have called this poem, The Pattern: and tho', on a second confideration, I changed the title into the name of the illustrious person, yet the design continues, and Eleonora is still the pattern of charity, devotion, and humility; of the best wife, the best mother, and the best of friends,

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And now, my lord, tho’I have endeavoured to answer your commands, yet I could not answer it to the world, nor to my conscience, if I gave not your lord ihip my testimony of being the best husband now living: I say my teftimony only; for the praise of it is given you by yourself. They, who despise the rules of virtue both in their practice and their morals, will think this a very trivial commendation. But I think it the peculiar happiness of the Countess of Abingdon, to have been to truly loved by you, while she was living, and fo gratefully honoured, after she was dead. Few there are who have either : had, or could have, such a loss; and yet fewer who carried their love and constancy beyond the grave. The exteriors of mourning, a decent funeral, and black habits, are the usual stints of common hufbands : and perhaps their wives deserve no better than to be mourned with hypocrisy, and forgot with ease. But you have distinguished yourself from ordinary lovers, by a real and lasting grief for the deceased; and by endeavouring to raise for her the most durable monument, which is that of verse. And so it would have proved, if the workman had been equal to the work, and your choice of the artificer as happy as your design. Yet, as Phidias, when he had made the statue of Minerva, could not forbear to ingrave his own name, as author of the piece: fo give me leave to hope, that, by subscribing mine to this poem, I may live by the goddeis, and transmit my name to posterity by the memory of hers. It is no flattery to affure your lord ship, that she is remembered, in the present age, by all who have had the honour of her conversation and acquaintance; and that I have never been in any company since the news of her death was first brought

me,

me, where they have not extolled her virtues, and even spoken the same things of her in prose, which I have done in verse.

I therefore think myself obliged to thank your lordship for the commission which you have given me: how I have acquitted myself of it, muft be left to the opinion of the world, in spite of any proteftation which I can enter against the present age, as incompetent or corrupt judges. For my comfort, they are but Englishmen, and, as such, if they think ill of me to-day, they are inconstant enough to think well of me to-morrow. And after all, I have not much to thank my fortune that I was born amongst them. The good of both sexes are so few, in England, that they stand like exceptions against gene. ral rules: and cho' one of them has deserved a greater commendation than I could give her, they have taken care that I should not tire my pen with frequent exercise on the like subjects; that praises, like taxes, hould be appropriated, and left almost as individual as the person. They say, my talent is satire: ifit be fo, it is a fruitful age, and there is an extraordinary crop to gather. But a fingle hand is insufficient for such a harvest: they have sown the dragons teeth themselves, and it is but just they should reap each other in lampoons. You, my lord, who have the character of honour, tho’ it is not my happiness to know you, may stand aside, with the small remainders of the English nobility, truly such, and, unhurt yourselves, behold the mad combat. If I have pleased you, and some few others, I have obtained my end. You see I have disabled myself, like an elected speaker of the house: yet like him I have undertaken the charge, and find the burden sufficiently recompensed by the honour. Be pleased to accept Vol. II.

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