Saturday, August 25, 2007

Swift Counterfeited

[Jonathan Swift to Alexander Pope]

Dublin, May 1, 1733.

I answer your letter the sooner because I have a particular reason for doing so. Some weeks ago came a poem call'd The Life and Character of Dr. S. written by himself. It was reprinted here, and is dedicated to you. It is grounded upon a maxim in Rochefoucault, and the dedication, after a formal story, says that my manner of writing is to be found in every line. I believe I have told you, that I writ a year or two ago near five hundred lines upon the same maxim in R., and was a long time about it, as that Impostor says in his Dedication, with many Circumstances. All pure invention; I desire you to believe, and to tell my friends, that in this spurious piece there is not a single line, or a bit of a line, or thought, any way resembling the genuine Copy, any more than it does Virgil's Aeneid; for I never gave a Copy of mine, nor lent it out of sight. And although I shew'd it to all common acquaintance indifferently, and some of them (especially one or two females) had got many lines by heart, here and there, and repeated them often; yet it happens that not one single line or thought is contained in this imposture, although it appears that they who counterfeited me, had heard of the true one. But even this trick shall not provoke me to print the true one, which is indeed not proper to be seen, till I can be seen no more: I therefore desire you to undeceive my friends, and I will order an Advertisement to be printed here, and transmit it to England, that everybody may know the delusion, and acquit me, as, I am sure, you must have done yourself, if you have read any part of it, which is mean, and trivial, and full of that Cant that I most despise: I would sink to be a Vicar in Norfolk rather than be charged with such a performance . . . .

-from The Works of Alexander Pope, Vol. VII, p. 239.

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