Monday, May 5, 2008

letters from the dead

Edward Young to John Williams in Nice, France.

25th of November, 1739

etters from the dead are so entertaining, that many wits have lied their friends out of hell so agreeably, that mankind has forgiven the imposition, for the sake of the pleasure. Next to letters from the dead, are those from the living at a great distance, and, in some sense, inhabitants of another world. But, as far as I can learn from your letter, that other world I mean is itself dead since I was there, at least much out of order. Poor sun! give him a glass of your pupil's October, to cure his November dumps; it will make him gay, and dance as in our Rehearsal; but leave a glass for his holiness the Pope; and, that it may go down with him the better, you may let him know it is prescribed by the Council of Nice. When I was there, I contracted a great intimacy with the Mediterranean. Every day I made him a solemn visit. He roared very agreeably. I hope our men of war will soon learn his art, for the entertainment of his Spanish Majesty; this is a kind of opera that will receive no improvement from the loss of manhood. If here you are at a loss for my meaning (for I think I am a little obscure), consult Mr. Patterson's little wife; she will let you into the secret; for I am mistaken, or our friend P. has taught her to look on all eunuchs with high disdain, and to detest music for the execrable damage it has done the whole sex.

If you visit my quondam habitation, you will pass a solemn assembly of cypresses; I have great regard for their memory and welfare; they took up my quarrel against the sun, and often defended me from his insults, when he was much more furious than you now represent him. You are so kind as often to remember me with Mr. P. When you drink my health, regard your own. I would have you eat my health, and I will drink yours; the north wants spirits; and the south flesh; but take care you get not more than your own. There is great plenty in Italian markets, and it comes cheap; if anything can be called cheap which may possibly cost a whole Roman nose. I hope you have nothing of Rome about you but that noble feature; if you have, post away to his Holiness. No man makes more Protestants than the Pope, or more saints than the devil, when either of them is thoroughly known; for truth and virtue have no better friends upon earth than a near inspection and intimate acquaintance with the deformity and madness of their opposites.

This, dear sir, comes of your conversing with parsons; I forgot I was writing a letter, and was providing myself for next Sunday with a sermon against drinking, wenching, etc., etc. Pardon a friend's infirmity, and manfully bear your own calamity. May this be the greatest you meet with in your travels, and then you need not be in haste to return to your farm in Wales! My best wishes and services to Mr. P. Lady Betty sends her compliments to you and Mr. P.
[Edward Young]

-from The Life and Letters of Edward Young by Henry C. Shelley (London: Sir Isaac Pitman & Sons, 1914)

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