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This consideration cannot but abate, i in some measure, the reader's esteem for
the work and the author. To love excellence, is natural; it is natural likewise for the lover to folicit reciprocal regard by an elaborate display of his own qualifications. The desire of pleasing has in different men produced actions of heroism, and effufions of wit; but it seems as reasonable to appear the champion as the poet of an “ airy “nothing,” and to quarrel as to write for what Cowley might have learned from his master Pindar to call the “ dream of a shadow.”
It is surely not difficult, in the folitude of a college, or in the bustle of the world, to find useful studies and se
rious employment. No man needs to be so burthened with life as to squander it in voluntary dreams of fictitious occurrences. The man that fits down to suppose himself charged with treason or peculation, and heats his mind to an elaborate purgation of his character from crimes which he was never within the possibility of committing, differs only by the infrequency of his folly from him who praises beauty which he never saw, complains of jealousy which he never felt ; supposes himself sometimes invited, and sometimes forsaken; fatigues his fancy, and ransacks his memory, for images which may exhibit the gaiety of hope, or the gloominess of despair, and dresses his imaginary Chloris or Phyllis
sometimes in flowers fading as her beauty, and sometimes in gems lasting as her virtues.
At Paris, as secretary to lord Jermin, he was engaged in transacting things of real importance with real men and real women, and at that time did not much employ his thoughts upon phantoms of gallantry. Some of his letters to Mr. Bennet, afterwards earl of Arlington, from April to December in 1650, are preserved in “ Miscellanea Aulica,” a collection of papers published by Brown. These letters being written like those of other men whose mind is more on things than words, contribute no otherwise to his reputation than as they thew him to have been above the affectation of unseasonable elegance, and to have “known that the business of a statesman can be little forwarded by flowers of rhetorick.
One paffage, however, seems not unworthy of fome notice. Speaking of the Scotch treaty then in agitation : :
“ The Scotch treaty,” says he, “ is « the only thing now in which we are “ vitally concerned ; I am one of the “ last hopers, and yet cannot now abstain “ from believing, that an agreement “ will be made : all people upon the “ place incline to that of union. The « Scotch will moderate something of “ the rigour of their demands, the
mutual necessity of an accord is visible, “ the King is persuaded of it. And to “ tell you the truth (which I take to “ be an argument above all the rest) “ Virgil has told the same thing to that “ purpose."
This expreffion from a secretary of the present time, would be considered as merely ludicrous, or at most as an oftentatious display of scholarship; but the manners of that time were so tinged with superstition, that I cannot but fufpect Cowley of having consulted on this great occasion.the Virgilian lots, and to have given some credit to the answer
of his oracle. IN Some years afterwards, “ business,"
says Sprat, “ paffed of course into other CH“ hands;" and Cowley being no longer ble useful at Paris, was in 1656 sent back