Nonfiction > Henry Craik, ed. > English Prose > Vol. III. Seventeenth Century
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Henry Craik, ed.  English Prose.  1916.
Vol. III. Seventeenth Century
 
Letter to the Earl of Burlington
By Alexander Pope (1688–1744)
 
1716.    
MY LORD—If your mare could speak, she would give an account of what extraordinary company she had on the road; which since she cannot do, I will.
  1
  It was the enterprising Mr. Lintot, the redoubtable rival of Mr. Tonson, who, mounted on a stone-horse (no disagreeable companion to your lordship’s mare), overtook me in Windsor forest. He said he heard I designed for Oxford, the seat of the muses, and would, as my bookseller, by all means accompany me thither.  2
  I asked him where he got his horse? He answered that he got it of his publisher: “For that rogue my printer (said he) disappointed me: I hoped to put him in a good humour by a treat at the tavern, of a brown fricassee of rabbits, which cost two shillings, with two quarts of wine, besides my conversation. I thought myself cocksure of his horse, which he readily promised me, but said that Mr. Tonson had just such another design of going to Cambridge, expecting there the copy of a new kind of Horace from Dr. Bentley, and if Mr. Tonson went, he was pre-engaged to attend him, being to have the printing of the said copy.  3
  “So in short, I borrowed this stone-horse of my publisher, which he had of Mr. Oldmixon for a debt; he lent me, too, the pretty boy you see after me: he was a smutty dog yesterday, and cost me near two hours to wash the ink off his face; but the devil is a fair-conditioned devil, and very fair in his catechise: if you have any more bags, he shall carry them.”  4
  I thought Mr. Lintot’s civility not to be neglected, so gave the boy a small bag, containing three shirts and an Elzevir Virgil; and mounting in an instant, proceeded on the road, with my man before, my courteous stationer beside, and the aforesaid devil behind.  5
  Mr. Lintot began in this manner: “Now damn them! what if they should put into the newspapers, how you and I went together to Oxford? What would I care? If I should go down into Sussex, they would say I was gone to the Speaker. But what of that? If my son were but big enough to go on with the business, by G—d I would keep as good company as old Jacob.” 1  6
  Thereupon I inquired of his son. “The lad (says he) has fine parts, but is somewhat sickly, much as you are. I spare for nothing in his education at Westminster. Pray don’t you think Westminster to be the best school in England? most of the late ministry came out of it, so did many of this ministry. I hope the boy will make his fortune.”  7
  Don’t you design to let him pass a year at Oxford? “To what purpose? (said he) the universities do but make pedants, and I intend to breed him a man of business.”  8
  As Mr. Lintot was talking, I observed he sat uneasy on his saddle, for which I expressed some solicitude; “Nothing (says he), I can bear it well enough; but since we have the day before us, methinks it would be very pleasant for you to rest awhile under the woods.” When we were alighted: “See here, what a mighty pretty Horace I have in my pocket! what if you amused yourself in turning an ode, till we mount again? Lord! if you pleased, what a clever miscellany might you make at leisure hours?” Perhaps I may, said I, if we ride on; the motion is an aid to my fancy, a sound trot very much awakens my spirits; then jog on apace, and I’ll think as hard as I can.  9
  Silence ensued for a full hour; after which Mr. Lintot lugged the reins, stopped short, and broke out, “Well, sir, how far have you gone?” I answered, Seven miles. “Z—ds, sir,” said Lintot, “I thought you had done seven stanzas. Oldsworth, in a ramble round Wimbledon-hill, would translate a whole ode in half this time. I’ll say that for Oldsworth (though I lost by his Timothy’s), he translates an ode of Horace the quickest of any man in England. I remember Dr. King would write verses in a tavern three hours after he could not speak: and there is Sir Richard, in that rumbling old chariot of his, between Fleet-ditch and St. Giles’s pound, shall make you half a job.”  10
  Pray, Mr. Lintot (said I), now you talk of translators, what is your method of managing them? “Sir (replied he), they are the saddest pack of rogues in the world: in a hungry fit, they’ll swear they understand all the languages in the universe. I have known one of them take down a Greek book upon my counter, Oh, this is Hebrew, I must read it from the latter end. By G—d, I can never be sure of these fellows, for I neither understand Greek, Latin, French, nor Italian myself. But this is my way; I agree with them for ten shillings a sheet, with a proviso, that I will have their writings corrected by whom I please; so by one or other they are led at last to the true sense of an author; my judgment giving the negative to all my translators.” But how are you secure those correctors may not all impose upon you? “Why, I get any civil gentleman (especially any Scotchman) that comes into my shop, to read the original to me in English; by this I know whether my first translator be deficient, and whether my corrector merits his money or not.  11
  “I’ll tell you what happened to me last month. I bargained with S. for a new version of Lucretius to publish against Tonson’s, agreeing to pay the author so many shillings on his producing so many lines. He made a great progress in a very short time, and I gave it to the corrector to compare with the Latin; but he went directly to Creech’s translation and found it the same word for word, all but the first page. Now, what do you think I did? I arrested the translator for a cheat; nay, and I stopped the corrector’s pay too, upon this proof that he had made use of Creech instead of the original.”  12
  Pray tell me next how you dealt with the critics? “Sir,” said he, “nothing more easy. I can silence the most formidable of them: the rich ones for a sheet apiece of the blotted manuscript, which costs me nothing; they’ll go about with it to their acquaintance, and pretend they had it from the author, who submitted to their correction: this has given some of them such an air, that in time they come to be consulted with, and dedicated to, as the top critics of the town. As for the poorer critics, I’ll give you one instance of my management, by which you may guess the rest: a lean man, that looked like a very good scholar, came to me t’other day; he turned over your Homer, shook his head, shrugged his shoulders, and pished at every line of it: One would wonder (says he) at the strange presumption of some men: Homer is no such easy task, that every stripling, every versifier—— He was going on, when my wife called to dinner. Sir, said I, will you please to eat a piece of beef with me? Mr. Lintot, said he, I am sorry you should be at the expense of this great book, I am really concerned on your account—— Sir, I am much obliged to you: if you can dine upon a piece of beef, together with a slice of pudding—— Mr. Lintot, I do not say but Mr. Pope, if he would condescend to advise with men of learning—— Sir, the pudding is upon the table, if you please to go in. My critic complies; he comes to a taste of your poetry, and tells me in the same breath that the book is commendable and the pudding excellent.”  13
  “Now, sir (continued Mr. Lintot), in return to the frankness I have shown, pray tell me, is it the opinion of your friends at Court that my Lord Lansdown will be brought to the bar or not?” I told him I heard he would not, and I hoped it, my lord being one I had particular obligations to. “That may be,” replied Mr. Lintot, “but by G—d, if he is not, I shall lose the printing of a very good trial.”  14
  These, my lord, are a few traits by which you discern the genius of Mr. Lintot, which I have chosen for the subject of a letter. I dropped him as soon as I got to Oxford, and paid a visit to my Lord Carleton, at Middleton.  15
  The conversations I enjoy here are not to be prejudiced by my pen, and the pleasures from them only to be equalled when I meet your lordship. I hope in a few days to cast myself from my horse at your feet.—I am, etc.  16
 
Note 1. old Jacob, i.e.,  Mr. Tonson. [back]
 
 
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