Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature: An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891. Vols. III: Colonial Literature, 16071764
To the Great Mr. Pope
By Mather Byles (17071788)
[Letter to Alexander Pope. Written in 1727.]
SIR:You are doubtless wondering at the novelty of an epistle from the remote shores where this dates its origin; as well as from so obscure a hand as that which subscribes it. But what corner of the earth so secret, as not to have heard the fame of Mr. Pope? Or who so retired as not to be acquainted with his admirable compositions, or so stupid as not to be ravished with them?
Fame, after a man is dead, has been by some ingenious writers compared to an applause in some distant region. If this be a just similitude, you may take the pleasure of an admired name in America, and of spreading a transport over the face of a new world: By which you may, in some measure, imagine the renown in which your name will flourish many ages to come, and anticipate a thousand years of futurity.
To let you see a little of the reputation which you bear in these unknown climates, and the improvements we are making under your auspicious influences, in the polite studies of the Muses, I transmit to you the enclosed Poems: Assuring myself, though not of the approbation of your judgment, yet of the excuse and lenity of that candor which is forever inseparable from a great genius. But notwithstanding all these representations of your goodness, which my imagination is able to form, I find it very difficult to suppress the struggle of passions which swells my breast, while I am writing a letter to so great a man. I am at once urged by a generous ambition to be known to you; and forbid by a trembling consciousness of my own unworthiness and obscurity. Prompted by desire, flushed with hope, or appalled with concern, I add to the incorrectness which I would now most of all wish to escape. In short, Sir, when I approach you it is with a real awe and reverence, like that, which you have so humorously described in the Guardian upon dedications.
How often have I been soothed and charmed with the ever-blooming landscapes of your Windsor Forest? And how does my very soul melt away, at the soft complaint of the laughing Eloisa? How frequently has the Rape of the Lock commanded the various passions of my mind: provoked laughter; breathed a tranquillity; or inspired a transport! And how often have I been raised, and borne away by the resistless fire of the Iliad, as it glows in your immortal translation!
Permit me, Sir, to conclude my letter with asking the favor of a few lines from the hand which has blest the world with such divine productions. If you thus honor me, assure yourself the joys you will produce in me, will be inferior to none but the poetic rapture of your own breast. Perhaps you will be disposed to write, when I confess, that I have a more superstitious ardor to see a word written by your pen, than ever Tom Folio in the Tattler, to see a simile of Virgil with that advantage.
I am, Sir, your great admirer, and most obedient humble Servant,