I hope you earn your pleasures, and consequently taste them; for, by the way, I know a great many men, who call themselves men of pleasure, but who, in truth, have none. They adopt other people's indiscriminately, but without any taste of their own. I have known them often inflict excesses upon themselves because they thought them genteel; though they sat as awkwardly upon them as other people's clothes would have done. Have no pleasures but your own, and then you will shine in them. What are yours? Give me a short history of them. 'Tenez-vous votre coin a table, et dans les bonnes compagnies? y brillez-vous du cote de la politesse, de d'enjouement, du badinage? Etes-vous galant? Filex-vous le parfait amour? Est-il question de flechir par vos soins et par vos attentions les rigueurs de quelque fiere Princesse'? You may safely trust me; for though I am a severe censor of vice and folly, I am a friend and advocate for pleasures, and will contribute all in my power to yours.
There is a certain dignity to be kept up in pleasures, as well as in business. In love, a man may lose his heart with dignity; but if he loses his nose, he loses his character into the bargain. At table, a man may with decency have a distinguishing palate; but indiscriminate voraciousness degrades him to a glutton. A man may play with decency; but if he games, he is disgraced. Vivacity and wit make a man shine in company; but trite jokes and loud laughter reduce him to a buffoon. [see Mark Twain's identical advice in his 'Speeches' D.W.] Every virtue, they say, has its kindred vice; every pleasure, I am sure, has its neighboring disgrace. Mark carefully, therefore, the line that separates them, and rather stop a yard short, than step an inch beyond it.
I wish to God that you had as much pleasure in following my advice, as I have in giving it you! and you may the more easily have it, as I give you none that is inconsistent with your pleasure. In all that I say to you, it is your interest alone that I consider: trust to my experience; you know you may to my affection. Adieu.
I have received no letter yet from you or Mr. Harte.
LONDON, February 8, O. S. 1750
MY DEAR FRIEND: You have, by this time, I hope and believe, made such a progress in the Italian language, that you can read it with ease; I mean, the easy books in it; and indeed, in that, as well as in every other language, the easiest books are generally the best; for, whatever author is obscure and difficult in his own language, certainly does not think clearly. This is, in my opinion, the case of a celebrated Italian author; to whom the Italians, from the admiration they have of him, have given the epithet of il divino; I mean Dante. Though I formerly knew Italian extremely well, I could never understand him; for which reason I had done with him, fully convinced that he was not worth the pains necessary to understand him.
The good Italian authors are, in my mind, but few; I mean, authors of invention; for there are, undoubtedly, very good historians and excellent translators. The two poets worth your reading, and, I was going to say, the only two, are Tasso and Ariosto. Tasso's 'Gierusalemme Liberata' is altogether unquestionably a fine poem, though--it has some low, and many false thoughts in it: and Boileau very justly makes it the mark of a bad taste, to compare 'le Clinquant Tasse a l' Or de Virgile'. The image, with which he adorns the introduction of his epic poem, is low and disgusting; it is that of a froward, sick, puking child, who is deceived into a dose of necessary physic by 'du bon-bon'. These verses are these:
"Cosi all'egro fanciul porgiamo aspersi Di soavi licor gli orli del vaso: Succhi amari ingannato intanto ei beve, E dall' inganno suo vita riceve."
Reminder: Arrow keys left and right (← →) to turn pages forward and backward, up and down (↑ ↓) to scroll up and down, Enter key: return to the list