I think with you that whatever lesser wits have risen since his [Dryden's] death are but like stars appearing when the sun is set, that twinkle only in his absence and with the rays they have borrowed from him. Our wit (as you call it) is but reflection or imitation, therefore scarce to be called ours. True wit, I believe, may be defined a justness of thought and a facility of expression, or (in the midwives' phrase) a perfect conception with an easy delivery. However, this is far from a complete definition; pray help me to a better, as I doubt not you can. 1.
I have done all that I thought could be of advantage to them. 2. Some I have contracted, as we do sunbeams, to improve their energy and force; some I have taken quite away, as we take branches from a tree to add to the fruit; others I have entirely new expressed and turned more into poetry. Donne (like one of his successors) had infinitely more wit than he wanted versification; for the great dealers in wit, like those in trade, take least pains to set off their goods, while the haberdashers of small wit spare for no decorations or ornaments. You have commissioned me to paint your shop, and I have done my best to brush you up like your neighbors. But I can no more pretend to the merit of the production than a midwife to the virtues and good qualities of the child she helps into the light. 3.
I must take some notice of what you say of "my pains to make your Dulness methodical" and of your hint that "the____________________