(600) Afterwards married to Lord Henry Fitzgerald.
Letter 313 To Miss Hannah More. Strawberry Hill, Oct. 14, 1787. (page 395)
My dear Madam, I am shocked for human nature at the repeated malevolence of this woman!(601) The rank soil of riches we are accustomed to see overrun with weeds and thistles; but who could expect that the kindest seeds sown on poverty and dire misfortunes should meet with nothing but a rock at bottom? Catherine de' Medici, suckled by popes. and transplanted to a throne, seems more excusable. Thank heaven, Madam, for giving you so excellent a heart; ay, and so good a head. You are not only benevolence itself: but, with fifty times the genius of a Yearsley, you are void of vanity. How strange that vanity should expel gratitude! Does not the wretched woman owe her fame to you, as well as her affluence? I can testify your labours for both. Dame Yearsley reminds me of the Troubadours, those vagrants whom I used to admire till I knew their history; and who used to pour out trumpery verses, and flatter or abuse accordingly as they were housed and clothed, or dismissed to the next parish. Yet you did not set this person in the stocks, after procuring an annuity for her! I beg your pardon for renewing so disgusting a subject, and will never mention it again. You have better amusement; you love good works, a temper superior to revenge.(602)
I have again seen our poor friend in Clarges-street: her faculties decay rapidly, and of course she suffers less. She has not an acquaintance in town; and yet told me the town was very full, and that she had had a good deal of company. Her health is re-established, and we must now be content that her mind is not restless. My pity now feels most for Mrs. Hancock,(603) whose patience is inexhaustible, though not insensible.
Mrs. Piozzi, I hear, has two volumes of Dr. Johnson's Letters ready for publication.(604) Bruce is printing his Travels; which I suppose will prove that his narratives were fabulous, as he will scarce repeat them by the press. These and two more volumes of Mr. Gibbon's History, are all the literary news I know. France seems sunk indeed in all respects. What stuff are their theatrical goods, their Richards, Ninas, and Tarares! But when their Figaro could run threescore nights, how despicable must their taste be grown!(605) I rejoice that the political intrigues are not more creditable. I do not dislike the French from the vulgar antipathy between neighbouring nations, but for their insolent and unfounded airs of superiority. In arms we have almost always outshone them: and till they have excelled Newton, and come near to Shakspeare, pre-eminence in genius must remain with us. I think they are most entitled to triumph over the Italians; as, with the most meagre and inharmonious of all languages, the French have made more of that poverty in tragedy and eloquence, than the Italians have done with the language the most capable of both. But I did not mean to send you a dissertation. I hope it will not be long before you remove to Hampton.—Yet why should I wish that'! You will only be geographically nearer to London till February. Cannot you now and then sleep at the Adelphi on a visit to poor Vesey and your friends, and let one know if you do?
(601) Walpole had recently received a letter from Miss More, in which she had said—"MY old friend the milk-woman has just brought out another book, to which she has prefixed my original preface to her first book, and twenty pages of the scurrility published against me in her second. To all this she has added the deed which I got drawn up by an eminent lawyer to secure her money in the funds, and which she asserts I made Mrs. Montagu sign without reading." Memoirs, vol. ii. p. 80.
(602) Mrs. Yearsley was a woman of strong masculine understanding, and of a powerful independent mind, which could not brook any thing in the nature of dictation or interference. Whether she then was a widow, or separated from her husband, I know not; but, in 1793, she kept a bookseller and stationer's shop, under the name of Ann Yearsley, at Bristol Hot-wells, assisted by her son, and there all sorts of literary discussion used to take place daily amongst those who frequented it; and Mrs. Yearsley being somewhat free, both in her political and religious opinions, as well as not a little indignant at Mrs. More's attempt at holding a control over her proceedings, it is not matter of wonder, that a very unreasonable asperity should have been exhibited on both sides.-G.
(603) "What a blessing for Mrs. Vesey, that Mrs. Hancock is alive and well! I do venerate that woman beyond words; her faithful, quiet, patient attachment makes all showy qualities and shining talents appear little in my eyes. Such characters are what Mr. Burke calls I the soft quiet green, on which the soul loves to rest!"' Hannah More's Memoirs, vol. ii. p. 80.-E.
(604) In speaking of these Letters, which appeared shortly after, Hannah More says—:They are such as ought to have been written, but ought not to have been printed: a few of them are very good: sometimes he is moral, and sometimes he is kind. The imprudence of editors and executors is an additional reason why men of parts should be afraid to die. Burke said to me the other day, in allusion to the innumerable lives, anecdotes, remains, etc. of this great man, 'How many maggots have crawled out of that great body!'" Memoirs, vol. ii-P. 101-E.
(605) Mr. Walpole had never seen Figaro acted, nor had he been at Paris for many years before it appeared: he was not, therefore, aware of the bold, witty, and continued allusions of almost every scene and of almost every incident of that comedy, to the most popular topics and the most distinguished characters of the day. The freedom with which it treated arbitrary government and all its establishments, while they all yet continued in unwelcome force- in France, and the moral conduct of each individual of the piece exactly suiting the no-morality of the audience, joined to the admirable manner in which it was acted, certainly must be allowed to have given it its greatest vogue. But even now, when most of these temporary advantages no longer exist, whoever was well acquainted with the manners, habits, and anecdotes of Paris at the time of the first appearance of Figaro, will always admire in it a combination of keen and pointed satire, easy wit, and laughable incident.-B.
Letter 314 To The Hon. H. S. Conway. Berkeley Square, Nov. 11, 1787. (page 397)
>From violent contrary winds,(606) and by your letter going to Strawberry Hill, whence I was 'come, I have but just received it, and perhaps shall Only be able to answer it by snatches, being up to the chin in nephews and nieces.
I find you knew nothing of the pacification when you wrote, When I saw your letter, I hoped it would tell me you was coming back, as your island is as safe as if it was situated in the Pacific Ocean, or at least as islands there used to be, till Sir Joseph Banks chose to put them up. I sent you the good news on the very day before you wrote, though I imagined you would learn it by earlier intelligence. Well, I enjoy both your safety and your great success, which is enhanced by its being owing to your character and abilities. I hope the latter will be allowed to operate by those who have not quite so much of either. I shall be wonderful glad to see little Master Stonehenge(607) at Park- place; it will look in character there: but your own bridge is so stupendous in comparison, that hereafter the latter will be thought to have been a work of the Romans. Dr. Stukeley will burst his cerements to offer mistletoe in your temple; and Mason, on the contrary, will die of vexation and spite that he cannot have Caractacus acted on the spot. Peace to all such!
—But were there one whose fires True genius kindles, and fair fame inspires,
he would immortalize you, for all you have been carrying on in Jersey, and for all you shall carry off. Inigo Jones, or Charlton,- or somebody, I forget who, called Stonehenge "Chorea Gigantum:" this will be the chorea of the pigmies; and, as I forget too what is Latin for Lilliputians, I will make a bad pun, and say,
——Portantur avari Pygmalionis opes.—
Pygmalion is as well-sounding a name for such a monarch as Oberon. Pray do not disappoint me, but transport the cathedral(608) of your island to your domain on our continent. I figure unborn antiquaries making pilgrimages to visit your bridge, your daughter's bridge,(609) and the Druidic temple; and if I were not too old to have any imagination left, I would add a sequel to Mi Li.(610) Adieu!
(606) Mr. Conway was at this time at his government in Jersey.
(607) Mr. Walpole thus calls the small Druidic temple discovered in Jersey, which the States of that island had presented to General Conway, to be transported to and erected at Park-place. Dr. Walter Charlton published a dissertation on Stonehenge in 1663, entitled "Chorea Gigantum." it was reprinted in 1715.-E.
(608) The Druidic temple.
(609) The keystones of the centre arch of the bridge at Henley are ornamented with heads of the Thames and Isis, designed by the Hon. Mrs. Damer, and executed by her in Portland stone.
(610) One of the Hieroglyphic tales, containing a description of Park-place. it will be found in Walpole's works.
Letter 315 To Thomas Barrett, Esq.(611) Berkeley Square, June 5, 1788. (page 398)
I wish I could charge myself with any merit, which I always wish to have towards you, dear Sir, in letting Mr. Matthew see Strawberry; but in truth he has so much merit and modesty and taste himself, that I gave him the ticket with pleasure, which it seldom happens to me to do; for most of those who go thither, go because it is the fashion, and because a party is a prevailing custom too; and my tranquillity is disturbed, because nobody likes to stay at home. If Mr. Matthew was really entertained I am glad; but Mr. Wyatt has made him too correct a Goth not to have seen all the imperfections and bad execution of my attempts; for neither Mr. Bentley nor my workmen had studied the science, and I was always too desultory and impatient to consider that I should please myself more by allowing time, than by hurrying my plans into execution before they were ripe. My house therefore is but a sketch by beginners, yours is finished by a great master; and if Mr. Matthew liked mine, it was en virtuose, who loves the dawnings of an art, or the glimmerings of its restoration.
I finished Mr. Gibbon a full fortnight ago, and was extremely pleased. It is a most wonderful mass of information, not only of history, but almost on all the ingredients of history, as war, government, commerce, coin, and what not. If it has a fault, it is in embracing too much, and consequently in not detailing enough, and it, striding backwards and forwards from one set of princes to another, and from one subject to another; so that, without much historic knowledge, and without much memory, and much method in one's memory, it is almost impossible not to be sometimes bewildered: nay, his own impatience to tell what he knows, makes the author, though commonly so explicit, not perfectly clear in his expressions. The last chapter of the fourth Volume, I own, made me recoil, and I could scarcely push through it. So far from being Catholic or heretic, I wished Mr. Gibbon had never heard of Monophysites, Nestorians, or any such fools! But the sixth volume made ample amends; Mahomet and the Popes were gentlemen and good company. I abominate fractions of theology and reformation.
Mr. Sheridan, I hear, did not quite satisfy the passionate expectation that had been raised;(612) but it was impossible he could, when people had worked themselves into an enthusiasm of offering fifty, ay, fifty guineas for a ticket to hear him. Well! we are sunk and deplorable in many points, yet not absolutely gone, when history and eloquence throw out such shoots! I thought I had outlived my country; I am glad not to leave it desperate. Adieu, dear Sir!
(611) OF Lee, in East Kent; Whose seat was built by Mr. Wyatt, and greatly admired by Walpole.-E.
(612) Of his speech in Westminster-hall, on bringing forward the Begum charge against Mr. Hastings; upon which Mr. Burke pronounced the high ealogium, that "all the various species of oratory that had been heard, either in ancient or modern times-whatever the acuteness of the bar, the dignity of the senate, or the morality of the pulpit; could furnish—had not been equal to what the House had that day heard." Gibbon, who was present, thus describes it, in a letter to Lord Sheffield:— "Yesterday the august scene was closed for this year. Sheridan surpassed himself; and, though I am far from considering him a perfect orator, there were many beautiful passages in his speech- -on justice, filial love, etc.; one of the closest chains of argument I ever heard, to prove that Hastings was responsible for the acts of Middleton; and a compliment, much admired to a certain historian of your acquaintance. Sheridan, on the close of his speech, sunk into Burke's arms—a good actor: but I called this morning; he is perfectly well."-E.
Letter 316 To The Earl Of Strafford. Strawberry Hill, Tuesday night, June 17, 1788. (page 399)
I guess, my dear lord, and only guess, that you are arrived at Wentworth Castle. If you are not, my letter will lose none of its bloom by waiting for you; for I have nothing fresh to tell you, and only write because you enjoined it. I settled in my Lilliputian towers but this morning. I wish people would come into the country on May-day, and fix in town on the first of November. But as they will not, I have made up my mind; and having so little time left, I prefer London, when my friends and society are in it, to living here alone, or with the weird sisters of Richmond and Hampton. I had additional reason now, for the streets are as green as the fields: we are burnt to the bone, and have not a lock of bay to cover our nakedness: oats are so dear, that I suppose they will soon be eaten at Brooks's and fashionable tables as a rarity. The drought has lasted so long, that for this fortnight I have been foretelling haymaking and winter, which June generally produces; but to-day is sultry, and I am not a prophet worth a straw. Though not resident till now, I have flitted backwards and forwards, and last Friday came hither to look for a minute at a ball at Mrs. Walsingham's at Ditton which would have been pretty, for she had stuck coloured lamps in the hair of all her trees and bushes, if the east wind had not danced a reel all the time by the side of the river. Mr. Conway's play,(613) of which your lordship has seen some account in the papers, has succeeded delightfully, both in representation and applause. The language is most genteel, though translated from verse; and both prologue and epilogue are charming. The former was delivered most Justly and admirably by Lord Derby, and the latter with inimitable spirit and grace by Mrs. Damer. Mr. Merry and Mrs. Bruce played excellently too. But General Conway, Mrs. Damer, and every body else are drowned by Mr. Sheridan, whose renown has engrossed all Fame's tongues and trumpets. Lord Townshend said he should be sorry were he forced to give a vote directly on Hastings, before he had time to cool; and one of the peers saying the speech had not made the same impression on him, the Marquis replied, a seal might be finely cut, and yet not be in fault for making a bad impression.
I have, you see, been forced to send your lordship what scraps I brought from town: the next four months, I doubt will reduce me to my old sterility; for I cannot retail French gazettes, though as a good Englishman bound to hope they will contain a civil war. I care still less about the double imperial campaign, only hoping that the poor dear Turks will heartily beat both Emperor and Empress. If the first Ottomans could be punished, they deserved it, but present possessors have as good a prescription 'on their side as any People in Europe. We ourselves are Saxons, Danes, Normans; our neighbours are Franks, not Gauls; who the rest are, Goths, Gepidae, Heruli, Mr. Gibbon knows; and the Dutch usurped the estates of herrings, turbots, and other marine indigenae. Still, though I do not wish the hair of a Turk's beard to be hurt, I do not say that it would not be amusing to have Constantinople taken, merely as a lusty event; for neither could I live to see Athens revive, nor have I much faith in two such bloody-minded vultures, cock and hen, as Catherine and Joseph, conquering for the benefit of humanity; nor does my Christianity admire the propagation of the Gospel by the mouth of cannon. What desolation of peasants and their families by the episodes of forage and quarters! Oh! I wish Catherine and Joseph were brought to Westminster-hall and worried by Sheridan! I hope, too, that the poor Begums are alive to hear of his speech; it will be some comfort, though I doubt nobody thinks of restoring them a quarter of a lac!
(613) A comedy, called "False Appearances" translated from L'Homme du Jour of Boissy. It was first acted at the private theatre at Richmond.house, and afterwards at Drury-lane.-E.
Letter 317 To Miss Hannah More. Strawberry Hill, July 4, 1788. (page 401)
I am soundly rejoiced, my dear Madam, that the present summer is more favourable to me than the last: , and that, instead of not answering my letters in three months, you open the campaign. May not I flatter myself' that it is a symptom of your being in better health? I wish, however, you had told me so in positive words, and that all your complaints have left you. Welcome as is your letter, it would have been ten times more welcome bringing me that assurance; for don't think I forget how ill you was last winter. As letters, you say, now keep their coaches, I hope those from Bristol will call often at my door.(614) I promise you I will never be denied to them.
No botanist am I; nor wished to learn from you, of all the Muses, that piping has a new signification. I had rather that you handled an oaten pipe than a carnation one; yet setting layers, I own, is preferable to reading newspapers, one of the chronical maladies of this age. Every body reads them, nay quotes them, though every body knows they are stuffed with lies or blunders. How should it be otherwise? If any extraordinary event happens, who but must hear it before it descends through a coffee-house to the runner of a daily paper? They who are always wanting news, are wanting to hear they don't know what. A lower species, indeed, is that of the scribes you mention, who every night compose a journal for the satisfaction of such illiterati, and feed them with all the vices and misfortunes of every private family; nay, they now call it a duty to publish all those calamities which decency to wretched relations used in compassion to suppress, I mean self-murder in particular. Mr. -Is was detailed at length; and to-day that of Lord - and -. The pretence is, in terrorem, like the absurd stake and highway of our ancestors; as if there were a precautionary potion for madness, or the stigma of a newspaper were more dreadful than death. Daily journalists, to be sure, are most respectable magistrates! Yes, much like the cobblers that Cromwell made peers.
I do lament your not going to Mr. Conway's play: both the author and actors deserved such an auditor as you, and you deserved to hear them. However, I do not pity good people who out of virtue lose or miss any pleasures. Those pastimes fleet as fast as those of the wicked; but when gone, you saints can sit down and feast on your self-denial, and drink bumpers of satisfaction to the health of your own merit. So truly I don't pity you.
You say you hear no news, yet you quote Mr. Topham;(615) therefore why should I tell you that the King is going to Cheltenham? Or that the Baccelli lately danced at the opera at Paris with a blue bandeau on her forehead, inscribed, "Honi soit qui mal y pense." Now who can doubt but she is as pure as the Countess of Salisbury! Was not it ingenious? and was not the ambassador so to allow it? No doubt he took it for a compliment to his own knee.
Well! would we committed nothing but follies! What do we not commit when the abolition of slavery hitches! Adieu!
Though Cato died, though Tully spoke, Though Brutus dealt the godlike stroke, Yet perish'd fated Rome.
You have written; and I fear that even if Mr. Sheridan speaks, trade, the modern religion, will predominate. Adieu!
(614) Miss More, in her last letter, had said—"Mail-coaches, which come to others, come not to me: letters and newspapers, now that they travel In coaches, like gentlemen and ladies, come not within ten miles of my hermitage: and while other fortunate provincials are studying the world and its ways, and are feasting upon elopement, divorces, and suicides, tricked out in all the elegancies of Mr. Topham's phraseology, I am obliged to be contented with village vices, petty iniquities, and vulgar sins," Memoirs, vol. ii. p. 77.-E.
(615) Major Topham was the proprietor of the fashionable morning paper entitled The World. "In this paper," says Mr. Gifford, in his preface to the Baviad, "were given the earliest specimens of those unqualified and audacious attacks on all private character, and which the town first smiled at for their quaintness then tolerated for their absurdity; now—that other papers equally wicked and more intelligible, have ventured to imitate it—will have to lament to the last hour of British liberty." In 1791, Major Topham published the Life of John Elwes the miser; which Walpole considered one of the most amusing anecdotical books in the English language.-E.
(616) While the Duke of Dorset, who kept her was ambassador at Paris. The Countess of Salisbury, to the fall OF whose garter has been attributed the foundation of the order of the Garter.
Letter 318 To Miss Hannah More. Strawberry Hill, July 12, 1788. (page 402)
Won't you repent of having opened the correspondence, my dear Madam, when you find my letters come so thick upon you? In this instance, however, I am only to blame in part, for being too ready to take advice, for the sole reason for which advice ever is taken, 'because it fell in with my inclination. You said in your last that you feared you took up time of mine to the prejudice of the public; implying, I imagine, that I might employ it in composing. Waving both your compliment, and my own vanity, I will speak very seriously to you on that subject, and with exact truth. My simple writings have had better fortune than they had any reason to expect; and I fairly believe, in a great degree, because gentlemen-writers, who do not write for interest, are treated with some civility if they do not write absolute nonsense. I think so, because I have not unfrequently known much better works than mine much more neglected, if the name, fortune, and situation of the authors were below mine. I wrote early, from youth, spirits, and vanity; and from both the last when the first no longer existed. I now shudder when I reflect on my own boldness; and with mortification, when I compare my own writings with those of any great authors. This is So true, that I question"Whether it would be possible for me to summon up courage to publish any thing I have written, if I could recall the past, and should yet think as I think at present. So much for what is over and out of my power. As to writing now, I have totally forsworn the profession, for two solid reasons. One I have already told you; and it is, that I know my own writings are trifling and of no depth. The other is, that, light and futile as they were, I am sensible they are better than I could compose now. I am aware of the decay of the middling parts I had, and others may be still more sensible of it. How do I know but I am superannuated? nobody will be so coarse as to tell me so; but if I published dotage all the world would tell me so. And who but runs that risk who is an author after severity? What happened to the greatest author of this age, and who certainly retained a very considerable portion of his abilities for ten years after my age Voltaire, at eighty-four, I think, Went to Paris to receive the incense, in person, of his countrymen, and to be witness of their admiration of a tragedy he had written at that Methusalem age. Incense he did receive till it choked him; and at the exhibition of his play he was actually crowned with laurel in the box where he sat. But what became of his poor play? It died as soon as he did—was buried with him; and no mortal, I dare to say, has ever read a line of it since, it was so bad.(617)
As I am neither by a thousandth part so great, nor a quarter so little, I will herewith send you a fragment that an accidental rencontre set me upon writing,, and which I found so flat, that I would not finish it. Don't believe that I am either begging praise by the stale artifice of' hoping to be contradicted; or that I think there is any occasion to make you discover my caducity. No; but the fragment contains a curiosity—English verses written by a French prince of the blood, and which at first I had a mind to add to my Royal and Noble Authors, but as he was not a royal author of ours, and as I could not please myself with an account of him, I shall revert to my old resolution of not exposing my pen's gray hairs.(618)
Of one passage I must take notice; it is a little indirect sneer at our crowd of authoresses. My choosing to send this to you is a proof that I think you an author, that is, a classic. But in truth I am nauseated by the Madams Piozzi, etc. and the host of novel-writers in petticoats, who think they imitate what is inimitable, Evelina and Cecilia. Your candour I know will not agree with me, when I tell you I am not at all charmed with Miss Seward and Mr. Hayley piping to one another: but you I exhort, and would encourage to write; and flatter myself you will never be royally gagged and promoted to fold Muslins, as has been lately wittily said on Miss Burney, in the list of five hundred living authors. Your writings promote virtues; and their increasing editions prove their worth and utility. If you question my sincerity, can you doubt my admiring you, when you have gratified my self-love so amply in your Bas Bleu? Still, as much as I love your writings, I respect yet more your heart and your goodness. You are so good, that I believe you would go to heaven, even though there were no Sunday, and only six working days in the week. Adieu, my best Madam!
(617) Madame du Deffand, in a letter to Walpole of the 8th of March 1778, says—"Voltaire se Porte bien: il est uniquement occup'e de sa tragedie d'Ir'ene; on assure qu'on la jouera de demain en huit: si elle n'a pas de succ'es, il en mourra." On the 18th, she again writes—"Le succ'es de la pi'ece a 'et'e tr'es mediocre; il y eut cependant beaucouP de claquemens de mains, mais C''etait Plus Voltaire qui en 'etait l'objet que la Pi'ece." He died in the May following.-E.
(618) The French prince of the blood here spoken of, was Charles Duke of Orleans, who being a prisoner at the battle of Agincourt, was brought to England and detained here for twenty.five years. For a copy of the verses, see Walpole's works, vol. i. p. 564.-E.
Letter 319 To The Earl Of Strafford. Strawberry Hill, August 2, 1788. (page 404)
Matter for a letter, alas! my dear lord, I have none; but about letters I have great news to tell your lordship, only may the goddess of post-offices grant it be true! A Miss Sayer, of Richmond, who is at Paris, writes to Mrs. Boscawen, that a Baron de ]a Garde (I am sorry there are so many as in the genealogy of my story.) has found in a vieille armoire five hundred more letters of Madame de S'evign'e, and that they will be printed if the expense is not too great. I am in a taking, lest they should not appear before I set out for the Elysian fields for, though the writer is one of the first personages I should inquire after on my arrival, I question whether St. Peter has taste enough to know where she lodges, she is more likely to be acquainted with St. Catherine of Sienna and St. Undecimillia; and therefore I had rather see the letters themselves. It is true I have no small doubt of the authenticity of the legend; and nothing will persuade me of its truth so much as the non-appearance of the letters-a melancholy kind of conviction. But I vehemently suspect some new coinage, like the letters of Ninon de l'Enclos, Pope Ganganelli, and the Princess Palatine. I have lately been reading some fragments of letters of the Duchess of Orleans, which are certainly genuine, and contain some curious circumstances; for though she was a simple gossiping old gentlewoman, yet many little facts she could not help learning: and, to give her her due, she was ready to tell all she knew. To our late Queen she certainly did write often; and her Majesty, then only Princess, was full as ready to pay her in her own coin, and a pretty considerable treaty of commerce for the exchange of scandal was faithfully executed between them; insomuch that I remember to have heard forty years ago, that our gracious sovereign entrusted her Royal Highness of Orleans with an intrigue of one of her women of the bedchamber. Mrs. Selwyn to wit; and the good Duchess entrusted it to so many other dear friends that at last it got into the Utrecht Gazette, and came over hither, to the signal edification of the court of Leicester- fields. This is an additional reason, besides the internal evidence, for my believing the letters genuine. This old dame was mother of the Regent; and when she died, somebody wrote on her tomb, Cy gist l'Oisivet'e. This came over too; and nobody could expound It, till our then third Princess, Caroline, unravelled it,—Idleness is the mother of all vice.
I wish well enough to posterity to hope that dowager highnesses will Imitate the practice, and write all the trifles that occupy their royal brains; for the world so at least learns some true history, which their husbands never divulge, especially if they are privy to their own history, which their ministers keep from them as much as possible. I do not believe the present King of France knows much more of what he, or rather his Queen, is actually doing, than I do. I rather pity him; for I believe he means well, which is not a common article of my faith.
I shall go about the end of this week to Park-place, where I expect to find the Druidic temple from Jersey erected. How dull will the world be, if constant pilgrimages are not made thither! where, besides the delight of the scenes, that temple, the rude great arch, Lady Ailesbury's needle-works, and Mrs. Damer's Thames and Isis on Henley-bridge, with other of her sculptures, make it one of the most curious spots in the island, and unique. I want to have Mr. Conway's comedy acted there; and then the father, mother, and daughter would exhibit a theatre of arts as uncommon. How I regret your lordship did not hear Mrs. Damer speak the epilogue!
Letter 320To John Pinkerton, Esq.(619) Arlington Street, Aug. 14, 1788. (page 405)
Your intelligence of the jubilees to be celebrated in Scotland in honour of the Revolution was welcomed indeed. It is a favourable symptom of an age when its festivals are founded on good sense and liberality of sentiment, and not to perpetuate superstition and slavery. Your countrymen, Sir, have proved their good sense too in their choice of a poet. Your writings breathe the noble generous spirit congenial to the institution. Give me leave to say that it is very flattering to me to have the ode communicated to me; I will not say, to be consulted, for of that distinction I am not worthy: I am not a poet, and am Sure I cannot improve your ideas, which you have expressed with propriety and clearness, the necessary ingredients of an address to a populous meeting; for I doubt our numerous audiences are not arrived at Olympic taste enough to seize with enthusiasm the eccentric flights of Pindar. You have taken a more rational road to inspiration,'-by adhering to the genuine topics of the occasion; and you speak in so manly a Style, that I do not believe a more competent judge could amend your poetry.
I will tell you how more than occasionally the mention of Pindar slipped into my pen. I have frequently, and even yesterday, wished that some attempt were made to ennoble our horse-races, particularly at Newmarket, by associating better arts with the courses; as, by contributing for odes, the best of which should be rewarded by medals. Our nobility would find their vanity gratified; for, as the pedigrees of their steeds would soon grow tiresome, their own genealogies would replace them; and, in the mean time, poetry and medals would be improved. Their lordships would have judgment enough to know if their horse (which should be the impression on one side) were not well executed; and, as I hold that there is no being more difficult to draw well than a horse, no bad artist could be employed. Such a beginning would lead farther; and the cup or plate for the prize might rise into beautiful vases. But this is a vision; and I may as well go to bed and dream of any thing else.
(619) Now first collected.
Letter 321 To Miss Hannah More.(620) Strawberry Hill, August 17, 1788. (page 406)
Dear Madam, In this great discovery of a new mine of Madame de S'evign'e's letters, my faith, I confess, is not quite firm. Do people sell houses wholesale, without opening their cupboards? This age, too, deals so much in false coinage, that booksellers and Birmingham give equal vent to what is not sterling; with the only difference, that the shillings of the latter pretend that the names are effaced, while the wares Of the former pass under borrowed names. Have we not seen, besides all the Testamens Politiques, the spurious letters of Ninon de l'Enclos, of Pope Ganganelli, and the Memoirs of the Princess Palatine? This is a little mortifying, while we know that there actually exists at Naples a whole library of genuine Greek and Latin authors; most of whom probably, have never been in print: and where it is not unnatural to suppose the work of some classics, yet lost, may be in being, and the remainder of some of the best. Yet, at the 'rate in which they proceed to unroll, it would take as many centuries to bring them to light, as have elapsed since they were overwhelmed. Nay, another eruption of Vesuvius may return all the volumes to chaos! Omar is stigmatized for burning the library of Alexandria. Is the King of Naples less a Turk? IS not it almost as unconscientious to keep a seraglio of virgin authors under the custody of nurses, as of blooming Circassians? Consider, my dear Madam, I am past seventy; or I should not be SO Ungallant as to make the smallest comparison between the contents of the two harems. Your picture, which hangs near my elbow, would frown, I am sure, if I had any light meaning.
(620) Now first collected.
Letter 322 To The Earl Of Strafford. Strawberry Hill, Sept. 12, 1788. (page 407)
My late fit of gout, though very short, was a very authentic one, my dear lord, and the third I have had since Christmas. Still, of late years, I have suffered so little pain, that I can justly complain of nothing but the confinement, and the debility of my hands and feet, which, however, I can still use to a certain degree; and as I enjoy such good spirits and health in the intervals, I look upon the gout as no enemy; yet I know it is like the compacts said to be made with the devil, (no kind comparison to a friend!) who showers his favours on the Contractors, but is sure to seize and carry them off at last.
I would not say so much of myself, but in return to your lordship's obliging concern for me: Yet, insignificant as the subject, I have no better in bank; and if I plume myself on the tolerable state of my out-ward man, I doubt your lordship finds that age does not treat my interior so mildly as the gout does the other. If my letters, as you are pleased to say, used to amuse you, you must perceive how insipid they are grown, both from my decays and the little intercourse I have with the world. Nay, I take care not to aim at false vivacity: what do the attempts of age at liveliness prove but its weakness? What the Spectator said wittily, ought to be practised in sober sadness by old folks: when he was dull, he declared it was by design. So far, to be sure, we ought to observe it, as not to affect more spirits than we possess. To be purposely stupid, would be forbidding our correspondents to continue the intercourse; and I am so happy in enjoying the honour of your lordship's friendship, that I will be content (if you can be so) with my natural inanity, without studying to increment it.
I have been at Park-place, and assure your lordship that the Druidic temple vastly more than answers my expectation. Small it is, no doubt, when you are within the enclosure, and but a chapel of ease to Stonehenge; but Mr. Conway has placed it with so much judgment, that it has a lofty effect, and infinitely more than it could have had if he had yielded to Mrs. Damer's and my opinion, who earnestly begged to have it placed within the enclosure of the home grounds. It now stands on the ridge of the high hill without, backed by the horizon, and with a grove on each side at a little distance; and, being exalted beyond and above the range of firs that climb up the sides of the hill from the valley, wears all the appearance of an ancient castle, whose towers are only shattered, not destroyed; and devout as I am to old castles, and small taste as I have for the ruins of ages absolutely barbarous, it is impossible not to be pleased with so very rare an antiquity so absolutely perfect, and it is difficult to prevent visionary ideas from improving a prospect.
If, as Lady Anne Conolly told your lordship, I have had a great deal of company, you must understand it of my house, not of me; for I have very little. Indeed, last Monday both my house and I were included. The Duke of York sent me word the night before, that he would come and see it, and of course I had the honour of showing it myself. He said, and indeed it seemed so, that he was much pleased; at least, I had every reason to be satisfied; for I never saw any prince more gracious and obliging, nor heard one utter more personally kind speeches.
I do not find that her grace the Countess of Bristol's(621) will is really known yet. They talk of two wills—to be sure, in her double capacity; and they say she has made three coheiresses to her jewels, the Empress of Russia, Lady Salisbury, and the whore of Babylon.(622) The first of those legatees, I am not sorry, is in a piteous scrape: I like the King of Sweden no better than I do her and the Emperor; but it is good that two destroyers should be punished by a third, and that two crocodiles should be gnawed by an insect. Thank God! we are not only at peace, but in full plenty—nay, and in full beauty too. Still better; though we have had rivers of rain, it has not, contrary to all precedent, washed away our warm weather. September, a month I generally dislike for its irresolute mixture of warm and cold, has hitherto been peremptorily fine. The apple and walnut-trees bend down with fruit, as in a poetic description of Paradise.
(621) The Duchess of Kingston, who died at Paris in August.-E.
(622) The newspapers had circulated a report that the Duchess had bequeathed her diamonds to the Empress of Russia and his Holiness the Pope.-E.
Letter 323 To Miss Hannah More. Strawberry Hill, Sept. 22, 1788. (page 408)
I don't like to defraud you of your compassion, my good friend, profuse as you are of it. I really suffered scarce any pain at all from my last fit of gout. I have known several persons who think there is a dignity in complaining; and, if you ask how they do, reply, "Why, I am pretty well to-day; but if you knew what I suffered yesterday!" Now methinks nobody has a right to tax another for pity on what is past; and besides, complaint of what is over can only make the hearer glad you are in pain no longer. Yes, yes, my dear Madam, you generally place your pity so profitably, that YOU shall not waste a drop upon me, who ought rather to be congratulated on being so well at my age.
Much less shall I allow you to make apologies for your admirable and proper conduct towards your Poor prot'eg'ee(623) And now you have told me the behaviour of a certain great dame, I will confess to you that I have known it some months by accident-nay, and tried to repair it. I prevailed on Lady * * * * *, who as readily undertook the commission, and told the Countess of her treatment of you. Alas! the answer was, "It is too late; I have no money." No! but she has, if she has a diamond left. I am indignant; yet, do you know, not at this duchess, or that countess, but at the invention of ranks, and titles, and pre-eminence. I used to hate that king and t'other prince; but, alas! on reflection I find the censure ought to fall on human nature in general. They are made of the same stuff as we, and dare we say what we should be in their situation? Poor creatures! think how they are educated, or rather corrupted, early, how flattered! To be educated properly, they should be led through hovels, and hospitals, and prisons. Instead of being reprimanded (and perhaps immediately after sugar-plum'd) for not learning their Latin or French grammar, they now and then should be kept fasting; and, if they cut their finger, should have no plaister till it festered. No part of a royal brat's memory, which is good enough, should be burthened but with the remembrance of human sufferings. In short, I fear our nature is so liable to be corrupted and perverted by greatness, rank, power, and wealth, that I am inclined to think that virtue is the compensation to the poor for the want of riches: nay, I am disposed to believe that the first footpad or highwayman has been a man of quality, or a prince, who could not bear having wasted his fortune, and was too lazy to work; for a beggar-born would think labour a more natural way of getting a livelihood than venturing his life. I have something a similar opinion about common women. No modest girl thinks of many men, till she has been in love with one, been ruined by him, and abandoned. But to return to my theme, and it will fall heavy on yourself. Could the milkwoman have been so bad, if you had merely kept her from starving, instead of giving her opulence? The soil, I doubt, was bad; but it could not have produced the rank weed of ingratitude, if you had not dunged it with gold, which rises from rock, and seems to meet with a congenial bed when it falls on the human heart.
And so Dr. Warton imagines I m writing "Walpoliana!" No, in truth, nor any thing else; nor shall-nor will I go out in a jest-book. Age has not only made me prudent, but, luckily, lazy; and, without the latter extinguisher, I do not know but that farthing candle my discretion would let my snuff of life flit to the last sparkle of folly, like what children call. the parson and clerk in a bit of burnt paper. You see by my writability in pressing my letters on you, that my pen has still a colt's tooth left, but I never indulge the poor old child with more paper than this small-sized sheet, I do not give it enough to make a paper kite and fly abroad on wings of booksellers. You ought to continue writing, for you do good your writings, or at least mean it; and if a virtuous intention fails, it is a sort of coin, which, though thrown away, still makes the donor worth more than he was before he gave it away. I delight too in the temperature of your piety, and that you would not see the enthusiastic exorcist. How shocking to suppose that the Omnipotent Creator of worlds delegates his power to a momentary insect to eject supernatural spirits that he had permitted to infest another insect, and had permitted to vomit blasphemies against himself! Pray do not call that enthusiasm, but delirium. I pity real enthusiasts, but I would shave their heads and take away some blood. The exorcist's associates are in a worse predicament, I doubt, and hope to make enthusiasts. If such abominable impostors were not rather a subject of indignation, I could smile at the rivalship between them and the animal magnetists, who are inveigling fools into their different pales. And alas! while folly has a shilling left, there will be enthusiasts and quack doctors; and there will be slaves while there are kings or sugar-planters.(624) I have remarked, that though Jesuits, etc. travel to distant East and West to propagate their religion and traffic, I never heard of one that made a journey into Asia or Africa to preach the doctrines of liberty, though those regions are so deplorably oppressed. Nay, I much doubt whether ever any chaplain of the regiments we have sent to India has once whispered to a native of Bengal, that there are milder forms of government than those of his country. No; security of property is not a wholesome doctrine to be inculcated in a land where the soil produces diamonds and gold! In short, if your Bristol exorcist believes he can cast out devils, why does he not go to Leadenhallstreet? There is a company whose name is legion.
By your gambols, as you call them, after the most ungambolling peeress in Christendom, and by your jaunts, I conclude, to my great satisfaction, that you are quite well. Change of scene and air are good for your spirits; and September, like all our old ladies, has given itself May airs, and must have made your journey very pleasant. Yet you will be glad to get back to your Cowslip-green, though it may offer you nothing but Michaelmas daisies. When you do leave it, I wish you could persuade Mrs. Garrick to settle sooner in London. There is full as good hay to be made in town at Christmas at Hampton, and some hay-makers that will wish for you particularly. Your most sincere friend.
(623) Ann Yearsley. See ant'e, p. 395, letter 313.-E.
(624) In the letter to which this is a reply, Miss More had said— "in vain do we boast of the enlightened eighteenth century, and conceitedly talk as if human reason had not a manacle left about her, but that philosophy had broken down all the strongholds of prejudice, ignorance, and superstition: and yet at this very time Mesmer has got an hundred thousand pounds by animal magnetism in Paris, and Mainanduc is getting as much in London. There is a fortune-teller in Westminster who is making little less. Lavater's Physiognomy-books sell at fifteen guineas a set. The divining-rod is still considered as oracular in many places. Devils are cast out by seven ministers; and, to complete the disgraceful catalogue, slavery is vindicated in print, and defended in the House of Peers." Memoirs, vol. ii. P. 120.-E.
Letter 324 To The Right Hon. Lady Craven. Berkeley Square, Dec. 11, 1788. (page 411)
It is agreeable to your ladyship's usual goodness to honour me with another letter; and I may say, to your equity too, after I had proved to Monsieur Mercier, by the list of dates of my letters, that it was not mine, but the post's fault, that you did not receive one that I had the honour of writing to you above a year ago. Not, Madam, that I could wonder if you had the prudence to drop a correspondence with an old superannuated man; who, conscious of his decay, has had the decency of not troubling, with his dotages persons of not near your ladyship's youth and vivacity. I have been of opinion that few persons know when to die; I am not so English as to mean when to despatch themselves—no, but when to go out of the world. I have usually applied this opinion to those who have made a considerable figure; and, consequently, it was not adapted to myself. Yet even we ciphers ought not to fatigue the public scene when we are become lumber. Thus, being quite out of the question, I will explain my maxim, which is the more wholesome, the higher it is addressed. My opinion, then, is, that when any personage has shone as much as is possible in his or her best walk, (and, not to repeat both genders every minute, I will use the male as the common of the two,) he should take up his Strulbrugism, and be heard of no more. Instances will be still more explanatory. Voltaire ought to have pretended to die after Alzire, Mahomet, and Semiramis, and not have produced his wretched last pieces: Lord Chatham should have closed his political career with his immortal war: and how weak was Garrick, when he had quitted the stage, to limp after the tatters of fame by writing and reading pitiful poems; and even by sitting to read plays which he had acted with such fire and energy! We have another example in Mr. Anstey; who, if he had a friend upon earth, would have been obliged to him for being knocked on the head, the moment he had published the first edition of the Bath Guide; for, even in the second, he had exhausted his whole stock of inspiration, and has never written any thing tolerable since. When Such unequal authors print their works together, one man may apply in a new light the old hacked simile of Mezentius, who tied together the living and the dead.
We have just received the works of an author, from whom I find I am to receive much less entertainment than I expected, because I shall have much less to read than I intended. His Memoirs, I am told, are almost wholly military; which, therefore, I shall not read: and his poetry, I am sure, I shall not look at, because I should not understand it. What I saw of it formerly, convinced me that he would not have been a poet, even if he had written in his own language: and, though I do not understand German, I am told it is a fine language - and I can easily believe that any tongue (not excepting our old barbarous Saxon, which, a bit of an antiquary as I am, I abhor,) is more harmonious than French. It was curious absurdity, therefore, to pitch on the most unpoetic language in Europe, the most barren, and the most clogged with difficulties. I have heard Russian and Polish sung, and both sounded musical; but, to abandon one's own tongue, and not adopt Italian, that is even sweeter, and softer, and more copious, than the Latin, was a want of taste that I should think could not be applauded even by a Frenchman born in Provence. But what a language is the French, which measures verses by feet that never are to be pronounced; which is the case wherever the mute e is found! What poverty of various sounds for rhyme, when, lest similar cadences should too often occur, their mechanic bards are obliged to marry masculine and feminine terminations as alternately as the black and white squares of a chessboard? Nay, will you believe me, Madam,—yes, you will, for you may convince your own eyes,-that a scene of Zaire begins with three of the most nasal adverbs that ever snorted together in a breath? Enfin, donc, desormais, are the culprits in question. Enfin donc, need I tell your ladyship, that the author I alluded to at the beginning of' this long tirade is the late King of Prussia?
I am conscious that I have taken a little liberty when I excommunicate a tongue in which your ladyship has condescended to write;(625) but I only condemn it for verse and pieces of eloquence, of which I thought it alike incapable, till I read Rousseau of Geneva. It is a most sociable language, and charming for narrative and epistles. Yet, write as well as you will in it, you must be liable to express yourself better in the speech natural to you and your own country has a right to understand all your works, and is jealous of their not being as perfect as you could make them. Is it not more creditable to be translated into a foreign language than into your own? and will it not vex you to hear the translation taken for the original, and to find vulgarisms that you could not have committed yourself? But I have done, and will release you, Madam; only observing, that you flatter me with a vain hope, when you tell me you shall return to England, some time or other. Where will that time be for me! and when it arrives, shall I not be somewhere else?
I do not pretend to send your ladyship English news, nor to tell you of English literature. You must before this time have heard of the dismal state into which our chief personage is fallen! That consideration absorbs all others. The two houses are going to settle some intermediate succedaneum; and the obvious one, no doubt, will be fixed on.
(625) Besides writing a comedy in French, called "Nourjahad," Lady Craven had translated into that language Cibber's play of "She would and She would not."-E.
Letter 325 To The Miss Berrys.(626) February 2, 17-71(627) [1789.) (page 413)
I am sorry, in the sense of that word before it meant, like a Hebrew word, glad or sorry, that I am engaged this evening; and I am at your command on Tuesday, as it is always my inclination to be. It is a misfortune that words are become so much the current coin of society, that, like King William's shillings, they have no impression left; they are so smooth, that they mark no more to whom they first belonged than to whom they do belong, and are not worth even the twelvepence into which they may be changed: but if they mean too little, they may seem to mean too much too, especially when an old man (who is often synonymous for a miser) parts with them. I am afraid of protesting how much I delight in your society, lest I should seem to affect being gallant; but if two negatives make an affirmative, why may not two ridicules compose one piece of sense? and therefore, as I am in love with you both, I trust it is a proof of the good sense of your devoted H. WALPOLE.
(626) This is the first of a series of letters addressed by Mr Walpole to Miss Mary and Miss Agnes Berry, and now first published from the original in their possession.-E.
(627) The date is thus put, alluding to his age, which, in'1789 was seventy-one.-M. B.
letter 326 To The Miss Berrys. Berkeley Square, March 20, 1789. (page 413)
Mrs. Damer had lent her Madame de la Motte,(628) and I have but this moment recovered it; so, you see, I had not forgotten it any more than my engagements to you: nay, were it not ridiculous at my age to use a term so almost run out as never, I would add, that you may find I never can forget you. I hope you are not engaged this day sevennight, but will allow me to wait on you to Lady Ailesbury, which I will settle with her when I have your answer. I did mention it to her in general, but have no day free before Friday next, except Thursday; when, if there is another illumination, as is threatened, we should neither get thither nor thence; especially not the latter, if the former is impracticable.
"Quicquid delirant Reges, plectuntur Achivi."(629)
P. S. I have got a few hairs of Edward the Fourth's head, not beard; they are of a darkish brown, not auburn.
(628) The M'emoire Justificatif of Madame de la Motte, relative to her conduct in the far-famed affair of the necklace.-E.
(629) Alluding to the public rejoicings on the recovery of George the Third from his first illness in 1788. In a letter to her sister of the 9th of March, Miss More relates the following particulars:—"A day or two ago I dined at the Bishop of London's, with Dr. Willis. As we had nobody else at dinner but the Master of the Rolls, I was indulged in asking the doctor all manner of impertinent questions. He never saw, he said, so much natural sweetness and goodness of mind, united to so much piety, as in the King. During his illness, he many time shed tears for Lord North's blindness. The Bishop had been to him that morning: he told him that he wished to return his thanks to Almighty God in the most public manner, and hoped the Bishop would not refuse him a sermon. He proposed going to St. Paul's to do it. He himself has named one of the Psalms for the thanksgiving-day, and the twelfth of Isaiah for the lesson."
On the 17th, she again writes—"The Queen and Princesses came to see the illuminations, and did not get back to Kew till after one O'clock. When the coach stopped, the Queen took notice of a fine gentleman who came to the coach-door without his hat. This was the King, who came to hand her out. She scolded him for being up and out so late; but he gallantly replied, 'he could not Possibly go to bed and sleep till he knew she was safe.' There never was so joyous, so innocent, and so orderly a mob." Memoirs, vol. ii. Pp. 144- 155-E.
Letter 327 To Miss Hannah More. Berkeley Square, April 22, 1789. (page 414)
Dear Madam, As perhaps you have not yet seen the "Botanic Garden" (which I believe I mentioned to you), I lend it you to read. The poetry, I think, you will allow most admirable; and difficult it was, no doubt. If you are not a naturalist, as well as a poetess, perhaps you will lament that so powerful a talent has been wasted to so little purpose; for where is the use of describing in verse what nobody can understand without a long prosaic explanation of every article? It is still more unfortunate that there is not a symptom of plan in the whole poem. The lady-flowers and their lovers enter in pairs or trios, or etc. as often as the couples in Cassandra. and you are not a whit more interested about one heroine and her swain than about another. The similes are beautiful, fine, and sometimes sublime: and thus the episodes will be better remembered than the mass of the poem itself, which one cannot call the subject; for could one call it a subject, if any body had composed a poem on the matches formerly made in the Fleet, where, as Waitwell says, in "The Way of the World," they stood like couples in rows ready to begin a country-dance? Still, I flatter myself you will agree with me that the author is a great poet, and could raise the passions, and possesses all the requisites of the art. I found but a single bad verse; in the last canto one line ends e'er long. You will perhaps be surprised at meeting a truffle converted into a nymph, and inhabiting a palace studded with emeralds and rubies like a saloon in the Arabian Nights! I had a more particular motive for sending this poem to you: you will find the bard espousing your poor Africans. There is besides, which will please you too, a handsome panegyric on the apostle of humanity, Mr. Howard.(630)
Mrs. Garrick, whom I had the pleasure of meeting in her own box at Mr. Conway's play, gave me a much better account of your health which delighted me. I am sure, my good friend, you partake of my joy at the great success of his comedy. The additional character of the Abb'e pleased much: it was added by the advice of the players to enliven it; that is, to stretch the jaws of the pit and galleries. I sighed silently; for it was originally so genteel and of a piece, that I was sorry to have it tumbled by coarse applauses. But this is a secret. I am going to Twickenham for two days on an assignation with the spring, and to avoid the riotous devotion of to-morrow.
A gentleman essayist has printed what he calls some strictures on my Royal and Noble Authors, in revenge for my having spoken irreverently (on Bishop Burnet's authority) of the Earl of Anglesey, who had the honour, it seems, of being the gentleman's grandfather. He asks me, by the way, why it was more ridiculous in the Duke of Newcastle to write his two comedies, than in the Duke of Buckingham to write "The Rehearsal?" Alas! I know but one reason; which is, that it is less ridiculous to write one excellent comedy, than two very bad ones. Peace be with such answerers! Adieu, my dear Madam! Yours most cordially.
(630) "I did not feel," says Miss More, in her reply, "so much gratified in reading the poem, marvellous as I think it, as I did at the kindness which led you to think of me when you met with any thing that you imagined would give me pleasure. Your strictures, which are as true as if they had no wit in them, served to embellish every page as I went on, and were more intelligible and delightful to me than the scientific annotations in the margin. The author is, indeed, a poet; and I wish, with you, that he had devoted his exuberant fancy, his opulence of imagery, and his correct and melodious versification. to subjects more congenial to human feelings than the intrigues of a flower-garden. I feel, like the most passionate ]over, the beauty of the cyclamen, or honeysuckle; but am as indifferent as the most fashionable husband to their amours, their pleasures, or their unhappiness." Memoirs, vol. ii. p. 149.-E.
Letter 328 To The Miss Berrys. April 28, at night, 1789. (page 415)
By my not saying no to Thursday, you, I trust, understood that I meant yes; and so I do. In the mean time, I send you the most delicious poem upon earth. If you don't know what it is all about, or why; at least you will find glorious similes about every thing in the world, and I defy you to discover three bad verses in the whole stack. Dryden was but the prototype of the Botanic Garden in his charming Flower and Leaf; and if he had less meaning, it is true he had more plan: and I must own, that his white velvets and green velvets, and rubies and emeralds, were much more virtuous gentlefolks than most of the flowers of the creation, who seem to have no fear of Doctors' Commons before their eyes. This is only the Second Part; for, like my 'king's eldest daughter' in the Hieroglyphic Tales, the First Part is not born yet:—no matter. I can read this over and over again for ever; for though it is so excellent, it is impossible to remember any thing so disjointed, except you consider it as a collection of short enchanting poems,—as the Circe at her tremendous devilries in a church; the intrigue of the dear nightingale and rose; and the description of Medea; the episode of Mr. Howard, which ends with the most sublime of lines—in short, all, all; all is the most lovely poetry. And then one sighs, that such profusion of poetry, magnificent and tender, should be thrown away on what neither interests nor instructs, and, with all the pains the notes take to explain, is scarce intelligible.'
How strange it is, that a man should have been inspired with such enthusiasm of poetry by poring through a microscope, and peeping through the keyholes of all the seraglios of all the flowers in the universe I hope his discoveries may leave any impression but of the universal polygamy going on in the vegetable world, where, however, it is more gallant than amongst the human race; for you will find that they are the botanic ladies who keep harams, and not the gentlemen. Still, I will maintain that it is much better that we should have two wives than your sex two husbands. So pray don't mind Linnaeus and Dr. Darwin: Dr. Madan had ten times more sense. Adieu! Your doubly constant Telypthorus.
(631) "Modern ears," says Mr. Matthias, in the Pursuits of Literature, "are absolutely debauched by such poetry as Dr. Darwin's, which marks the decline of simplicity and true taste in this country. It is to England what Seneca's prose was to Rome: abundat dulcibus vitiis. Dryden and Pope are the standards of excellence in this species of writing in our language; and when young minds are rightly instituted in their works, they may, without much danger, read such glittering verses as Dr. Darwin's. They will then perceive the distortion of the sentiment, and the harlotry of the ornaments." To the short-lived popularity of Dr. Darwin, the admirable poem of "The Loves of the Triangles'" the joint production of Mr. Canning and Mr. Frere, in no small degree contributed.-E.
Letter 329 To The Miss Berrys. Strawberry Hill, Tuesday, June 23, 1789. (PAGE 416)
I am not a little disappointed and mortified at the post bringing me no letter from you to-day; you promised to write on the road. I reckon you arrived at your station on Sunday evening: if you do not write till next day, I shall have no letter till Thursday!
I am not at all consoled for my double loss: my only comfort is, that I flatter myself the journey and air will be of service to you both. The latter has been of use to me, though the part of the element of air has been chiefly acted by the element of water, as my poor haycocks feel! Tonton (632) does not miss you so much as I do, not having so good a taste; for he is grown very fond of me, and I return it for your sakes, though he deserves it too, for he is perfectly good-natured and tractable; but he is not beautiful, like his " god-dog,(633) as Mr. Selwyn, who dined here on Saturday, called my poor late favourite; especially as I have had him clipped. The shearing has brought to light a nose an ell long; an as he has now nasum rhinocerotis, I do not doubt but he will be a better critic in poetry than Dr. Johnson, who judged of harmony by the principles of an author, and fancied, or wished to make others believe, that no Jacobite could write bad verses, nor a Whig good.
Have you shed a tear over the Opera-house?(634) or do you agree with me, that there is no occasion to rebuild it? The nation has long been tired of operas, and has now a good opportunity of dropping them. Dancing protracted their existence for some time; but the room after. was the real support of both, and was like what has been said of your sex, that they never speak their true meaning but in the postscript of their letters. Would not it be sufficient to build an after-room on the whole emplacement, to which people might resort from all assemblies? It should be a codicil to all the diversions of London; and the greater the concourse, the more excuse there would be for staying all night, from the impossibility of ladies getting their coaches to drive up. To be crowded to death in a waiting-room, at the end of an entertainment, is the whole joy; for who goes to any diversion till the last minute of it? I am persuaded that, instead if retrenching St. Athanasius's Creed, as the Duke of Grafton proposed, in order to draw good company to church, it would be more efficacious if the Congregation were to be indulged with an After-room in the vestry; and, instead of two or three being gathered together, there would be all the world, before the prayers would be quite over.
"Despairing, beside a clear stream A shepherd forsaken was laid;"—
not very close to the stream, but within doors in sight of it; for in this damp weather a lame old Colin cannot lie and despair with any comfort on a wet bank: but I smile against the grain, and am seriously alarmed at Thursday being come, and no letter! I dread one of you being ill. Mr. Batt(635) and the Abb'e Nicholls(636) dined with me to-day, and I could talk of you en pais de connoissance. They tried to persuade me that I have no cause to be in a fright about you; but I have such perfect faith in the kindness of both of you, as I have in your possessing every other virtue, that I cannot believe but some sinister accident must have prevented my hearing from you. I wish Friday was come! I cannot write about any thing else till I have a letter.
(632) A dog of Miss Berry's left in Walpole's care during their absence in Yorkshire.-M.B.
(633) The dog which had been bequeathed to Mr. Walpole by Madame du Deffand at her death, and which was likewise called Tonton. See ant'e, p. 275, letter 217.-M.B.
(634) on the night of the 17th, the Opera-house was entirely consumed by fire.-E.
(635) Thomas Batt, Esq. then one of the commissioners for public accounts.-E.
(636) The Rev. Norton Nicholls, rector of Lound and Bradwell in the county of Suffolk; one of the most elegant scholars and accomplished gentlemen of the day. He died in November 1809, in his sixty-eighth year. " It was his singular good fortune," says Mr. Dawson Turner, , to have been distinguished in his early life by the friendship of Gray the poet; while the close of his days was cheered and enlivened and dignified by the friendship, and almost constant society, of a Man scarcely inferior to Gray in talent and acquirements Mr. Mathias; who has embalmed his memory in an Italian Ode and a biographical Memoir; which latter is a beautiful specimen of that kind of composition.,, They will both be found in the fifth volume of Nicholls's Illustrations of Literature.-E.
Letter 330 To Miss Hannah More. Strawberry Hill, June 23, 1789. (PAGE 418)
Madam Hannah, You are an errant reprobate, and grow wickeder and wickeder every day. You deserve to be treated like a negre; and your favourite Sunday, to which you are so partial that you treat the other poor six days of the week as if they had no souls to be saved, should, if I could have my will, "shine no Sabbath-day for you." Now, don't simper, and look as innocent as if virtue would not melt in your mouth. Can you deny the following charges?—I lent you "The Botanic Garden," and you returned it without writing a syllable, or saying, -where you were or whither you was going; I suppose for fear I should know how to direct to you. Why, if I did send a letter after you, could not you keep it three months without an answer, as you did last year?
In the next place, you and your nine accomplices, who, by the way, are too good in keeping you company, have clubbed the prettiest poem imaginable,(637) and communicated it to Mrs. Boscawen, with injunctions not to give a copy of it; I suppose, because you are ashamed of having written a panegyric. Whenever you do compose a satire, you are ready enough to publish it; at least, whenever you do, you will din one to death with it. But now, mind your perverseness: that very pretty novel poem, and I must own it is charming, have you gone and spoiled, flying in the faces of your best friends the Muses, and keeping no measures with them. I'll be shot if they dictated two of the best lines with two syllables too much in each—nay, you have weakened one of them,
"Ev'n Gardiner's mind"
is far more expressive than steadfast Gardiner's; and, as Mrs. Boscawen says, whoever knows any thing of Gardiner, could not want that superfluous epithet; and whoever does not, would not be the wiser for your foolish insertion—Mrs. Boscawen did not call it foolish, but I do. The second line, as Mesdemoiselles the Muses handed it to you, Miss, was,
"Have all be free and saved—"
not, "All be free and all be saved:" the second all be is a most unnecessary tautology. The poem was perfect and faultless, if you could have let it alone. I wonder how your mischievous flippancy could help maiming that most new and beautiful expression, "sponge Of sins;" I should not have been surprised, as you love verses too full of feet, if you have changed it to "that scrubbing-brush of sins."
Well! I will say no more now: but if you do not order me a copy of "Bonner's Ghost" incontinently, never dare to look my printing house in the face again. Or come, I'll tell you what; I will forgive all your enormities, if you will let me print your poem. I like to filch a little immortality out of others, and the Strawberry press could never have a better opportunity. I will not haggle for the public will be content with printing only two hundred copies, of which you shall have half, and I half. It shall cost you nothing but a yes, I only propose this, in case you do not mean to print it yourself. Tell me sincerely which you like. But as to not printing it at all, charming and unexceptionable as it is, you cannot be so preposterous.(638) I by no means have a thought of detracting from your own share in your own poem; but, as I do suspect that it caught some inspiration from your perusal of "The Botanic Garden," so I hope you will discover that my style is much improved by having lately studied Bruce's travels. There I dipped, and not in St. Giles's pound, where one would think this author had been educated. Adieu! Your friend, or mortal foe, as you behave on the present occasion.
(637) "Bishop Bonner's Ghost;" to which was prefixed the following argument:—"In the garden of the palace at Fulham is a dark recess; at the end of this stands a chair which once belonged to Bishop Bonner. A certain Bishop of London more than two hundred years after the death of the aforesaid -Bonner just as the clock of the Gothic chapel had struck six undertook to cut with his own hand a narrow walk through this thicket, which is since called 'The Monk's Walk.' He had no sooner begun to clear the way, than lo! suddenly up started from the chair the Ghost of Bonner; who, in a tone of just and bitter indignation, uttered the following verses."-E.
(638) Miss More, in her reply, says—"I send this under cover to the Bishop of London, to whom I write your emendations, and desire they may be considered as the true reading. What is odd enough, I did write both the lines so at first but must go a-tinkering them afterwards. I do not pretend that I am 'lot flattered by your obliging proposal of printing these slight verses at the Strawberry press. YOU must do as you please, I believe. What business have I to think meanly of verses You have commended?" Memoirs, vol. ii. p. 159.-E.
Letter 331 To Miss Berry. Strawberry Hill, June 30, 1789. (PAGE 419)
Were there any such thing as sympathy at the distance of two hundred miles, you would have been in a mightier panic than I was; for, on Saturday se'nnight, going to open the glass case in the Tribune, my foot caught in the carpet, and I fell with my whole (si weight y a) weight against the corner of the marble altar, on my side, and bruised the muscles so badly, that for two days I could not move without screaming.(639) I am convinced I should have broken a rib, but that I fell on the cavity whence two of my ribs were removed, that are gone to Yorkshire. I am much better both of my bruise and of my lameness, and shall be ready to dance at my own wedding when my wives return. And now to answer your letter. If you grow tired of the Arabian Nights, you have no more taste than Bishop Atterbury,(640) who huffed Pope for sending him them or the Persian Tales, and fancied he liked Virgil better, who had no more imagination than Dr. Akenside. Read Sinbad the Sailor's Voyages, and you will be sick of AEneas's. What woful invention were the nasty poultry that dunged on his dinner, and ships on fire turned into Nereids! a barn metamorphosed into a cascade in a pantomime is full as sublime an effort of genius. I do not know whether the Arabian Nights are of Oriental origin or not:(641) I should think not, because I never saw any other Oriental composition that was not bombast without genius, and figurative without nature; like an Indian screen, where you see little men on the foreground, and larger men hunting tigers above in the air, which they take for perspective. I do not think the Sultaness's narratives very natural or very probable, but there is a wildness in them that captivates. However, if you could wade through two octavos(642) of Dame Piozzi's thoughts and so's and I trow's, and cannot listen to seven volumes of Scheherezade's narrations, I will sue for a divorce infibro Parnassi, and Boccalini shall be my proctor. The cause will be a counterpart to the sentence of the Lacedoemonian, who was condemned for breach of the peace, by saying in three words what he might have said in two.
You are not the first Eurydice that has sent her husband to the devil, as you have kindly proposed to me; but I will not undertake the jaunt, for if old Nicholas Pluto should enjoin me not to look back to you, I should certainly forget the prohibition like my predecessor. Besides, I am a little too close to take a voyage twice which I am so soon to repeat; and should be laughed at by the good folks on the other side of the water, if I proposed coming back for a twinkling Only. No; I choose as long as I can
"Still with my fav'rite Berrys to remain."(643)
So you was not quite satisfied, though you ought to have been transported, with King's College Chapel, because it has no aisles, like every common cathedral. I suppose you would object to a bird of paradise, because it has no legs, but shoots to heaven in a trait, and does not rest on earth. Criticism and comparison spoil many tastes. You should admire all bold and unique essays that resemble nothing else; the Botanic Garden, the Arabian Nights, and King's Chapel are above all rules: and how preferable is what no one can imitate, to all that is imitated even from the best models! Your partiality to the pageantry of popery I do not approve, and I doubt whether the world will not be a loser (in its visionary enjoyments) by the extinction of that religion, as it was by the decay of chivalry and the proscription of the heathen deities. Reason has no invention; and as plain sense will never be the legislator of human affairs, it is fortunate when taste happens to be regent.
(639) Miss More, in a letter written at this time to Walpole, says, "How you do scold me! but I don't care for your scolding; and I don't care for your wit neither, that I don't. half as much as I care for a blow which I hear you have given yourself against a table. I have known such very serious consequences arise from such accidents, that I beg of you to drown yourself in the "Veritable Arquebusade." Memoirs, vol. ii. P. 158.-E.
(640) The following are the Bishop's expressions:—"And now, Sir, for your Arabian Tales. Ill as I have been, almost ever since they came to hand, I have read as much of them as I shall read while I live. indeed, they do not please my taste; they are writ with so romantic an air, and are of so wild and absurd a contrivance, that I have not only no pleasure, but no patience in reading them. I cannot help thinking them the production of some woman's imagination." The Honourable Charles Yorke, in a letter to his brother, the second Earl of Hardwicke written in June 1740, states that Pope and Warburton both agreed in condemning the bishop's judgment on the Arabian Tales and that Warburton added, that from those tales the completest notion might be gather,d of the Eastern ceremonies and manners.-E.
(641) The work entitled "Mille et Une Nuits," was translated from an original Arabic manuscript, in the King of France's library by M. Galland, professor of Arabic in the University of Paris. It appeared in 1704-8: in twelve volumes.-E.
(642) Her "Observations and Reflections in the course of a Journey through France, Italy, and Germany," honoured with a couplet in the Baviad—
See Thrale's gray widow with a satchel roam, And bring in Pomp laborious nothings home."-E.
(643) A line from some verses that he had received.-M.B.
Letter 332 To Miss Hannah More. Strawberry Hill, July 2, 1789. (PAGE 421)
I almost think I shall never abuse you again; nay, I would not, did not it prove so extremely good for you. No walnut tree is better for being threshed than you are; and, though you have won my heart by your compliance, I don't know whether my conscience will not insist on my using YOU ill now and then; for is there any precedent for gratitude not giving way to every other duty? Gratitude like an earl's eldest son, is but titular, and has no place upon trials. But I fear I punning sillily, instead of thanking you seriously, as I do, for allowing me to print your lovely verses. My press can confer no honour; but, when I offer it, it is a certain mark Of My sincerity and esteem. It has been dedicated to friendship, to charity-too often to worthless self-love; sometimes to the rarity of the pieces, and sometimes to the merit of them; now it will unite the first motive and the last.
My fall, for which you so kindly concern yourself, was not worth mentioning; for as I only bruised the muscles of my side, instead of breaking a rib, camphire infused in arquebusade took off the pain and all consequences in five or six days: and one has no right to draw on the compassion of others for what one has suffered and is past. Some love to be pitied on that score; but forget that they only excite, in the best-natured, joy on their deliverance. You commend me too for not complaining of my chronical evil; but, my dear Madam, I should be blamable for the reverse. If I would live to seventy-two, ought I not to compound for the encumbrances of old age? And who has fewer? And who has more cause to be thankful to Providence for his lot? The gout, it is true, comes frequently, but the fits are short, and very tolerable; the intervals are full health. My eyes are perfect, my hearing but little impaired, chiefly to whispers, for which I certainly have little occasion: my spirits never fail; and though my hands and feet are crippled, I can use both, and do not wish to box, wrestle, or dance a hornpipe. In short, I am just infirm enough to enjoy all the prerogatives of old age, and to plead them against any thing I have not a mind to do. Young men must conform to every folly in fashion - drink when they had rather be sober; fight a duel if somebody else is wrong-headed; marry to please their fathers, not themselves; and shiver in a white waistcoat, because ancient almanacks, copying the Arabian, placed the month of June after May; though, when the style was reformed, it ought to have been intercalated between December and January. Indeed, I have been so childish as to cut my hay for the same reason, and am now weeping over it by the fireside. But to come to business.
You must suffer me to print two hundred copies; and if you approve it, I will send thirty to the Bishop of London out of your quota. You may afterwards give him more, if you please. I do not propose putting your name, unless you desire it; as I think it would swear with the air of ancientry you have adopted in the signature and notes. The authoress will be no secret; and as It will certainly get into magazines, why should not you deal privately beforehand with some bookseller, and have a second edition ready to appear soon after mine is finished? The difficulty of getting my edition at first, from the paucity of the number and from being only given as presents, will make the second edition eagerly sought for; and I do not see why my anticipating the publication should deprive you of the profit. Rather than do that, I would print a smaller number. I wish to raise an additional appetite to that which every body has for your writings; I am sure I did not mean to injure you. Pray think of this; there 'Is time enough; I cannot begin to print under a week: my press has lain fallow for some time, and my printer must prepare ink, balls, etc.; and as I have but one man, he cannot be expeditious. I seriously do advise you to have a second edition ready; why should covetous booksellers run away with all the advantages of your genius? They get enough by their ample share of the sale.
I will say no more, but to repeat my thanks for your consent, which truly obliges me; and I am happy to have been the instrument of' preserving what your modesty would have sunk. My esteem could not increase: but one likes to be connected by favours to those one highly values.
Letter 333 To Miss Berry. Strawberry Hill, July 9, 1789. (PAGE 422)
You are so good and punctual, that I will complain no more of your silence, unless you are silent. You must not relax, especially until you can give me better accounts of your health and spirits. I was peevish before with the weather; but, now it prevents your riding, I forget hay and roses, and all the comforts that are washed away, and shall only watch the weathercock for an east wind in Yorkshire. What a shame that I should recover from the gout and from bruises, as I assure you I am entirely, and that you should have a complaint left! One would think that it was I was grown young again; for while just now, as I was reading your letter in my bedchamber, while some of my customers(644) are seeing the house, I heard a gentleman in the armoury ask the housekeeper as he looked at the bows and arrows, "Pray, does Mr. Walpole shoot?" No, nor with pistols neither. I leave all weapons to Lady Salisbury(645) and Mr. Lenox;(646) and, since my double marriage, have suspended my quiver in the Temple of Hymen. Hygeia shall be my goddess, if she will send you back blooming to this region.
I wish I had preserved any correspondence in France, as you are curious about their present history; which I believe very momentous indeed. What little I have accidentally heard, I will relate, and will learn what more I can. On the King,'s being advised to put out his talons, Necker desired leave to resign, as not having been consulted, and as the measure violated his plan. The people, hearing his intention, thronged to Versailles; and he was forced to assure them from a balcony, that he was not to retire. I am not accurate in dates, nor warrant my intelligence, and therefore pretend only to send you detached scraps. Force being still in request, the Duc du Chatelet acquainted the King that he could not answer for the French guards. Chatelet, who, from his hot arrogant temper, I should have thought would have been One of the proudest opposers of the people, is suspected to lean to them. In short, Marshal Broglio is appointed commander-in-chief, and is said to have sworn on his sword, that he will not sheathe it till he has plunged it into the heart of ce gros banquier Genevois. I cannot reconcile this with Necker's stay at Versailles. That he is playing a deep game is certain. It is reported that Madame Necker tastes previously every thing he swallows.(647) A vast camp is forming round Paris; but the army is mutinous—the tragedy may begin on the other side. They do talk of an engagement at Metz, where the French troops, espousing the popular cause, were attacked by two German regiments, whom the former cut to pieces. The Duke and Duchess of Devonshire, who were at Paris, have thought it prudent to leave it; and My Cousin, Mr. Thomas Walpole, who is near it, has just written to his daughters, that he is glad to be Out of the town, that he may Make his retreat easily.
Thus, you see the crisis is advanced far beyond orations, and wears all the aspect of civil war. For can one imagine that the whole nation is converted at once, and in some measure without provocation from the King, who, far from enforcing the prerogative like Charles the First, Cancelled the despotism obtained for his grandfather by the Chancellor Maupeou, has exercised no tyranny, and has shown a disposition to let the constitution be amended. It did want it indeed; but I fear the present want of temper grasps at so much, that they defeat their own purposes; and where loyalty has for ages been the predominant characteristic of a nation, it cannot be eradicated at once. Pity will soften the tone of the moment; and the nobility and clergy have more interest in wearing a royal than a popular yoke; for great lords and high-priests think the rights of mankind a defalcation of-their privileges. No man living is more devoted to liberty than I am; yet blood is a terrible price to pay for it! A martyr to liberty is the noblest of characters; but to sacrifice the lives of others, though for the benefit of all, is a strain of heroism that I could never ambition.
I have just been reading Voltaire's Correspondence,—one of those heroes who liked better to excite martyrs, than to be one. How vain would he be, if alive now! I was struck with one of his letters to La Chalotais, who was a true upright patriot and martyr too. In the 221 st Letter of the sixth volume, Voltaire says to him, "Vous avez jett'e des germes qui produiront un jour plus qu'on ne pense." It was lucky for me that you inquired about France; I had not a halfpennyworth more of news in my wallet.
A person who was very apt to call on you every morning for a Minute, and stay three hours, was with me the other day, and his grievance from the rain was the swarms of gnats. I said, I supposed I have very bad blood, for gnats never bite me. He replied, "I believe I have bad blood, too, for dull people, who would tire me to death, never Come Dear me." Shall I beg a pallet-full of that repellent for you, to set in your window as barbers do?
I believe you will make me grow a little of a newsmonger, though you are none; but I know that at a distance, in the country, letters of news are a regale. I am not wont to listen to the batteries on each side of me at Hampton-court and Richmond; but in your absence I shall turn a less deaf ear to them, in hopes of gleaning something that may amuse you: though I shall leave their manufactures of scandal for their own home consumption; you happily do not deal in such wares. Adieu! I used to think the month of September the dullest of the whole set; now I shall be impatient for it.
(644) The name given by Mr. Walpole to parties coming to view his house.-M.B.
(645) Lady Mary-Amelia, daughter of Wills, first Marquis of Downshire; married, in 1773, to James seventh Earl of Salisbury, advanced, in August 1789, to the title of Marquis. Her ladyship was a warm patroness of the art of archery, and a first-rate equestrian. In November 1835, at the age of eighty-four, she was burnt to death at Hatfield-house.-E.
(646) In consequence of a dispute, concerning words said to have been spoken at Daubiny's club, a duel took place at Wimbledon, on the 26th of May, between the Duke of York and Colonel Lenox, afterwards Duke of Richmond. Neither of the parties was wounded; and the seconds, Lords Rawdon and Winchilsea, certified, that both behaved with the utmost coolness and intrepidity.-E.
(647) On the 11th of July, two days after the date of this letter, Necker received his dismission and a formal demand to quit the kingdom. It was accompanied by a note from the King, praying him to depart in a private manner, for fear of exciting disturbances. Necker received this intimation just as he was dressing for dinner-, after which, without divulging his intention to any one, he set out in the evening, with Madame Necker, for Basle. See Mignet, tom. i. p. 47.-E.
Letter 334 To Miss Hannah More.
Strawberry Hill, July 10, 1789. (PAGE 425)
Though I am touchy enough with those I love, I did not think you dilatory, nor expect that answers to letters should be as quick as repartees. I do pity you for the accident that made you think yourself remiss.(648) I enjoy your patient's recovery; but almost smiled unawares at the idea of her being sopped, and coming out of the water brustling up her feathers and ermines, and assuming the dignity of a Jupiter Pluvius.
I beseech you not to fancy yourself vain on my being your printer would Sappho be proud, though Aldus or Elzevir were her typographer? My press has no rank but from its narrowness, that is, from the paucity of its editions, and from being a volunteer. But a truce to compliments, and to reciprocal humility. Pray tell me how I shall convey your parcel to you: the impression is begun. I shall not dare, vu le sujet, to send a copy to Mrs. Garrick;(649) I do not know whether you will venture. Mrs. Boscawen shall have one, but it shall be in your name: so authorize me to present It, that neither of us may tell the whitest of fibs. Shall I deliver any others for you within my reach, to save you trouble?
I have no more corrections to make. I told you brutally at first of the only two faults I found, and you sacrificed them with the patience of a martyr; for I conclude that when a good poet knowingly sins against measure twice, he is persuaded that he makes amends by greater beauties: in such case docility deserves the palmbranch. I do not applaud your declining a London edition; but you have been so tractable, that I will let you have your way in this, though you only make over profit to magazines. Being an honest printer myself, I have little charity for those banditti of my profession who pilfer from every body they find on the road.
(648) "You will think me a great brute and savage, dear Sir, for not having directly thanked you for your letter, till you have read my piece justificative, and then you will think I should have been a greater brute and savage if I had; for the very day I received it, a very amiable neighbour, coming to call on us, was overturned from her phaeton into some water, her husband driving her. The poor lady was brought into our house, to all appearance dying. I thank God, however, she is now out of danger; but our attendance, day and night, on the maimed lady and the distressed husband banished poetry from my thoughts, and suspended all power of writing nonsense." Miss More to Walpole. Memoirs, vol. ii. p. 160.-E.
(649) Mrs. Garrick was a Roman Catholic.-E.
Letter 335 To The Hon. H. S. Conway.
Strawberry Hill, Wednesday night, [July 15, 1789.] (PAGE 425)
I write a few lines only to confirm the truth of much of what you will read in the papers from Paris. Worse may already be come, or is expected every hour. Mr. Mackenzie and Lady Betty called on me before dinner, after the post was gone out; and he showed me a letter from Dutens, who said two couriers arrived yesterday from the Duke of Dorset and the Duchess of Devonshire, the latter of whom was leaving Paris directly. Necker had been dismissed, and was thought to be set out for Geneva. Breteull, who was at his country-house, had been sent for to succeed him. Paris was in an uproar; and, after the couriers had left it, firing of cannon was heard for four hours together. That must have been from the Bastille,(650) as probably the tiers 'etat were not so provided. It is shocking to imagine what may have happened in such a thronged city! One of the couriers was stopped twice or thrice, as supposed to pass from the King; but redeemed himself by pretending to be despatched by the tiers 'etat. Madame de Calonne told Dutens, that the newly encamped troops desert by hundreds.
Here seems the egg to be hatched, and imagination runs away with the idea. I may fancy I shall hear of the King and Queen leaving Versailles, like Charles the First, and then skips imagination six-and-forty years lower, and figures their fugitive majesties taking refuge in this country. I have besides another idea. If the Bastille conquers, still it is impossible, considering the general spirit in the country, and the numerous fortified places in France, but some may be seized by the dissidents, and whole provinces be torn from the crown! On the other hand, if the King prevails, what heavy despotism will the 'etats, by their want of temper and moderation, have drawn on their country! They might have obtained many capital points, and removed great oppression. No French monarch will ever summon 'etats again, if this moment has been thrown away.
Though I have stocked myself with such a set of visions for the event either way, I do not pretend to foresee what will happen. Penetration argues from reasonable probabilities; but chance and folly are apt to contradict calculation, and hitherto they seen) to have full scope for action. One hears of no genius on either side, nor do symptoms of any appear. There will perhaps: such times and tempests bring forth, at least bring out, great men. I do not take the Duke of Orleans or Mirabeau to be built du bois dont on les fait; no, nor Monsieur Necker.(651) He may be a great traitor, if he made the confusion designedly: but it is a woful evasion, if the promised financier slips into a black politician! I adore liberty, but I would bestow it as honestly as I could; and a civil war, besides being a game of chance, is paying a very dear price for it.
For us, we are in most danger of a deluge; though I wonder we so frequently complain of long rains. The saying about St. Swithin is a proof of how often they recur; for proverbial sentences are the children of experience, not of prophecy. Good night! In a few days I shall send you a beautiful little poem from the Strawberry press.
(650) For an interesting account of the storming and destruction of the Bastille, on the 14th of July, see Mr. Shobert's valuable translation of M. Thiers's "History of the French Revolution," vol. i. p. 59.-E.
(651) "It was in vain," says Sir Walter Scott, "that the Marquis de Bouill'e pointed out the dangers arising from the constitution assigned to the States General, and insisted that the minister was arming the Popular part of the nation against the two privileged orders, and that the latter would soon experience the effects of their hatred, Necker calmly replied, that there was a necessary reliance to be placed on the virtues of the human heart—the maxim of a worthy man, but not of an enlightened statesman, who has but too much reason to know how often both the virtues and the prudence of human nature are surmounted by its prejudices and Passions." Life of Napoleon Buonaparte, vol. i, p, 107, ed. 1834.-E.
Letter 336 To Miss Hannah More. Strawberry Hill, Monday night, July 20, 1789. (PAGE 427)
My excellent friend, I never shall be angry with your conscientiousness, though I ) do not promise never to scold it, as you know I think you sometimes carry it too far; and how pleasant to have a friend to scold on such grounds! I see all your delicacy in what you call your double treachery, and your kind desire of connecting two of your friends.(652) The seeds are sprung up already; and the Bishop has already condescended to make me the first, and indeed so unexpected a visit, that, had I in the least surmised it, I should certainly, as became me, have prevented him. One effect, however, I can tell you your pimping between us will have: his lordship has, to please your partiality, flattered me so agreeably in the letter you betrayed, that I shall never write to you again without the dread of attempting the wit he is so liberal as to bestow on me; and then either way I must be dull or affected, though I hope to have the grace to prefer the former, and then you only will be the sufferer, as we both should by the latter. But I will come to facts -. they are plain bodies, can have nothing to do with wit, and yet are not dull to those who have any thing to do with them.