Hiatus non deflendus; for I have neither heard a word, nor had a word to say these three days. Victories do not come every tide, like mackerel, or prizes in the Irish lottery. Yesterday's paper discounted a little of Neapolitan valour; but, as even the Dutch sometimes fight upon recollection, and as there was no account yet of O'Hara's arrival at Toulon, I hope he will laugh or example lor' Signori into spirit.
YOU Will Wonder at my resuming my letter, when I profess having nothing to add to it; but yours of the 7th is just arrived, and I could not make this commenced sheet lie quiet in my writing-box: it would begin gossiping with your letter, though I vowed it shall not Set out till to-morrow. "Why, you empty thing," said I, "how do you know but there may have been a Gazette last night, crammed With vast news, which, as no paper comes out on Sundays, we shall not learn here; and would you be such a goose as to creep through Brentford and Hammersmith and Kensington, where the bells may be drinking some general's health, and will scoff you for asking whose? Indeed you Shall not stir before to-morrow. Lysons is returned from Gloucestershire, and is to dine here to-day; and he will at least bring us a brick, like Harlequin, as a pattern of any town that we may have taken. Moreover, no Post sets out from London on Sunday nights, and you would only sit guzzling—I don't mean you, Miss Berry, but you, my letter-with the clerks of the post-office. Patience till tomorrow."
We have had some rain, even this last night: but the weather is fine all day, and quite warm. I believe it has made an assignation with the Glastonbury Thorn, and that they are to dance together on old Christmas-day. What could I do with myself in London! All my playthings are here, and I have no playfellows left there! Lady Herries's and poor Mrs. Hunter's(872) are shut up. Even the "one game more at cribbage"(873) after supper is on table, which is not my supreme felicity, though accompanied by the Tabor and Pipe,(874) is in the country or, to say all in a word, North Audley-street is in Yorkshire! Reading composes little of my pastime, either in town or country. A catalogue of books and prints, or a dull history of a county, amuse me sufficiently; for now I cannot open a French book, as it would keep alive ideas that I want to banish from my thoughts. When I am tired at home, I go and sit an hour or two with the ladies of Murray,(875) or the Doyleys, and find them conversable and comfortable; and my pessime aller is Richmond.
Monday morning, 11th.
Lysons(876) has been drawing churches in Gloucestershire, and digging out a Roman villa and mosaic pavement near Cirencester, which he means to publish: but he knew nothing outlandish; so if the newspaper does not bring me something fresh for you presently, this limping letter must set out with its empty wallet. Mrs. Piozzi is going to publish a book on English Synonymes. Methinks she had better have studied them, before she stuffed her Travels with so many vulgarisms!(877)
(866) This alludes to some false report of the time.
(867) Lord Viscount Montague was the last male heir of a most noble and ancient family, in a lineal descent from the Lady Lucy Nevill.-E.
(868) Charles Sedley Burdett, second son of Francis Burdett Esq. and brother of Francis, who on the death of his grandfather, Sir Robert Burdett, in 1797, succeeded to the baronetcy.-E.
(869) They insisted on shooting down the, great fall of the Rhine at Schaflhausen in a boat, against the remonstrances of the neighbouring inhabitants and their refusal of every bribe, either to assist or accompany them. They and their boat were shattered to pieces, and their remains were found some days after, at a considerable distance from the scene of their mad exploit.
(870) Richard Tickell, Esq. author of "Anticipation," the " Wreath of Fashion," and other poems. He was a commissioner of the stamp-office, and brother-in-law to Richard Brinsley Sheridan.-E.
(871) "C'est ici l'asile du sommeil 'eternel," was the republican inscription over all the public cemeteries. Pache, Hebert, and Chaumette, the leaders of the municipality, publicly expressed their determination to dethrone the King of Heaven, as well as the kings of the earth. Gebel, the constitutional Bishop of Paris, disowned at the bar of the Convention the existence of a God. On the 10th of November, a female whom they termed the Goddess of Reason, was admitted within the bar, and placed on the right hand of the president. After receiving the fraternal hug, she was mounted on a magnificent car, and conducted to the church of Notre Dame, to take the place of the Holy of Holies; and thenceforth that ancient and imposing cathedral was called "the Temple of Reason," See Thiers, vol. iii, p. 2,25, and Lacretelle, torn. xi. p, 306.-E.
(872) Widow of Dr. John Hunter.
(873) A manner of designating the Countess of Ailesbury.
(874) Two old ladies of his society, whom he thus called.
(875) Sisters to the great Earl of Mansfield.
(876) Samuel Lysons, Esq. brother to the Rev. Daniel Lysons, of whom a notice has been given at p. 438, (letter 344, note 674(, and author of several works relating to the Roman Antiquities of Great Britain. He also published, in conjunction with his brother, the earlier volumes of the "Magna Britannica." In 1804, be succeeded Mr. Astle as keeper of the records in the Tower of London; which office he held till his death in 1819. Mr. Mathias, in November 1797, described him as "one of the most judicious, best-informed, and most learned amateur antiquaries in the kingdom in his department;" and his work on the remains of the Roman villa and pavements near Gloucester, as "such a specimen of ingenuity, unwearied zeal, and critical accuracy in delineating and illustrating the fragments of antiquity, as rarely had been equalled, certainly never surpassed." See Pursuits of Literature.-E.
(877) The following is Mr. Gifford's opinion of the qualifications of the lady for such a work—"Though no one better knows his own house' than I the vanity of this woman; yet the idea of her undertaking it had never entered my head; and I was thunderstruck when I first saw it announced. To execute it with any tolerable degree of success, required a rare combination of talents, among the least of which may be numbered neatness of style, acuteness of perception, and a more than common accuracy of discrimination; and Mrs. Piozzi brought to the task, a jargon long since become proverbial for its vulgarity, an utter incapacity of defining a single term in the language, and just as much Latin from a child's syntax as sufficed to expose the ignorance she so anxiously labours to conceal." See Baviad and Maviad.-E.
Letter 410 To Miss Berry. Berkeley Square, Wednesday, Dec. 4, 1793. (page 552)
I begin my last letter to Bransby, that I may have it ready to send away the moment I shall have any thing worth telling; which I certainly have not yet. What is become of Lord Howe and Co. you may guess if you please, as every body is doing—
"I'm weary of conjectures—"
but shall not end them like Cato, because I take the fate of a whole fleet a little more likely to come to a solution than doubts in metaphysics; and if Lord Howe should at last bring home two or three French men-of-war, one would not be out of the way to receive them. In the mean time, let us chat as if the destiny of half Europe were not at this moment in agitation.
I went on Monday evening with Miss Damer to the little Haymarket, to see "The Children in the Wood," having heard so much of my favourite, young Bannister, in that new piece; which, by the way, is well arranged, and near being fine.(878) He more than answered my expectation, and all I had heard of him. It was one of the most admirable performances I ever saw: his transports of despair and joy are incomparable, and his various countenances would be adequate to the pencil of Salvator Rosa. He made me shed as many tears as I suppose the original old ballad did when I was six years old. Bannister's merit was the more striking, as, before "The Children in the Wood," he had been playing the sailor in "No Song no Supper," with equal nature. I wish I could hope to be as much pleased tomorrow night when I am to go to Jerningham's play; but there is no Bannister at Covent-garden!
On Sunday night I found the Comte de Coigni(879) at Lady Lucan's. He was to set out the next morning with Lord Moira's expedition as a common soldier. This sounded decent and well; but you may guess that he had squeezed a little Frenchism into his intention, and had asked for a vessel and some soldiers to attend him. I don't know whether he has condescended to go without them. I asked him about his daughter; he said, he did not believe she was in prison. Others say, it is the Duchesse de Fleury, her mother-in-law. I have been surprised at not seeing or hearing any thing of poor Fleury(880) but I am told he has been forced to abscond, having narrowly escaped being arrested by a coachmaker, to whom he owed five hundred pounds for carriages: which, to be sure, he must have had, or bespoken at Paris before the revolution.
Yesterday came a letter to the Admiralty, notifying that Lord Howe has taken five of the Brest squadron: but this intelligence is derived through so many somebodys, that handed it to somebodys, that I am not much inclined, except by wishing it true, to believe it. However, the wind has got much more to the west, and now we shall probably not remain much longer in total darkness.
Another account is come to Mrs. Nugent's(881) from her husband, with the same story of the five captive French men-of-war; and so that reading is admitted: but for my part, I will admit nothing but under Lord Howe's own hand. It is tiresome to be like the scene in Amphitryon, and cry one minute "Obvious, obvious!" and the next "Dubious, dubious!" Such fluctuability is fit only for a stock-jobber. Adieu! I must dress and dine, or I shall not be ready to wait on your grandfather Seton.(882)
(878) See the Memoirs of this admirable comedian, by Mr. Adolphus, recently published in two volumes octavo. The drama here spoken of was the production of Mr. Morton, and formed from the ancient ballad of the cruel uncle who murdered his brother's children in a wood, that he might inherit the family estate.-E.
(879) Younger brother of the Duc de Coigni, the grand 'ecuyer of Marie Antoinette and great uncle of the present Duc de Coigni.
(880) The Duc de Fleury, the Count de Coigni's son-in-law.
(881) The wife of Admiral Nugent.
(882) he means Mr. Jerningham's play, the Siege of Berwick.
Letter 411 To The Miss Berrys. Friday, December 13, 1793. (page 553)
You will not wonder at my dulness about the time of your setting out, and of the giles you are to make on the road: you are used to my fits of incomprehension; and, as is natural at my age, I believe they increase. What augmented them was my eagerness to be sure of every opportunity of sending you the earliest intelligence of every event that may happen at this critical period. That impatience has sometimes made me too precipitate in my information. I believed Lord Howe's success too rapidly: you have seen by all the newspapers, that both the ministers and the public were equally credulous, from the collateral channels that imported such assertions! Well! if you have been disappointed of capturing five or six French men-of-war, you must at present stay your appetite by some handsome slices of St. Domingo, and by plentiful goblets of French blood shed by the Duke of Brunswick; which we firmly believe, though the official intelligence was not arrived last night. His Highness, who has been so serene for above a year, seems to have waked to some purpose and, which is not less propitious, his victory indicates that his principal, the King of Prussia, has added no more French jewels to his regalia. I shall like to hear the National Convention accuse him of being bribed by a contrary Pitt's diamond.(883) Here is another comfortable symptom: it looks as if Robespierre would give up Barr'ere. How fortunate that Beelzebubs and Molochs peach one another, like human highwaymen! I will tell you a reflection I have made, and which shows how the worst monsters counteract their own councils. Many formerly, who meant to undermine religion, began by sapping the belief of a devil. Next, by denying God, they have restored Satan to his throne, or will; though the present system is a republic of fiends. The Pandemonium below recalls its agents, as if they were only tribunes of the people elected by temporary factions. Barnave, called the Butcher in the first Convention, is ,gone, like Orleans and Brissot. If we do not presume to interpret judgments, I wonder the monsters themselves do not: enough has happened already to warn them of their own fate!
The Conways are in town for two or three days: they came for Mr. Jerningham's play. Harris had at last allowed him the fourth night; and he had a good night. I have a card from Lady Amherst for Monday; and shall certainly go, as my lord behaved so nobly about our cousin.(884) I have another from the Margravine of Anspach, to sup at Hammersmith; whither I shall certainly not go, but plead the whole list of chronical distempers. Do you think if the whole circle of Princes of Westphalia were to ask me for next Thursday evening,(885) that I would accept the invitation?
Saturday, Dec. 14, 1793.
I am glad this is to be the last of my gazettes. I am tired of notifying and recalling the articles of news: not that I am going to dislaurel the Duke of Brunswick; but not a sprig is yet come in confirmation. Military critics even conjecture, by the journals from Manheim and Frankfort, that the German victories have not been much more than repulses of the French, and have been bought dearly. I have inclined to believe the best from Wurmser; but I confess my best hopes are from the factions of Paris. If the gangrene does not gain the core, how calculate the duration? It has already baffled all computation, all conjecture. One wonders now that France, in its totality, was not more fatal to Europe than even it was. Is not it astonishing, that after five years of such havoc, such emigrations, expulsions, massacres, annihilation of commerce, evanition Of specie, and real or impending famine, they can still furnish and support armies against us and the Austrians in Flanders, against the Duke of Brunswick and Wurmser, against us at Toulon, against the King of Sardinia, against Spain, against the Royalists in La Vend'ee, and along the coast against our expedition under Lord Moira; and though we have got fifteen of their men-of-war at Toulon, they have sixteen, or more, at Brest, and are still impertinent with a fry of privateers? Consider, too, that all this spirit is kept up by the most extravagant lies, delusions, rhodomontade; by the extirpation of the usual root of enthusiasm, religion; and by the terror of murder, that ought to revolt all mankind. If such a system of destruction does not destroy itself, there is an end of that ignis fatuus, human reason; and French policy must govern, or exterminate mankind.
I this moment received Your Thursday's note, with that for your housekeeper, who is in town, and with those sweet words, "You need not leave a card; we shall be at home." I do not believe I shall send you an excuse. Marshal Conway has stopped in to tell me, he has Just met with his nephew, Lord Yarmouth,(886) who has received a letter from a foreign minister at Manheim, who asserts all the Duke of Brunswick's victories, and the destruction or dispersion of the French army in that quarter. The Earl maintains, that the King of Prussia's politics are totally changed to the right, and that eighteen thousand more of his troops have joined the allies. I should like to know, and to have the Convention know, that the murder of the Queen of France has operated this revulsion.
I hope I send you no more falsehoods-at least, you must allow, that it is not on bad authority. If Lord Howe has disappointed you, you will accept the prowess of the virago his sister, Mrs. Howe.(887) As soon as it was known that her brother had failed, a Jacobin mob broke her windows, mistaking them for his. She lifted up the sash, and harangued them; told them, that was not the house of her brother, Who lives in the other part of Grafton-street, and that she herself is a widow, and that that house is hers. She stilled the waves, and they dispersed quietly.
There! There end my volumes, to my great satisfaction! If we are to have any bonfires or illuminations, you will be here to light them Yourselves. Adieu to Yorkshire!
(883) He means bribed by the then prime minister.
(884) Lord Amherst, the then commander-in-chief, had appointed a cousin of Miss Berry's to an ensigncy, on his recommendation.
(885) The persons addressed were to arrive in London.
(886) The present Marquis of Hertford.
(887) A person of distinguished abilities, She possessed an extraordinary force of mind, clearness of understanding, and remarkable powers of thought and combination, She retained them unimpaired to the great age of eighty-five, by exercising them daily, both in the practice of mathematics and in reading the two dead languages; of which, late in life, she had made herself mistress. To those acquirements must be added warm. and lively feelings, joined to a perfect knowledge of the world and of the society of which she had always been a distinguished member. Mr. Walpole, from misinformation of her conduct towards a friend of his in earlier life, had never done justice to her character—a mistake, in which she did not participate, relative to him.-M.B.
Letter 412 To The Hon. H. S. Conway. Berkeley Square, Jan. 10, 1794. (page 555)
I certainly sympathize with you on the reversed and gloomy prospect of affairs, too extensive to detail in a letter; nor indeed do I know any thing more than I collect from newspapers and public reports; and those are so overcharged with falsehoods on all sides, that, if one waits for truth to emerge, one finds new subjects to draw one's attention before firm belief can settle its trust on any. That the mass and result are bad, is certain; and though I have great alacrity in searching for comforts and grounds of new hopes, I am puzzled as much in seeking resources, as in giving present credit. Reasonine is out of the question: all calculation is baffled: nothing happens that Sense Or experience said was probable. I wait to see what will happen, without a guess at what is to be expected. A storm, when the Parliament meets, will no doubt be attempted. How the ministers are prepared to combat it, I don't know, but I hope sufficiently, if it spreads no farther: at least I think they have no cause to fear the new leader who is to make the attack.
I have neither seen Mr. Wilson's book(888) nor his answerers. So far from reading political pamphlets, I hunt for any books, except modern novels, that will not bring France to my mind, or that at least will put it out for a time. But every fresh person one sees, revives the conversation: and excepting a long succession of fogs, nobody talks of any thing else; nor of private news do I know a tittle. Adieu!
(888) It was entitled "A Letter, Commercial and Political, addressed to the Right Hon. William Pitt-, by Jasper Wilson, jun. Esq." The real author was Dr. Currie, the friend of Mr. Wilberforce; who commends it, "as exhibiting originality of thought and force of expression, and solving, finely the phenomena of revolutions." See Life, vol. ii. p. 13.-E.
Letter 413 To Miss Berry. Thursday evening, April 16, 1794. (page 556)
I am delighted that you have such good weather for your villeggiatura. The sun has not appeared here to-day; yet it has been so warm, that he may not be gone out of town, and only keeps in because it is unfashionable to be seen in London at Easter. All my evening customers are gone, except Mrs. Damer, and she is at home to-night with the Greatheds and Mrs. Siddons, and a few more; and she had a mind I should go to her, I had a mind too; but think myself still too weak: after confinement for fourteen weeks, it seems formidable to sally forth. I have heard no novelty since you 'went, but of more progress in Martinico; on which it is said there is to be a Gazette, and which, I suppose, gave a small fillip to the stocks this morning: though my Jew, whom I saw again this morning, ascribed the rise to expectation in the City of news of a counter-revolution at Paris;-but a revolution to be, generally proves an addled egg.
The Gazette arrives, and little of Martinico remained unconquered. The account from Sir Charles Gray is one continued panegyric on the conduct of our officers soldiers, and sailors; who do not want to be driven on 'a la Dumaurier, by cannon behind them and on both sides. A good quantity of artillery and stores is taken too, and only two officers and about seventy men killed. There is a codicil to the Gazette, with another post taken—the map, I suppose, knows where I do not—but you, who are a geographess, will, or easily find it out.
At my levee before dinner, I had Mrs. Buller, Lady Lucan, Sir Charles Blagden, Mr. Coxe, and Mr. Gough. This was a good day; I have not always so welcome a circle. I have run through both volumes of Mrs. Piozzi. Here and there she does not want parts, has some good translations, and stories that are new; particularly an admirable bon-mot of Lord Chesterfield, which I never heard before, but dashed with her cruel vulgarisms: see vol. ii. p. 291. The story, I dare to say, never happened, but was invented by the Earl himself; to introduce his reply. The sun never was the emblem of Louis Quinze, but of Louis Quatorze; In whose time his lordship was not ambassador, nor the Czarina Empress: nor, foolish as some ambassadors are, could two of them propose devices for toasts; as if, like children, they were playing at pictures and mottoes: and what the Signora styles a public toust, the Earl, I conclude, called a great dinner then. I have picked out a motto for her work in her own words, and written it on the title-page: "Simplicity cannot please without eloquence!" Now I think on't, let me ask if you have been as much diverted as you was at first? and have not two such volumes sometimes set you a'yawning? It is comic, that in a treatise on synonymous words, she does not know which are and which are not so. In the chapter on worth, she says, "The worth -even of money fluctuates in our state;" instead of saying in this country. Her very title is wrong; as she does not even mention synonymous Scottish words: it ought to be called not British, but English Synonymy.
Mr. Courtenay has published some epistles in rhyme, in which he has honoured me with a dozen lines, and which are really some of the best in the whole set-in ridicule of my writings. One couplet, I suppose, alludes to my Strawberry verses on you and your sister. Les voici—
"Who to love tunes his note, with the fire of old age, And chirps the trim lay in a trim Gothic cage!"
If I were not as careless as I am about literary fame, still, this censure would be harmless indeed; for except the exploded story of Chatterton, of which I washed myself as white as snow, Mr. Courtenay falls on my choice of subjects—as, of Richard the Third and the Mysterious Mother—and not on the execution; though I fear there is enough to blame in the texture of them. But this new piece of criticism, or whatever it is, made me laugh, as I am offered up on the tomb of my poor mad nephew; who is celebrated for one of his last frantic acts, a publication in some monthly magazine, with an absurd hypothesis on "the moon bursting from the earth, and the earth from the sun, somehow or other:" but how, indeed, especially from Mr. Courtenay's paraphrase, I have too much sense to comprehend. However, I am much obliged to him for having taken such pains to distinguish me from my lunatic precursor, that even the European Magazine, when I shall die, will not be able to confound us. Richard the Third would be sorry to have it thought hereafter, that I had ever been under the care of Dr. Munro. Well! good night!
Letter 414 To Miss Hannah More. April 27, 1794. (page 558)
This is no plot to draw you into committing even a good deed on a Sunday, which I suppose the literality of your conscience would haggle about, as if the day of the week constitutes the sin, and not the nature of the crime. But you may defer your answer till to-night is become to-morrow by the clock having struck one; and then you may do an innocent thing without any guilt, which a quarter of an hour sooner you would think abominable. Nay, as an Irishman would say, you need not even read this note till the canonical hour is past.
In short, my dear Madam), I gave your obliging message to Lady Waldegrave, who will be happy to see you on Tuesday, at one o'clock But as her staircase is very bad, as she is in a lodging, I have proposed that this meeting, for which I have been pimping between two female saints, may be held here in my house, as I had the utmost difficulty last night in climbing her scala santa, and I cannot undertake it again. But if you are so good as to send me a favourable answer to-morrow, I will take care you shall find her here at the time I mentioned, with your true admirer.
Letter 415 To The Miss Berrys. Strawberry Hill, Saturday night, Sept. 27, 1794. (page 558)
I have been in town, as I told you I should, but gleaned nothing worth repeating, or I Would have wrote before I came away. The Churchills left me on Thursday, and were succeeded by the Marshal and Mr. Taylor, who dined and stayed all night. I am now alone, having reserved this evening to answer your long, and Agnes's short letter; but in this single one to both, for I have not matter enough for a separate maintenance. I went yesterday to Mrs. Damer, and had a glimpse of her new house; literally a glimpse, for I saw but one room on the first floor, where she had lighted a fire, that I might not mount two flights; and as it was eight o'clock, and quite dark, she only opened a door or two, and gave me a cat's-eye view into them. One blemish I had descried at first; the house has a corner arrival like her father's. Ah, me! who do not love to be led through the public. I did see the new bust of Mrs. Siddons, and a very mistressly performance it is indeed. Mrs. Damer was surprised at my saying I should expect you after you had not talked of returning near so soon. another week; she said. "I do not mention this, as if to gainsay your intention; on the contrary, I hope and beg you will stay as long as either of you thinks she finds the least benefit from it: and after that, too, as long as you both like to stay. I reproached myself so sadly, and do still, for having dragged you from Italy sooner than you intended, and am so grateful for your having had that complaisance, that unless I grow quite superannuated, I think I shall not be so selfish as to combat the inclination of either again. It is natural for me to delight in your company; but I do not even wish for it, if it lays you under any restraint. I have lived a thousand years to little purpose, if I have not learned that half a century more than the age of one's friends is not an agr'ement de plus.
I wish you had seen Canterbury some years ago, before they whitewashed it; for it is so coarsely daubed, and thence the gloom is so totally destroyed, and so few tombs remain for so vast a mass, that I was shocked at the nudity of the whole. If you should go thither again, make the Cicerone show you a pane of glass in the east window, which does open, and exhibits a most delicious view of the ruins Of St. Anstin's.
Mention of Canterbury furnishes me with a very suitable opportunity for telling you a remarkable story, which I had from Lady Onslow t'other night, and which was related to her by Lord Ashburnham, on whose veracity you may depend. In the hot weather of this last summer, his lordship's very old uncle, the Bishop of Chichester,(889) was waked in his palace at four o'clock in the morning by his bedchamber door being opened, when a female figure, all in white, entered, and sat down near him. The prelate, who protests he was not frightened, said in a tone of authority, but not with the usual triple adjuration, "Who are you?" Not a word of reply; but the personage heaved a profound sigh. The Bishop rang the bell; but the servants were so sound asleep, that nobody heard him. He repeated his question: still no answer; but another deep sigh. Then the apparition took some papers out of the ghost of its pocket, and began to read them to itself. At last, when the Bishop had continued to ring, and nobody to come, the spectre rose and departed as sedately as it had arrived. When the servants did at length appear, the bishop cried, "Well! what have you seen?" "Seen, my lord!" "Ay, seen; or who, what is the woman that has been here?" "Woman my lord!" (I believe one of the fellows smiled; though, to do her justice, Lady Onslow did not say so.) In short, when my lord had related his vision, his domestics did humbly apprehend that his lordship had been dreaming; and so did his whole family the next morning, for in this our day even a bishop's household does not believe in ghosts: and yet it is most certain that the good man had been in no dream, and told nothing but what he had seen; for, as the story circulated, and diverted the ungodly at the prelate's expense, it came at last to the ears of a keeper of a mad-house in the diocese, who came and deposed, that a female lunatic under his care had escaped from his custody, and, finding the gate of the palace open, had marched up to my lord's chamber. The deponent further said, that his prisoner was always reading a bundle of papers. I have known stories of ghosts, solemnly authenticated, less credible; and I hope you will believe this, attested by a father of our own church.
Sunday night, 28th, 1794.
I have received another letter from dear Mary, of the 26th; and here is one for sweet Agnes enclosed. By her account of Broadstairs, I thought you at the North Pole; but if you are, the whales must be metamorphosed into gigs and whiskies, or split into them, as heathen gods would have done, or Rich the harlequin. You talk of Margate, but say nothing of Kingsgate, where Charles Fox's father scattered buildings of all sorts, but in no style of architecture that ever appeared before or has since, and in no connexion with or to any other, and in all directions; and yet the oddity and number made that naked, though fertile soil, smile and look cheerful. Do you remember Gray's bitter lines on him and his vagaries and history?(890)
I wish on your return, if in good weather, you would contrive to visit Mr. Barrett's at Lee; it is but four miles from Canterbury. You will see a child of Strawberry prettier than the parent, and so executed and so finished! There is a delicious closet, too, so flattering to me: and a prior's library so antique, and that does such honour to Mr. Wyat's taste! Mr. Barrett, I am Most sure, would be happy to show his house to you; and I know, if you tell him that I beg it, he will produce the portrait of Anne of Cleve by Holbein, in the identic ivory box, turned like a Provence rose, as it Was brought over for Henry the Eighth. It will be a great favour, and it must be a fine day; for it lives in cotton and clover, and he justly dreads exposing it to any damp. He has some other good pictures; and the whole place is very pretty, though retired.
The Sunday's paper announces a dismal defeat of Clairfait; and now, if true, I doubt the French will drive the Duke of York into Holland, and then into the sea! Ora pro nobis!
P. S. If this is not a long letter, I do not know what is. The story of the ghost should have arrived on this, which is St. Goose's-day, or the commemoration of the ignoble army of martyrs, who have suffered in the persecution under that gormandizing archangel St. Michael.
(889) The Right Rev. Sir William Ashburnham, Bart, his lordship died at a very advanced age, in September 1797. He was the father of the bench, and the only bishop not appointed by George the Third.-E.
(890) Entitled "Impromptu, suggested by a view, in 1766, of the seat and ruins of a deceased Nobleman, at Kingsgate, Kent." See Gray's Works, vol. i. p. 161, ed. 1836.-E.
Letter 416 To Miss Berry. Strawberry Hill, Tuesday, Oct. 7, 1794. (page 561)
Your answer, which I own arrived a day sooner than I flattered myself it would—I wish it could have told me how you passed the storm of Sunday night it has not only relieved me from all anxiety on the subject, but has made me exceedingly happy; for though I mistook you for a moment, it has proved to me, that I had judged perfectly right of your excellent and most uncommon understanding. Astonished I was, no doubt, while I conceived that you wished to be placed in a situation so unworthy of your talents and abilities and knowledge, and powers of conversation.(891) I never was of a court myself; but from my birth and the position of my father, could but, for my first twenty years, know much of the nature of the beast; and, from my various connexions since, I have seldom missed farther opportunities of keeping up my acquaintance even with the interior. The world in general is not ignorant of the complexion of most courts; though ambition, interest, and vanity, are always willing to leap over their information, or to fancy they can counteract it: but I have no occasion to probe that delusion, nor to gainsay your random opinion, that a court life may be eligible for women. Yes, for the idle ones you specify, perhaps so;-for respectable women I think much less than even for men. I do not mean with regard to what is called their character; as if there were but one virtue with which women have any concern-I speak of their understanding, and consequential employment of their time. In a court there must be much idleness, even without dissipation; and amongst the female constituents, much self-importance ill-founded; some ambition, Jealousy, envy-and thence hatred, insincerity, little intrigues for credit, and—but I am talking as if there were any occasion to dissuade you from what you despise and I have only stated what occasioned my surprise at your thinking of what you never did think at all. Still, while I did suppose that in any pore of your heart there did lurk such a wish, I did give a great gulp and swallowed down all attempts to turn your thoughts aside from it—and why? Yes, and you must be ready to ask me, how such a true friend could give into the hint without such numerous objections to a plan so unsuitable for you! Oh! for strong reasons too. In the first place, I was sure, that, without my almost century of experience, your good sense must have anticipated all my arguments. You often confute my desultory logic on points less important, as I frequently find; but the true cause of my assenting, without suffering a sigh to escape me was, because I was conscious that I could not dissuade you fairly, without a grain or more of self mixing in the argument. I would not trust myself with myself. I would not act again as I did when you was in Italy; and answered you as fast as I could, lest self should relapse. Yet, though it did not last an hour, what a combat it was! What a blow to my dream of happiness, should you be attached to a court! for though you, probably, would not desert Cliveden entirely, how distracted would Your time be!—But I will not enter into the detail of my thoughts; you know how many posts they travel in a moment, when my brain is set at work, and how firmly it believes all it imagines: besides the defalcation of your society, I saw the host of your porphyrogeniti, from top to bottom, bursting on my tranquillity. But enough: I conquered all these dangers, and still another objection rose when I had discovered the only channel I could open to your satisfaction, I had no little repugnance to the emissary I was to employ.(892) Though it is my intention to be equitable to him, I should be extremely sorry to give him a shadow of claim on me; and you know those who might hereafter be glad to conclude, that it was no wonder they should be disappointed, when gratitude on your account had been my motive. But my cares are at an end; and though I have laboured through two painful days, the thorns of which were sharpened, not impeded, by the storm, I am rejoiced at the blunder I made, as it has procured me the kindest, and most heart-dictated, and most heartfelt letter, that ever was written; for which I give you millions of thanks. Forgive my injurious surmise; for you see, that though you can wound my affection, you cannot allay its eagerness to please you, at the expense of my own satisfaction and peace.
Having stated with most precise truth all I thought related to yourself I do resume and repeat all I have said both in this and my former letter, and renew exactly the same offers to my sweet Agnes, if she has the least wish for what I supposed you wished. Nay, I owe still more to her; for I think she left Italy more unwillingly than you did, and gratitude to either is the only circumstance that can add to my affection for either. I can swallow my objections to trying my nephew as easily for her as for you; but, having had two days and a half for thinking the whole case over, I have no sort of doubt but the whole establishment must be completely settled by this time; or that, at most, if any, places are not fixed yet, It must be from the strength and variety of contending interests: and, besides, the new Princess will have fewer of each class of attendants than a queen; and I shall not be surprised if there should already be a brouillerie between the two courts about some or many of the nominations: and though the interest I thought of trying was the only one I could pitch upon, I do not, on reflection, suppose that a person just favoured has favour enough already to recommend others. Hereafter that may be better: and (" still more feasible method, I think, would be to obtain a promise against a vacancy; which, at this great open moment nobody will think of asking, when the present is so uppermost in their minds: and now my head is cool, perhaps I could strike out more channels, should your sister be so inclined. But of that we will talk when we meet.
I have received the second letter that I expected, and it makes me quite happy on all the points that disquieted me; on the court, on the tempest, and I hope on privateers, as you have so little time to stay on Ararat, and the winds that terrify me for you, will, I trust, be as formidable to them. Above, all, I rejoice at your approaching return; on which I would not say a syllable seriously, not only because I would have you please yourselves, but that you may profit as much as possible by change of air. I retract all my mistake; and though, perhaps, I may have floundered on with regard to A., still I have not time to correct or write any part of it over again. Besides, every word was the truth of my heart; and why should not you see what is or was in it? Adieu!
(891) This alludes to a wish he supposed Miss Berry to have had for a nomination in the household of Caroline Princess of Wales, then forming.-M.B.
(892) Lord Cholmondeley, then residing in the Isle of Thanet.
Letter 417To The Miss Berrys. October 17, 1794. (page 563)
I had not the least doubt of Mr. Barrett's showing you the greatest attention: he is a most worthy man, and has a most sincere friendship for me, and I was sure would mark to any persons that I love. I do not guess what your criticisms on his library will be: I do not think we shall agree in them; for to me it is the most perfect thing I ever saw, and has the most the air it was intended to have—that of an abbot's library, supposing it could have been so exquisitely finished three hundred years ago. But I am sorry he will not force Mr. Wyat to place the Mabeuse over the chimney; which is the sole defect, as not distinguished enough for the principal feature of the room. My closet is as perfect in its way as the library; and it would be difficult to suspect that it had not been a remnant of the ancient convent, only newly painted and gilt. My cabinet, nay, nor house, convey any conception; every true Goth must perceive that they are more the works of fancy than of imitation.
I believe the less that our opinions will coincide, as you speak so slightingly of the situation of Lee, which I admire. What a pretty circumstance is the little river! and so far from the position being insipid, to me it has a tranquil cheerfulness that harmonizes with the house, and seems to have been the judicious selection of a wealthy abbot, who avoided ostentation, but did not choose austere gloomth. I do not say that Lee is as gay as a watering-place upon a naked beach. I am very glad, and much obliged to you for having consented to pass the night at Lee. I am sure it made Mr. Barrett very happy. I shall let him know how pleased you was; and I too, for his attentions to you.
The mass of politics is so inauspicious, that if I tapped it, I should not finish my letter for the post, and my reflections would not contribute to your amusement; which I should be sorry to interrupt, and -which I beg you to pursue as long as it is agreeable to you. It is satisfaction enough to me to know you are happy; and it is my study to make you so, as far as my little power can extend: and, as I promised you on your Condescension in leaving Italy at my prayer, I will never object to whatever you like to do, and will accept, and Wait with patience for, any moments you will bestow on your devoted Orford.
Letter 418 To The Rev. William Beloe.(893) Strawberry Hill, Dec. 2, 1794. (page 564)
I do beg and beseech you, good Sir, to forgive me, if I cannot possibly consent to receive the dedication you are so kind and partial as to propose to me. I have in the most positive, and almost uncivil manner, refused a dedication or two lately. Compliments on virtues which the persons addressed, like me, seldom possessed, are happily exploded and laughed out of use. Next to being ashamed of having good qualities bestowed on me to which I should have no title, it would hurt to be praised on my erudition, which is most superficial; and on my trifling writings, all of which turn on most trifling subjects. They amused me while writing them; may have amused a few persons; but have nothing solid enough to preserve them from being forgotten with other things of as light a nature. I Would not have your judgment called in question hereafter, if somebody reading your Aulus Gellius should ask, "What were those writings of Lord O. which Mr. Beloe so much commends? Was Lord O. more than one of the mob of gentlemen who wrote with ease?" Into that class I must sink; and I had rather do so imperceptibly, than to be plunged down to it by the interposition of the hand of a friend, who could not gainsay the sentence.
For your own sake, my good Sir, as well as in pity to my feelings, who am sore at your offering what I cannot accept, restrain the address to a mere inscription. You are allowed to be an excellent translator of classic authors; how unclassic would a dedication in the old-fashioned manner appear! If you had published a new edition of Herodotus or Aulus Gellius, would you have ventured to prefix a Greek or Latin dedication to some modern lord with a Gothic title'! Still less, had those addresses been in vogue at Rome,. would any Roman author have inscribed his work to Marcus, the incompetent son of Cicero, and told the unfortunate offspring of so great a man, Of his high birth and declension of ambition? which would have excited a laugh on poor Marcus, who, whatever may have been said of him, had more sense than to leave proofs to the public of his extreme inferiority to his father.
(893) Rector of Allhallows, London Wall, prebendary of Pancras in St. Paul's cathedral, and prebendary of Lincoln. In 1791, be published a translation of Herodotus, and in 1795, the translation of the "Attic Nights of Aulus Gellius," referred to in the above letter. He was also the author of " Anecdotes of Literature and Scarce Books," in six volumes octavo; and after his death, which took place in 1817, appeared "The Sexagenarian, or Recollections of a Literary Life;" which, though a posthumous publication, was printed under his inspection.-E.
Letter 419 To Miss Hannah More. Berkeley Square, Saturday night, Jan. 24, 1795. (page 565)
My best Madam, I will never more complain of your silence; for I am perfectly convinced that you have no idle, no unemployed moments. Your indefatigable benevolence is incessantly occupied in good works; and your head and your heart make the utmost use of the excellent qualities of both. You have given proofs of the talents of one, and you certainly do not wrap the still more precious talent of the other in a napkin. Thank you a thousand times for your most ingenious plan; may great success reward you! I sent one instantly to the Duchess of Gloucester, whose piety and zeal imitate yours at a distance: but she says she cannot afford to subscribe just at this severe moment, when the poor so much want her assistance, but she will on the thaw, and should have been flattered by receiving a plan from yourself. I sent another to Lord Harcourt, who, I trust, will show it to a much greater lady; and I repeated some of the facts you told me of the foul fiends, and their anti-More activity. I sent to Mr. White for half a dozen more of your plans, and will distribute them wherever I have hopes of their taking root and blossoming. To-morrow I will send him my subscription;(894) and I flatter myself you will not think it a breach of Sunday, nor will I make this long, that I may not widen that fracture. Good night! How calm and comfortable must your slumbers be on the pillow of every day's good deeds!
Yesterday was as dark as midnight. Oh! that it may be the darkest day in all respects that we shall see! But these are themes too voluminous and dismal for a letter, and which your zeal tells me you feel too intensely for me to increase, when you are doing all in your power to counteract them. One of my grievances is, that the sanguinary inhumanity Of the times has almost poisoned one's compassion, and makes one abhor so many thousands of our own species, and rejoice when they suffer for their crimes. I could feel no pity on reading the account of the death of Condorcet (if true, though I doubt it). He was one of the greatest monsters exhibited by history; and is said to have poisoned himself from famine and fear of the guillotine; and would be a new instance of what I suggested to you for a tract, to show, that though we must not assume a pretension to judging of divine judgments, yet we may believe that the economy of Providence has so disposed causes and consequences, that such villains as Danton, Robespierre, the Duke of Orleans, etc. etc. etc. do but dig pits for themselves. I will check myself, or I shall wander into the sad events of the last five years, down to the rage of party that has sacrificed Holland! What a fund for reflection and prophetic apprehension! May we have as much wisdom and courage to stem our malevolent enemies, as it is plain, to our lasting honour, we have had charity to the French emigrants, and have bounty for the poor who are suffering in this dreadful season!
Adieu! thou excellent woman! thou reverse of that hyena in petticoats, Mrs. Wolstoncroft, who to this day discharges her ink and gall on Marie Antoinette, whose unparalleled sufferings have not Yet stanched that Alecto's blazing ferocity. Adieu! adieu! Yours from my heart.
P. S. I have subscribed five guineas at Mr. White's to your plan.
(894) To the fund for promoting the printing and dispersion of the works sold at the Cheap Repository.
Letter 420 To Miss Hannah More. Berkeley Square, Feb. 13, 1795. (page 566)
I received your letter and packet of lays and virelays, and heartily wish they may fall in bad ground, and produce a hundred thousand fold, as I doubt is necessary. How I admire the activity of your zeal and perseverance! Should a new church ever be built, I hope in a side chapel there will be an altar dedicated to St. Hannah, Virgin and Martyr; and that Your pen, worn to the bone, will be enclosed in a golden reliquaire, and preserved on the shrine.
These few words I have been forced to dictate, having had the gout ill my right hand above this fortnight; but I trust it is going off The Duchess was much pleased with your writing to her, and ordered me to thank you. Your friend Lady Waldegrave is in town, and looks very well. Adieu, best of women! Yours most cordially.(895)
(895) In a letter to her sister, dated from Fulham Palace, Miss More says,—"Lord Orford has presented me with Bishop Wilson's edition of the Bible, in three volumes quarto, superbly bound in morocco (Oh! that he would himself study that blessed book), to which, in the following most flattering inscription, he attributes my having done far more good than is true—
"To his excellent friend, MISS HANNAH MORE, THE BOOK, which he knows to be the dearest object of her study, and by which, to the great comfort and relief of numberless afflicted and distressed individuals, she has profited beyond any person with whom he is acquainted, is offered, as a mark of his esteem and gratitude, by her sincere and obliged humble servant, Horace, Earl of Orford, 1795."
Letter 421 To William Roscoe, Esq. Berkeley Square, April 4, 1795. (page 567)
To judge of my satisfaction and gratitude on receiving the very acceptable present of your book,(896) Sir, you should have known my extreme impatience for it from the instant Mr. Edwards had kindly favoured me with the first chapters. You may consequently conceive the mortification I felt at not being able to thank you immediately both for the volume and the obliging letter that accompanied it, by my right arm and hand being swelled and rendered quite immovable and useless, of which you will perceive the remains if you can read these lines which I am forcing myself to write, not without pain, the first moment I have power to hold 'a pen; and it will cost me some time, I believe, before I can finish my whole letter, earnest as I am, Sir, to give a loose to my gratitude.
If you ever had the pleasure of reading such a delightful book as your own, imagine, Sir, what a comfort it must be to receive such an anodyne in the midst of a fit of the gout that has already lasted above nine weeks, and which at first I thought might carry me to Lorenzo de' Medici before he should come to me.
The complete volume has more than answered the expectations which the sample had raised. The Grecian simplicity of the style is preserved throughout; the same judicious candour reigns in every page; and without allowing yourself that liberty of indulging your own bias towards good or against criminal characters, which over-rigid critics prohibit, your artful candour compels your readers to think with you, without seeming to take a part yourself. You have shown from his own virtues, abilities, and heroic spirit, why Lorenzo deserved to have Mr. Roscoe for his biographer. And since you have been so, Sir, (for he was not completely known before, at least out of Italy,) I shall be extremely mistaken if he is not henceforth allowed to be, in various lights, one of the most excellent and greatest men with whom we are well acquainted, especially if we reflect on the shortness of his life and the narrow sphere in which he had to act. Perhaps I ought to blame my own ignorance, that I did not know Lorenzo as a beautiful poet: I confess I did not. Now I do, I own I admire some of his sonnets more than several-yes, even of Petrarch; for Lorenzo's are frequently more clear, less alembiquis, and not inharmonious as Petrarch's often are from being too crowded with words, for which room is made by numerous elisions, which prevent the softening alternacy of vowels and consonants. That thicket of words was occasioned by the embarrassing nature of the sonnet: a form of composition I do not love, and which is almost intolerable in any language but Italian, which furnishes such a profusion of rhymes. To our tongue the sonnet is mortal, and the parent of insipidity. The Mutation in some degree of it was extremely noxious to a true poet, our Spenser; and he was the more injudicious by lengthening his stanza in a language so barren of rhymes as ours, and in which several words, whose terminations are of similar sounds, are so rugged, uncouth, and unmusical. The consequence was, that many lines which he forced into the service to complete the quota of his stanza are unmeaning, or silly, or tending to weaken the thought he would express.
Well, Sir: but if you have led me to admire the compositions of Lorenzo, you have made me intimate with another poet, of whom I had never heard nor had the least suspicion; and who, though writing in a less harmonious language than Italian, outshines an able master of that country, as may be estimated by the fairest of all comparisons -which is, when one of each nation versifies the same ideas and thoughts. That novel poet I boldly pronounce is Mr. Roscoe. Several of his translations of' Lorenzo are superior to the originals, and the verses more poetic; nor am I bribed to give this opinion by the present of your book, nor by any partiality, nor by the surprise of finding so pure a writer of history as able a poet. Some good judges to whom I have shown your translations entirely agree with me. I will name one most competent judge, Mr. Hoole, so admirable a poet himself, and such a critic in Italian, as he has proved by a translation of Ariosto. That I am not flattering you, Sir, I will demonstrate; for I am not satisfied with one essential line in your version of the most beautiful, I think, of all Lorenzo's stanzas. It is his description of Jealousy, in page 268, equal, in my humble opinion, to Dryden's delineations of the Passions, and the last line of which is—
Mai dorme, ed ostinata, a se sol crede.
The thought to me is quite new, and your translation I own does not come up to it. Mr. Hoole and I hammered at it, but could not content ourselves. Perhaps by altering your last couplet you may enclose the whole sense, and make it equal to the preceding six.
I will not ask your pardon, Sir, for taking so much liberty with you. You have displayed so much candour and are so free from pretensions, that I am confident you will allow that truth is the sole ingredient that ought to compose deserved incense; and if ever commendation was sincere, no praise ever flowed with purer veracity than all I have said in this letter does from the heart of, Sir, your infinitely obliged humble servant.
(896) His History of the Life of Lorenzo de' Medici.
Letter 422 To The Hon. H. S. Conway. Strawberry Hill, July 2, 1795. (page 569)
I will write a word to you, though scarce time to write one, to thank you for your great kindness about the soldier, who shall get a substitute if he can. As you are, or have been in town, your daughter will have told you in what a bustle I am, preparing—not to resist, but, to receive an invasion of royalties to-morrow; and cannot even escape them like Admiral Cornwallis, though seeming to make a semblance; for I am to wear a sword, and have appointed two aides-de-camp, My nephews, George and Horace Churchill. If I fall, as ten to one but I do, to be sure it will be a superb tumble, at the feet of a Queen and eight daughters of Kings; for, besides the six Princesses, I am to have the Duchess of York and the Princess of Orange! Wo is me, at seventy-eight, and with scarce a hand and foot to my back! Adieu! Yours, etc. A poor old remnant.
Letter 423 To The Hon. H. S. Conway. Strawberry Hill, July 7, 1795. (page 569)
I am not dead of fatigue with my royal visitors, as I expected to be, though I was on my poor lame feet three whole hours. Your daughter, who kindly assisted me in doing the honours, will tell you the particulars, and how prosperously I succeeded. The Queen was uncommonly condescending and gracious, and deigned to drink my health when I presented her with the last glass, and to thank me for all my attentions. Indeed my memory de la vieille cour was but once in default. As I had been assured that her Majesty would be attended by her chamberlain, yet was not, I had no glove ready when I received her at the step of her coach: yet she honoured me with her hand to lead her up stairs; nor did I recollect my omission when I led her down again. Still, though gloveless, I (fid not squeeze the royal hand, as Vice-chamberlain Smith did to Queen Mary.(897)
You will have stared, as I did, at the Elector of Hanover deserting his ally the King of Great Britain, and making peace with the monsters. But Mr. Fawkener, whom I saw at my sister's on Sunday, laughs at the article in the newspapers, and says it is not an unknown practice for stock-jobbers to have an emissary at the rate of five hundred pounds, and despatch to Frankfort, whence he brings forged attestations of some marvellous political event, and spreads it on 'Change, which produces such a fluctuation in the stocks as amply overpays the expense of his mission.
This was all I learnt in the single night I was In town. I have not read the new French constitution, which seems longer than probably its reign will be. The five sovereigns will, I suppose, be the first guillotined. Adieu! Yours ever.
(897) It is said that Queen Mary asked some of her attendant ladies what a squeeze of the hand was supposed to intimate. They said "Love." "Then," said the Queen, "my Vice-chamberlain must be violently in love with me, for he always squeezes my hand."
Letter 424 To Miss Berry. Strawberry Hill, Tuesday, Aug. 16, 1796. (page 570)
Though I this morning received your Sunday's full letter, it is three o'clock before I have a moment to begin answering it; and must do it myself: for Kirgate is not at home. First came in Mr. Barrett, and then Cosway, who has been for some days at Mr. Udney's, with his wife: she is so afflicted for her only little girl, that she shut herself up in her chamber, and would not be seen.(898) The man Cosway does not seem to think that much of the loss belonged to him: he romanced with his usual vivacity. Next arrived Dr. Burney, on his way to Mrs. Boscawen. He asked me about deplorable "Camilla." Alas! I had not recovered of it enough to be loud in its praise. I am glad, however, to hear that she has realized about two thousand pounds; and the worth, no doubt, of as much in honours at Windsor; where she was detained three days, and where even M. D'Arblay was allowed to dine.
I rejoice at your bathing promising so well. If the beautiful fugitive(899) from Brighthelmstone dips too, the waves will be still more salutary:—
Venus, orta mari, mare prestat eunti.
I like your going to survey castles and houses: it is wholesomer than drawing and writing tomes of letters;—which, you see, I cannot do.
Wednesday, after breakfast.
When I came home from Lady Mendip's last night, I attempted to finish this myself; but my poor fingers were so tired by all the work of the day, that it will require Sir William Jones's gift of tongues to interpret my pot-hooks. One would think Arabic characters were catching; for Agnes had shown me a volume of their poems, finely printed at Cambridge, with a version which Mrs. Douglas had lent to her, and said they were very simple, and not in the inflated style of the last. You shall judge: in the first page I opened, I found a storm of lightning that had burst into a laugh. I resume the thread of my letter. You had not examined Arundel Castle enough; for you do not mention the noble monuments, in alabaster, of the Fitz-Alans, one of whom bragged of having married Adeliza, widow of Henry the First. In good sooth, they were somewhat defaced by Cromwell having mounted his cannon on the roof to batter the Castle; of which, when I saw it, he had left little but ruins; and they were choked up by a vile modern brick house, which I know Solomon has pulled down: for he came hither two years ago to consult me about Gothicizing his restoration of the castle. I recommended Mr. Wyat, lest he should copy the temple of Jerusalem.
So you found a picture of your predecessor!(900) She had had a good figure: but I had rather it had been a portrait of her aunt, Mrs. Arabella Fermor, the heroine of the Lock, of whom I never saw a resemblance. You did not, I suppose, see the giant, who, the old Duke told me, used to walk among the ruins, but who, to be sure, Duke Solomon(901) has laid in a Red Sea of claret. There are other splendid seats to be seen within your reach; as Petworth, and Standstead, and Up-Park: but I know why I guess that you may even be of parties, more than once, at the last.
As Agnes says, she has promised I should give you an account of a visit I have lately had, I will, if I have time, before any body comes in. It was from a Mr. Pentycross, a clergyman and schoolmaster of Wallingford, of whom I had heard nothing for eight-and-twenty years; and then having only known him as a Blue-coat boy from Kingston: and how that happened, he gave me this account last week. He was born with a poetic impetus, and walked over hither with a copy of verses by no means despicable, which he begged old Margaret to bring up to me. She refused; he supplicated. At last she told him that her master was very learned, and that, if he would write something in the learned languages, especially in French, she would present his poem to me. In the mean time, she yielded; I saw him, and let her show him the house. I think he sent me an ode or two afterwards, and I never heard his name again till this winter, when I received a letter from him from his place' of residence, with high compliments on some of my editions, and beseeching me to give him a print of myself, which I did send to him. In the Christmas holidays he came to town for a few days, and called in Berkeley-square; but it was when I was too ill to see any body. He then left a modest and humble letter, only begging that, some time or other, I would give him leave to see Strawberry Hill. I sent him a note by Kirgate, that should he come to town in summer, and I should be well enough, he should certainly see my house. Accordingly, about a fortnight ago, I let him know, that if he could fix any day in this month, I would give him a dinner and a bed. He jumped at the offer, named Wednesday last, and came. However, I considered that to pass a whole day with this unknown being might be rather too much. I got Lysons, the parson, from Putney, to meet him: but it would not have been necessary, for I found my Blue-coat boy grown to be a very sensible, rational, learned, and remaining a most modest personage, with an excellent taste for poetry-for he is an enthusiast for Dr. Darwin: but, alas! infinitely too learned for me; for in the evening, upon questioning him about his own vein of poetry, he humbly drew out a paper, with proposition forty-seven of Euclid turned into Latin verse. I shrunk back and cried, "Oh! dear Sir, how little you know me! I have forgotten almost the little Latin I knew, and was always so incapable of learning mathematics, that I could not even get by heart the multiplication-table, as blind Professor Sanderson honestly told me, above threescore years ago, when I went to his lectures at Cambridge." After the first fortnight, he said to Me, "Young man, it would be cheating you to take your money; for you can never learn what I am trying to teach you." I was exceedingly mortified, and cried; for, being a prime minister's son, I had firmly believed all the flattery with which I had been assured that my parts were capable of any thing. I paid a private instructor for a year; but, at the year's end, was forced to own Sanderson had been in the right; and here luckily ends, with my paper, my Penticrusade!
(898) The loss of her only child threw Mrs. Cosway upon art once more. To mitigate her grief, she painted several large Pictures for chapels; and afterwards visited Italy, where she formed a college at Lodi for the education of young ladies. On the establishment of peace, she returned to England, where she remained till the death of her husband in 1821; after which she returned to Lodi.-E.
(899) The Countess of Jersey, mother to the present Earl.
(900) A portrait of Trefusis, Countess of Orford, widow of the eldest brother of Horace Walpole, Earl of Orford.
(901) Charles Howard, eleventh Duke of Norfolk, so called by Lord Orford, for having his portrait executed in painted glass for the window of his great dining-room, at Arundel Castle, as Solomon entertaining the Queen of Sheba.
Letter 425 To Miss Berry. Strawberry Hill, August 24, 1796. (page 572)
Bathe on, bathe on, and wash away all your complaints; the sea air and such an oriental season must cure every thing but positive decay and decrepitude. On me they have no more effect than they would have on an Egyptian queen who has been embowelled and reserved in her sycamore etui ever since dying was first invented, and people notwithstanding liked to last for ever, though even in a pyramid. In short, Mr. — has teased me so much about jumbling my relics, that I have aired(902) them every morning in the coach for this fortnight; and yet, you see, I cannot write ten lines together! Lady Cecilia lets me call on her at twelve, and take her with me: and yet I grew tired of it, and shall not have patience to continue, but shall remain, I believe, in my mummyhood. I begin by giving myself a holiday to-day, in order to answer your letter of the 21st; while Lady Waldegrave, who is with me, and who has brought her eldest son, whom, poor soul! she cannot yet bear to call Lord Waldegrave, is gone to the pavilion. Here is a letter for you from Hannah More, unsealed indeed, for chiefly a mon intention. Be so good as to tell her how little I am really recovered but that I will hammer out a few words as fast, that is, as slowly as I can to her, in return.
I am scandalized at the slovenly neglect of the brave chapel of the Fitz-Alans.(903) I thought the longer any peer's genealogy had been spun out, the prouder he was of the most ancient coronets in it; but since Solomon despises the Arundels for not having been dukes, I suppose he does not acknowledge Adam for a relation; who, though he had a tolerably numerous progeny, his grace does not allow to have been the patriarch of the Mowbrays and Howards, as the devil did not make Eve a duchess, though he has made the wives of some other folks so, and may propose to make one more so some time or other.
News I have none; but that Wurmsur seems to have put a little spoke into the wheel of the French triumphal car in Italy: and as those banditti have deigned to smile on the Duke of Wirtemberg, I suppose they mean to postpone imposing a heavy contribution on him till he shall have received the fortune of the Princess Royal. Adieu!
(902) The remainder of this letter is in the handwriting of Kirgate.
(903) In Arundel church. It has since been put in a state of repair by the present Duke of Norfolk.
Letter 426 To Miss Hannah More. Strawberry Hill, August 29, 1796. (page 573)
You are not only the most beneficent, but the most benevolent of human beings. Not content with being a perfect saint yourself, which (forgive me for saying) does not always imply prodigious compassion for others; not satisfied with being the most disinterested, nay, the reverse of all patriots, for you sacrifice your very slender fortune, not to improve it, but to keep the poor honest instead of corrupting them; and you write politics as simply, intelligibly, and unartfolly, not as cunningly as you can to mislead. Well, with all these giant virtues, you can find room and time in your heart and occupations for harbouring and exercising what those monkeys of pretensions, the French, invented and called les petites morales, which were to supply society with filigrain duties, in the room of all virtues, which they abolished on their road to the adoption of philosophy and atheism. Yes, though for ever busied in exercising services and charities for individuals, or for whole bodies of people, you do not leave a cranny empty into which you can slip a kindness. Your inquiry after me to Miss Berry is so friendly, that I cannot trust solely to her thanking you for your letter, as I am sure she will, having sent it to her as she is bathing in the sea at Bognor Rocks; but I must with infinite gratitude give you a brief account of myself-a very poor one indeed must I give. Condemned as a cripple to my couch for the rest of my days I doubt I am. Though perfectly healed, and even without a sear, my leg is so weakened that I have not recovered the least use of it, nor can move cross my chamber unless lifted up and held by two servants. This constitutes me totally a prisoner. But why should not I be so? What business had I to live to the brink of seventy-nine? And why should One litter the world at that age? Then, I thank God, I have vast blessings; I have preserved my eyes, ears, and teeth; I have no pain left; and I would bet with any dormouse that it cannot outsleep me. And when one can afford to pay for every relief, comfort, or assistance that can be procured at fourscore, dares one complain? Must not one reflect on the thousands of old poor, who are suffering martyrdom, and have none of these alleviations? my good friend, I must consider myself as at my best; for if' I drag on a little longer, can I expect to remain even so tolerably. Nay, does the world present a pleasing scene? Are not the devils escaped out of the swine, and overrunning the earth headlong? What a theme for meditation, that the excellent humane Louis Seize should have been prevented from saving himself by that monster Drouet, and that that execrable wretch should be saved even by those, some of whom one may suppose he meditated to massacre; for at what does a Frenchman stop? But I will quit this shocking subject, and for another reason too: I omitted one of my losses, almost the use of my fingers: they are so lame that I cannot write a dozen lines legibly, but am forced to have recourse to my secretary. I will only reply by a word or two to a question you seem to ask; how I like "Camilla?" I do not care to say how little. Alas! she has reversed experience, which I have long', thought reverses its own utility by coming at the wrong end of our life when we do not want it. This author knew the world and penetrated characters before she had stepped over the threshold; and, now she has seen so much of it, she has little or no insight at all perhaps she apprehended having seen too much, and kept the bags of foul air that she brought from the Cave of Tempests too closely tied.
Adieu, thou who mightest be one of the cleverest of women if thou didst not prefer being one of the best! And when I say one of the best, I have not engaged my vote for the second. Yours most gratefully.
Letter 427 To Richard Gough, Esq. Berkeley Square, Dec. 5, 1796. (page 574)
Dear Sir, Being struck with the extreme cold of last week, it has brought a violent gouty inflammation into one of my legs, and I was forced to be instantly brought to town very ill. As soon as I was a little recovered, I found here your most magnificent present of the second volume of Sepulchral Monuments, the most splendid work I ever saw, and which I congratulate myself on having lived long enough to see. Indeed, I congratulate my country on its appearance exactly at so illustrious a moment, when the patriotism and zeal of London have exhibited so astonishing marks of their opulence and attachment to the constitution, by a voluntary subscription of seventeen millions of money in three days. Your book, Sir, appearing, at that very instant, will be a monument of a fact so unexampled in history; the treasure of fine prints with which it is stowed, well becomes such a production and such a work, the expense of which becomes it too. I am impatient to be able to sit up and examine it more, and am sure my gratitude will increase in proportion. As soon as I shall receive the complete sheets, I will have the whole work bound in the most superb manner that can be: and though, being so infirm now, and just entered into my eightieth year, I am not likely to wait on you, and thank you, I shall be happy to have an opportunity, whenever you come this way, of telling you in person how much I am charmed with so splendid a monument of British glories, and which will be so proud an ornament to the libraries of any nation.
Letter 428 To Miss Berry. Thursday, December 15, past noon, 1796. (page 575)
I had no account of you at all yesterday, but in Mrs. Damer's letter, which was rather better than the preceding; nor have I had any letter before post to-day, as you promised me in hers. I had, indeed, a humorous letter from a puss that is about your house,(904) which is more comfortable; as I think she would not have written cheerfully if you had not been in a good way. I would answer it, but I am grown a dull old Tabby, and have no "Quips and cranks and wanton wiles" left; but I shall be glad to see her when she follows you to town, which I earnestly hope will not pass Saturday. My horses will be with you on Friday night.
The House of Commons sat till half an hour after three this morning, on Mr. Pitt's loan to the Emperor; when it was approved by a majority of above two hundred. Mr. Fox was more temperate than was expected; Mr. Grey did not speak; Mr. Sheridan was very entertaining: several were convinced and voted for Mr. Pitt, who had gone down determined against it. The Prince came to town t'other day ill, was blooded twice, but has now a strong eruption upon his skin, which will probably be of great service to him. Sir Charles Blagden has been with the Duchess of Devonshire, and found her much better than he expected. Her look is little altered: she suffers but little, and finds herself benefited by being electrified.
I have received a compliment to-day very little expected by a superannuated old Etonian. Two tickets from the gentlemen of Westminster School, for their play on Monday next. I excused myself as civilly and respectfully as I could, on my utter impossibility of attending them. Adieu! I hope this will be the last letter I shall write before I See you.(905)
(904) This was written by Miss Salon, in the name of a kitten at Little Strawberry Hill, with whose gambols Lord Orford had been much amused.-M.B.
(905) Very soon after the date of the above letter, the gout, the attacks of which were every day becoming more frequent and longer, made those with whom Lord Orford was living at strawberry Hill very anxious that he should remove to Berkeley Square, to be nearer assistance, in case of any sudden seizure. As his correspondents, soon after his removal, were likewise established in London, no more letters passed between them. When not immediately suffering from pain, his mind was tranquil and cheerful. He was still capable of being amused. and of taking some part in conversation: but, during the last weeks of his life, when fever was superadded to his other ills, his mind became subject to the cruel hallucination of supposing himself neglected and abandoned by the only persons to whom his memory clung, and whom he desired always to see. In vain they recalled to his recollection how recently they had left him, and how short had been their absence: it satisfied him for the moment, but the same idea recurred as soon as he had lost sight of them. At last, nature sinking under the exhaustion of weakness, obliterated all ideas but those of mere existence, which ended, without a struggle, on the 2d of March 1797.-M.B.
Letter 429 To The Countess Of Ossory. January 13, 1797. (page 576)
You distress me infinitely by showing my idle notes, which I cannot conceive can amuse any body. My old-fashioned breeding impels me every now and then to reply to the letters you honour me with writing; but in truth very unwillingly, for I seldom can have any thing particular to say. I scarce go out of my own house, and then only to two or three very private places, where I see nobody that really know's any thing; apd. what I learn comes from newspapers, that collect intelligence from coffee-houses—consequently, what I neither believe nor report. At home I see only a few charitable elders, except about fourscore nephews and nieces of various ages, who are each brought to me once a year, to stare at me as the Methusalem of the family; and they can only speak of their own contemporaries, which interest no more than if they talked of their dolls, or bats and balls. Must not the result of all this, Madam, make me a very entertaining correspondent? and can such letters be worth showing? or can I have any spirit when so old, and reduced to dictate? Oh! my good Madam, dispense with me from such a task, and think how it must add to it to apprehend such letters being shown. Pray send Me no more Such laurels, which I desire no more than their leaves when decked with a scrap of tinsel, and stuck on twelfth-cakes that lie on the shop boards of pastrycooks at Christmas. I shall be quite content with a sprig of rosemary thrown after me, when the parson of the parish commits my dust to dust. Till then, pray, Madam, accept the resignation of your ancient servant, Orford.