I must repeat how glad I shall be to have you at Burnham. When people grow old, as you and I do, they should get together. Others do not care for us: but we seem wiser to one another by finding fault with them. Not that I am apt to dislike young folks, whom I think every thing becomes: but it is a kind of self-defence to live in a body. I dare to say that monks never find out that they grow old fools. Their age gives them authority, and nobody contradicts them. In the world, one cannot help perceiving one is out of fashion. Women play at cards with women of their own standing, and censure others between the deals, and thence conclude themselves Gamaliels. I who see many young men with better parts than myself, submit with a good grace, or retreat hither to my castle, where I am satisfied with what I have done, and am always in good humour. But I like to have one or two old friends with me. I do not much invite the juvenile, who think my castle and me of equal antiquity: for no wonder, if they supposed George I. lived in the time of the crusades.
Adieu! my good Sir, and pray let Burnham Wood and Dunsinane be good neighbours. Yours ever.
(110) Sir John Fenn, who edited the "Original Letters, written during the Reigns of Henry VI., Edward IV., Richard III., and Henry ViI., by various Persons of rank and consequence, digested in a Chronological order - with Notes historical and explanatory;" which were published in four volumes, quarto, between the years 1787-1789. The letters are principally by members of the Paston family and others, who were of great consequence in Norfolk at the time Sir John who was a native of Norwich, died in 1794. A fifth volume was published in 1823.- E.
(111) Alluding to his not having answered a letter from Mr. Cole for nearly a twelvemonth.
Letter 68 To The Rev. Mr. Cole. Strawberry Hill, June 21, 1774. (page 93)
Your illness, dear Sir, is the worst excuse you could make me; and the worse, as you may be well in a night, if you will, by taking six grains of James's Powder. He cannot cure death; but he can most complaints that are not mortal or chronical. He could cure you so soon of colds, that he would cure you of another distemper, to which I doubt you are a little subject, the fear of them. I hope you were certain, that illness is a legal plea for missing induction, or you will have nursed a cough and hoarseness with too much tenderness, as they certainly could bear a journey. Never see my face again, if you are not rector of Burnham. How can you be so bigoted to Milton? I should have thought the very name would have prejudiced you against the place, as the name is all that could approach towards reconciling me to the fens. I shall be very glad to see you here, whenever you have resolution enough to quit your cell. But since Burnham and the neighbourhood of Windsor and Eton have no charms for you, can I expect that Strawberry Hill should have any? Methinks, that when one grows old, one's contemporary friends should be our best amusement: for younger people are soon tired of us, and our old stories: but I have found the contrary in some of mine. For your part, you care for conversing with none but the dead: for I reckon the unborn, for whom you are writing, as much dead, as those from whom you collect. .
You certainly ask no favour, dear Sir, when you want prints of Me. They are at any body's service that thinks them worth having. The owner sets very little value on them, since he sets very little, indeed, on himself: as a man, a very faulty one; and as an author, a very middling one; which whoever thinks a comfortable rank, is not at all my opinion. Pray convince me that you think I mean sincerely, by not answering me with a compliment. it is very weak to be pleased with flattery; the stupidest of 'all delusions to beg it. From You I should take it ill. We have known one another almost fifty years—to very little purpose, indeed, if any ceremony is necessary, or downright sincerity not established between us. tell me that you are recovered, and that I shall see you some time or other. I have finished the catalogue of my collection; but you shall never have it without fetching, nor, though a less punishment, the prints you desire. I propose in time to have plates of my house added to 'the Catalogue, yet I Cannot afford them, unless by degrees. Engravers are grown so much dearer, without My growing richer, that I must have patience! a quality I seldom have, but when I must. Adieu! Yours ever.
P. S. I have lately been at Ampthill, and saw Queen Catherine's cross. It is not near large enough for the situation, and would be fitter for a garden than a park: but it is executed in the truest and best taste. Lord Ossory is quite satisfied, as well as I, and designs Mr. Essex a present of some guineas. If ever I am richer, I shall consult the same honest man about building my offices, for Which I have a plan: but if I have no more money, ever, I Will not run in debt, and distress myself: and therefore remit my designs to chance and a little economy.
Letter 69 To The Hon. H. S. Conway. Strawberry Hill, June 23, 1774. (page 94)
I have nothing to say—which is the best reason in the world for writing; for one must have a great regard for any body, one writes to, when one begins a letter neither on ceremony nor business. You are seeing armies,(112) who are always in fine order—and great spirits when they are in cold blood: I am sorry you thought it worth while to realize what I should have thought you could have seen in your mind's eye. However, I hope you will be amused and pleased With viewing heroes, both in their autumn and their bud. Vienna will be a new sight; so will the Austrian eagle and its two heads, I should like seeing, too, if any fairy would present me with a chest that would fly up into the air by touching a peg, and transport me whither I pleased in an instant: but roads, and inns, and dirt, are terrible drawbacks on My curiosity. I grow so old and so indolent, that I scarce stir from hence; and the dread of the gout makes me almost as much a prisoner, as a fit of it. News I know none, if there is any. The papers tell me that the city was to present a petition to The King against the Quebec-bill yesterday; and I suppose they will tell me to-morrow whether it was presented. The King's speech tells me, there has nothing happened between the Russians and the Turks.(113) Lady Barrymore told me t'other day, that nothing was to happen between her and Lord Egremont. I am as well satisfied with these negatives, as I should have been with the contrary. I am much more interested about the rain, for it destroys all my roses and orange-flowers, of which I have exuberance; and my hay is cut, and cannot be made. However, it is delightful to have no other distresses. When I compare my present tranquillity and indifference with all I suffered last year,(114) I am thankful for my happiness and enjoy it—unless the bell rings early in the morning—then I tremble, and think it an express from Norfolk.
It is unfortunate that when one has nothing to talk of but one's self, one should have nothing to' say of one's self. It is shameful, too, to send such a scrap by the post. I think I shall reserve it till Tuesday. If -I have then nothing to add, as is probable, you must content yourself with my good intentions, as you, I hope, will with this speculative campaign. Pray, for the future, remain at home and build bridges: I wish you were here to expedite ours to Richmond, which they tell me Will not be passable these two years. I have done looking so forward. Adieu!
(112) Mr. Conway was now on a tour of military curiosity through Flanders, Germany, Prussia, and part of Hungary.
(113) Peace between Russia and Turkey Was proclaimed at St. Petersburgh on the 14th of August, 1774.-E.
(114) During the illness of his nephew, Lord Orford.
Letter 70 To The Rev. Mr. Cole. Matson, near Gloucester, Aug. 15, 1774. (page 95)
Dear Sir, As I am your disciple in antiquities (for you studied them when I was but a scoffer), I think it my duty to give you some account of my journeying, in the good cause. You will not dislike my date. I am in the Very mansion where King Charles the First and his two eldest sons lay during the siege; and there are marks of the last's hacking with his hanger on a window, as he told Mr. Selwin's grandfather afterwards. The present master has done due honour to the royal residence, and erected a good marble bust of the Martyr, in a little gallery. In a window is a shield in painted glass, with that King's and his Queen's arms, which I gave him. So you see I am not a rebel, when alma mater antiquity stands godmother.
I went again to the cathedral, and, on seeing the monument of Edward II a new historic doubt started which I pray you to solve. His Majesty has a longish beard - and such were certainly worn at that time. Who is the first historian that tells the story of his being shaven with cold water from a ditch and weeping to supply warm, as he was carried to Berkeley Castle? Is not this apocryphal? The house whence Bishop Hooper(115) was carried to the stake, is still standing, tale quale. I made a visit to his actual successor, Warburton, 'who is very infirm, speaks with much hesitation, and, they say, begins to lose his memory. They have destroyed the beautiful cross; the two battered heads of Henry III. and Edward III. are in the Postmaster's garden.
Yesterday I made a jaunt four miles hence that pleased me exceedingly, to Prinknash, the individual villa of the abbots of Gloucester. I wished you there with their mitre on. It stands on a glorious, but impracticable hill, in the midst of a little forest of beech, and commanding Elysium. The house is small, but has good rooms, and though modernized here and there, not extravagantly. On the ceiling of the hall is Edward IVth's Jovial device, a fau-con serrure. The chapel is low and small, but antique, and with painted glass, with many angels in their coronation robes, i. e. wings and crowns. Henry VIII. and Jane Seymour lay here: in the dining-room are their arms in glass, and of Catherine of Arragon, and of Brays and Bridges. Under the window, a barbarous bas-relief head of Harry, young: as it is still on a sign of an alehouse, on the descent of the hill. Think of my amazement, when they showed me the chapel plate, and I found on it, on four pieces, my own arms, quartering my mother-in-law, Skerret's, and in a shield of pretence, those of Fortescue certainly by mistake, for those of my sister-in-law, as the barony of Clinton was in abeyance between her and Fortescue Lord Clinton. The whole is modern and blundered: for Skerret should be impaled, not quartered, and instead of our crest, are two spears tied together in a ducal coronet, and no coronet for my brother, in whose time this plate must have been made, and at whose sale it was probably bought; as he finished the repairs of the church at Houghton, for which, I suppose, this decoration was intended. But the silversmith was no herald, you see.
As I descended the hill, I found in a wretched cottage a child, in an ancient oaken cradle, exactly in the form of that lately published from the cradle of Edward II. I purchased it for five shillings; but don't know whether I shall have fortitude enough to transport it to Strawberry Hill. People would conclude me in my second childhood.
To-day I have been at Berkeley and Thornbury Castles. The first disappointed me much, though very entire. It is much smaller than I expected, but very entire, except a small part burnt two years ago, while the present Earl was in the house. The fire began in the housekeeper's room, who never appeared more; but as she was strict over the servants, and not a bone of her was found, it was supposed that she was murdered, and the body conveyed away. The situation is not elevated nor beautiful, and little improvements made of late, but some silly ones 'a la Chinoise, by the present Dowager. In good sooth, I can give you but a very imperfect account; for, instead of the lord's being gone to dine with the mayor of Gloucester, as I expected, I found him in the midst of all his captains of the militia. I am so sillily shy of strangers and youngsters, that I hurried through the chambers; and looked for nothing but the way out of every room. I just observed that there were many bad portraits of the family, but none ancient; as if the Berkeleys had been commissaries, and raised themselves in the last war. There is a plentiful addition of those of my Lord Berkeley of Stratton, but no knights templars, or barons as old as Edward I.; yet are there three beds on which there may have been as frisky doings three centuries ago, as there probably have been within these ten ears. The room shown for the murder of Edward II., and the shrieks of an agonizing king, I verily believe to be genuine. It is a dismal chamber, almost at top of the house, quite detached, and to be approached only by a kind of foot-bridge, and from that 'descends' a large flight of steps that terminate on strong gates; exactly the situation for a corps de garde. In that room they show you a cast of a face in plaister, and tell you it was taken from Edward's. I was not quite so easy of faith about that; for it is evidently the face of Charles I.
The steeple of the church, lately rebuilt handsomely, stands some paces from the body; in the latter are three tombs of the old Berkeleys;, with cumbent figures. The wife of the Lord Berkeley,(116) who was supposed to be privy to the murder, has a curious headgear; it is like a long horseshoe, quilted in quatrefoils; and, like Lord Foppington's wig, allows no more than the breadth of a half-crown to be discovered of the face. Stay, I think I mistake; the husband was a conspirator against Richard II. not Edward. But in those days, loyalty was not so rife as at present.
>From Berkeley Castle I went to Thornbury, of which the ruins are half-ruined. It would have been glorious, if finished.(117) I wish the lords of Berkeley had retained the spirit of deposing till Henry the VIIIth's time! The situation is fine, though that was not the fashion; for all the windows of the great apartment look into the inner court. The prospect was left to the servants. Here I had two adventures. I could find nobody to show me about. I saw a paltry house that I took for the sexton's, at the corner of the close, and bade my servant ring, and ask who could show me the Castle. A voice in a passion flew, from a casement, and issued from a divine. "What! was it his business to show the Castle? - Go look for somebody else! What did the fellow ring for as if the house was on fire?" The poor Swiss came back in a fright, and said, the doctor had sworn at him. Well—we scrambled over a stone stile, saw a room or two glazed near the gate, and rung at it. A damsel came forth and satisfied our curiosity. When we had done seeing, I said, "Child, we don't know our Way, and want to be directed into the London road; I see the Duke's steward yonder at the window, pray desire him to come to me, that I may consult him." She went—he stood staring at us at the window, and sent his footman. I do not think courtesy is a resident at Thornbury. As I returned through the close, the divine came running, out of breath, and without his beaver or band, and calls out, "Sir, I am come to justify myself: your servant says I swore at him: I am no swearer—Lord bless me! (dropping his voice) it is Mr. Walpole!" "Yes, Sir, and I think you was Lord Beauchamp's tutor at Oxford, but I have forgot your name." "Holwell, Sir." "Oh! yes." and then I comforted him, and laid the ill-breeding on my footman's being a foreigner; but could not help saying, I really had taken his house for the sexton's. "Yes, Sir, it is not very good without, won't you please to walk in!" I did, and found the inside ten times worse, and He was making an Index to Homer, a lean wife, suckling a child. He is going to publish the chief beauties, and I believe had just been reading some of the delicate civilities that pass between Agamemnon and Achilles, and that what my servant took for oaths, were only Greek compliments.(118) Adieu! Yours ever.
You see I have not a line more of paper.
(115) John Hooper, Bishop of Gloucester, who, having refused to recant his opinions, was burned alive before the cathedral of Gloucester in the year 1554.-E.
(116) Thomas, third Lord Berkeley, was entrusted with the custody of Edward II.; but, owing to the humanity with which he treated the captive monarch, he was forced to resign his prisoner and his castle to Lord Maltravers and Sir Thomas Gournay. After the murder of Edward, Lord Berkeley was arraigned as a participator in the crime, but honourably acquitted. The Lady Berkeley alluded to by Walpole was his first wife, Margaret, daughter of Roger de Mortimer, Earl of March, and widow of Robert Vere, Earl of Oxford.-E.
(117) Thornbury Castle was designed, but never finished by the Duke of Buckingham, in Henry VIII's time.-E.
(118) The Rev. William Holwell, vicar of Thornbury, prebendary of Exeter, and some time chaplain to the King. He was distinguished by superior talents as a scholar, and a critical knowledge of the Greek language. His "Extracts from Mr. Pope's Translation, corresponding with the Beauties of Homer, selected from the Iliad," were published in 1776.-E.
Letter 71 To The Hon. H. S. Conway. Strawberry Hill, August 18, 1774. (page 98)
It is very hard, that because you do not get my letters, you will not let me receive yours, who do receive them. I have not had a line from you these five weeks. Of your honours and glories fame has told me;(119) and for aught I know, you may be a veldt-marshal by this time, and despise such a poor cottager as me. Take notice I shall disclaim you in my turn, if you are sent on a command against Dantzich, or to usurp a new district in Poland.(120)
I have seen no armies, kings, or. empresses, and cannot send you such august gazettes; nor are they what I want to hear of. I like to hear you are well and diverted; nay, have pimped towards the latter, by desiring Lady Ailesbury to send you Monsieur do Guisnes's invitation to a military f'ete at Metz.(121) For my part, I wish you was returned to your plough. Your Sabine farm is in high beauty. I have lain there twice within this week, going to and from a visit to George Selwyn, near Gloucester; a tour as much to my taste as yours to you. For fortified towns I have seen ruined castles. Unluckily, in that of Berkeley I found a hole regiment of militia in garrison, and as many young officers as if the Countess was in possession, and ready to surrender at indiscretion. I endeavoured to comfort myself, by figuring that they were guarding Edward II. I have seen many other ancient sights without asking leave of the King of Prussia: it would not please me so much to write to him, as it once did to write for him.(122)
They have found at least seventy thousand pounds of Lord Thomond's.(123) George Howard has decked himself with a red riband, money, and honours! Charming things! and yet One may be happy without them.
The young Mr. Coke is returned from his travels n love with the Pretender's queen,(124) who has permitted him to have her picture. What can I tell you more? Nothing. Indeed, if I only write to postmasters, my letter is long enough. Every body's head but mine is full of elections. I had the satisfaction at Gloucester, where George Selwyn is canvassing, of reflecting on my own wisdom. "Suave mari maggno turbantibus aequora ventis," etc. I am certainly the greatest philosopher in the world, without ever having thought of being so: always employed, and never busy;' eager about trifles, and indifferent to every thing serious. Well, if it is not philosophy, it is at least content. I am as pleased here with my own nutshell, as any monarch you have seen these two months astride his eagle—not but I was dissatisfied when I missed you at Park-place, and was peevish at your being in an Aulic chamber. Adieu! Yours ever.
P- S. They tell us from Vienna, that the peace is made between Tisiphone and the Turk: is it true?
(119) Alluding to the distinguished notice taken of General Conway by the King of Prussia.
(120) The first dismemberment of Poland had taken place in the preceding year, by which a third of her territory was ceded to Russia, Austria, and Prussia.-E.
(121) To see the review of the French regiment of Carabineers, then commanded by Monsieur de Guisnes.
(122) Alluding to the Letter to Rousseau in the name of the King of Prussia.
(123) Percy Wyndham Obrien. He was the second son of Sir Charles Wyndham, chancellor of the exchequer to Queen Anne; and took the name of Obrien, pursuant to the Earl of Thomond in Ireland.
(124) The Countess of Albany.-E.
Letter 72 To The Hon. H. S. Conway. Strawberry Hill, Sept. 7, 1774. (page 99)
I did not think you had been so like the rest of the world, as, when you pretended to be visiting armies, to go in search of gold and silver mines!(125) The favours of courts and the smiles of emperors and kings, I see, have corrupted even you, and perverted you to a nabob. Have you brought away an ingot in the calf of your leg? What abomination have you committed? All the gazettes in Europe have sent you on different negotiations: instead of returning With a treaty in your pocket, you will only come back with bills of exchange. I don't envy your subterraneous travels, nor the hospitality of the Hungarians. Where did you find a spoonful of Latin about you? I have not attempted to speak Latin these thirty years, without perceiving I was talking Italian thickened with terminations in us and orum. I should have as little expected to find an Ovid in those regions; but I suppose the gentry of Presburg read him for a fashionable author, as our squires and their wives do the last collections of ballads that have been sung at Vauxhall and Marybone. I wish you may have brought away some sketches of Duke Albert's architecture. You know I deal in the works of royal authors, though I have never admired any of their own buildings, not excepting King Solomon's temple. Stanley(126) and Edmondson in Hungary! What carried them thither? The chase of mines too? The first, perhaps, waddled thither obliquely, as a parrot would have done whose direction was to Naples.
Well, I am glad you have been entertained, and seen such a variety of sights. You don't mind fatigues and hardships, and hospitality, the two extremes that to me poison travelling. I shall never see any thing more, unless I meet with a ring that renders one invisible. It was but the other day that, being with George Selwyn at Gloucester, I Went to view Berkeley Castle, knowing the Earl was to dine with the mayor of Gloucester. Alas! when I arrived, he had put off the party to enjoy his militia a day longer, and the house was full of officers. They might be in the Hungarian dress, for aught I knew; for I was so dismayed, that I would"fain have persuaded the housekeeper that she could not show me the apartments; and when she opened the hall, and I saw it full of captains, I hid myself in a dark passage, and nothing could persuade me to enter, till they had the civility to quit the place. When I was forced at last to go over the castle, I ran through it without seeing any thing, as if I had been afraid of being detained prisoner.
I have no news to send you: if I had any, I would not conclude, as all correspondents do, that Lady Ailesbury left nothing Untold. Lady Powis is gone to hold mobs at Ludlow, where there is actual war, and where a knight, I forget his name, one of their friends, has been almost cut in two with a scythe. When you have seen all the armies in Europe, you will be just in time for many election-battles—perhaps, for a war in America, whither more troops are going. Many of those already sent have deserted; and to be sure the- prospect there is not smiling. Apropos, Lord Mahon,(127) whom Lord Stanhope, his father, will not suffer to wear powder because wheat is so dear, was presented t'other day in coal-black hair and a white feather: they said, "he had been tarred and feathered."
In France you will find a new scene.(128) The Chancellor is sent, a little before his time, to the devil. The old Parliament is expected back. I am sorry to say I shall not meet you there. It will be too late in the year for me to venture, especially as I now live in dread of my biennial gout, and should die of it in an h'otel garni, and forced to receive all comers—I, who you know lock myself up when I am ill as if I had the plague.
I wish I could fill my sheet, in return for your five pages. The only thing-you will care for knowing is, that I never saw Mrs. Damer better in her life, nor look so well. You may trust me, who am so apt to be frightened about her.
(125) Mr. Conway had gone to see the gold and silver mines of cremnitz, in the neighbourhood of Grau, in Hungary.
(126) Mr. Hans Stanley.
(127) Charles Viscount Mahon, born on the 3d of August 1753. In the following December, he married Lady Hester Pitt, eldest daughter of the Earl of Chatham. He succeeded his father, as third Earl Stanhope, in March 1786, and died in 1816.-E.
(128) In Consequence of the death of Louis XV. on the 10th of May.-E.
Letter 73 To The Hon. H. S. Conway. Strawberry Hill, Sept. 27, 1774. (page 101)
I should be very ungrateful indeed if I thought of complaining of you, who are goodness itself to me: and when I did not receive letters from 'you, I concluded it happened from your eccentric positions. I am amazed, that hurried as YOU have been, and your eyes and thoughts- crowded with objects, you have been able to find time to write me so many and such long letters, over and above all those to Lady, Ailesbury, your daughter, brother, and other friends. Even Lord Strafford brags of your frequent remembrance. That your superabundance of royal beams would dazzle you, I never suspected. Even I enjoy for you the distinctions you have received—though I should hate such things for myself, as they are particularly troublesome to me,'and I am particularly awkward under them, and as I abhor the King of Prussia, and if I passed through Berlin, should have no joy like avoiding him—like one of our countrymen, who changed horses at Paris, and asked what the name of that town was? All the other civilities you have received I am perfectly happy in. The Germans are certainly a civil, well-meaning people, and, I believe, one of the least corrupted nations in Europe. I do not think them very agreeable; but who do I think are so? A great many French women, some English men, and a few English women; exceedingly few French men. Italian women are the grossest, vulqarest of the sex. If an Italian man has a grain of sense, he is a buffoon. So much for Europe!
I have already told you, and so must Lady Ailesbury, that my courage fails me, and I dare not meet you at Paris, As the period arrived when the gout used to come, it is never a moment out of my head. Such a suffering, such a helpless condition as I was in for five months and a half, two years ago, makes me tremble from head to foot. I should die at once if seized in a French inn; or, what, if possible, would be worse, at Paris, where I must admit every body.—I, who you know can hardly bear to see even you when I am ill, and who shut up myself here, and would not let Lord and Lady Hertford come near me—I, who have my room washed though in bed, how could I bear French dirt! In short, I, who am so capricious, and whom you are pleased to call a philosopher, I suppose because I have given up every thing but my own will—how could I keep my temper, who have no way of keeping my temper but by keeping it out of every body's way! No, I must give up the satisfaction of being with you at Paris. I have just learnt to give up my pleasures, but I cannot give up my pains, which such selfish people as I who have suffered much, grow to compose into a system that they are partial to, because it is their own. I must make myself amends when you return: you will be more stationary, I hope, for the future; and if I live I shall have intervals of health. In lieu of me, you will have a charming succedaneum, Lady Harriet Stanhope.(129) Her father, who is more a hero than i, is packing up his old decrepit bones, and goes too. I wish she may not have him to nurse, instead of diverting herself.
The present state of your country is, that it is drowned and dead drunk; all water without, and wine within. Opposition for the next elections every where, even in Scotland; not from party, but as laying Out money to advantage. In the head-quarters, indeed, party is not out of the question: the day after to-morrow will be a great bustle in the city for a Lord Mayor,(130) and all the winter in Westminster, where Lord Mahon and Humphrey Cotes oppose the court. Lady Powis is saving her money at Ludlow and Powis Castles by keeping open house day and night against Sir Watkin Williams, and fears she shall be kept there till the general election. It has rained this whole month, and we have got another inundation. The Thames is as broad as your Danube, and all my meadows are under water. Lady Browne and I, coming last Sunday night from Lady Blandford's, were in a piteous plight. The ferryboat was turned round by the current, and carried to Isleworth. Then we ran against the piers of our new bridge, and the horses were frightened. Luckily, my cicisbeo -was a Catholic, and screamed to so many Saints, that some of them at the nearest alehouse came and saved us, or I should have had no more gout, or what I dreaded I should; for I concluded we should be carried ashore somewhere, and be forced to wade through the mud up to my middle. So you see one may wrap oneself up in flannel and be in danger, without visiting all the armies on the face of the globe, and putting the immortality of one's chaise to the proof.
I am ashamed Of sending you three sides of smaller paper in answer to seven large—but what can I do? I see nothing, know nothing, do nothing. My castle is finished, I have nothing new to read, I am tired of writing, I have no new or old bit for my printer. I have only black hoods around me; or, if I go to town, the family-party in Grosvenor Street. One trait will give you a sample of how I passed my time, and made me laugh, as it put me in mind of you; at least it was a fit of absence, much more likely to have happened to you than to me. I was playing eighteenpenny tredrille with the Duchess of Newcastle(131) and Lady Browne, and certainly not much interested in the game. I cannot recollect nor conceive what I was thinking of, but I pushed the cards very gravely to the Duchess, and said, "Doctor, you are to deal." You may guess at their astonishment, and how much it made us all laugh. I wish it may make you smile a moment, or that I had any thing better to send you. Adieu, most affectionately. Yours ever.
(129) a Daughter of the Earl of Harrington. Her ladyship was married, in 1776, to Thomas second Lord Foley.-E.
(130) When Mr. Wilkes was elected.
(131) Catherine, eldest daughter and heiress of the Right Hon. Henry Pelham, married to Henry ninth Earl of Lincoln; who, in consequence of his marriage with her, inherited in 1768, the dukedom of Newcastle-under-Line on the demise of the Countess's uncle, Thomas Pelham Holles, Who had been created Duke of Newcastle.under-Line, with special remainder to the Earl of Lincoln , in 1756 _E.
Letter 74 To The Hon. H. S. Conway. Strawberry Hill, Sept. 28, 1774. (page 103)
Lady Ailesbury brings you this,(132) which is not a letter, but a paper of direction, and the counterpart of what I have written to Madame du Deffand. I beg of you seriously to take a great deal of notice of this dear old friend of mine. She will, perhaps, expect more attention from you, as my friend, and as it is her own nature a little, than will be quite convenient to you: but you have an infinite deal of patience and good-nature, and will excuse it. I was afraid of her importuning Madame Ailesbury, who has a vast deal to see and do, and, therefore, I prepared Madame du Deffand, and told her Lady Ailesbury loves amusements, and that, having never been at Paris before, she must not confine her: so you must pay for both—and it will answer: and- I do not, I own, ask this Only for Madame du Deffand's sake, but for my own, and a little for yours. Since the late King's death she has not dared to write to me freely, and I want to know the present state of 'France exactly, both to satisfy my Own curiosity, and for her sake, as- I wish to learn whether her, pension, etc. is in any danger from the present ministry, some of whom are not her friends. She can tell you a great deal if she will—by that I don't mean that she is reserved, or partial to, her Own country against ours—quite the contrary; she loves me better than all France together—but she hates politics; and therefore, to make her talk on it, you must tell her it is to satisfy me, and that I want to know whether she is well at court, whether she has any fears from the government, particularly Maurepas and Nivernois: and that I am eager to have Monsieur do Choiseul and ma grandmaman, the Duchess, restored to power. If you take it on this foot easily, she will talk to you with the utmost frankness and with amazing cleverness. I have told her you are strangely absent, and that, if she does not repeat it over and over, you will forget every syllable; so I have prepared her to joke and be quite familiar with you at once.(133) She knows more of personal characters, and paints them better, than any body: but let this be between ourselves, for I would not have a living soul suspect, that I get any intelligence from her, which would hurt her; and, therefore, I beg you not to let any human being know of this letter, nor of your conversation with her, neither English nor French.
Madame du Deffand hates les philosophes; so you must give them up to her. She and Madame Geoffrin are no friends: so, if you go thither, don't tell her of it. Indeed, you would be sick of that house, whither all pretended beaux esprits and faux savants go, and where they are very impertinent and dogmatic.
Let me give you one other caution, which I shall give to Lady Ailesbury too. Take care of your papers at Paris, and have a very strong lock to your porte-feuille. In the h'otels garnis they have double keys to every lock, and examine every drawer and paper of the English they can get at. They will pilfer, too, whatever they can. I was robbed of half my clothes there the first time, and they wanted to hang poor Louis to save the people of the house who had stolen the things.
Here is another thing I must say. Madame du Deffand has kept a great many of my letters, and, as she is very old, I am in pain about them. I have written to her to beg she will deliver them up to you to bring back to me, and I trust she Will.(134) If she does, be so good to take great care of them. If she does not mention them, tell her before you come away, that I begged you to bring them; and if she hesitates, convince her how it would hurt me to have letters written in very bad French, and mentioning several people, both French and English, fall into bad hands, and, perhaps, be printed.
Let me desire you to read this letter more than once, that you may not forget my requests, which are very important to me; and I must give you one other caution, without which all would be useless.
There is at Paris a Mademoiselle de l,Espinasse,(135) a pretended bel esprit, who was formerly an humble companion of Madame du Deffand; and betrayed her and used her very ill. I beg of you not to let any body carry you thither. It Would disoblige my friend of all things in the world, and she would never tell you a syllable; and I own it would hurt me, who have such infinite obligations to her, that I should be very unhappy if a particular friend of mine showed her this disregard. She has done every thing upon earth to please and serve me, and I owe it to her to be earnest about this attention. Pray do not mention it; it might look simple in me, and yet I owe it to her, as I know it would hurt her, and, at her age, with her misfortunes, and with infinite obligations on my side, can I do too much to show My gratitude, or prevent her any new mortification? I dwell upon it, because she has some enemies so spiteful that they try to carry all English to Mademoiselle de l'Espinasse.
I wish the Duchess of Choiseul may come to Paris while you are there; but I fear she will not; you would like her of all things. She has more sense and more virtues than almost any human being. If you choose to see any of the savans, let me recommend Monsieur Buffon. He has not only much more sense than any of them, but is an excellent old man, humane, gentle, well-bred, and with none of the arrogant pertness of all the rest. if he is at Paris, you will see a good deal of the Comte d e Broglie at Madame du Deffand's. He is not a genius of the first water, but lively and sometimes agreeable. The court, I fear, will be at Fontainbleau, which will prevent your seeing many, unless you go thither. Adieu! at Paris! I leave the rest of my paper for England, if I happen to have any thing particular to tell you.
(132) Mr. Conway ended is military tour at Paris; whither Lady Ailesbury and Mrs. Damer went to meet him, and where they spent the winter together.
(133) In her letter to Walpole, of the 28th of October, Madame du Deffand draws the following portrait of General Conway:— "Selon l'id'ee que vous m'en aviez donn'ee, je le croyais grave, s'ev'ere, froid, imposant; c'est l'homme le plus aimable, le plus facile, le plus doux, le plus obligeant, et le plus simple que je connaisse. Il n'a pas ces premiers mouvemens de sensibilit'e qu'on trouve en vous, mais aussi n'a-t-il pas votre humeur."-E.
(134) To this request Madame du Deffand replied—"Je ne me flatte point de vous revoir l'ann'ee prochaine, et le renvoi que vous voulez que je vous fasse de vos lettres est ce qui m'en fait denier. Ne serait-il pas plus naturel, si vous deviez venir, que je vous les rendisse 'a vous-m'eme? car vous ne pensez pas que je ne puisse vivre encore un an. Vous me faites croire, Par votre m'efiance, que vous avez en vue d'effacer toute trace de votre intelligence avec Moi."-E.
(135) Mademoiselle de l'Espinasse, the friend of D'Alembert, born at Lyons in 1732, was the natural child of Mademoiselle d'Albon, whose legitimate daughter was married to the Marquis de Vichy. After the death of her mother, she resided with Monsieur and Madame de Vichy; but in consequence of some disagreements, left them, and in May 1754, went to reside with Madame du Deffand, with whom she remained until 1764. The letters of Mademoiselle de l'Espinasse were published some few years since.-E.
Letter 75 To The Rev. Mr. Cole. Strawberry Hill, Oct. 11, 1774. (page 105)
Dear Sir, I answer yours immediately; as one pays a shilling to clench a bargain, when one suspects the seller. I accept your visit in the last week of this month, and will prosecute you if you do not execute. I have nothing to say about elections, but that I congratulate myself ,every time I feel I have nothing to do with them. By my nephew's strange conduct about his boroughs, and by many other reasons, I doubt whether he is so well as he seemed to Dr. Barnardiston. It is a subject I do not love to talk on; but I know I tremble every time the bell rings at my gate at an unusual hour.
Have you seen Mr. Granger's Supplement? Methinks it grows too diffuse. I have hinted to him that fewer panegyrics from funeral orations would not hurt it. Adieu!
Letter 76 To The Hon. H. S. Conway. Strawberry Hill, Sunday, Oct. 16, 1774. (page 106)
I received this morning your letter of the 6th from Strasburg; and before you get this you will have had three from me by Lady Ailesbury. One of them should have reached you much sooner; but Lady Ailesbury kept it, not being sure where you was. It was in answer to one in which you told me an anecdote, which in this last you ask if I had received.
Your letters are always so welcome to me, that you certainly have no occasion for excusing what you say or do not say. Your details amuse me, and so would what you suppress; for, though I have no military genius or curiosity, whatever relates to yourself must interest me. The honours you have received, though I have so little taste for such things myself, gave me great satisfaction; and I do not know whether there is not more pleasure in not being a prophet in one's own country, when one is almost received like Mahomet in every other. To be an idol at home, is no assured touchstone of merit. Stocks and stones have been adored in fifty regions, but do not bear transplanting. The Apollo Belvidere and the Hercules Farnese may lose their temples, but never lose their estimation, by travelling.
Elections, you may be sure, are the only topic here at present—I mean in England—not on this quiet hill, where I think of them as little as of the spot where the battle of Blenheim was fought. They say there will not be much alteration, but the phoenix will rise from its ashes with most of its old plumes, or as bright. Wilkes at first seemed to carry all before him, besides having obtained the mayoralty of London at last. Lady Hertford told me last Sunday, that he would carry twelve members. I have not been in town since, nor know any thing but what I collect from the papers; so. if my letter is opened, M. de Vergennes will not amass any very authentic intelligence from my despatches.
What I have taken notice of, is as follows: For the city Wilkes will have but three members: he will lose Crosby, and Townsend will carry Oliver. In Westminster, Wilkes will not have one; his Humphrey Cotes is by far the lowest on the poll; Lord Percy and Lord T. Clinton are triumphant there. Her grace of Northumberland sits at a window in Covent-garden, harangues the mob, and is "Hail, fellow, well met!" At Dover, Wilkes has carried one, and probably will come in for Middlesex himself with Glynn. There have been great endeavours to oppose him, but to no purpose. Of this I am glad, for I do not love a mob so near as Brentford especially, as my road lies through it. Where he has any other interest I am too ignorant in these matters to tell you. Lord John Cavendish is opposed at York, and at the beginning of the poll had the fewest numbers. Charles Fox, like the ghost in Hamlet, has shifted to many quarters; but in most the cock crew, and he walked off.(136) In Southwark there has been outrageous rioting; but I neither know the candidates, their connexions, nor success. This, perhaps, will appear a great deal of news at Paris: here, I dare to say, my butcher knows more.
I can tell you still less of America. There are two or three more ships with forces going thither, and Sir William Draper as second in command.
Of private news, except that Dyson has had a stroke of palsy and will die, there is certainly none; for I saw that shrill Morning Post, Lady Greenwich, two hours ago, and she did not Know a paragraph.
I forgot to mention to you M. de Maurepas. He was by far the ablest and most agreeable man I knew at Paris: and if you stay, I think I could take the liberty of giving you a letter to him; though, as he is now so great a man, and I remain so little an one, I don't know whether it would be quite so proper—though he was exceedingly good to me, and pressed me often to make him a visit in the country. But Lord Stormont can certainly carry you to him—a better passport.
There was one of my letters on which I wish to hear from you. There are always English coming from Paris, who would bring such a parcel: at least, you might send me one volume at a time, and the rest afterwards: but I should not care to have them ventured by the common conveyance. Madame du Deffand is negotiating for an enamel picture for me; but, if she obtains it, I had rather wait for it till you come. The books I mean, are those I told you Lady Ailesbury and Mrs. Damer would give you a particular account of, for they know my mind exactly. Don't reproach me with not meeting you at Paris. Recollect what I suffered this time two years; and, if you can have any notion of fear, imagine my dread of torture for five months and a half! When all the quiet of Strawberry did but just carry me through it, could I support it in the noise of a French hotel! and, what would be still worse, exposed to receive all visits? for the French, you know, are never mor in public than in the act of death. I am like animals, and love to hide myself when I am dying. Thank God, I am now two days beyond the crisis when I expected my dreadful periodic visitant, and begin to grow very sanguine about the virtue of the bootikins. I shall even have courage to go to-morrow to Chalfont for two days, as it is but a journey of two hours. I would not be a day's journey from hence for all Lord Clive's diamonds. This will satisfy you. I doubt Madame du Deffand is not so easily convinced—therefore, pray do not drop a hint before her of blaming me for not meeting you rather assure her you are persuaded it would have been too great a risk for me at this season. I wish to have her quite clear of my attachment to her; but that I do not always find so easy. You, I am sure, will find her all zeal and entpressement for you and yours. Adieu! Yours ever.
(136) Mr. Fox was returned for Malmesbury.-E.
Letter 77 To The Hon. H. S. Conway. Strawberry Hill, Oct. 29, 1774. (page 108)
I have received your letter of the 23d, and it certainly overpays me, when you thank instead of scolding me, as I feared. A passionate man has very little merit in being in a passion, and is sure of saying many things he repents, as I do. I only hope you think that I could not be so much in the wrong for every body; nor should have been, perhaps, even for you, if I had not been certain I was the only person, at that moment, that could serve you essentially: and at such a crisis, I am sure I should take exactly the same part again, except in saying some things I did, of which I am ashamed!(137) I will say no more now on that topic, nor on any thing relating to it, because I have written my mind very fully, and you will know it soon. I can only tell you now, that I approve extremely your way of thinking, and hope you will not change it before you hear from me, and know some material circumstances. You and Lady Ailesbury and I agree exactly, and she and I certainly consider only you. I do not answer her last, because I could not help telling you how very kindly I take your letter. All I beg is, that you would have no delicacy about my serving you any way. You know it is a pleasure to me: any body else may have views that would embarrass you; and, therefore, till you are on the spot, and can judge for yourself (which I always insist on, because you are cooler than I, and because, though I have no interests to serve, I have passions, which equally mislead one,) it will be wiser to decline all kind of proposals and offers. You will avoid the plague of contested elections and solicitations: and I see no reasons, at present, that can tempt you to be in a hurry.(138)
You must not expect to be Madame du Deffand's first favourite. Lady Ailesbury has made such a progress there, that you will not easily supplant her. I have received volumes in her praise.(139) You have a better chance with Madame de Cambis, who is very agreeable; and I hope you are not such an English husband as not to conform to the manners of Paris while you are there.
I forgot to mention one or two of my favourite objects to Lady Ailesbury, nay, I am not sure she will taste one of them, the church of the C'elestines. it is crowded with beautiful old tombs; one of Francis II. whose beatitude is presumed from his being husband of the martyr Mary Stuart. - Another is of the first wife of John Duke of Bedford, the Regent Of France. I think you was once there with me formerly. The other is Richelieu's tomb, at the Sorbonne—but that every body is carried to see. The H'otel de Carnavalet,(140) near the Place Royale, is worth looking at, even for the fa'cade, as you drive by. But of all earthly things the most worth seeing is the house at Versailles, where the King's pictures, not hung up, are kept. There is a treasure past belief, though in sad order. and piled one against another. Monsieur de Guerchy once carried me thither; and you may certainly get leave. At the Luxembourg are some hung up, and one particularly is worth going to see alone: it is the Deluge by Nicolo Poussin, as winter. The three other seasons are good for nothing: but the Deluge is the first picture in the world of its kind. You will be shocked to see the glorious pictures at the Palais Royal transplanted to new canvasses, and new painted and varnished, as if they were to be scenes at the Opera-at least, they had treated half-a-dozen of the best so, three years ago, and were going on. The Prince of Monaco has a few fine, but still worse used; one of them shines more than a looking glass. I fear the exposition of pictures is over for this year; it is generally very diverting.(141) I, who went into every church of Paris, can assure you there are few worth it, but the Invalids-except the scenery at St. Roch, about one or two o'clock at noon, when the sun shines; the Carmelites, for the Guido and the portrait of Madame de la Vali'ere as a Magdalen; the Val de Grace, for a moment; the treasure at Notre Dame; the Sainte Chapelle, where in the ante-chapel are two very large enamelled portraits; the tomb of Cond'e at the Great Jesuits in the Rue St. Antoine, if not shut up; and the little church of St. Louis in the Louvre, where is a fine tomb of Cardinal Fleury, but large enough to stand on Salisbury-plain. One thing some of u must remember, as you return; nay, it is better to go soon to St. Denis, and Madame du Deffand must get you a particular order to be shown (which is never shown without) the effigies of the Kings.(142) They are in presses over the treasure which is shown, and where is the glorious antique cameo-cup; but the countenance of Charles IX. is so horrid and remarkable, you would think he had died on the morrow of the St. Barthelemi, and waked full of the recollection. If you love enamels and exquisite medals, get to see the collection of a Monsieur d'Henery, who lives in the corner of the street where Sir John Lambert lives—I forget its name. There is an old man behind the Rue de Colombier, who has a great but bad collection of old French portraits; I delighted in them, but perhaps you would not. I, you may be sure, hunted out every thing of that sort. The convent and collection of St. Germain, I mean that over against the H'otel du Parc Royal, is well worth seeing—but I forget names strangely—Oh! delightful!—Lord Cholmondeley sends me word he goes to Paris on Monday: I shall send this and my other letter by him. It was him I meant; I knew he was going and had prepared it.
Pray take care to lock up your papers in a strong box that nobody can open. They imagine you are at Paris on some commission, and there is no trusting French hotels or servants. America is in a desperate situation, The accounts from the Congress are not expected before the 10th, and expected very warm. I have not time to tell you some manoeuvres against them that will make your blood curdle. Write to me when you can by private hands, as I will to you. There are always English passing backwards and forwards.
(140) Where Madame de S'evign'e resided.
(141) He means from their extreme bad taste.
(142) The abbey of St. Denis was shorn of its glories during the Revolution. On the 16th of October 1793, the coffin of Louis XV. was taken out of the vaults; and, after a stormy debate, it was decided to throw the remains of all the kings, even those of Henry IV. and Louis XIV. which were yet to a great degree preserved entire, into a pit, to melt down their leaden coffins on the spot, and to take away and cast into bullets whatever lead remained in the church; not even excepting the roof.-E.
Letter 78 To The Countess Of Ailesbury. Strawberry Hill, Nov. 7, 1774. (page 110)
I have written such tomes to Mr. Conway, Madam, and have so nothing new to write, that I might as well, methinks, begin and like the lady to her husband: "Je vous 'ecris parce que je n'ai rien 'a faire: je finis parce que je n'ai rien 'a vous dire." Yes, I have two complaints to make, one of your ladyship, the other of myself. You tell me nothing of Lady Harriet; have you no tongue, or the French no eyes? or are her eyes employed in nothing but seeing? What a vulgar employment for a fine woman's eyes, after she has risen from her toilet! I declare I will ask no more questions—what is it to me, whether she is admired or not? I should know how charming she is, though all Europe were blind. I hope I am not to be told by any barbarous nation upon earth what beauty and grace are.
For myself, I am guilty of the gout in my elbow; the left- -witness my handwriting. Whether I caught cold by the deluge in the night, or whether the bootikins, like the water of Styx, can only preserve the parts they surround, I doubt they have saved me but three weeks, for so long my reckoning has been out. However, as I feel nothing in my feet, I flatter myself that this Pindaric transition will not be a regular ode, but a fragment, the more valuable for being imperfect.
Now for my gazette.—Marriages—Nothing done. Intrigues—More in the political than civil way. Births—Under par since Lady Berkeley left off breeding. Gaming—Low water. Deaths—Lord Morton, Lord Wentworth, Duchess Douglas. Election stock—More buyers than sellers. Promotions—Mr. Wilkes as high as he can go.—Apropos, he was told the Lord Chancellor intended to signify to him, that the King did not approve the City's choice: he replied, "Then I shall signify to his lordship, that I am at least as fit to be Lord Mayor as he to be Lord Chancellor." This being more gospel than every thing Mr. Wilkes says, the formal approbation was given.
Mr. Burke has succeeded in Bristol, and Sir James Peachey will miscarry in Sussex. But what care you, Madam, about our Parliament? You will see the rentr'ee of the old one, with songs and epigrams into the bargain. We do not shift our Parliaments with so much gaiety. Money in one hand, and abuse in t'other—those are all the arts we know. Wit and a gamut I don't believe ever signified a Parliament,(143) whatever the glossaries may say; for they never produce pleasantry and harmony. Perhaps you may not taste this Saxon pun, but I know it will make the Antiquarian Society die with laughing.
Expectation hangs on America. The result of the general assembly is expected in four or five days. If one may believe the papers, which one should not believe, the other side of the waterists are not doux comme des moutons, and yet we do intend to eat them. I was in town on Monday; the Duchess of Beaufort graced our loo, and made it as rantipole as a Quaker's meeting. Louis Quinze ,(144) I believe, is arrived by this time, but I fear without quinze louis.
Your herb-snuff and the four glasses are lying in my warehouse, but I can hear of no ship going to Paris. You are now at FOntainbleau, but not thinking of Francis 1. the Queen of Sweden, and Monaldelschi. It is terrible that one cannot go to courts that are gone! You have supped with the Chevalier de Boufflers: did he act every thing in the world, and sing every thing in the world, and laugh at every thing in the world? Has Madame de Cambis sung to you "Sans d'epit, sans l'egert'e?"(145) Has Lord Cholmondeley delivered my pacquet? I hear I have hopes of Madame d'Olonne.(146) Gout or no gout, I shall be little in town till after Christmas. My elbow makes me bless myself that I am not at Paris. Old age is no such uncomfortable thing, if one gives oneself up to it with a good grace, and don't drag it about
"To midnight dances and the public show."
If one stays quietly in one's own house in the country, and cares for nothing but oneself, scolds one's servants, condemns every thing that is new, and recollects how charming a thousand things were formerly that were very disagreeable, one gets over the winters very well, and the summers get over themselves.
(144) This was a cant name given to Lady Powis, who was very fond of loo, and had lost much money at the game.
(145) The first words of a favourite French air.
(146) The Portrait in enamel of Madame d'Olonne by Petitot, which Walpole afterwards purchased.-E.
Letter 79 To The Earl Of Strafford. Strawberry Hill, Nov. 11, 1774. (page 112)
I am sorry there is still time, my dear lord, to write to you again; and that though there is, I have so little to amuse you with. One is not much nearer news for being within ten miles of London than if in Yorkshire; and besides, whatever reaches us, Lady Greenwich catches at the rebound before me, and Sends you before I can. Our own circle furnishes very little. Dowagers are good for propagating news when planted, but have done with sending forth suckers. Lady Blandford's coffee-house is removed to town, and the Duchess of Newcastle's is little frequented, but by your sister Anne, Lady Browne, and me. This morning, indeed, I was at a very fine concert at old Franks's at Isleworth, and heard Leoni,(147) who pleased me more than any thing I have heard these hundred years. There is a full melancholy melody in his voice, though a falsetto, that nothing but a natural voice ever compasses. Then he sung songs of Handel in the genuine simple style, and did not put one in pain like rope-dancers. Of the Opera I hear a dismal account; for I did not go to it to sit in our box like an old King dowager by myself. Garrick is treating the town, as it deserves and likes to be treated, with scenes, fireworks, and his own writing. A good new play I never expect to see more, nor have seen since The Provoked Husband, which came out when I was at school.
Bradshaw is dead, they say by his own hand: I don't know wherefore. I was told it was a great political event. If it is, our politics run as low as our plays. From town I heard that Lord Bristol was taken speechless with a stroke of the palsy. If he dies, Madam Chudleigh(148) must be tried by her peers, as she is certainly either duchess or countess. Mr. Conway and his company are so pleased with Paris, that they talk of staying till Christmas. I am glad; for they will certainly be better diverted there than here. Your lordship's most faithful servant.
(147) Leoni, a celebrated singer of the day, considered one of the best in England. He was a Jew, and engaged at the synagogues, from which he is said to have been dismissed for singing in the Messiah of Handel.-E.
(148) The Duchess of Kingston; against whom an indictment for bigamy was found on the 8th of December, she having married the Duke of Kingston, having been previously married to the Hon. Augustus John Hervey, then living, and who, by the death of his brother, in March, 1775, became Earl of Bristol.-E.
Letter 80 To The Hon. H. S. Conway. Strawberry Hill, Nov. 12, 1774. (page 112)
I have received a delightful letter from you of four sheets, and another since. I shall not reply to the campaigning part (though much obliged to you for it), because I have twenty other subjects -more pressing to talk of The first is to thank you for your excessive goodness to my dear old friend-she has some indiscretions, and you must not have any to her; but she has the best heart in the world, and I am happy,, at her great age, that she has spirits enough not to he always upon her guard. A bad heart, especially after long experience,, is but too apt to overflow inwardly with prudence. At least, as I am but too like her, and have corrected too few of my faults, I would fain persuade myself that some of them flow from a good principle—but I have not time to talk of myself, though you are much too Partial to me, and give me an opportunity; yet I shall not take it.
Now for English news, and then your letter again. There has been a great mortality here; though Death has rather been pri'e than a volunteer. Bradshaw, as I told Lady Ailesbury last post, shot himself. He is dead, totally undone. Whether that alone was the cause, or whether he had not done something worse, I doubt. I cannot conceive that, with his resources, he should have been hopeless—and, to suspect him of delicacy, impossible!
A ship is arrived from America, and I doubt with very bad news; for none but trifling letters have yet been given out- -but I am here, see nobody that knows any thing,,and only hear by accident from people that drop in. The sloop that is to bring the result of the general assembly is not yet come. There are indeed rumours, that both the non-importation, and even non-exportation have been decreed, and that the flame is universal. I hope this is exaggerated! yet I am told the stocks will fall very much in a day or two.
I have nothing to tell Lady Ailesbury, but that I hear a deplorable account of the Opera. There is a new puppet-show at Drury Lane, as fine as scenes can make it, called "The Maid of the Oaks,"(149) and as dull as the author could not help making it.
Except M. d'Herouville, I know all the people you name. C. I doubt, by things I have heard formerly, may have been a concessionnaire. The Duke, your protecteur(150) is mediocre enough; You would have been more pleased with his wife. The Chevalier's(151) bon-mot is excellent, and so is he. He has as much buffonnerie as the Italians, With more wit and novelty. His impromptu verses often admirable. Get Madame du Deffand to show you his embassy to the Princess Christine, and his verses on his eldest uncle, beginning Si Monsieur de Veau. His second uncle has parts, but they are not so natural. Madame de Caraman is a very good kind of woman, but has not a quarter of her sister's parts.(152) Madame de Mirepoix is the agreeable woman of the world when she pleases-but there, must not be a card in the room. Lord * * * * has acted like himself; that is, unlike any body else. You know, I believe, that I think him a very good spetcr; but I have little opinion of his judgment and knowledge of the world, and a great Opinion of his affectation and insincerity. The Abb'e Raynal, though he wrote that fine work on the Commerce des Deux Indes, is the most tiresome creature in the world. The first time I met him was at the dull Baron d'Olbach's: we were twelve at table: I dreaded opening My Mouth in French, before so many people and so many servants: he began questioning me, cross the table, about our colonies, which I understand as little as I do Coptic. I made him signs I was deaf. After dinner, he found I was not, and never forgave me. Mademoiselle do Raucoux I never saw till you told me Madame du Deffand said she was d'emoniaque sans chaleur! What painting! I see her now. Le Kain sometimes pleased me, oftener not. Mol'e is charming in genteel, or in pathetic comedy, and would be fine in tragedy, if he was stronger. Preville is always perfection. I like his wife in affected parts, though not animated enough. There was a delightful woman who did the Lady Wishforts, I don't know if there still, I think her name Mademoiselle Drouin; and a fat woman, rather elderly, who sometimes acted the soubrette. But you have missed the Dumenil, and Caillaut! What irreparable losses! Madame du Deffand, perhaps—I don't know—could obtain your hearing the Clairon, yet the Dumenil was infinitely preferable.
I could now almost find in my heart to laugh at you for liking Boutin's garden.(153) Do you know, that I drew a plan of it, as the completest absurdity I ever saw. What! a river that wriggles at right angles through a stone gutter, with two tansy puddings that were dug out of it, and three or four beds in a row, by a corner of the wall, with samples of grass, corn, and of en friche, like a tailor's paper of patterns! And you like this! I will tell Park-place—Oh! I had forgot your audience in dumb show—Well, as Madame de S'evign'e said, "Le Roi de Prusse, c'est le plus grand Roi du monde still."(154) My love to the old Parliament; I don't love new ones.
I went several times to Madame do Monconseil's, who is just what you say. Mesdames de Tingri et de la Vauguion I never saw: Madame de Noailles once or twice, and enough. You say something of Madame de Mallet, which I could not read; for, by the way, your brother and I agree that you are grown not to write legibly: is that lady in being? I knew her formerly. Madame de Blot(155) I know, and Monsieur de Paulmy I know; but for Heaven's sake who is Colonel Conway?(156) Mademoiselle Sanadon is la sana donna, and not Mademoiselle Celadon,(157) as you call her. Pray assure my good Monsieur Schouwalov(158)of my great regard: he is one of the best of beings.
I have said all I could, at least all I should. I reserve the rest of my paper for a postscript; for this is but Saturday, and my letter cannot depart till Tuesday: but I could not for one minute defer answering your charming volumes, which interest me so much. I grieve for Lady Harriet's swelled face, and wish for both their sakes .She could transfer it to her father. I assure her I meant nothing by desiring you to see the verses to the Princess Christine,(159) wherein there is very profane mention of a pair of swelled cheeks. I hear nothing of Madame d'Olonne. Oh! make Madame du Deffand show you the sweet portrait of Madame de Prie, the Duke of Bourbon's mistress. Have you seen Madame de Monaco, and the remains of Madame de Brionne? If -you wish to see Mrs. A * * *, ask for the Princesse de Ligne. If you have seen Monsieur de Maurepas, you have seen the late Lord Hardwicke.(160) By your not naming him, I suppose the Duc de Nivernois, is not at Paris. Say a great deal for me to M. de Guisnes.. You will not see my passion, the Duchess de Chatillon. if You see Madame de Nivernois, you will think the Duke of Newcastle is come to life again. Alas! where is my Postscript? Adieu! Yours ever.
(149) Written by General Burgoyne. Walpole's opinion of the General's abilities as a writer totally changed upon the appearance of "The Heiress", which he always called the greatest comedy in the English language.-E.
(150) The Duc de la Vali'ere: whom Mr. Conway had said, that, when presented to him, "his reception was what might be called good but rather de protection."
(151) The Chevalier de Boufflers; well known for his "Letters from Switzerland," addressed to his mother; his "Reine de Golconde," a tale; and a number of very pretty vers de soci'et'e.-E.
(152) Madame de Cambis.-E.
(153) See another ludicrous description of this garden in a letter to Mr. Chute; ante, P. 55, letter 31.-E.
(154) This alludes to Mr. Conway's presentation to the King of France, Louis XVI. at Fontainbleau, of which, in his letter to Mr. Walpole he gives the following account:— "on St. Hubert's day in the morning I had the honour of being presented to the King: 'twas a good day, and an excellent deed. You may be sure I was well received! the French are so polite! and their court so Polished! The Emperor, indeed, talked to me every day; so did the King of Prussia, regularly and much; but that was not to be compared to the extraordinary reception of his most Christian Majesty, who, when I was presented, did not stop nor look to see what sort of an animal was offered to his notice, but carried his head, as it seemed, somewhat higher, and passed his way."
(155) Wife Of M. Chavigny de Blot, attached to the service of the Duke of Orleans: she Was sister to the Comte d'Hennery, who died at St. Domingo, where he was commander-in-chief.
(156) An officer in the French service.
(157) Mademoiselle Sanadon, a lady who lived with Madame du Deffand. She was niece to the P'ere Sanadon, well known by his translation of Horace, accompanied with valuable notes, and by his elegant Poems and orations in the Latin language.-E.
(158) The Russian minister at Paris. See vol. iii., Letter to the Earl of Hertford, March 26, 1765, letter 245. Madame du Deffand thus describes the Count in a letter to Walpole:—"Je trouve notre bon ami un peu ennuyeux; il n'a nulle inflexion dans la parole, nul mouvement dans l''ame; ce qu'il dit est une lecture sans p'en'etration."-E.
(159) BY the Chevalier do Boufflers.
(160) He means, from their personal resemblance.
Letter 81 To The Hon. H. S. Conway. Arlington Street, Nov. 27, 1774. (page 115)
I have received your delightful Plump packet with a letter of six pages, one from Madame du Deffand, the Eloges,(161) and the Lit de Justice. Now, observe my gratitude: I appoint you my resident at Paris, but you are not to resemble all our ministers abroad, and expect to live at home, which would destroy my Lord Castlecomer's(162) view in your staying at Paris. However, to prove to you that I have some gratitude that is not totally selfish, I will tell you what little news I know, before I answer your letter; for English news, to be sure, is the most agreeable circumstance in a letter from England.
On my coming to town yesterday, there was nothing but more deaths—don't you think we have the plague? The Bishop of Worcester,(163) Lord Breadalbane, Lord Strathmore. The first fell from his horse, or with his horse, at Bath, and the bishopric was incontinently given to Bishop North.
America is still more refractory, and I doubt will outvote the ministry. They have picked General Gage's pocket of three pieces of cannon,(164) and intercepted some troops that were going to him. Sir William Draper is writing plans of pacification in our newspapers; and Lord Chatham flatters himself that he shall be sent for when the patient is given over; which I don't think at all unlikely to happen. My poor nephew is very political too: so we shall not want mad doctors. Apropos, I hear Wilkes says he will propose Macreth for Speaker.
The Ecclesiastical Court are come to a resolution that the Duchess of Kingston is Mrs. Hervey; and the sentence will be public in a -fortnight. It is not so certain that she will lose the estate. Augustus(165) is not in a much more pleasant predicament than she is. I saw Lord Bristol last night: he looks perfectly well, but his speech is much affected, and his right hand.
Lady Lyttelton, who, you know, never hears any thing that has happened, wrote to me two days ago, to ask if it would not be necessary for you to come over for the meeting of the Parliament. I answered, very gravely, that to be sure you ought: but though Sir James Morgan threatened you loudly with a petition, yet, as it could not be heard till after Christmas, I was afraid you could not be persuaded to come sooner. I hope she will inquire who Sir James Morgan is, and that people will persuade her she has made a confusion about Sir James Peachy. Now for your letter.
I have been in the Chambre de Parlement, I think they call it the Grande Chambre; and was shown the corner in which the monarchs sit, and do not wonder you did not guess where it was they sat. It is just like the dark corner, under the window, where I always sat in the House of Commons. What has happened, has passed exactly according to my ideas. When one King breaks one parliament, and another, what can the result be but despotism? or of what else is it a proof? If a Tory King displaces his father's Whig lord chamberlain, neither lord chamberlain has the more or the less power ,over the theatres and court mournings and birthday balls. All that can arrive is, that the people will be still more attached to the old parliament, from this seeming restitution of a right—but the people must have some power before their attachment can signify a straw. The old parliament, too, may some time or other give itself more airs on this confession of right; but that too cannot be but in a minority, when the power of the crown is lessened by reasons that have nothing to do with the parliament. I will answer for it, they will be too grateful to give umbrage to their restorer. Indeed, I did not think the people would be so quick-sighted at once, as to see the distinction of old and new was without difference. Methinks France and England are like the land and the sea; one gets a little sense when the other loses it.
I am quite satisfied with all you tell me about my friend. My intention is certainly to see her again, if I am able; but I am too old to lay plans, especially when it depends on the despot gout to register or cancel them. It is even melancholy to see her, when it will probably be but once more; and still more melancholy, when we ought to say to one another, in a different sense from the common, au revoir! However, as mine is a pretty cheerful kind of philosophy, I think the best way is to think of dying, but to talk and act as if one was not to die; or else one tires other people, and dies before one's time. I have truly all the affection and attachment for her that she deserves from me, or I should not be so very thankful as I am for your kindness to her. The Choiseuls will certainly return at Christmas, and will make her life much more agreeable. The Duchess has as much attention to her as I could have; but that will not keep me from making her a visit.
I have only seen, not known, the younger Madame de Boufflers. For her musical talents, I am little worthy of them-yet I am just going to Lady Bingham's to hear the Bastardella, whom, though the first singer in Italy, Mrs. Yates could not or would not agree with,(166) and she is to have twelve hundred pounds for singing twelve times at the Pantheon, where, if she had a voice as loud as Lord Clare's, she could not be heard. The two bon-mots You sent me are excellent; but, alas! I had heard them both before; consequently your own, which is very good too, pleased me much more. M. de Stainville I think you will not like: he has sense, but has a dry military harshness, that at least did not suit me—and then I hate his barbarity to his Wife.(167)
You was very lucky indeed to get one of the sixty tickets.(168) Upon the whole, your travels have been very fortunate, and the few mortifications amply compensated. If a Duke(169) has been spiteful when your back was turned, a hero-king has been all courtesy. If another King has been silent, an emperor has been singularly gracious- -Frowns or silence may happen to anybody: the smiles have been addressed to you particularly. So was the ducal frown indeed-but would you have earned a smile at the price set on it? One cannot do right and be always applauded— but in such cases are not frowns tantamount?
As my letter will not set forth till the day after to-morrow, I reserve the rest for my additional news, and this time will reserve it.
St. Parliament's day, 29th, after breakfast.
The speech is said to be firm, and to talk of the rebellion(170) of our province of Massachusetts. No sloop is yet arrived to tell us how to call the rest. Mr. Van(171) is to move for the expulsion of Wilkes; which will distress, and may produce an odd scene. Lord Holland is certainly dead; the papers say, Robinson too, but that I don't know—so many deaths of late make report kill to right and left.
(161) Two rival Eloges of Fontenelle, by ChamPfort and La Harpe.-E.
(162) A cant phrase of Mr. Walpole's; which took its rise from the following story:—The tutor of a young Lord Castlecomer, who lived at Twickenham with his mother, having broken his leg, and somebody pitying the poor man to Lady Castlecomer, she replied, "Yes indeed, it is very inconvenient to my Lord Castlecomer."-E.
(163) Dr. James Johnson.-E.
(164) The seizure of Fort William and Mary, near Portsmouth, in New Hampshire, by the provincial militia, in which they found many barrels of gunpowder, several pieces of cannon, etc.-E.
(165) Augustus Hervey, to whom she was first married.
(166) Mrs. Yates was at this time joint manager of the Opera with Mrs. Brook. In November 1773, she spoke a Poetical exordium, by which it appeared that she intended mixing plays with operas, and entertaining the public with singing and declamation alternately; but permission could not be obtained from the Lord Chamberlain to put this plan into execution.-E.
(167) Upon a suspicion OF gallantry with Clairval, an actor, she was confined for life in the convent Of les filles de Sainte Marie, at Nancy.-E.
(168) To see the Lit de Justice held by Louis XVI. when he recalled the Parliament of Paris, at the instigation of the Chancellor Maupeou, and suppressed the new one of their creation.
(169) The Duke de Choiseul.
(170) The King's Speech announced, "that a most daring spirit of resistance and disobedience to the law still unhappily prevailed in the province of Massachusett's Bay;" and expressed the King's "firm and steadfast resolution to withstand every attempt to weaken or impair the supreme authority Of this legislature over all the dominions of his crown: the maintenance of which he considered as essential to the dignity, the safety, and welfare of the British empire."-E.
(171) Charles Van, Esq. member for Brecon town. No motion for the expulsion of Wilkes took place.-E.
Letter 82 To The Hon. H. S. Conway. Arlington Street, Dec. 15, 1774. (page 118)
As I wrote to Lady Ailesbury but on Tuesday, I should not have followed it so soon with this, if I had nothing to tell you but of myself. My gouts are never dangerous, and the shades of them not important. However, to despatch this article at once, I will tell you, that the, pain I felt yesterday in my elbow made me think all former pain did not deserve the name. Happily the torture did not last above two hours; and, which is more surprising, it is all the real pain I have felt; for though my hand has been as sore as if flayed, and that both feet are lame, the bootikins demonstrably prevent or extract the sting of it, and I see no reason not to expect to get out in a fortnight more. Surely, if I am laid up but one month in two years, instead of five or six, I have reason to think the bootikins sent from heaven.
The long expected sloop is arrived at last, and is indeed a man of war! The General Congress have voted a non-importation, a non-exportation, a non-consumption; that, in case of hostilities committed by the troops at Boston, the several provinces will march to the assistance of their countrymen; that the cargoes of ships now at sea shall be sold on their arrival, and the money arising thence given to the poor at Boston.; that a letter, in the nature of a petition of rights, shall be sent to the King; another to the House of Commons; a third to the people of England; a demand of repeal of all the acts of Parliament affecting North America passed during this reign, as also of the Quebec-bill: and these resolutions not to be altered till such repeal is obtained.
Well, I believe you do not regret being neither in parliament nor in administration! As you are an idle man, and have nothing else to do, you may sit down and tell one a remedy for all this. Perhaps you will give yourself airs, and say you was a prophet, and that prophets are not honoured in their own country. Yet, if you have any inspiration about you, I assure you it will be of great service-we are at our wit's end-which was no great journey. Oh! you conclude Lord Chatham's crutch will be supposed a wand, and be sent for. They might as well send for my crutch; and they should not have it; the stile is a little too high to help them over. His Lordship is a little fitter for raising a storm than laying one, and of late seems to have lost both virtues. The Americans at least have acted like men,(172) gone to the"bottom at once, and set the whole upon the whole. Our conduct has been that of pert children: we have thrown a pebble at a mastiff, and are surprised that it was not frightened. Now we must kill the guardian of the house which will be plundered the moment little master has nothing but the old nurse to defend it. But I have done with reflections; you will be fuller of them than I.
(172) "I have not words to express my satisfaction," says Lord Chatham in a letter of the 24th, "that the Congress has conducted this most arduous and delicate business with such manly Wisdom and calm resolution, as do the highest honour to their deliberations. Very few are the things contained in their resolves, that I could wish had been otherwise." Correspondence, vol. ii, p. 368.-$.
Letter 83 To The Hon. H. S. Conway. Arlington Street, Dec. 26, 1774. (page 119)
I begin my letter to-day, to prevent the fatigue of dictating two to-morrow. In the first and best place, I am very near recovered; that is, though still a mummy, I have no pain left, nor scarce any sensation of gout except in my right hand, which is still in complexion and shape a lobster's claw. Now, unless any body can prove to me that three weeks are longer than five months and a half, they will hardly convince me that the bootikins are not a cure for fits of the gout and a Very short cure, though they cannot prevent it: nor perhaps is it to be wished they should; for, if the gout prevents every thing else, would not one have something that does? I have but one single doubt left about the bootikins, which is, whether they do not weaken my breast: but as I am sensible that my own spirits do half the mischief, and that, if I could have held my tongue, and kept from talking and dictating letters, I should not have been half so bad as I have been, there remains but half due to bootikins on the balance: and surely the ravages of the last long fit, and two years more in age, ought to make another deduction. Indeed, my forcing myself to dictate my last letter to you almost killed me; and since the gout is not dangerous to me, if I am kept perfectly quiet, my good old friend must have patience, and not insist upon letters from me but when it is quite easy to me to send them. So much for me and my gout. I will now endeavour to answer such parts of your last letters as I can in this manner, and considering how difficult it is to read your writing in a dark room.
I have not yet been able to look into the French harangues you sent me. Voltaire's verses to Robert Covelle are not only very bad, but very contemptible.
I am delighted with all the honours you receive, and with all the amusements they procure you, which is the best part of honours. For the glorious part, I am always like the man in Pope's Donne,
"Then happy he who shows the tombs, said I."
That is, they are least troublesome there. The serenissime(173) you met at Montmorency is one of the least to my taste; we quarrelled about Rousseau, and I never went near him after my first journey. Madame du Deffand will tell you the story, if she has not forgotten it.
It is supposed here, that the new proceedings of the French Parliament will produce great effects: I don't suppose any such thing. What America will produce I know still less; but certainly something very serious. The merchants have summoned a meeting for the second of next month, and the petition from the Congress to the King is arrived. The heads have been shown to Lord Dartmouth; but I hear one of the agents is again presenting it; yet it is thought it will be delivered, and then be ordered to be laid before Parliament. The whole affair has already been talked of there on the army and navy-days; and Burke, they say, has shone with amazing Wit and ridicule on the late inactivity of Gage, and his losing his cannon and straw; on his being entrenched in a town with an army of observation; with that army being, as Sir William Meredith had said, an asylum for magistrates, and to secure the port. Burke said, he had heard of an asylum for debtors and whores, never for magistrates; and of ships never of armies securing a port. This is all there has been in Parliament, but elections. Charles Fox's place did not come into question. Mr. * * *, who is one of the new elect, has opened, but with no success. There is a seaman, Luttrell,(174) that promises much better.
I am glad you like the Duchess de Lauzun:(175) she is one of my favourites. The H'otel du Chatelet promised to be very fine, but was not finished when I was last at Paris. I was much pleased with the person that slept against St. Lambert's poem: I wish I had thought of the nostrum, when Mr. Seward, a thousand years ago, at Lyons, would read an epic poem to me just as I had received a dozen letters from England. St. Lambert is a great Jackanapes, and a very tiny genius: I suppose the poem was The Seasons, which is four fans spun out into a Georgic. If I had not been too ill, I should have thought of bidding you hear midnight mass on Christmas-eve in Madame du Deffand's tribune, as I used to do. To be sure, you know that her apartment was part of Madame du Montespan's, whose arms are on the back of the grate in Madame du Deffand's own bedchamber. Apropos, ask her to show you Madame de Prie's pinture, M. le Duc's mistress—I am very fond of it—and make her tell you her history.(176)
I have but two or three words more. Remember my parcel of letters from Madame du Deffand,(177) and pray remember this injunction not to ruin yourselves in bringing presents. A very slight fairing of a guinea or two obliges as much, is much more fashionable, and not a moment sooner forgotten than a magnificent one; and then you may very cheaply oblige the more persons; but as the sick fox, in Gay's Fables, says (for one always excepts oneself),
"A chicken too might do me good."
i allow you to go as far as three or even five guineas for a snuff-box for me; and then, as ***** told the King, when he asked for the reversion of the lighthouse for two lives, and the King reproached him, with having always advised him against granting reversions; he replied, "Oh! Sir, but if your Majesty will give me this, I will take care you shall never give away another." Adieu, with my own left hand.
(173) The Prince de Conti.
(174) The Hon. James Luttrell, fourth son of Lord Irnham, a lieutenant in the navy.-E.
(175) She became Duchesse de Biron upon the death of her husband's uncle, the Marechal Duke de Biron. See vol. iii., Letter to John Montagu, Feb. 4, 1766, letter 294. Her person is thus described by Rousseau:—"Am'elie de Boufflers a une figure, une douceur, une timidit'e devierge: rien de plus aimable et de plus int'eressant que sa figure; rien de plus tendre et de plus chaste que les sentiments qu'elle inspire."-E.
(176) Madame de Prie was the mistress of the Regent Duke of Orleans. A full account of her family, character, etc. will be found in Duclos's Memoirs.-E.
(177) At Walpole's earnest solicitation, Madame du Deffand returned by General Conway all the letters she had received from him. In so doing, she thus wrote to him:—"Vous aurez longtemps de quoi allumer votre feu, surtout si vous joignez 'a ce que j'avais de vous avez de moi, et rien ne serait plus juste: mais je m'en rapporte 'a votre prudence; je ne suivrai pas l'exemple de m'efiance que vous me donnez."-E.
Letter 84 To The Hon. H. S. Conway. Arlington Street, Dec. 31, 1774. (page 121)
No child was ever so delighted to go into breeches, as I was this morning to get on a pair of cloth shoes as big as Jack Harris's: this joy may be the spirits of dotage-but what signifies whence one is happy? Observe, too, that this is written with my own right hand, with the bootikin actually upon it, which has no distinction of fingers: so I no longer see any miracle in Buckinger, who was famous for writing without hands or feet; as it was indifferent which one uses, provided one has a pair of either. Take notice, I write so much better without fingers than with, that I advise you to try a bootikin. To be sure, the operation is a little slower; but to a prisoner, the duration of his amusement is of far more consequence than the vivacity of it.
Last night I received your very kind, I might say your letter tout court, of Christmas-day. By this time I trust you are quite out of pain about me. My fit has been as regular as possible; only, as if the bootikins were post-horses, it made the grand tour of all my limbs in three weeks. If it will always use the same expedition, I m content it should take the journey once in two years. You must not mind my breast: it was always the weakest part of a very weak system ; yet did not suffer now by the gout, but in consequence of it; and would not have been near so bad, if I could have kept from talking and dictating letters. The moment I am out of pain, I am in high spirits ; and though I never take any medicines, there is one thing absolutely necessary to be put into my mouth—a gag. At present, the town is so empty that my tongue is a sinecure.
I am well acquainted with the Biblioth'eque du Roi, and the medals, and the prints. I spent an entire day in looking over the English portraits, and kept the librarian without his dinner till dark night, till I was satisfied. Though the Choiseuls(178) will not acquaint with you, I hope their Abb'e Barthelemil(179) is not put under the same quarantine. Besides great learning, he has infinite wit and polissonnerie and is one of the best kind of men in the world. As to the grandpapa,(180) il ne nous aime pas nous autres, and has never forgiven Lord Chatham. Though exceedingly agreeable himself, I don't think his taste exquisite. Perhaps I was piqued; but he seemed to like Wood better than any of US. Indeed, I am a little afraid that my dear friend's impetuous zeal may have been a little too prompt in pressing you upon them d'abord:— but don't say a word of this—it is her great goodness.—I thank you a million of times for all yours to her:-she is perfectly grateful for it. The Chevalier'S(181) verses are pretty enough. I own I like Saurin's(182) much better than you seem to do. Perhaps I am prejudiced by the curse on the Chancellor at the end.
Not a word of news here. In a sick room one hears all there is, but I have not even a lie; but as this will not set out these three days, it is to be hoped some charitable Christian will tell a body one. Lately indeed we heard that the King of Spain had abdicated; but I believe it was some stockjobber that had deposed him.
Lord George Cavendish, for my solace in my retirement, has given me a book, the History of his own Furness-abbey, written by a Scotch ex-Jesuit.(183) I cannot say that this unnatural conjunction of a Cavendish and a Jesuit has produced a lively colt; but I found one passage worth any money. It is an extract of a constable's journal kept during the civil war; and ends thus: "And there was never heard of such troublesome and distracted times as these five years have been, but especially for constables." It is so natural, that inconvenient to my Lord Castlecomer is scarce a better proverb.
Pray tell Lady Ailesbury that though she has been so very good to me, I address my letters to you rather than to her, because my pen is not always-upon its guard, but is apt to say whatever comes into its nib; and then, if she peeps over your shoulder, I am cens'e not to know it. Lady Harriet's wishes have done me great good: nothing but a father's gout could be obdurate enough to resist them. My Mrs. Damer says nothing to me; but I give her intentions credit, and lay her silence on you.