I am too weak to say more, though I could talk for hours on your history. But one feeling I cannot suppress, though it is a sensation of vanity. I think, nay, I am sure I perceive, that your sentiments on government agree with my own. It is the only point on which I suspect myself of any partiality in my admiration. It is a reflection of a far inferior vanity that pleases me in your speaking with so much distinction of that, alas! wonderful period, in which the world saw five good monarchs succeed each other.(246) I have often thought of treating that Elysian era. Happily it has fallen into better hands!
I have been able to rise to-day, for the first time, and flatter myself that if I have no relapse, you will in two or three days more give' me leave, Sir, to ask the honour of seeing you. In the mean time,,be just; and do not suspect me of flattering you. You will always hear that I say the same of you to every body. I am, with the greatest regard, Sir, etc.
(244) now first collected.
(245) "I am at a loss," says Gibbon, in his Memoirs, "how to describe the success of the work without betraying the vanity of the writer. The first impression was exhausted in a few days; a second and third edition were scarcely adequate to the demand; and the bookseller's property was twice invaded by the pirates of Dublin. My book was on every table, and almost on every toilette; the historian was crowned by the taste or fashion of the day; nor was the general voice disturbed by the barking of any profane critic."-E.
(246) Walpole, in August 1771, had said, "The world will no more see Athens, Rome, and the Medici again, than a succession of five good Emperors, like Nerva, Trajan, Adrian, and the two Antonines." See ante, p. 56-E.
Letter 105 To The Rev. Mr. Cole. Arlington Street, March 1, 1776. (page 151)
I am sorry to tell you that the curious old painting at the Tavern in Fleet Street is addled, by the subject turning out a little too old. Alas! it is not the story of Francis I., but of St. Paul. All the coats of arms that should have been French and Austrian, and that I had a mind to convert into Palatine and Lorrain, are the bearings of Pharisaic nobility. In short, Dr. Percy was here yesterday, and tells me that over Mr. Gough's imaginary Pavia is written Damascus in capital letters. Oh! our antiquaries!
Mr. Astle has at last called on me, but I was not well enough to see him. I shall return his visit when I can go out. I hope this will be in a week: I have no pain left, but have a codicil of nervous fevers, for which I am taking the bark. I have nothing new for you in our old way, and therefore will not unnecessarily lengthen my letter, which was only intended to cashier the old painting, though I hear the antiquaries still go on with having a drawing taken from it. Oh! our antiquaries!
Letter 106 To Dr. Gem.(247) Arlington Street, April 4, 1776 (page 151)
It is but fair, when one quits one's party, to give notice to those one abandons—at least, modern patriots, who often imbibe their principles of honour at Newmarket, use that civility. You and I, dear Sir, have often agreed in our political notions; and you, I fear, will die without changing your opinion. For my part, I must confess I am totally altered; and, instead of being a warm partisan of liberty, now admire nothing but despotism. You will naturally ask what place I have gotten, or what bribe I have taken? Those are the criterions of political changes in England-but, as my conversion is of foreign extraction, I shall not be the richer for it. In One word, it is the relation du lit de justice(248) that has operated the miracle. When two ministers(249) are found so humane, so virtuous, so excellent as to study nothing but the welfare and deliverance of the people; when a king listens to such excellent men; and when a parliament, from the basest, most interested motives, interposes to intercept the blessing, must I not change my opinions, and admire arbitrary power? or can I retain my sentiments, without varying the object?
Yes, Sir, I am shocked at the conduct of the Parliament— one would think it was an English one! I am scandalized at the speeches of the Ivocat-g'en'eral,(250) who sets up the odious interests of the nobility and clergy against the cries and groans of the poor; and who employs his wicked eloquence to tempt the good young monarch, by personal views, to sacrifice the mass of his subjects to the privileges of the few. But why do I call it eloquence? The fumes of interest had so clouded his rhetoric, that he falls into a downright Iricism. He tells the King, that the intended tax on the proprietors of land will affect the property not only of the rich, but of the poor. I should be glad to know what is the Property of the poor? Have the poor landed estates? Are those who have landed estates the poor? Are the poor that will suffer by the tax, the wretched labourers who are dragged from their famishing families to work on the roads? But it is wicked eloquence when it finds a reason, or gives a reason for continuing the abuse. The Advocate tells the King, those abuses are presque consacr'es par l'anciennet'e. Indeed, he says all that can be said for nobility, it is consacr'ee par l'anciennet'e—and thus the length of the pedigree of abuses renders them respectable!
His arguments are as contemptible when he tries to dazzle the King by the great names of Henri Quatre and Sully, of Louis XIV. and Colbert, two couple whom nothing but a mercenary orator would have classed together. Nor, were all four equally venerable, would it prove any thing. Even good kings and good ministers, if such have been, may have erred; nay, may have done the best they could. They would not have been good, if they wished their errors should be preserved, the longer they had lasted.
In short, Sir, I think this resistance of the Parliament to the adorable reformation planned by Messrs. de Turgot and Malesherbes, is more phlegmatically scandalous than the wildest tyranny of despotism. I forget what the nation was that refused liberty when it was offered. This opposition to so noble a work is worse. A whole people may refuse its own happiness; but these profligate magistrates resist happiness for others, for millions, for posterity! Nay, do they not half vindicate Maupeou, who crushed them? And you, dear Sir, will you now chide my apostacy? Have-I not cleared myself to your eyes? I do not see a shadow of sound logic in all Monsieur Seguier's but in his proposing that the soldiers should work on the roads, and that passengers should contribute to their fabric; though, as France is not so luxuriously mad as England, I do not believe passengers could support the expense of the roads. That argument, therefore, is like another that the Avocat proposes to the King, and which, he modestly owns, he believes would be impracticable.
I beg your pardon, Sir, for giving you this long trouble; but I could not help venting myself, when shocked to find such renegade conduct in a Parliament that I was rejoiced had been restored. Poor human kind! is it always to breed serpents from its own bowels? In one country, it chooses its representatives, and they sell it and themselves—in others, it exalts despots—in another, it resists the despot when he consults the good of his people! Can we -wonder mankind is wretched, when men are such beings? Parliaments run wild with loyalty, when America is to be enslaved or butchered. They rebel, when their country is to be set free! I am not surprised at the idea of the devil being always at our elbows. They who invented him, no doubt could not conceive how men could be so atrocious to one another, without the intervention of a fiend. Don't you think, if he had never been heard of before, that he would have been invented on the late partition of Poland! Adieu, dear Sir. Yours most sincerely.
(247) An English physician long settled at Paris, no less esteemed for his professional knowledge, than for his kind attention to the poor who applied to him for medical assistance.
(248) The first lit de justice held by Louis XVI.
(249) Messieurs de Malesherbes and Turgot. When the intrigues which had been set on foot to overthrow the administration of Turgot had accomplished that object, an event which took place shortly after the date of this letter Louis XVI requested Malesherbes to remain in office; but when he refused to do so, seeing that his friend Turgot had been dismissed, Louis conscious of the increased anxieties in which he should be involved, exclaimed, with a sigh, "Que vous 'etes heureux! que ne Puis-je aussi quitter ma place."-E.
(250) Monsieur de Seguier.
Letter 107 To The Rev. Mr. Cole. April 16, 1776. (page 153)
You will be concerned, my good Sir, for what I have this minute heard from his nephew, that poor Mr. Granger was seized at the communion table on Sunday With an apoplexy, and died yesterday morning at five. I have answered the letter with a word of advice about his manuscripts, that they may not fall into the hands of booksellers. He had been told by idle people so many gossiping stories, that it would hurt him and living persons, to be printed; for as he Was incapable of 1, if all his collections were telling an untruth himself, he suspected nobody else—too great goodness in a biographer.
P. S. The whole world is occupied with the Duchess of Kingston's trial.(251) I don't tell you a word of it; for you will not care about it these two hundred years.
(251) in Westminster Hall, before the House of Peers, for intermarrying with the Duke of Kingston during the lifetime of her first husband. She was found guilty, but, pleading her privilege, was discharged without any punishment. Hannah More gives the following description of the scene:—"Garrick would have me take his ticket to go to the trial f the Duchess of Kingston; a sight which, for beauty and magnificence, exceeded any thing which those who were never present at a coronation or a trial by peers can have the least notion of. Mrs. Garrick and I were in full dress by seven. You will imagine the bustle of five thousand people getting into one hall! yet, in all this hurry, we walked in tranquilly. When they were all seated, and the King-at-arms had commanded silence, on pain of imprisonment, (which, however, was very ill observed,) the gentleman of the black rod was commanded to bring in his prisoner. Elizabeth, calling herself Duchess dowager of Kingston, walked in, led by Black Rod and Mr. La Roche, courtesying profoundly to her judges. The peers made her a slight bow. The prisoner was dressed in deep mourning; a black hood on her head; her hair modestly dressed and powdered; a black silk sacque, with crape trimmings; black gauze, deep ruffles, and black gloves. The counsel spoke about an hour and a quarter each. Dunning's manner is insufferably bad, coughing and spitting at every three words, but his sense and his expression pointed to the last degree: he made her grace shed bitter tears. The fair victim had four virgins in white behind the bar. She imitated her great predecessor, Mrs. Rudd, and affected to write very often, though I plainly perceived she only wrote, as they do their love epistles on the stage, without forming a letter. The Duchess has but small remains of that beauty of which kings and princes were once so enamoured. She looked much like Mrs. Pritchard. She is large and ill-shaped; there was nothing white but her face and, had it not been for that, she would have looked like a bale of bombazeen. There was a great deal of ceremony, a great deal of splendour, and a great deal of nonsense: they adjourned upon the most foolish pretences imaginable, and did nothing with such an air of business as was truly ridiculous. I forgot to tell you the Duchess was taken ill, but performed it badly." In a subsequent letter, she says—"I have the great satisfaction of telling you that Elizabeth, calling herself Duchess-dowager of Kingston, was, this very afternoon, Undignified and unduchessed, and very narrowly escaped being burned in the hand. If you have been half as much interested against this unprincipled, artful, licentious woman as I have, you will be rejoiced at it as I am. Lord Camden breakfasted with us. He is very angry that she was not burned in the hand. He says, as he was once a professed lover of hers, he thought it would have looked ill-natured and ungallant for him to propose it; but that he should have acceded to it most heartily, though he believes he should have recommended a cold iron." Memoirs, vol. i. Pp. 82, 85.-E.
Letter 108 To The Rev. Mr. Cole.
Strawberry Hill, June 1, 1776. (page 154)
Mr. Granger's papers have been purchased by Lord Mount Stewart,(252) who has the frenzy of portraits as well as I; and, though I am at the head of the sect, I have no longer the rage of propagating it, nor would I on any account take the trouble of revising and publishing the manuscripts. Mr. Granger had drowned his taste for portraits in the ocean of biography; and, though he began with elucidating prints, he at last only sought prints that he might write the lives of those they represented. His work was grown and growing so voluminous, that an abridgment only could have made it useful to collectors. I am not surprised that you wilt not assist Kippis;(253) Bishop Laud and William Prynne could never agree. You are very justly more averse to Mr. Masters who is a pragmatic fellow, and at best troublesome.
If the agate knives you are so good as to recommend to me can be tolerably authenticated, have any royal marks, or, at least, old setting of the time, and will be sold for two guineas, I should not dislike having them - though I have scarce room to stick a knife and fork. But if I trouble you to pay for them, you must let me know all I owe you already, for I know I am in your debt for prints and pamphlets, and this new debt will make the whole considerable enough to be remitted. I have lately purchased three apostle-spoons to add to the one you was so kind as to give me. What is become of Mr. Essex? does he never visit London? I wish I could tempt him thither or hither. I am not only thinking of building my offices in a collegiate style, for which I have a good design and wish to consult him, but am actually wanting assistance at this very moment, about a smaller gallery that I wish to add' this summer; and which, if Mr. Essex was here, he should build directly.
It is scarce worth asking him to take the journey on purpose, though I would pay for his journey hither and back, and would lodge him here for the necessary time. I can only beg you to mention it to him as an idle jaunt, the object is so trifling. I wish more that YOU Could come with him: do you leave your poor parishioners and their souls to themselves? if you do, I hope Dr. Kippis will seduce them. Yours ever.
(252) John Lord Mountstuart; in March 1796, created Marquis of Bute. He died in Geneva in November 1814, when the marquisate descended to his grandson.-E.
(253) Dr. Andrew Kippis, well-known for the active part he took in producing the second edition of the" Biographia Britannnica, of which he was the editor, and in a great measure the writer. He had applied to 'Mr. Cole for assistance; and Walpole's satisfaction at Cole's refusal is to be accounted for by the fact of Kippis having threatened to expose Sir Robert Walpole in the course of that work. Walpole had called the " Biographia Britannica" an apology for every body. This Kippis happened to hear of; upon which he is said to have retorted, "that the Life of Sir Robert Walpole should prove that the Biographia was not an apology for every body.'-E.
Letter 109 To The Rev. Mr. Cole. Strawberry Hill, June 11, 1776. (page 155)
I am grieved, and feel for your gout; I know the vexations and disappointments it occasions, and how often it will return when one thinks it going or gone: it represents life and its vicissitudes. At last I know it makes me content when one does not feel actual pain,—and what contents may be called a blessing; but it is a sort of blessing that extinguishes hopes and views, and is not so luxurious but one can bear to relinquish it. I seek amusements now to amuse me; I used to rush into them, because I had an impulse and wished for what I sought. My want of Mr. Essex has a little of both kinds, as it is for an addition to this place, for which my fondness is not worn out. I shall be very glad to see him here either on the 20th or 21st of this month, and shall have no engagement till the 23d, and will gladly pay his journey. I am sorry I must not hope that you will accompany him.
Letter 110 To The Hon. H. S. Conway. Strawberry Hill, June 30, 1776. (page 156)
I was very glad to receive your letter, not only because always most glad to hear of you, but because I wished to write to you, and had absolutely nothing to say till I had something to answer. I have lain but two nights in town since I saw you; have been, else, Constantly here, very much employed, though doing, hearing. knowing exactly nothing. I have had a Gothic architect from Cambridge to design me a gallery, Which will end in a mouse, that is, in an hexagon closet, of seven feet diameter. I have been making a beauty-room, which was effected by buying two dozen of small copies of Sir Peter Lely, and hanging them up; and I have been making hay, which is not made, because I put it off for three days, as I chose it should adorn the landscape when I was to have company; and so the rain is come, and has drowned it. However, as I can even turn calculator when it is to comfort me for not minding my interest, I have discovered that it is five to one better for me that my hay should be spoiled than not-, for, as the cows will eat it if it is damaged, which horses will not, and as I have five cows and but one horse, is not it plain that the worse my hay is the better? Do not you with your refining head go, and, out of excessive friendship, find out something to destroy my system. I had rather be a philosopher than a rich man; and yet have so little philosophy, that I had much rather be content than be in the right.
Mr. Beauclerk and Lady Di.(254) have been here four or five days -so I had both content and exercise for my philosophy. I wish Lady Ailesbury was as fortunate! The Pembrokes, Churchills, Le Texier, as you will have heard, and the Garricks have been with us. Perhaps, if alone, I might have come to you—but you are all too healthy and harmonious. I can neither walk nor sing -nor, indeed, am fit for any thing but to amuse myself in a sedentary trifling way. What I have most certainly not been doing, is writing any thing: a truth I say to you, but do not desire you to repeat. I deign to satisfy scarce any body else. Whoever reported that I was writing any thing, must have been so totally unfounded, that they either blundered by guessing without reason, or knew they lied-and that could not be with any kind intention; though saying I am going to do what I am not going to do, is wretched enough. Whatever is said of me without truth, any body is welcome to believe that pleases. In fact, though I have scarce a settled purpose about any thing, I think I shall never write any more. I have written a great deal too much, unless I had written better, and I know I should now only write still worse. One's talent, whatever it is, does not improve at sixty-yet, if I liked it, I dare say a good reason would not stop my inclination;—but I am grown most indolent in that respect, and most absolutely indifferent to every purpose of vanity. Yet without vanity I am become still prouder and more contemptuous. I have a contempt for my countrymen that makes me despise their approbation. The applause of slaves and of the foolish mad is below ambition. Mine is the haughtiness of an ancient Briton, that cannot write what would please this age, and would not, if he could. Whatever happens in America this country is undone. I desire to be reckoned of the last age, and to be thought to have lived to be superannuated, preserving my senses only for myself and for the few I value. I cannot aspire to be traduced like Algernon Sydney, and content myself with sacrificing to him amongst my lares. Unalterable in my principles, careless about most things below essentials, indulging myself in trifles by system, annihilating myself by choice, but dreading folly at an unseemly age, I contrive to pass my time agreeably enough, yet see its termination approach without anxiety. This is a true picture of my mind; and it must be true, because drawn for you, whom I would not deceive, and could not, if I would. Your question on my being writing drew it forth, though with more seriousness than the report deserved—yet talking to one's dearest friend is neither wrong nor out of season. Nay, you are my best apology. I have always contented myself with your being perfect, or, if your modesty demands a mitigated term, I will say, unexceptionable. It is comical, to be sure, to have always been more solicitous about the virtue of one's friend than about one's own-yet, I repeat it, you are my apology -though I never was so unreasonable as to make you answerable for my faults in return; I take them wholly to myself. But enough of this. When I know my own mind, for hitherto I have settled no plan ,for my summer, I will come to you. Adieu!
(254) Lady Diana Spencer, daughter of Charles, Duke of Marlborough; born in 1734; married, in 1757, to Viscount Bolingbroke; from whom she was divorced in 1768, and married immediately after to Mr. Topham Beauclerk.-E.
Letter 111 To The Rev. Mr. Cole. July 23, 1776. (page 157)
You are so good to me, my dear Sir, that I am quite ashamed. I must not send back your charming present, but wish you would give me leave to pay for it, and I shall have the same obligation to you, and still more. It is beautiful in form and colours, and pleases me excessively. In the mean time, I have in a great hurry (for I came home but at noon to meet Mr. Essex) chosen out a few prints for you, Such as I think you will like, and beg you to accept them: they enter Into no one of my sets. I am heartily grieved at your account of yourself, and know no comfort but submission. I was absent to 'General Conway, who is far from well. We must take our lot as it falls! joy and 'sorrow is mixed till the scene closes. I am out of spirits, and shall not mend yours. Mr. Essex is just setting out, and I write in great haste, but am, as I have so long been, most truly yours.
Letter 112To The Rev. Mr. Cole Strawberry Hill, July 24, 1776. (page 158)
I wrote to you yesterday, dear Sir, not only in great haste, but in great confusion, and did not say half I ought to have done for the pretty vase you sent me, and for your constant obliging attention to me. All I can say is, that gratitude attempted even in my haste and concern to put in its word: and I did not mean to pay you, (which I hope you will really allow me to do) but to express my sensibility of your kindness. The fact was, that to avoid disappointing Mr. Essex, when I had dragged him hither from Cambridge, I had returned hither precipitately, and yet late, from Park-place whither I went the day before to see General Conway, who has had a little attack of the paralytic kind. You, who can remember how very long and dearly I have loved so near a relation and particular friend, and who are full of nothing but friendly sensations, can judge how shocked I was to find him more changed than I expected. I suffered so much in constraining and commanding myself, that I was not sorry, as the house was full of relations, to have the plea of Mr. Essex, to get away, and came to sigh here by myself. It is, perhaps, to prevent my concern that I write now. Mr. Conway is in no manner of danger, is better, his head nor speech are affected, and the physicians, who barely allow the attack to be of the paralytic nature, are clear it is local, in the muscles of the face. Still has it operated such a revolution in my mind, as no time, at my age, can efface. It has at once damped every pursuit which my spirits had even now prevented me from being weaned from, I mean a Virt'u. It is like a mortal distemper in myself; for can amusements amuse, if there is but a glimpse, a vision, of outliving one's friends? I have had dreams in which I thought I wished for fame—it was not certainly posthumous fame at any distance: I feel, I feel, it was confined to the memory of those I love. It seems to me impossible for a man who has no friends to do any Thing for fame—and to me the first position in friendship is, to intend one's friends should survive one-but it is not reasonable to oppress you, who are suffering gout, with my melancholy ideas. Let me know as you mend. What I have said, will tell you, what I hope so many years have told you, that I am very constant and sincere to friends of above forty years. I doubt Mr. Essex perceived that my mind was greatly bewildered- He gave me a direction to Mr. Penticross, who I recollect, Mr. Gray, not you, told me was turned a Methodist teacher. He was a blue-coat boy, and came hither then to some of my servants, having at that age a poetic turn. As he has reverted to it, I hope the enthusiasm will take a more agreeable plea. I have not heard of him for many Years, and thought he was settled somewhere near Cambridge: I find it is at Wallingford. I wonder those madmen and knaves do not begin to wear out, as their folly is no longer new, and as knavery can turn its hand to any trade according to the humour of the age, which in countries like this is seldom constant. Yours most faithfully.
Letter 113 To The Rev. Mr. Cole. Strawberry Hill, August 19, 1776. (page 159)
I have time but to write you a line, and it is as usual to beg your help in a sort of literary difficulty. I have received a letter dated , "Catherine Hall" from "Ken. Prescot," whom I doubt I have forgotten; for he begins "Dear Sir," and I protest I cannot recollect him, though I ought. He says he wants to send me a few classical discourses, and e speaks with respect of my father, and, by his trembling hand, seems an old man. All these are reasons for my treating him with great regard; and, being afraid of hurting him, I have written a short and very civil answer, directed to the "Rev. Dr. Prescot." God knows whether he is a clergyman or a doctor, and perhaps I may have betrayed my forgetfulness; but I -thought it was best to err on the over civil side. Tell me something about him; I dread his Discourses. Is he the strange man that a few years ago sent me a volume of an uncommon form, and of more uncommon matter? I suspect so.(255)
You shall certainly have two or three of my prints by Mr. Essex when he returns hither and hence, and any thing else you will command. I am just now in great concern for the terrible death of General Conway's son-in-law, Mr. Damer,(256) of which, perhaps, you in your solitude have not heard.-You are happy who take no part but in the past world, for the mortui non mordent, nor do any of the extravagant and distressing things that perhaps they did in their lives. I hope the gout, that persecutes even in a hermitage, has left you. Yours most sincerely.
(255) Dr. Kenrick Prescot, master of Catherine Hall, and author of a quarto volume, published at Cambridge in 1773, entitled, "Letters concerning Homer the Sleeper, in Horace; with additional classic Amusements."-E.
(256) John, eldest son of Joseph Damer, Esq, Lord Milton; afterwards Earl of Dorchester.-E.
Letter 114 To The Rev. Mr. Cole. Strawberry Hill, Sept. 9, 1776. (page 160)
May I trouble you, dear Sir, when you see our friend Mr. Essex, to tell him that the tower is covered in, and that whenever he has nothing to do, after this week, I shall be very glad to see him here, if he will only send me a line two or three days beforehand. I have carried this little tower higher than the round one, and it has an exceedingly pretty effect, breaking the long line of the house picturesquely, and looking very ancient. I must correct a little error in the spelling of a name in the pedigree you was so kind as to make out for me last year. The Derehaughs were not of Colton, but of Coulston-hall. This I discovered only this morning. On opening a patch-box that belonged to my mother, and which I have not opened for many years, I found an extremely small silver collaring, about this size—O—but broad and flat. I remember it was in an old satin bag of coins that my mother found in old Houghton when she first married. I call it a collar from the breadth; for it would not be large enough for a fairy's lap-dog. It was probably made for an infant's little finger, and must have been for a ring, not a collar; for I believe, though she was an heiress, young ladies did not elope so very early in those days. I never knew how it came into the family, but now it is plain, for the inscription on the outside is, "of Coulstonhall, Suff." and it is a confirmation of your pedigree. I have tied it to a piece of paper, with a long inscription, and it is so small, it will not be melted down for the weight; and if not lost from its diminutive person, may remain in the family a long while, and be preserved when some gamester may Spend every other bit of silver he has in the world; at least, if one would make heir-looms now, one must take care that they have no value in them.
P. S. I was turning over Edmonson this evening, and observed an odd occurrence of circumstances in the present Lord Carmarthen.(257) By his mother he is the representative of the great Duke of Marlborough, and of old Treasurer Godolphin;(258) by his father, of the Lord treasurer Duke of Leeds;(259) and by his grandmother, is descended from the Lord-treasurer Oxford.(260) Few men are so well ancestored in so short a compass of time.
(257) Francis Godolphin, Marquis of Carmarthen, only surviving son of Thomas Duke of Leeds; and who, upon the death of his father, in 17 9 succeeded to the dukedom.-E
(258) Mary Duchess of Leeds, wife of Thomas, fourth duke, was second daughter, and eventually sole heiress, of Francis Earl Of Godolphin, by Henrietta Duchess of Marlborough, eldest daughter and coheir of the great Duke of Marlborough.-E.
(259) Sir Thomas Osborne, lord high treasurer of England, the first Duke of Leeds; who, having been successively honoured with the Barony of Osborne, the Viscounty of Latimer, the Earldom of Danby, and the Marquisate Of Carmarthen, was, on the 4th of May 1694, created Duke of Leeds.-E.
(260) Elizabeth, the first wife of Peregrine Hyde, third Duke of Leeds, was the youngest daughter of Robert Harley, the great Earl of Oxford.-E.
Letter 115 To The Hon. H. S. Conway. Strawberry Hill, Thursday, Oct. 31, 1776. (page 161)
Thank you for your letter. I send this by the coach. You will have found a new scene,(261) not an unexpected one by you and me, though I do not pretend I thought it so near. I rather imagined France would have instigated or winked at Spain's beginning with us. Here is a solution of the Americans declaring themselves independent. Oh! the folly, the madness, the guilt of having plunged us into this abyss! Were we and a few more endued with any uncommon penetration? No: they who did not see as far, would not. I am impatient to hear the complexion of to-day. I suppose it will, on the part of administration, have been a wretched farce of fear, daubed over with airs of bullying. You, I do not doubt, have acted like yourself, feeling for our situation, above insulting, and unprovoked but at the criminality that has brought us to this pass. Pursue your own path, nor lean to the court that may be paid to you on either side, as I am sure you will not regard their being displeased that you do not go as far as their interested views may wish. If the court should receive any more of what they call good news, I think the war with France will be unavoidable. It was the victory at Long Island(262) and the frantic presumption it occasioned, that has ripened France's measures—And now we are to awe them by pressing—an act that speaks our impotence!—which France did not want to learn!
I would have come to town, but I had declared so much I would not, that I thought it would look as if I came to enjoy the distress of the ministers-but I do not enjoy the distress of my country. I think we are undone; I have always thought so— whether we enslaved America, or lost it totally—so we that were against the war could expect no good issue. If you do return to Park-place to-morrow, you will oblige me much by breakfasting here - you know it wastes you very little time.
'I am glad I did not know of Mrs. Damer's sore throat till it is almost well. Pray take care and do not catch it.
Thank you for your care of me: I will not stay a great deal here, but at present I never was better in my life-and here I have no vexatious moments. I hate to dispute; I scorn to triumph myself, and it is very difficult to keep my temper when others do. I own I have another reason for my retirement, which is prudence. I have thought of it late, but, at least, I will not run into any new expense. it would cost me more than I care to afford to buy a house in town, Unless I do it to take some of my money out of the stocks, for which I tremble a little. My brother is seventy; and if I live myself, I Must not build too much on his life; and you know, if he fails, I lose the most secure part of my income. I refused from Holland, and last year from Lord North, to accept the place for my own life; and having never done a dirty thing, I will not disgrace myself at fifty-nine. I should like to live as well as I have done; but what I wish more, is to secure what I have already saved for those I would take care of after me. These are the true reasons of my dropping all thought of a better house in town, and of living so privately here. I -will not sacrifice my health to my prudence; but my temper is so violent, that I know the tranquillity I enjoy here in solitude is of much more benefit to my health, than the air of the country is detrimental to it. You see I can be reasonable when I have time to reflect; but philosophy has a poor chance with me when my warmth is stirred—and yet I know, that an angry old man out of parliament, and that can do nothing but be angry, is a ridiculous animal.
(261) On the opening of the session.
(262) On the 17th of August 1776, when the English army, under the command of General Howe, defeated the Americans at Flat Bush, in Long Island.-E.
Letter 116 To The Earl Of Strafford. Strawberry Hill, Nov. 2, 1776. (page 162)
Though inclination, and consciousness that a man of my age, who is neither in parliament nor in business, has little to do in the world, keep me a good deal out of it, yet I will not, my dear lord, encourage you in retirement; to which, for the interest of your friends, you have but too much propensity. The manners of the age cannot be agreeable to those who have lived in something soberer times; nor do I think, except in France, where old people are never out of fashion, that it is reasonable to tire those whose youth and spirits may excuse some dissipation. Above all things, it is my resolution never to profess retirement, lest, when I have lost all my real teeth, the imaginary one, called a colt's, should hurry me back and make me ridiculous. But one never outlives all one's contemporaries; one may assort with them. Few Englishmen, too, I have observed, can bear solitude without being hurt by it. Our climate makes us capricious, and we must rub off our roughness and humours against one another. We have, too, an always increasing resource, which is, that though we go not to the young, they must come to us: younger usurpers tread on their heels, as they did on ours, and revenge us that have been deposed. They may retain their titles, like Queen Christina, Sir M * * * N * * *, and Lord Rivers; but they find they have no subjects. If we could but live long enough, we should hear Lord Carlisle, Mr. Storer, etc. complain of the airs and abominable hours of the youth of the age. YOU see, my dear lord, my easy philosophy can divert itself with any thing, even with visions; which perhaps is the best way of treating the great vision itself, life. For half one's time one should laugh with the world, the other half at it—and then it is hard if we want amusement.
I am heartily glad, for your lordship's and Lady Anne Conolly's sakes, that General Howe(263) is safe. I sincerely interest myself for every body you are concerned for. I will say no more on a subject on which I fear I am so unlucky as to differ very much with your lordship, having always fundamentally disapproved our conduct with America. indeed, the present prospect of war with France, when we have so much disabled ourselves, and are exposed in so many quarters, is a topic for general lamentation, rather than for canvassing Of Opinions, which every man must form for himself: and I doubt the moment is advancing when we shall be forced to think alike, at least on the present.
I have not yet above a night at a time in town—but shall be glad to give your lordship and Lady Strafford a meeting there whenever you please. Your faithful humble servant.
(263) General Sir William Howe, brother of the Admiral, was then commander-in-chief of the British forces in America. He was married to a daughter of Lady Anne Conolly, and consequently to a niece of Lord Strafford.-E.
Letter 117 To The Rev. Mr. Cole. Strawberry Hill, Dec. 9, 1776. (page 163)
I know you love an episcopal print, and, therefore, I send you one of two, that have just been given to me. As you have time and patience, too, I recommend you to peruse Sir John Hawkins's History Of Music.(264) It is true, there are five huge volumes in quarto, and perhaps you may not care for the expense; but surely you can borrow them in the University, and, though you may no more than I, delight in the scientific, there is so much about cathedral service, and choirs, and other old matters, that I am sure you will be amused with a great deal, particularly the two last volumes, and the facsimiles of old music in the first. I doubt it is a work that will not sell rapidly, but it must have a place in all great libraries.
(264) A work full of amusement, and deserving of Walpole's good word, notwithstanding the witty criticism which Dr. Calcott passed upon it in his well known catch, "Have You Sir John Hawkins's History?" in which he makes the name of the rival work, "Burney's (Burn-HIS) History," express the fate which Hawkins's volumes deserved.-E.
Letter 118 To The Rev. Mr. Cole. Arlington Street, Feb. 20, 1777. (page 163)
Dear Sir, You are always my oracle in any antique difficulties. I have bought at Mr. Ives's(265) sale (immensely dear) the shutters of the altar at Edmondsbury: Mr. Ives had them from Tom Martin,(266) who married Peter Leneve's widow; so you see no shutters can be better descended on the mother's side. Next to high birth, personal merit is something: in that respect, my shutters are far from defective: on the contrary, the figures in the inside are so very good, as to amaze me who could paint them here in the reign of Henry VI.; they are worthy of the Bolognese school—but they have suffered in several places, though not considerably. Bowes is to repair them, under oath of only filling up the cracks, and restoring the peelings off, but without repainting or varnishing.
The possession of these boards, invaluable to me, was essential. They authenticate the sagacity of my guesses, a talent in an antiquary coequal with prophecy in a saint. On the outside is an archbishop, unchristened by the late possessors, but evidently Archbishop Kempe, or the same person with the prelate in my Marriage of Henry VI.,_ and you will allow from the collateral evidence that it must be Kempe, as I have so certainly discovered another person in my picture. The other outside is a cardinal, called by Mr. Ives, Babington; but I believe Cardinal Beaufort, for the lion of England stands by him, which a bastardly prince of the blood was more likely to assume than a true one. His face is not very like, nor very unlike, the face in my picture; but this is -shaven.-But now comes the great point. On the inside is Humphrey Duke of Gloucester kneeling—not only exactly resembling mine as possible, but with the same almost bald head, and the precisely same furred robe. An apostle-like personage stands behind him, holding a golden chalice, as his royal highness's offering, and, which is remarkable, the duke's velvet cap of state, with his coronet of strawberry-leaves.
I used to say, to corroborate my hypothesis, that the skull of Duke Humphrey at St. Alban's was very like the form of head in my picture, which argument diverted the late Lord Holland extremely—but I trust now that nobody will dispute any longer my perfect acquaintance with all Dukes of Gloucester.—By the way, did I ever tell You that when I published my Historic Doubts on Richard III., my niece's marriage not being then acknowledged, George Selwyn said, he did not think I should have doubted about the Duke of Gloucester? On the inside of another shutter is a man unknown: he is in a stable, as Joseph might be, but over him hangs a shield of arms, that are neither Joseph's nor Mary's. The colours are either black and white, or so changed as not to be distinguishable. * * " * I conclude the person who is in red and white was the donor of the altar-piece, or benefactor; and what I want of you is to discover him and his arms; and to tell me whether Duke Humphrey, Beaufort, Kempe, and Babington were connected with St. Edmondsbury, or whether this unknown person was not a retainer of Duke Humphrey, at least of the royal family.
At the same sale I bought a curious pair, that I conclude came from Blickling, with Hobart impaling Boleyn from which latter family the former enjoyed that seat. How does this third winter of the season agree with you? The wind to-day is sharper than a razor, and blows icicles into one's eyes. I was confined for seven weeks with the gout " yet am so well recovered as to have been abroad to-day, though it is as mild under the pole.
Pray can you tell me the title of the book that Mr. Ives dedicated to me? I never saw it, for he was so odd (I cannot call it modest, lest I should seem not so myself) as never to send it me, and I never could get it. Yours truly.
(265) John Ives the antiquary, author of "Remarks upon the Garianonum of the Romans the Site and Remains fixed and described."-E.
(266) Tom Martin of Palgrave, the well known antiquary, whose "History of Thetford"was published in 1779, by Gough, who has prefixed to it a Biographical Sketch of the Author.-E.
Letter 119 To The Rev. Mr. Cole. February 27, 1777. (page 165)
You see, dear Sir, that we thought on each other just at the same moment; but, as usual, you was thinking of obliging me, and I, of giving YOU trouble. You have fully satisfied me of the Connexion between the Lancastrian Princes and St. Edmondsbury. Edmondson, I conclude, will be able to find out the proprietor of the arms, impaling Walrond.
I am well acquainted with Sir A. Weldon(267) and the Aulicus Coquinanae,(268) and will return them with Mr. Ives's tracts, which I intend to buy at the sale of his books. Tell me how I may convey them to you most safely. You say, "Till I show an inclination to borrow more of your MSS." I hope you do not think my appetite for that loan is in the least diminished. I should at all minutes, and ever, be glad to peruse them all—but I was not sure you wished to send them to me, though you deny me nothing—and my own fear of their coming to any mischance made me very modest about asking for them—but now, whenever you can send me any of them with perfect security, I eagerly and impudently ask to see them: you cannot oblige me more, I assure you.
I am sorry Dr. E * * n is got into such a dirty scrape. There is scarce any decent medium observed at present between wasting fortunes and fabricating them—and both by any disreputable manner; for, as to saving money by prudent economy, the method is too slow in proportion to consumptions: even forgery, alas!(269 seems to be the counterpart or restorative of the ruin by gaming. I hope at least that robbery on the highway will go out of fashion as too piddling a profession for gentlemen.
I enclose a card for your friends, but must advertise them that March is in every respect a wrong month for seeing Strawberry. It not only wants its leaves and beauty then, but most of the small pictures and curiosities, which are taken down and packed up in winter, are not restored to their places till the weather is fine and I am more there. Unless they are confined in time, your friends had much better wait till May-but, however, they will be very welcome to go when they please. I am more personally interested in hoping to See you there this summer—you must visit my new tower. Diminutive as it is, it adds much to the antique air of the whole in both fronts. You know I shall sympathize with your gout, and you are always master of your own hours.
(267) Sir Anthony Weldon was the author of "The Court and Character of King James; written and taken by Sir A. W., being an eye and ear witness." London, 1650. A work which has been pronounced, by competent authority, " a despicable tissue of filth and obscenity, of falsehood and malignity."-E.
(268) "Aulicus Coquinanae; or, an Answer to the Court and Character of King James." London, 1650. This work has been ascribed to William Sanderson, and to Dr. Heylin; and is, as well as Weldon's, reprinted in the "Secret History of the Court of King James." Edinburgh, 1811-E.
(269) Alluding to Dr. Dodd; whose trial for forgery had taken place on the 22d, at the Old Bailey.-E.
Letter 120 To The Rev. Mr. Cole. Arlington Street, May 22, 1777. (page 166)
It is not Owing to forgetfulness, negligence, or idleness—to none of which I am subject, that you have not heard from me since I saw you, dear Sir, but to my miserable occupation with my poor nephew, who engrosses my whole attention, and will, I doubt, destroy my health, if he does not recover his. I have got him within fourteen miles of town with difficulty. He is rather worse than better, may recover in an instant, as he did last time, or remain in his present sullenness. I am far from expecting he should ever be perfectly in his senses; which, in my opinion, he scarce ever was. His intervals expose him to the worst people ; his relapses overwhelm me.
I have-put together some trifles I promised you, and will beg Mr. Lort to be the bearer when he goes to Cambridge, if I know of it. At present I have time for nothing I like. My age and inclination call for retirement: I envied your happy hermitage, and leisure to follow your inclination. I have always lived post, and shall not die before I can bait-yet it is not my wish to be unemployed, could I but choose my occupations. I wish I could think of the pictures you mention, or had time to see Dr. Glynn and the master of Emmanuel. I doat on Cambridge, and could like to be often there. The beauty of King's College Chapel, now it is restored, penetrated me with a visionary longing to be a monk in it; though my life has been passed in turbulent scenes, in pleasures-or rather pastimes, and in much fashionable dissipation, still books, antiquity, and virt'u kept hold of a corner of my heart, and since necessity has forced me of late years to be a man of business, my disposition tends to be a recluse for what remains-but it will not be my lot: and though there is some excuse for the young doing what they like, I doubt an old man should do nothing but what he ought, and I hope doing one's duty is the best preparation for death. Sitting with one's arms folded to think about it, is a very lazy way of preparing for it. If Charles V. had resolved to make some amends for his abominable ambition by doing good, his duty as a King, there would have been infinitely more merit than going to doze in a convent.(270) One may avoid active guilt in a sequestered life; but the virtue of it is merely negative, though innocence is beautiful.
I approve much of 'Your corrections on Sir J. Hawkins, and send them to the Magazine. I want the exact blazon of William of Hatsfield his arms,—I mean the Prince buried at York. Mr. Mason and I are going to restore his monument, and I have not time to look for them-: I know you will be so good as to assist. Yours most sincerely.
(270) "The Spaniard, when the lust of sway Had lost its quickening spell, Cast crowns for rosaries away, An empire for a cell!
"A strict accountant of his beads, A subtle disputant on creeds, His dotage trifled well: Yet better had he neither known A bigot's shrine nor despot's throne." Byron.-E.
Letter 121 To The Rev. Mr. Cole. Strawberry Hill, June 19, 1777. (page 167)
I thank YOU for your notices, dear Sir, and shall remember that on Prince William. I did see the Monthly Review, but hope one is not guilty of the death of every man who does not make one the dupe of a forgery. I believe M'Pherson's success with Ossian was more The ruin of Chatterton than I. Two years passed between my doubting the authenticity of Rowley's(271) poems and his death. I never knew he had been in London till some time after he had undone and poisoned himself there. The poems he sent me were transcripts in his own hand, and even in that circumstance he told a lie: he said he had them from the very person at Bristol to whom he had given them. If any man was to tell you that monkish rhymes had been dug up at Herculaneum, which was destroyed several centuries before there was any such poetry, should you believe it? Just the reverse is the case of Rowley's pretended poems. They have all the elegance of Waller and Prior, and more than Lord Surrey—but I have no objection to any body believing what he pleases. I think poor Chatterton was an astonishing genius-but I cannot think that Rowley foresaw metres that were invented long after he was dead, or that our language was more refined at Bristol in the reign of Henry V. than it was at court under Henry VIII. One of the chaplains of the Bishop of Exeter has found a line of Rowley in Hudibras-the monk might foresee that too! The prematurity of Chatterton's genius is, however, full as wonderful, as that such a prodigy as Rowley should never have been heard of till the eighteenth century. The youth and industry of the former are miracles, too, yet still more' credible. There is not a symptom in the poems, but the old words, that savours of Rowley's age—change the old words for modern, and the whole construction is of yesterday.
(271) See in Walpole's Works, vol. iv. the Papers relative to Chatterton; see also vol- i. P. 61 of this collection.-E.
Letter 122 To The Hon. H. S. Conway. Strawberry Hill, July 10, 1777. (page 168)
Don't be alarmed at this thousandth letter in a week. This is more to Lady Hamilton(272) than to you. Pray tell her I have seen Monsieur la Bataille d'.Agincourt.(273) He brought me her letter yesterday: and I kept him to sup, sleep in the modern phrase, and breakfast here this morning; and flatter myself he was, and she will be, content with the regard I paid to her letter.
The weather is a thought warmer to-day, and I am as busy as bees are about their hay. My hayssians(274) have cost me as much as if I had hired them of the Landgrave.(275)
I am glad your invasion(276) is blown over. I fear I must invite those flat-bottomed vessels hither, as the Swissess Necker has directed them to the port of Twickenham. Madame de Blot is too fine, and Monsieur Schomberg one of the most disagreeable, cross, contemptuous savages I ever saw. I have often supped with him at the Duchess de Choiseul's, and could not bear him; and now I must be charm'e, and p'en'etr'e, and combl'e, to see him: and I shall act it very ill, as I always do when I don't do what I like. Madame Necker's letter is as affected and pr'ecieuse, as if Marmontel had written it for a Peruvian milk-maid. She says I am a philosopher, and as like Madame de S'evign'e as two peas—who was as unlike a philosopher as a gridiron. As I have none of Madame de S'evign'e's natural easy wit, I am rejoiced that I am no more like a philosopher neither, and still less like a philosophe; which is a being compounded of D'Urfey and Diogenes, a pastoral coxcomb, and a supercilious brute.
(272) The first wife of Sir William Hamilton, envoy extraordinary at the court of Naples. She was a Miss Barlow-E.
(273) M. le Chevalier d'Agincourt, a French antiquary, long settled in Italy. 1. B. L. Seroux d'Agincourt, born at Beauvais in 1730, died at Rome in 1814, having, during thirty-six years, laboured assiduously in the composition of his grand work, "Histoire de l'Art par les Monumens depuis sa D'ecadence au Quatri'eme Si'ecle jusqu''a son Renouvellement au Seizi'eme". Of this splendid book, in six vols. folio, which was not published until 1823, nine years after the death of the author, an interesting review will be found in the seventh volume of the Foreign Quarterly Review.-E.
(275) An allusion to the seventeen thousand which had been hired for the American service, by treaties entered into the preceding year with the Landgravine of Hesse Cassel, the Duke of Brunswick, and the Hereditary Prince of Hesse Cassel.-E.
(276) A party of French nobility then in England, who were to have made a visit at Parkplace.
Letter 123 To Robert Jephson, Esq.(277) Strawberry Hill, July 13, 1777. (page 169)
You have perhaps, Sir, paid too much regard to the observations I took the liberty to make, by your order, to a few passages in "Vitellia," and I must hope they were in consequence of your own judgment too. I do not doubt of its success on the stage, if well acted but I confess I would answer for nothing with the present set of actors, who are not capable in tragedy of doing any justice to it. Mrs. Barry seems to me very unequal to the principal part, to which Mrs. Yates alone is suited. Were I the author, I should be very sorry to have my tragedy murdered, perhaps miscarry. Your reputation is established; you will never forfeit it yourself-and to give your works to unworthy performers is like sacrificing a daughter to a husband of bad character. As to my offering it to Mr. Colman, I could merely be the messenger. I am scarce known to him, have no right to ask a favour of him, and I hope you know me enough to think that I am too conscious of my own insignificance and private situation to give myself an air of protection, and more particularly to a work of yours, Sir. What could I say, that would carry greater weight, than "This piece is by the author of Braganza?"(278)
A tragedy can never suffer by delay: a comedy may, because the allusions or the manners represented in it maybe temporary. I urge this, not to dissuade your presenting Vitellia to the stage, but to console you if both theatres should be engaged next winter. My own interests, from my time of life, would make me with reason more impatient than you to see it represented, but I am jealous of the honour Of your poetry, and I should grieve to see Vitellia, at Covent-garden not that, except Mrs. Yates, I have any partiality to the tragic actors at Drury-lane, though Smith did not miscarry in Braganza-but I speak from experience. I attended "Caractacus" last winter, and was greatly interested, both from my friendship for Mr. Mason and from the excellence of the poetry. I was out of all patience; for though a young Lewis played a subordinate part very well, and Mrs. Hartley looked her part charmingly, the Druids were so massacred and Caractacus so much worse, that I never saw a more barbarous exhibition. Instead of hurrying "The Law of Lombardy,"(279) which, however, I shall delight to see finished, I again wish you to try comedy. To my great astonishment there were more parts performed admirably in "The School for Scandal,"(280) than I almost ever saw in any play. Mrs. Abington was equal to the first of her profession, Yates, the husband, Parsons, Miss Pope, and Palmer, all shone. It seemed a marvellous resurrection of the stage. Indeed, the play had as much merit as the actors. I have seen no comedy that comes near it since the "Provoked Husband."
I said I was Jealous of your fame as a poet, and I truly am. The more rapid your genius is, labour will but the more improve it. I am very frank, but I am sure that my attention to your reputation will excuse it. Your facility in writing exquisite poetry may be a disadvantage; as it may not leave you time to study the other requisites of tragedy so much as is necessary. Your writings deserve to last for ages; but to make any work last, it must be finished in all parts to perfection. You have the first requisite to that perfection, for you can sacrifice charming lines, when they do not tend to improve the whole. I admire this resignation so much, that I wish to turn it to your advantage. Strike out your sketches as suddenly as you please, but retouch and retouch them, that the best judges may for ever admire them. The works that have stood the test of ages, and been slowly approved at first, are not those that have dazzled contemporaries and borne away their applause, but those whose intrinsic and laboured merit have shone the brighter on examination. I would not curb your genius, Sir, if I did not trust it would recoil with greater force for having obstacles presented to it.
You will forgive my not having sent you the "Thoughts on Comedy," (281) as I promised, I have had no time to look them over and put them into shape. I have been and am involved in most unpleasant affairs of family, that take up my whole thoughts and attention. The melancholy situation of my nephew Lord Orford, engages me particularly, and I am not young enough to excuse postponing business and duties for amusement. In truth, I am really too old not to have given up literary pleasures. Nobody will tell one when one grows dull, but one's time of life ought to tell it one. I long ago determined to keep the archbishop in Gil Blas in my eye. when I should advance to his caducity; but as dotage steals in at more doors than one, perhaps the sermon I have been preaching to you is a symptom of it. You must judge of that, Sir. If I fancy I have been wise, and have only been peevish, throw my lecture into the fire. I am sure the liberties I have taken with you deserve no indulgence, if you do not discern true friendship at the bottom of them.
(277) Now first printed. Robert Jephson, Esq. was born in Ireland in 1736. He attained the rank of captain in the 73d regiment, and when it was reduced at the peace of 1763, he retired on half-pay, and procured, through the influence of Mr. Gerard Hamilton, a Pension on the Irish establishment. Besides several tragedies, he wrote the farce of "Two Strings to your Bow," and "Roman Portraits," a poem. Hardy, in his Memoirs of Lord Charlemont, says, "he was much caressed 'and sought after by several of the first societies in Dublin, as he possess'd much wit and pleasantry, and, when not overcome by the spleen, was extremely amusing and entertaining." He was a member of the Irish House of Commons, and died in 1803. Walpole's "Thoughts on Tragedy" had been addressed, in 1775, to this gentleman.-E.
(278) "Braganza" came out at Drury-lane theatre in 1775, and was very successful. Walpole supplied the epilogue.-E.
(279) "The Law of Lombardy" was brought out at Drury-lane in 1779, but was only acted nine nights.-E.
(280) Sheridan's "School for Scandal" was first performed at Drury-lane on the 8th of May, 1777.
(281) Walpole's "Thoughts on Comedy" were written in 1775 and 1776, and will be found in his Works.-E.
Letter 124 To The Rev. Mr. Cole. Strawberry Hill, August 31, 1777. (page 171)
You are very kind, dear Sir, in giving me an account of your health and occupations, and inquiring after mine. I am very sorry you are not as free from gout, as I have been ever since February; but I trust it will only keep you from other complaints, and never prevent your amusing yourself, which you are one of those few happy beings that can always do; and your temper is so good, and your mind so naturally philosophic, composed, and contented, that you neither want the world, care about it, nor are affected by any thing that occurs in it. This is true wisdom, but wisdom which nothing can give but constitution. Detached amusements have always made a great part of my own delight, and have sown my life with some of its best moments. My intention was, that they should be the employments of my latter years, but fate seems to have chalked out a very different scene for me! The misfortune of my nephew has involved me in business, and consequently care, and opens a scene of disputes, with which I shall not molest your tranquillity.
The dangerous situation in which his Royal Highness the Duke of Gloucester has been, and out of which I doubt he is scarce yet emerged, though better, has added more thorns to my uneasy mind. The Duchess's daughters are at Hampton-court, and partly under my care. In one word, my whole summer has been engrossed by duties, which has confined me at home, without indulging myself in a single pursuit to my taste.
In short, as I have told you before, I often wish myself a monk at Cambridge. Writers on government condemn, very properly, a recluse life, as contrary to Nature's interest, who loves procreation; but as Nature seems not very desirous that we should procreate to threescore years and ten, I think convents very suitable retreats for those whom our Alma Mater does not emphatically call to her Opus Magnum. And though, to be sure, gray hairs are fittest to conduct state affairs, yet as the Rehoboams of the world (Louis XVI. excepted) do not always trust the rudder of government to ancient hands, old gentlemen, methinks, are very ill placed [when not at the council-board] any where but in a cloister. As I have no more vocation to the ministry than to carrying on my family, I sigh after a dormitory; and as in six weeks my clock will strike sixty, I wish I had nothing more to do with the world. I am not tired of living, but-what signifies sketching visions? One must take one's lot as it comes; bitter and sweet"are poured into every cup. To-morrow may be pleasanter than to-day. Nothing lasts of one colour. One must embrace the cloister, or take the chances of the world as they present themselves; and since uninterrupted happiness would but embitter the certainty that even that must end, rubs and crosses should be softened by the same consideration. I am not so busied, but I shall be very glad of a sight of your manuscript, and will return it carefully. I will thank you, too, for the print of Mr. Jenyns, which I have not, nor have seen.' Adieu! Yours most cordially.
Letter 125 To The Rev. Mr. Cole. Strawberry Hill, Sept. 16, 1777. (page 172)
I have received your volume safely, dear Sir, and hasten to thank you before I have read a page, that you may be in no pain about its arrival. I will return it with the greatest care as soon as I have finished it, and at the same time will send Mr. Essex the bills, as I beg you will let him know. I have no less reason for writing immediately, to thank you for the great confidence you place in me. You talk of nonsense; alas! what are all our opinions else? if we search for truth before we fix our principles, what do we find but doubt? And which of us begins the search a tabula rasa? Nay, where can we hunt but in volumes of error or purposed delusion? Have not we, too, a bias in our Minds—our passions? They will turn the scale in favour of the doctrines most agreeable to them. Yet let us be a little vain: you and I differ radically in our principles, and yet in forty years they have never cast a gloom over our friendship. We could give the world a reason that it would not like. We have both been sincere, have both been consistent, and neither adopted our principles nor have varied them for our interest.
Your labour, as far as I am acquainted with it, astonishes me: it shows what can be achieved by a man that does not lose a moment; and, which is still better, how happy the man is who can always employ himself I do not believe that the proud prelate, who would not make you a little happier, is half so much to be envied. Thank you for the print of Soame Jenyns: it is a proof of Sir Joshua's art, who could give a strong resemblance of so uncouth a countenance without leaving it disagreeable.
The Duke of Gloucester is miraculously revived. For two whole days I doubted whether he was not dead. I hope fatalists and omenmongers will be confuted; and thus, as his grandfather broke the charm of the second of the name being an unfortunate prince, the Duke will baffle that, which has made the title of Gloucester unpropitious. Adieu!
Letter 126 To The Hon. H. S. Conway. Tuesday evening, Sept. 16, 1777. (page 173)
I have got a delightful plaything, if I had time for play. It is a new sort of camera-obscura(282) for drawing the portraits of persons, or prospects, or insides of rooms, and does not depend on the sun or any thing. The misfortune is, that there is a vast deal of machinery and putting together, and I am the worst person living for managing it. You know I am impenetrably dull in every thing that requires a grain of common sense. The inventor is to come to me on Friday, and try if he can make me remember my right hand from my left. I could as soon have invented my machine as manage it; yet it has cost me ten guineas, and may cost me as much more as I please for improving it. u will conclude it was the dearness tempted me. I believe I must keep an astronomer, like Mr. Beauclerk, to help me play with my rattle. The inventor, who seems very modest and simple, but I conclude an able flatterer, was in love with my house, and vowed nothing ever suited his camera so well. To be sure, the painted windows and the prospects, and the Gothic chimneys, etc. etc. were the delights of one's eyes, when no bigger than a silver penny. You would know how to manage it, as if you had never done any thing else. Had not you better come and see it? You will learn how to conduct it, with the pleasure of correcting my awkwardness and unlearnability. Sir Joshua Reynolds and West have each got one; and the Duke of Northumberland is so charmed with the invention, that I dare say he can talk upon and explain it till I should understand ten times less of the matter than I do. Remember, neither Lady Ailesbury, nor you, nor Mrs. Damer, have seen my new divine closet, nor the billiard-sticks with which the Countess of Pembroke And Arcadia used to play with her brother Sir Philip; nor the portrait of la belle Jennings in the state bedchamber. I go to town this day s'ennight for a day or two; and as, to be sure, Mount Edgecumbe has put you out of humour with Park-place, you may deign to leave it for a moment. I never did see Cotchel,(283) and am sorry. Is not the old wardrobe there still? There was one from the time of Cain; but Adam's breeches and Eve's under-petticoat were eaten by a goat in the ark. Good-night!
(282) The machine called a Delineator.
(283) The old residence of the family of Edgecumbe, twelve miles distant from Mount Edgecumbe.
Letter 127 To The Rev. Mr. Cole. Strawberry Hill, Sept. 22, 1777. (page 173)
I return YOU Your manuscript, dear Sir, with a thousand thanks, and shall be impatient to hear that you receive it safe. It has amused me much, and I admire Mr. Baker(284) for having been able to show so much sense on so dry a subject. I wish, as you say you have materials for it, that you would write his life. He deserved it much more than most of those he has recorded. His book on the Deficiencies of Learning is most excellent, and far too little known. I admire his moderation, too, which was extraordinary in a man who had suffered so much for his principles. Yet they warped even him, for he rejects Bishop Burnet's character of Bishop Gunning in p. 200, and yet in the very next page gives the same character of him. Burnet's words are, "he had a great confusion of things in his head, but could bring nothing into method:" pray compare this with p. 201. I see nothing in which they differ, except that Mr. Burnet does not talk so much of his comeliness as Mr. Baker.
I Shall not commend your moderation, when you excuse such a man as Bishop Watson. Nor ought you to be angry with Burnet, but with the witnesses on whose evidence Watson was convicted. To tell you the truth, I am glad when such faults are found with Burnet; for it shows his enemies are not angry at his telling falsehoods, but the truth. Must not an historian say a bishop was convicted Of Simony, if he was? I will tell you what was said of Burnet's History, by one whose testimony you yourself would not dispute—at least you would not in any thing else. That confessor said, "Damn him, he has told a great deal of truth, but where the devil did he learn it?" This was St. Atterbury's testimony.
I shall take the liberty of reproving you, too, dear Sir, for defending that abominable murderess Queen Christina—and how can you doubt her conversation with Burnet? you must know there are a thousand evidences of her laughing at the religion she embraced. If you approve her, I will allow YOU to Condemn Lord Russel and Algernon Sidney. Well, as we shall never have the same heroes, we Will not dispute about them, nor shall I find fault when you have given me so much entertainment: it would be very Ungrateful, and I have a thousand obligations to you, and want to have more. I want to see more of your manuscripts: they are full of curiosities, and I love some of your heroes, too: I honour Bishop Fisher, and love Mr. Baker. If I might choose, I should like to see your account of the persons educated at King's-but as you may have objections, I insist, if you have, that you make me no word of answer. It is, perhaps, impertinent to ask it, and silence will lay neither of us under any difficulty. I have no right to make such a request, nor do now, but on the foot of its proving totally indifferent to you. You will make me blame myself, if it should a moment distress you; and I am sure you are too good-natured to put me out of humour with myself, which your making no answer would not do.
I enclose my bills for Mr. Essex, and will trouble you to send them to him. I again thank you, and trust you will be as friendly free with me, as I have been with you: you know I am a brother monk in every thing but religious and political opinions. I only laugh at the thirty' nine articles: but abhor Calvin as much as I do the Queen of Sweden, for he was as thorough an assassin. Yours ever.
P. S. As I have a great mind, and, indeed, ought, when I require it, to show moderation, and when I have not, ought to confess it, which I do, for I Own I am not moderate on certain points; if you are busy yourself and will send me the materials, I will draw up the life 4 Mr. Baker; and, if you are not content with it, you shall burn it in Smithfield. In good truth, I revere conscientious martyrs, of all sects, communions, and parties—I heartily pity them, if they are weak men. When they are as sensible as Mr. Baker, I doubt my own understanding more than his. I know I have not his virtues, but should delight in doing justice to them; and, perhaps, from a man of a different party the testimony would be more to his honour. I do not call myself of different principles; because a man that thinks himself bound by his oath, can be a man of no principle if he violates it. I do not mean to deny that many men might think King James's breach of his oath a dispensation from theirs; but, if they did not think so, or did not think their duty to their country obliged them to renounce their King, I should never defend those who took the new oaths from interest.
(284) Thomas Baker, the learned author of "Reflections on Learning, wherein is shown the insufficiency thereof in its several particulars, in order to evince the usefulness and necessity Of Revelation;" a work which has gone through numerous editions, and /was at one time one of the most popular books in the language, He was born at Durham in 1656, and died in the office of commoner master of st. John's College, Cambridge, in July 1740.-E.
Letter 128 To Robert Jephson, Esq.(285) Strawberry Hill, Oct. 1, 1777. (page 175)
To confer favours, Sir, is certainly not giving trouble: and had I the most constant occupation, I should contrive to find moments for reading your works. I have passed a most melancholy summer, from different distresses in my family; and though my nephew's situation and other avocations prevent my having but very little time for literary amusements, I did not mean to debar myself of the pleasure of hearing from my friends. Unfortunately, at present, it is impossible for me to profit of your kindness; not from my own business, but from the absence of Mr. Garrick. He is gone into Staffirdshire to marry a nephew, and thence will pass into Wales to superintend a play that is to be acted at Sir Watkin Williams's. I am even afraid I shall not be the first apprised of his return, as I possibly may remove to town in expectation of the Duchess of Gloucester,' before he is at home again. I shall not neglect my own satisfaction; but mention this circumstance, that you may not suspect me of inattention, if I should not get sight of your tragedy so soon as I wish. I am, Sir, with great regard.
(285) Now first printed.
Letter 129 To The Hon. H. S. Conway. Oct. 5, 1777. (page 176)
You are so exceedingly good, I shall assuredly accept your proposal in the fullest sense, and to ensure Mrs. Damer, beg I may expect you on Saturday next the 11th. If Lord and Lady william Campbell will do me the honour of accompanying YOU, I shall be most happy to see them, and expect Miss Caroline.(286) Let me know about them that the state bedchamber may be aired.
My difficulties about removing from home arise from the consciousness of my own weakness. I make it a rule, as much as I can, to conform wherever I go. Though I am threescore to-day, I should not think that an age for giving every thing up; but it is, for whatever one has not strength to perform. You, though not a vast deal younger, are as healthy and strong, thank God! as ever you was: and you cannot have ideas of the mortification of being stared at by strangers and servants, when one hobbles, or cannot do as others do. I delight in being with you, and the Richmonds, and those I love and know; but the crowds of young people, and Chichester folks, and officers, and strange servants, make me afraid of Goodwood, I own My spirits are never low; but they seldom will last out the whole day; and though I dare to say I appear to many capricious, and different from the rest of the world, there is more reason in my behaviour than there seems. You know in London I seldom stir out in a morning, and always late; it is because I want a great deal of rest. Exercise never did agree with me: and it is hard if I do not know myself by this time; and what has done so well for me will probably suit me best for the rest of my life. It would be ridiculous to talk so much of myself, and to enter into such trifling details, but you are the person in the world that I wish to convince that I do not act merely from humour or ill-humour; though I confess at the same time that I want your bonhommie, and have a disposition not to care at all for people that I do not absolutely like. I could say a great deal more on this head, but it is not proper; though, when one has pretty much done with the world, I think with Lady Blandford, that One may indulge one's self in one's own whims and partialities in one's own house. I do not mean, still less to profess, retirement, because it is less ridiculous to go on with the world to the last, than to return to it; but in a quiet way it has long been my purpose to drop a great deal of it. Of all things I am farthest from not intending to come often to Park-place, whenever you have little company; and I had rather be with you, in November than July, because I am so totally unable to walk farther than a snail. I will never say any more on these subjects, because there may be as much affectation in being over old, as folly in being over young. My idea of age is, that one has nothing really to do but what one ought, and what is reasonable. All affectations are pretensions; and pretending to be any thing one is not, cannot deceive when one is known, as every body must be That has lived long. I do not mean that old folks may not have pleasures if they can; but then I think those pleasures are confined to being comfortable, and to enjoying the few friends one has not outlived. I am so fair as to own, that one's duties are not pleasures. I have given up a great deal of my time to nephews and nieces, even to some I can have little affection for. I do love my nieces, nay like them; but people above forty years younger are certainly not the society I should seek. They can only think and talk of what is, or is to come; I certainly am more disposed to think and talk of what is past: and the obligation of passing the end of a long life in sets of totally new company is more irksome to me than passing a great deal of my time, as I do, quite alone. Family love and pride make me interest myself about the young people of my own family-for the whole rest of the Young world, they are as indifferent to me as puppets or black children. This is my creed, and a key to my whole conduct, and the more likely to remain my creed, as I think it is raisonn'e. If I could paint my Opinions instead of writing them I don't know whether it would not make a new sort of alphabet-I should use different colours for different affections at different ages. When I speak of love, affection, friendship, taste, liking, I should draw them rose colour, carmine, blue, green, yellow, for my contemporaries: for new comers, the first would be of no colour; the others, purple, brown, crimson, and changeable. Remember, one tells one's creed only to one's confessor, that is sub sigillo. I write to you as I think; to others as I must. Adieu!
(286) Miss Caroline Campbell, eldest daughter of Lord William Campbell.
Letter 130 To Robert Jephson, Esq.(287) Strawberry Hill, Oct. 17, 1777. (page 177)
Mr. Garrick returned but two days ago, Sir, and I did not receive your tragedy(288) till this morning; so I could only read it once very rapidly and without any proper attention to particular passages though, even so, some struck me as very fine. You have encouraged me rather to criticise than flatter you; and you are in the right, for you have even profited of so weak a judgment as mine, and always improved the passages I objected to. Indeed, this is not quite a fair return, as it was inverting my method, by flattering instead of finding fault with me; and a critic that meets with submission, is apt to grow vain, and insolent, and capricious. Still as I am persuaded that all criticisms, though erroneous, before an author appeals to the public, are friendly, I will fairly tell you what parts of your tragedy have struck me as objectionable on so superficial a perusal.
In general, the language appears to me too metaphoric; especially as used by all the characters. You seem to me to have imitated Beaumont and Fletcher, though your play is superior to all theirs. In truth, I think the diction is sometimes obscure from being so figurative, especially in the first act. Will you allow me to mention two instances?
"And craven Sloth, moulting his sleepless plumes, Nods drowsy wonder at th' adventurous wing That soars the shining azure o'er his head."
I own I do not understand why Sloth's plumes are sleepless; and I think that nodding wonder, and soaring azure, are expressions too Greek to be so close together, and too poetic for dialogue. The other passage is—
"The wise should watch th' event on Fortune's wheel,"
and the seven following lines. The images are very fine, but demand more attention than common audiences are capable of. In Braganza every image is strikingly clear.
I am afraid I am not quite satisfied with the conduct of your piece. Bireno's conduct on the attack on the princess seems too precipitate, and not managed. It is still more incredible, that Paladore should confess his passion to his rival; and not less so, that a private man and a stranger should doubt the princess's faith, when she had preferred him to his rival, a prince of the blood and her destined husband; and that without the smallest inquiry he should believe Bireno was admitted privately to her apartment, when on her not rejecting him, he might have access to her openly. One cannot conceive her meaning in offending her father by refusing so proper a match, 'and intriguing with the very man she was to marry, and whom she had refused. Paladore's credulity is not of a piece with the account given of his wisdom, which had made him admitted to the king'S Counsels.
I think, when you bestow Sophia on Paladore, you forget that the king had declared he was obliged to give his daughter to a prince of his own blood; nor do I see any reason for Bireno's stabbing Ascanio, who was sure of being put to death when their treachery was discovered.
The character of the princess is very noble and well sustained. When I said I did not conceive her meaning, I expressed myself ill. I did not suppose she, did intrigue with Bireno; but I meant that it was not natural Paladore should suspect she did, since it is inconceivable that a princess should refuse her cousin in marriage for the mere caprice of intriguing with him. Had she managed her father, and, from the dread of his anger, temporized about Bireno, Paladore would have had more reason to doubt her. Would it not too be more natural for Bireno to incense the king against Paladore than to endeavour to make the latter jealous of Sophia? At least I think Bireno would have more chance of Poisoning Paladore's mind, if he did not discover to him that he knew of his passion. Forgive me, Sir but I cannot reconcile to probability Paladore's believing that Sophia had rejected Bireno for a husband, though it would please her father, and yet chose to intrigue with him in defiance of so serious and extraordinary a law. Either his credulity or his jealousy reduce Paladore to a lover very unworthy of such a woman as Sophia. For her sake I wish to see him more deserving of her.
You are so great a poet, Sir, that you have no occasion to labour any thing but your plots. You can express any thing you please. If the conduct is natural, you will not want words. Nay, I rather fear your indulging your poetic vein too far, for your language is sometimes sublime enough for odes, which admit the height of enthusiasm, which Horace will not allow to tragic writers. You could set up twenty of our tragic authors with lines that you could afford to reject, though for no reason but their being too fine, as in landscape-painting some parts must be under-coloured to give the higher relief to the rest. Will you not think me too difficult and squeamish, when I find the language of "The Law of Lombardy" too rich?
I beg your pardon, but it is more difficult for you to please me, than any body. I interest myself in your success and your glory. You must be perfect in all parts, in nature, simplicity, and character, as well as in the most charming poetry, or I shall not be content. If I dared, I would beg you to trust me with your plots, before you write a line. When a subject seizes you, your impetuosity cannot breathe till you have executed your plan. You must be curbed, as other poets want to be spurred. When your sketch is made, you must study the characters and the audience. It is not flattering you to say, that the least you have to do is to write your play.
(287) Now first printed.
(288) "The Law of Lombardy;" see ant'e, p. 170, letter 123.-E.
Letter 131 To The Rev. Mr. Cole. Strawberry Hill, Oct. 19, 1777. (page 179)
Thank you much, dear sir, for the sight of the book, which I return by Mr. Essex It is not new to me that Burnet paid his court on the other side in the former part of his life* nor will I insist that he changed On conviction, which might be said, and generally is, for all converts, even those who shift their principles the most glaringly from interest. Duke Lauderdale,(289) indeed, was such a dog, that the least honest man must have been driven to detest him, however connected with him. I doubt Burnet could not be blind to his character, when he wrote the dedication. In truth, I have given up many of my saints, but not on the accusations of such wretches as Dalrymple(290) and Macpherson;(291) nor can men, so much their opposites, shake my faith in Lord Russel and Algernon Sidney. I do not relinquish those that scaled their integrity with their blood, but such as have taken thirty pieces of silver.
I was sorry you said we had any variance. We have differed in sentiments, but not in friendship. Two men, however unlike in principles, may be perfect friends, when both are sincere in their opinions as we are. Much less shall we quarrel about those of our separate parties, since very few on either side have been so invariably consistent as you and I have been; and therefore we are more sure of each other's integrity, than that of men whom we know less and who did vary from themselves. As you and I are only speculative persons, and no actors, it would be very idle to squabble about those that do not exist. In short, we are, I trust, in as perfect good humour with each other as we have been these forty years.
Pray do not hurry yourself about the anecdotes of Mr. Baker, nor neglect other occupations on that account. I shall certainly not have time to do any thing this year. I expect the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester in a very few days, must go to town as soon as they arrive, and shall probably have not much idle leisure before next summer.
It is not very discreet to look even so far forward, nor am I apt any longer to lay distant plans. A little sedentary literary amusement is indeed no very lofty castle in the air, if I do lay the foundation in idea seven or eight months beforehand.
Whatever manuscripts you lend me, I shall be very grateful for. They entertain me exceedingly, and I promise you we will not have the shadow of an argument about them. I do not love disputation, even with those most indifferent to me. Your pardon I most sincerely beg for having contested a single point with you. I am sure it was not with a grain of ill-humour towards you: on the contrary, it was from wishing at that moment that you did not approve though I disliked—but even that I give up as unreasonable.