(1065) M. de Lille was an officer of the French cavalry, an agreeable man in society, and author of several pretty ballads and vers de soci'et'e.
(1066) "They went to the Ridotto-'tis a hall Where people dance, and sup, and dance again; Its proper name, perhaps, were a masqued ball, But that's of no importance to my strain; 'Tis (on a smaller scale) like our Vauxhall, Excepting that it can't be spoilt by rain: The company is 'mix'd'—the phrase I quote is As much as saying, they're below your notice." Beppo, st. 58.-E.
Letter 360 To The Rev. Mr. Cole. Arlington Street, May 27, 1769. (page 541)
Dear Sir, I have not heard from you this century, nor knew where you had fixed yourself. Mr. Gray tells me you are still at Waterbeche. Mr. Granger has published his Catalogue of Prints and Lives down to the Revolution;(1067) and as the work sells well, I believe, nay, do not doubt, we shall have the rest. There are a few copies printed but on one side of the leaf. As I know you love scribbling in such books as well as I do, I beg you will give me leave to make you a present of one set. I shall send it in about a week to Mr. Gray, and have desired him, as soon as he has turned it over, to convey it to you. I have found a few mistakes, and you will find more. To my mortification, though I have four thousand heads, I find, upon a rough calculation, that I still want three or four hundred.
Pray, give me some account of yourself, how you do, and whether you are fixed. I thought you rather inclined to Ely. Are we never to have the history of that cathedral? I wish you would tell me that you have any thoughts of coming this way, or that you would make me a Visit this Summer. I shall be little from home this summer till August, when I think of going to Paris for six weeks. To be sure you have seen the History of British Topography,(1068) which was published this winter, and it is a delightful book in our way. Adieu! dear Sir. Yours ever.
(1067) A Biographical History of England, from Egbert the Great to the Revolution. A continuation, bringing the work down from the Revolution to the end of George I.'s reign, was published in 1806, by the Rev. Mark Noble. In a letter to Boswell, of the 30th of August 1776, Dr. Johnson says—"I have read every word of Granger's Biographical History. It has entertained me exceedingly, and I do not think him the Whig that you supposed. Horace Walpole being his patron is, indeed, no good sign of his political principles; but he denied to Lord Mansfield that he was a Whig, and said he had been accused by both parties of partiality. It seems he was like Pope—
'While Tories call me Whig, and Whigs a Tory.'
I wish you would look more into his book; and as Lord Mountstuart wishes much to find a proper person to continue the work upon Granger's plan, and has desired I would mention it to you, if such a man occurs, please to let me know. His lordship will give him generous encouragement."-E.
(1068) By Richard Gough, the well-known antiquary. The second edition, published in 1780, is a far better one.-E.
Letter 361 To The Rev. Mr. Cole. Strawberry Hill, June 14, 1769. (page 542)
Dear Sir, Among many agreeable passages in your last, there is nothing I like so well as the hope you give me of seeing you here in July. I will return that visit immediately: don't be afraid; I do not mean to incommode you at Waterbeche; but, if you will come, I promise I will accompany you back as far as Cambridge: nay, carry you on to Ely, for thither I am bound. The Bishop(1068) has sent a Dr. Nichols to me, to desire I would assist him in a plan for the east window of his cathedral, which he intends to benefactorate with painted glass. The window is the most untractable of all Saxon uncouthness: nor can I conceive what to do with it, but by taking off the bottoms for arms and mosaic, splitting the crucifixion into three compartments, and filling the five lights at top with prophets, saints, martyrs, and such like; after shortening the windows like the great ones. This I shall propose. However, I choose to see the spot myself, as it will be a proper attention to the Bishop after his civility, and I really would give the best advice I could. The Bishop, like Alexander VIII., feels that the clock has struck half-an-hour past eleven, and is impatient to be let depart in peace after his eyes shall have seen his vitrification: at least, he is impatient to give his eyes that treat; and yet it will be a pity to precipitate the work. If you can come to me first, I shall be happy; if not, I must come to you: that is, will meet you at Cambridge. Let me know your mind, for I would not press you unseasonably. I am enough obliged to you already; though, by mistake, you think it is you that are obliged to me. I do not mean to plunder you of any more prints; but shall employ a little collector to get me all that are getable. The rest, the greatest of us all must want.
I am very sorry for the fever you have had: but, Goodman Frog, if you will live in the fens, do not expect to be as healthy as if you were a fat Dominican at Naples. You and your MSS. will all grow mouldy. When our climate is subject to no sign but Aquarius and Pisces, would one choose the dampest country under the heavens! I do not expect to persuade you, and so I will say no more. I wish you joy of the treasure you have discovered: six Saxon bishops and a Duke of Northumberland!(1069) You have had fine sport this season. Thank you much for wishing to see my name on a plate in the history. But, seriously, I have no such vanity. I did my utmost to dissuade Mr. Granger from the dedication, and took especial pains to get my virtues left out of the question; till I found he would be quite hurt if I did not let him express his gratitude, as he called it: so, to satisfy him, I was forced to accept of his present; for I doubt I have few virtues but what he has presented me with; and in a dedication, you know, One is permitted to have as many as the author can afford to bestow. I really have another objection to the plate: which is, the ten guineas. I have so many draughts on my extravagance for trifles, that I like better than vanity, that I should not care to be at that expense. But I should think either the Duke or Duchess of Northumberland would rejoice at such an Opportunity of buying incense; and I will tell you what you shall do. Write to Mr. Percy, and vaunt the discovery of Duke Brithnoth's bones, and ask him to move their graces to contribute a plate. They Could not be so unnatural as to refuse; especially if the Duchess knew the size of his thigh-bone.
I was very happy to show civilities to your friends, and should have asked them to stay and dine, but unluckily expected other company. Dr. Ewin seems a very good sort of man, and Mr. Rawlinson a very agreeable one. Pray do not think it was any trouble to me to pay respect to your recommendation.
I have been eagerly reading Mr. Shenstone's Letters, which, though containing nothing but trifles, amused me extremely, as they mention so many persons I know; particularly myself. I found there, what I did not know, and what, I believe, Mr. Gray,(1070) himself never knew, that his ode on my cat was written to ridicule Lord Lyttelton's monody. It is just as true as that the latter will survive, and the former be forgotten. There is another anecdote equally vulgar, and void of truth: that my father, sitting in George's coffee-house, (I suppose Mr. Shenstone thought that, after he quitted his place, he went to the coffee-houses to learn news,) was asked to contribute to a figure of himself that was to be beheaded by the mob. I do remember something like it, but it happened to myself. I met a mob, just after my father was out, in Hanover-square, and drove up to it to know what was the matter. They were carrying about a figure of my sister.(1071) This probably gave rise to the other story. That on my uncle I never heard; but it Is a good story, and not at all improbable. I felt great pity on reading these letters for the narrow circumstances of the author, and the passion for fame that he was tormented with; and yet he had much more fame than his talents entitled him to. Poor man! he wanted to have all the world talk of him for the pretty place he had made; and which he seems to have made only that it might be talked of.(1072) The first time a company came to see my house, I felt this joy. I am now so tired of it, that I shudder when the bell rings at the gate. It is as bad as keeping an inn, and I am often tempted to deny its being shown, if it would not be ill-natured to those that come, and to my housekeeper. I own, I was one day too cross, I had been plagued all the week with staring crowds. At last, it rained a deluge. Well, said I, at last, nobody will come to-day. The words were scarce uttered, when the bell rang. I replied, "Tell them they cannot possibly see the house, but they are very welcome to walk in the garden."(1073) Observe; nothing above alludes to Dr. Ewin and Mr. Rawlinson: I was not only much pleased with them, but quite glad to show them how entirely you may command my house, and your most sincere friend and servant.
(1068) Dr. Matthias Mawson, translated from Llandaff to the see of Ely in 1754. He died in November 1770, in his eighty-seventh year. His character was thus drawn, in 1749, by the Rev. W. Clarke:—"Our Bishop is a better sort of man than most of the mitred order. He is, indeed, awkward, absent, etc.; but then, he has no ambition, no desire to please, and is privately munificent when the world thinks him parsimonious. He has given more to the Church than all the bishops put together for almost a century."-E.
(1069) The following is an extract from a previous letter of Mr. Cole's, and to this Mr. Walpole alludes:—"An old wall being to be taken down behind the choir (at Ely], on which were painted seven figures of six Saxon bishops, and a Duke, as he is called, of Northumberland, one Brithnoth; which painting I take to be as old as any we have in England—I guessed by seven arches in the wall, below the figures, that the bones of these seven benefactors to the old Saxon conventual church were reposited in the wall under them: accordingly, we found seven separate holes, each with the remains of the Said persons," etc. etc. Mr. Cole proposed that Mr. Walpole should contribute an Engraving from this painting to the history of Ely Cathedral, a work about to be published, or to use his interest to induce the Duke of Northumberland to do so.
(1070) "I have read," says Gray, in a letter to Mr. Nicholls, "an octavo volume of Shenstone's Letters. Poor man! he was always wishing for money, for fame, and other distinctions; and his whole philosophy consisted in living against his will in retirement, and in a place which his taste had adorned; but which he only enjoyed when people of note came to see and commend it: his correspondence is about nothing else but this place and his own writings, with two or three neighbouring clergy, who wrote verses too." Works, vol. iv. p. 135-E.
(1071) See vol. i. p. 244, letter 61.-E.
(1072) "In the infancy of modern gardening, a false taste was introduced by Shenstone, in his ferme orn'ee at the Leasowes; where, instead of surrounding his house with such a quantity of ornamental lawn or park Only, as might be consistent with the size of the mansion or the extent of the property, his taste, rather than his ambition, led him to ornament the whole of his estate; and in the vain attempt to combine the profits of a farm with the scenery of a park, he lived under the continual mortification of disappointed hope; and with a mind exquisitely sensible, he felt equally the sneer of the great man at the magnificence of his attempts and the ridicule of the farmer at the misapplication of his paternal acres." Repton.-E.
(1073) Walpole having complained of these intrusions on his privacy to Madame du Deffand, the lady replied: "Oh! vous n''etes point f'ach'e qu'on vienne voir votre chateau; vous ne l'avez pas fait singulier; vous ne l'avez pas rempli de choses precieuses, de raret'es; vous ne b'atissez pas un cabinet rond, dans lequel le lit est un trone, et o'u il n'y a que des tabourets, pour y rester seul oou ne recevoir que vos amis. Tout le monde a les m'emes passions, les m'emes vertus, les m'emes vices; il n'y a que les modifications qui en fond la diff'erence; amour propre, vanit'e, crainte de l'ennui," etc.-E.
Letter 362 To The Rev. Mr. Cole. Strawberry Hill, Monday, June 26, 1769. (page 545)
Dear Sir, Oh! yes, yes, I shall like Thursday or Friday, 6th or 7th, exceedingly; I shall like your staying with me two days exceedinglier; and longer exceedingliest; and I will carry you back to Cambridge on our pilgrirnage to Ely. But I should not at all like to be catched in the glories of an installation, and find myself a doctor, before I knew where I was. It will be much more agreeable to find the whole caput asleep, digesting turtle, dreaming of bishoprics, and humming old catches of Anacreon, and scraps of Corelli. I wish Mr. Gray may not be set out for the north ; which is rather the case than setting out for the summer. We have no summers, I think, but what we raise, like pineapples, by fire. My bay is an absolute water-soochy, and teaches me how to feel for you. You are quite in the right to sell your fief in Marshland. I should be glad if you would take one step more, and quit Marshland. We live, at least, on terra firma in this part of the world, and can saunter out without stilts. Item, we do not wade into pools, and call it going upon the water, and get sore throats. I trust yours is better ; but I recollect this is not the first you have complained of. Pray be not incorrigible, but come to shore.
Be so good as to thank Mr. Smith, my old tutor, for his corrections, If ever the Anecdotes are reprinted, I will certainly profit of them.
I joked, it is true, about Joscelin de Louvain(1074) and his Duchess; but not at all in advising you to make Mr. Percy pimp for the plate. On the contrary, I wish you success , and think this an infallible method of obtaining the benefaction. It is right to lay vanity under contribution; for then both sides are pleased.
It will not be easy for you to dine with Mr. Granger from hence, and return at night. It cannot be less than six or seven-and-twenty miles to Shiplake. But I go to Park-place to-morrow, which is within two miles of him, and I will try if I can tempt him to meet you here. Adieu!
(1074) The Duke of Northumberland. His grace having been originally a baronet, Sir Hugh Smithson, and having married the daughter of Algernon Seymour, Duke of Somerset and Earl of Northumberland, in 1750 assumed the surname and arms of Percy, and was created Duke of Northumberland in 1766. Walpole's allusion is to his becoming a Percy by marriage, as Joscelin had done before him: Agnes de Percy, daughter of William de Percy the third baron, having only consented to marry Joscelin of Louvain, brother of Queen Adelicia, second wife of Henry I., and son of Godfrey Barbatus, Duke of Lower Lorraine and Count of Brabant, who was descended from the Emperor Charlemagne, upon his agreeing to adopt either the surname or arms of Percy.-E.
Letter 363 To The Earl Of Strafford. Arlington Street, July 3, 1769. (page 546)
When you have been so constantly good to me, my dear lord, without changing, do you wonder that our friendship has lasted so long? Can I be so insensible to the honour or pleasure of your acquaintance When the advantage lies much on my side, am I likely to alter the first? Oh, but it will last now! We have seen friendships without number born and die. Ours was not formed on interest, nor alliance; and politics, the poison of all English connexions, never entered into ours. You have given me a new proof by remembering the chapel of Luton. I hear it is to be preserved; and am glad of it, though I might have been the better for its ruins.
I should have answered your lordship's last post, but was at Park-place. I think Lady Ailesbury quite recovered; though her illness has made such an impression that she does not yet believe it.
It is so settled that we are never to have tolerable weather in June, that the first hot day was on Saturday-hot by comparison: for I think it is three years since we have really felt the feel of summer. I was, however, concerned to be forced to come to town yesterday on some business; for, however the country feels, it looks divine, and the verdure we buy so dear is delicious. I shall not be able, I fear, to profit of it this summer in the loveliest of all places, as I am to go to Paris in August. But next year I trust I shall accompany Mr. Conway and Lady Ailesbury to Wentworth Castle. I shall be glad to visit Castle Howard and Beverley; but neither would carry me so far, if Wentworth Castle was not in the way.
The Chatelets are gone, without any more battles with the Russians.(1075) The papers say the latter have been beaten by the Turks;(1076) which rejoices me, though against all rules of politics: but I detest that murderess, and like to have her humbled. I don't know that this Piece Of news is true: it is enough to me that it is agreeable. I had rather take it for granted, than be at the trouble of inquiring about what I have so little to do with. I am just the same about the City and Surrey petitions. Since I have dismembered(1077) myself, it is incredible how cool I am to all politics.
London is the abomination of desolation; and I rejoice to leave it again this evening. Even Pam has not a lev'ee above once or twice a week. Next winter, I suppose, it will be a fashion to remove into the city: for, since it is the mode to choose aldermen at this end of the town, the maccaronis will certainly adjourn to Bishopsgate-street, for fear of being fined for sheriffs. Mr. James and Mr. Boothby will die of the thought of being aldermen of Grosvenor-ward and Berkeley-square-ward. Adam and Eve in their paradise laugh at all these tumults, and have not tasted of the tree that forfeits paradise; which I take to have been the tree of politics, not of knowledge. How happy you are not to have your son Abel knocked on the head by his brother Cain at the Brentford election! You do not hunt the poor deer and hares that gambol around you. If Eve has a sin, I doubt it is angling;(1078) but as she makes all other creatures happy, I beg she would not Impale worms nor whisk carp out of one element into another. If she repents of that guilt, I hope she will live as long as her grandson Methuselah. There is a commentator that says his life was protracted for never having boiled a lobster alive. Adieu, dear couple, that I honour as much as I could honour my first grandfather and grandmother! Your most dutiful Hor. Japhet.
(1075) The Duc de Chatelet, the French ambassador, had affronted Comte Czernicheff, the Russian ambassador, at a ball at court, on a point of precedence, and a challenge ensued, but their meeting was prevented.
(1076) Before Choczim. The Russians were at first victorious; but, like the King of Prussia at the battle of Zorndorff, they despatched the messenger with the news too soon; for the Turks having recovered their surprise, returned to the charge, and repulsed the Russians with great slaughter.-E.
(1077) Mr. Walpole means, since he quitted Parliament.
(1078) Walpole's abhorrence of the pastime of angling has been already noticed. See vol. iii. p. 70, letter 29.-E.
Letter 364 To The Hon. H. S. Conway. Strawberry Hill, Friday, July 7, 1769. (page 547)
You desired me to write, if I knew any thing particular. How particular will content you? Don't imagine I would send you such hash as the livery's petition.(1079) Come; would the apparition of my Lord Chatham satisfy you? Don't be frightened; it was not his ghost. He, he himself in propria persona, and not in a strait waistcoat, came into the King's lev'ee this morning, and was in the closet twenty minutes after the lev'ee; and was to go out of town to-night again.(1080) The deuce is in it if this is not news. Whether he is to be king, minister, lord mayor, or alderman, I do not know; nor a word more than I have told you. Whether he was sent for to guard St. James's gate, or whether he came alone, like Almanzor, to storm it, I cannot tell: by Beckford's violence I should think the latter. I am so indifferent what he came for, that I shall wait till Sunday to learn: when I lie in town on my way to Ely. You will probably hear more from your brother before I can write again. I send this by my friend Mr. Granger, who will leave it at your park-gate as he goes through Henley home. Good-night! it is past twelve, and I am going to bed. Yours ever.
(1079) The petition of the livery of London, complaining of the unconstitutional conduct of the King's ministers, and the undue return of Mr. Luttrell, when he Opposed Mr. Wilkes at the election for Middlesex.
(1080) In a letter to the Earl of Chatham, of the 11th, Lord Temple says:—"Your reception at St. James's where I am glad you have been, turns out exactly such as I should have expected—full of the highest marks of regard to your lordship: full of condescension, and of all those sentiments of grace and goodness which his Majesty can so well express. I think that you cannot but be happy at the result of this experiment." Chatham Correspondence, vol. iii. p. 361.-E.
Letter 365 To The Rev. Mr. Cole. Strawberry Hill, July 15, 1769. (page 548)
Dear Sir, Your fellow-travellers, Rosette(1081) and I, got home safe and perfectly contented with our expedition, and wonderfully obliged to you. Pray receive our thanks and barking; and pray say, and bark a great deal for us to Mr. and Mrs. Bentham, and all that good family.
After gratitude, you know, always comes a little self-interest; for who would be at the trouble of being grateful, if he had no further expectations? Imprimis, then, here are the directions for Mr. Essex for the piers of my gates. Bishop Luda must not be offended at my converting his tomb into a gateway. Many a saint and confessor, I doubt, will be glad soon to be passed through, as it will, at least, secure his being passed over. When I was directing the east window at Ely, I recollected the lines of Prior:—
"How unlucky were Nature and Art to poor Nell! She was painting her cheeks at the time her nose fell."
Adorning cathedrals when the religion itself totters, is very like poor Nell's mishap.(1082) ***** I will trouble you with no more at present, but to get from Mr. Lort the name of the Norfolk monster, and to give it to Jackson. Don't forget the list of English heads in Dr. Ewin's book for Mr. Granger; particularly the Duchess of Chenreux. I will now release you, only adding my compliments to Dr. Ewin, Mr. Tyson, Mr. Lort, Mr. Essex, and once more to the Benthams. Adieu, dear Sir! Yours ever
Remember to ask me for icacias, and any thing else with which I can pay some of my debts to you..
(1081) A favourite dog of Mr. Walpole's.
(1082) Here follow some minute directions for building the gateway, unintelligible without the sketch that accompanied the letter, and uninteresting with it, and a list of prints that Mr. Walpole was anxious to procure.
Letter 366 To The Rev. Mr. Cole. Strawberry Hill, August 12, 1769. (page 549)
Dear Sir, I was in town yesterday, and found the parcel arrived very safe. I give you a thousand thanks, dear Sir, for all the contents; but when I sent you the list of heads I wanted, it was for Mr. Jackson, not at all meaning to rob you; but your generosity much outruns my prudence, and I must be upon my guard with you. The Catherine Bolen was particularly welcome; I had never seen it—it is a treasure, though I am persuaded not genuine, but taken from a French print of the Queen of Scots, which I have. I wish you could tell me from whence it was taken; I mean from what book: I imagine the same in which are two prints, which Mr. Granger mentions, and has himself (with Italian inscriptions, too), of a Duke of Northumberland and an Earl of Arundel. Mr. Bernardiston I never saw before—I do not know in what reign he lived—I suppose lately: nor do I know the era of the Master of Benet. When I come back, I must beg you to satisfy these questions. The Countess of Kent is very curious, too; I have lately got a very dirty one, so that I shall return yours again. Mrs. Wooley I could not get high or low. But there is no end of thanking you- -and yet I must for Sir J. Finet, though Mr. ; but I am sure they will be very useful to me. I hope he will not forget me in October. It will be a good opportunity of sending you some good acacias, or any thing you Want from hence. I am sure you ought to ask me for any thing in my power, so much I am in your debt: I must beg to be a little more, by entreating you to pay Mr. Essex whatever he asks for his drawing, which is just what I wished. The iron gates I have.
With regard to a history of Gothic architecture, in which he desires my advices, the plan, I think, should lie in a very simple compass. Was I to execute it, it should be thus:—I would give a series of plates, even from the conclusion of Saxon architecture, beginning with the round Roman arch, and going on to show how they plaistered and zigzagged it, and then how better ornaments crept in till the beautiful Gothic arrived at its perfection: then how it deceased in Henry the Eighth's reign—Abp. Wareham's tomb at Canterbury, being I believe the last example of unbastardized Gothic. A very few plates more would demonstrate its change: though Holbein embroidered it with some morsels of true architecture. In Queen Elizabeth's reign there was scarce any architecture at all: I mean no pillars, or seldom, buildings then becoming quite plain. Under James a barbarous composition succeeded. A single plate of something of Inigo Jones, in his heaviest and worst style, should terminate the work; for he soon stepped into the true and perfect Grecian.
The next part, Mr. Essex can do better than any body, and is, perhaps, the only person that can do it. This should consist of observations on the art, proportions, and method of building, and the reasons observed by the Gothic architects for what they did. This would show what great men they were, and how they raised such aerial and stupendous masses; though unassisted by half the lights now enjoyed by their successors. The prices and the wages of workmen, and the comparative value of money and provisions at the several periods, should be stated, as far as it is possible to get materials.
The last part (I don't know whether it should not be the first part) nobody can do so well as yourself. This must be to ascertain the chronological period of each building; and not only of each building but of each tomb, that shall be exhibited: for you know the great delicacy and richness of Gothic ornaments were exhausted on small chapels, oratories and tombs. For my own part, I should wish to have added detached samples of the various patterns of ornaments, which would not be a great many; as, excepting pinnacles, there is scarce one which does not branch from the trefoil; quadrefoils, cinquefoils, etc. being but various modifications of it. I believe almost all the ramifications of windows are so, and of them there should be samples, too.
This work you see could not be executed by one hand; Mr. Tyson could give great assistance. I wish the plan was drawn out, and better digested. This is a very rude sketch, and first thought. I should be very glad to contribute what little I know, and to the expense too, which would be considerable; but I am sure we could get assistance-and it had better not be undertaken than executed superficially. Mr. Tyson's History of Fashions and Dresses would make a valuable part of the work; as, in elder times especially, much must be depended on tombs for dresses. I have a notion the King might be inclined to encourage such a work; and, if a proper plan was drawn out, for which I have not time now, I would endeavour to get it laid before him, and his patronage solicited. Pray talk this over with Mr. Tyson and Mr. Essex. It is an idea worth pursuing.
You was very kind to take me out of the scrape about the organ and yet if my insignificant name could carry it to one side, I would not scruple to lend it.(1084) Thank you, too, for St. Alban and Noailles. The very picture the latter describes was in my father's collection, and is now at Worksop. I have scarce room to crowd in my compliments to the good house of Bentham, and to say, yours ever.
(1083) The Rev. Michael Tyson, of Bennet College, Cambridge. He was elected F. S. A. in 1768, and died in 1780. He was greatly Esteemed by Mr. Gough, and is described as a good antiquary and a gentleman artist. He engraved a remarkable portrait of Jane Shore, some of the old masters of his college, and some of the noted characters in and about Cambridge.-E.
(1084) There was a dispute among the chapter at Ely respecting the situation of the organ.
letter 367 To George Montagu, Esq. August 18, 1769. (page 551)
As I have heard nothing of you since the Assyrian calends, which is much longer ago than the Greek, you may perhaps have died in Media, at Ecbatana, or in Chaldoea, and then to be sure I have no reason to take it ill that you have forgotten me. There is no Post between Europe and the Elysian fields, where I hope in the Lord Pluto you are; and for the letters that are sent by Orpheus, Aeneas, Sir George Villiers, and such accidental passengers, to be sure one cannot wonder if they miscarry. You might indeed have sent one a scrawl by Fanny, as Cock-lane is not very distant from Arlington-street; but, when I asked her, she scratched the ghost of a no, that made One's ears tingle again. If, contrary to all probability, you still be above ground, and if, which is still more improbable, you should repent of your sins while you are yet in good health, and should go strangely further, and endeavour to make Atonement by writing to me again, I think it conscientiously right to inform you, that I am not in Arlington-street, nor at Strawberry-hill, nor even in Middlesex; nay, not in England; I am—I am—guess where—not in Corsica, nor at Spa—stay, I am not at Paris yet, but I hope to be there in two days. In short, I am at Calais, having landed about two hours ago, after a tedious passage of nine hours. Having no soul with me but Rosette, I have been amusing myself with the arrival of a French officer and his wife in a berlin, which carried their ancestors to one of Moli'ere's plays: as Madame has no maid with her, she and Monsieur very prudently untied the trunks, and disburthened the venerable machine of all its luggage themselves; and then with a proper resumption of their equality, Monsieur gave his hand to Madame, and conducted her in much ceremony through the yard to their apartment. Here ends the beginning of my letter; when I have nothing else to do, perhaps, I may continue it. You cannot have the confidence to complain, if I give you no more than my moments perdus; have you deserved any better of me?
Having just recollected that the whole merit of this letter will consist in the Surprise, I hurry to finish it, and send it away by the captain of the packet, who is returning. You may repay me this surprise by answering my letter, and by directing yours to Arlington-street, from whence Mary will forward it to me. You will not have much time to consider, for I shall set out on my return from Paris the first of October,(1085) according to my solemn promise to Strawberry; and you must know, I keep my promises to Strawberry much better than you do. Adieu! Boulogne hoy!
(1085) Mr. Walpole arrived at Paris on the 18th of august, and left it on the 5th of October. On the 18th of July, Madame du Deffand had written to him—"Vous souhaitez que je vive quatre-vingt-huit ans; et pourquoi le souhaiter, si votre premier voyage ici doit 'etre le dernier'! Pour que ce souhait m'e'ut 'et'e agr'eable, il falloit y ajouter, 'Je verrai encore bien des fois ma Petite, et je jouerai d'un bonheur qui n''etoit r'eserv'e qu'a moi, L'amiti'e la plus tendre, la plus sincere, et la plus constants qu'il f'ut jamais.' Adieu! mon plaisir est troubl'e, je l'avoue; je crains que ce ne soit un exc'es de complaisance qui vous fasse faire ce voyage."-E.
Letter 368 To John Chute, Esq. Paris, August 30, 1769. (page 552)
I have been so hurried with paying and receiving visits, that I have not had a moment's worth of time to write. My passage was very tedious, and lasted near nine hours for want of wind. But I need not talk of my journey; for Mr. Maurice, whom I met on the road, will have told you that I was safe on terra firma.
Judge of my surprise at hearing four days ago, that my Lord Dacre(1086) and my lady were arrived here. They are lodged within a few doors of me. He is come to consult a Doctor Pomme,(1087) who has prescribed wine, and Lord Dacre already complains of the violence of his appetite. If you and I had pommed him to eternity, he would not have believed us. A man across the sea tells him the plainest thing in the world; that man happens to be called a doctor; and happening for novelty to talk common sense, is believed, as if he had talked nonsense! and what is more extraordinary, Lord Dacre thinks himself better, though he is so.
My dear old woman(1088) is in better health than when I left her, and her spirits so increased, that I tell her she will go mad with age. When they ask her how old she is, she answers, "J'ai soixante et mille ans." She and I went to the Boulevard last night after supper, and drove about there till two in the morning. We are going to sup in the country this evening, and are to go tomorrow night at eleven to the puppet-show. A prot'eg'e of hers has written a piece for that theatre. I have not yet seen Madame du Barri, nor can get to see her picture at the exposition at the Louvre, the crowds are so enormous that go thither for that purpose. As royal curiosities are the least part of my virt'u, I wait with patience. Whenever I have an opportunity I visit gardens, chiefly with a view to Rosette's having a walk. She goes nowhere else, because there is a distemper among the dogs.
There is going to be represented a translation of Hamlet: who when his hair is cut, and he is curled and powdered, I suppose will be exactly Monsieur le Prime Oreste. T'other night I was at M'erope. The Dumenil was as divine as Mrs. Porter; they said her familiar tones were those of a poisonni'ere. In the last act, when one expected the catastrophe, Narbas, more interested than any body to see the event, remained coolly on the stage to hear the story. The Queen's maid of honour entered without her handkerchief, and with her hair most artfully undressed, and reeling as if she was maudlin, sobbed Out a long narrative, that did not prove true; while Narbas, with all the good breeding in the world, was more attentive to her fright than to what had happened. So much for propriety. Now for probability. Voltaire has published a tragedy, called "Les Gu'e,bres." Two Roman colonels open the piece: they are brothers, and relate to one another, how they lately in company destroyed, by the Emperor's mandate, a city of the Guebres, in which were their own wives and children: and they recollect that they want prodigiously to know whether both their families did perish in the flames. The son of the one and the daughter of the other are taken up for heretics, and, thinking themselves brother and sister, insist upon being married, and upon being executed for their religion. The son stabs his father, who is half a Gu'ebre, too. The high-priest rants and roars. The Emperor arrives, blames the pontiff for being a persecutor, and forgives the son for assassinating his father (who does not die) because—I don't know why, but that he may marry his cousin. The grave-diggers in Hamlet have no chance, when such a piece as the Guebres is written agreeably to all rules and unities. Adieu, my dear Sir! I hope to find you quite well at my return. Yours ever.
(1086) Thomas Barret Lennard, seventeenth Baron Dacre. His lordship married Ann Maria, daughter of Sir John Pratt, lord chief-justice of the court of King's Bench.-E.
(1087) At that time the fashionable physician of Paris. He was originally from Arles, and attained his celebrity by curing the ladies of fashion in the French metropolis of the vapours.-E.
(1088) Madame du Deffand.
Letter 369 To George Montagu, Esq.
Paris, Sept. 7, 1769. (page 553)
Your two letters flew here together in a breath. I shall answer the article of business first. I could certainly buy many things for you here, that you would like, the reliques of the last age's magnificence; but, since my Lady Holderness invaded the custom-house with a hundred and fourteen gowns, in the reign of that two-penny monarch George Grenville, the ports are so guarded, that not a soul but a smuggler can smuggle any thing into England; and I suppose you would not care to pay seventy-five per cent, on second-hand commodities. All I transported three years ago, was conveyed under the canon of the Duke of Richmond. I have no interest in our present representative; nor if I had, is he returning. Plate, of all earthly vanities, is the most impassable: it is not Counerband in its metallic capacity, but totally so in its personal; and the officers of the custom-house not being philosophers enough to separate the substance from the superficies, brutally hammer both to pieces, and return you only the intrinsic: a compensation which you, who are a member of Parliament, would not, I trow, be satisfied with. Thus I doubt you must retrench your generosity to yourself, unless you can contract into an Elzevir size, and be content with any thing one can bring in one's pocket.
My dear old friend was charmed with your mention of her, and made me vow to return you a thousand compliments. She cannot conceive why you will not step hither. Feeling in herself no difference between the spirits of twenty-three and seventy-three, she thinks there is no impediment to doing whatever one will but the want of eyesight. If she had that, I am persuaded no consideration would prevent her making me a visit at Strawberry Hill. She makes songs, sings them, remembers all that ever were made; and, having lived from the most agreeable to the most reasoning age, has all that was amiable in the last, all that is sensible in this, without the vanity of the former, or the pedant impertinence of the latter. I have heard her dispute with all sorts of people, on all sorts of subjects, and never knew her in the wrong. She humbles the learned, sets right their disciples, and finds conversation for every body. Affectionate as Madame de S'evign'e, she has none of her prejudices, but a more universal taste; and, with the most delicate frame, her spirits hurry her through a life of fatigue that would kill me, if I was to continue here. If we return by one in the morning from supping in the country, she proposes driving to the Boulevard or to the Foire St. Ovide, because it is too early to go to bed. I had great difficulty last night to persuade her, though she was not well, not to sit up till' between two or three for the comet; for which purpose she had appointed an astronomer to bring his telescopes to the President Henault's, as she thought it would amuse me. In short, her goodness to me is so excessive, that I feel unashamed at producing my withered person in a round of diversions, which I have quitted at home. I tell a story; I do feel ashamed, and sigh to be in my quiet castle and cottage; but it costs me many a Pang, when I reflect that I shall probably never have resolution enough to take another journey to see this best and sincerest of friends, who loves me as much as my mother did! but it is idle to look forward—what is next year?-a bubble that may burst for her or me, before even the flying year can hurry to the end of its almanack! To form plans and projects in such a precarious life as this, resembles the enchanted castles"of fairy legends, in which every gate Was guarded by giants, dragons, etc. Death or diseases bar every portal through which we mean to pass; and, though we may escape them and reach the last chamber, what a wild adventurer is he that centres his hopes at the end of such an avenue! I am contented with the beggars of the threshold, and never propose going on, but as the gates open of themselves.
The weather here is quite sultry, and I am sorry to say one can send to the corner of the street and buy better peaches than all our expense in kitchen gardens produces. Lord and Lady Dacre are a few doors from me, having started from Tunbridge more suddenly than I did from Strawberry Hill, but on a more unpleasant motive. My lord was persuaded to come and try a new physician. His faith is greater than mine! but, poor man! can one wonder that he is willing to believe? My lady has stood her shock, and I do not doubt will get over it.
Adieu, my t'other dear old friend! I am sorry to say I see you almost as seldom as I do Madame du Deffand. However, it is comfortable to reflect that we have not changed to each other for some five-and-thirty years, and neither you nor I haggle about naming so ancient a term. I made a visit yesterday to the Abbess of Panthemont, General Oglethorpe's niece,(1089) and no chicken. I inquired after her mother, Madame de Meziers, and I thought I might to a spiritual votary to immortality venture to say, that her mother must be very old; she interrupted me tartly, and said, no, her mother had been married extremely young. Do but think of its seeming important to a saint to sink a wrinkle of her own through an iron grate! Oh, we are ridiculous animals; and if animals have any fun in them, how we must divert them.
(1089) Sister of the Princess de Ligne.
Letter 370 To The Earl Of Strafford. Paris, Sept. 8, 1769. (page 555)
T'other night, at the Duchess of Choiseul's at supper, the intendant of Rouen asked me, if we have roads of communication all over England and Scotland'@—I suppose he thinks that in general we inhabit trackless forests and wild mountains, and that once a year a few legislators come to Paris to learn the arts of civil life, as to sow corn, plant vines, and make operas. If this letter should contrive to scramble through that desert Yorkshire, where your lordship has attempted to improve a dreary hill and uncultivated vale, you will find I remember your commands of writing from this capital of the world, whither I am come for the benefit of my country, and where I am intensely studying those laws and that beautiful frame of government, which can alone render a nation happy, great, and flourishing; where lettres de cachet soften manners, and a proper distribution of luxury and beggary ensures a common felicity. As we have a prodigious number of students in legislature of both sexes here at present, I will not anticipate their discoveries; but as your particular friend, will communicate a rare improvement on nature, which these great philosophers have made, and which would add considerable beauties to those parts which your lordship has already recovered from the waste, and taught to look a little like a Christian country. The secret is very simple, and yet demanded the effort of a mighty genius to strike it out. It is nothing but this: trees ought to be educated as much as men, and are strange awkward productions when not taught to hold themselves upright or bow on proper occasions. The academy de belles-lettres have even offered a prize for the man that shall recover the long lost art of an ancient Greek, called le sieur Orph'ee, who instituted a dancing-school for plants, and gave a magnificent ball on the birth of the Dauphin of Thrace, which was performed entirely by forest-trees. In this whole kingdom there is no such thing as seeing a tree that is not well-behaved. They are first stripped up and then cut down; and you would as soon meet a man with his hair about his ears as an oak or ash. As the weather is very hot now, and the soil chalk, and the dust white, I assure you it is very difficult, powdered as both are all over, to distinguish a tree from a hairdresser. Lest this should sound like a travelling hyperbole, I must advertise your lordship, that there is little difference in their heights; for, a tree of thirty years' growth being liable to be marked as royal timber, the proprietors take care not to let their trees live to the age of being enlisted, but burn them, and plant others as often almost as they change their fashions. This gives an air of perpetual youth to the face of the country, and if adopted by us would realize Mr. Addison's visions, and
"Make our bleak rocks and barren mountains smile."
What other remarks I have made in my indefatigable search after knowledge must be reserved to a future opportunity; but as your lordship is my friend, I may venture to say without vanity to You, that Solon nor any Of the ancient philosophers who travelled to Egypt in quest of religions. mysteries, laws, and fables, never sat up so late with the ladies and priests and presidents de parlement at Memphis, as I do here—and consequently were not half so well qualified as I am to new-model a commonwealth. I have learned how to make remonstrances, and how to answer them. The latter, it seems, is a science much wanted in my own country(1090)—and yet it is as easy and obvious as their treatment of trees, and not very unlike it. It was delivered many years ago in an oracular sentence of my namesake, "Odi profanum vulgus, et arceo." You must drive away the vulgar, and you must have an hundred and fifty thousand men to drive them away with—that is all. I do not wonder the intendant of Rouen thinks we are still in a state of barbarism, when we are ignorant of the very rudiments of government.
The Duke and Duchess of Richmond have been here a few days, and are gone to Aubign'e. I do not think him at all well, and am exceedingly concerned for it; as I know no man who has more estimable qualities. They return by the end of the month. I am fluctuating whether I shall not return with them, as they have pressed me to do, through Holland. I never was there, and could never go so agreeably; but then it would protract my absence three weeks, and I am impatient to be in my own cave, notwithstanding the wisdom I imbibe every day. But one cannot sacrifice one's self wholly to the public: Titus and Wilkes have now and then lost a day. Adieu, my dear lord! Be assured that I shall not disdain yours and Lady Strafford's conversation, though you have nothing but the goodness of your hearts, and the simplicity of your manners, to recommend you to the more enlightened understanding of your old friend.
(1090) Alluding to the number of remonstrances, under the name of petitions, which were presented this year from the livery of London, and many other corporate bodies, on the subject of the Middlesex election.
Letter 371 To George Montagu, Esq. Paris, Sunday night, Sept. 17, 1769. (page 557)
I am heartily tired; but, as it is too early to go to bed, I must tell you how agreeably I passed the day. I wished for you; the same scenes strike us both, and the same kind of visions has amused us both ever since we were born.
Well then: I went this morning to Versailles with my niece Mrs. Cholmondeley, Mrs. Hart, Lady Denbigh's sister, and the Count de Grave, one of the most amiable, humane, and obliging men alive. Our first object was to see Madame du Barri.(1091) Being too early for mass, we saw the Dauphin and his brothers at dinner. The eldest is the picture of the Duke of Grafton, except that he is more fair, and will be taller. He has a sickly air, and no grace. The Count de Provence has a very pleasing countenance, with an air of more sense than the Count d'Artois, the genius of the family. They already tell as many bon-mots of the latter as of Henri Quatre and Louis Quatorze. He is very fat, and the most like his grandfather of all the children. You may imagine this royal mess did not occupy us long: thence to the chapel, where a first row in the balconies was kept for us. Madame du Barri arrived over against us below, without rouge, without powder, and indeed sans avoir fait sa toilette; an odd appearance, as she was so conspicuous, close to the altar, and amidst both court and people. She is pretty, when you consider her; yet so little striking, that I never should have asked who she was. There is nothing bold, assuming, or affected in her manner. Her husband's sister was alone, with her. In the tribune above, surrounded by prelates, was the amorous and still handsome King. One could not help smiling at the mixture of piety, pomp, and carnality. From chapel we went to the dinner of the elder Mesdames. We were almost stifled in the antechamber, where their dishes were heating over charcoal, and where we could not stir for the press. When the doors are opened every body rushes in, princes of the blood, cordons bleus, abb'es, housemaids, and the Lord knows who and what. Yet, so used are their highnesses to this trade, that they eat as comfortably and heartily as you or I could do in our own parlours.
Our second act was much more agreeable. We quitted the court and a reigning mistress, for a dead one and a cloister. In short, I had obtained leave from the Bishop of Chartres to enter into St. Cyr; and, as Madame du Deffand never leaves any thing undone that can give me satisfaction, she had written to the abbess to desire I might see every thing that could be seen there. The Bishop's order was to admit me, Monsieur de Grave, et les dames de ma compagnie: I begged the abbess to give me back the order, that I might deposit it in the archives of Strawberry, and she complied instantly. Every door flew open to us: and the nuns vied in attentions to please us. The first thing I desired to see was Madame de Maintenon's apartment. It consists of' two small rooms, a library, and a very small chamber, the same in which the Czar saw her, and in which she died. The bed is taken away, and the room covered now with bad pictures of the royal family, which destroys the gravity and simplicity. It is wainscotted with oak, with plain chairs of the same, covered with dark blue damask. Every where else the chairs are of blue cloth. The simplicity and extreme neatness of the whole house, which is vast, are very remarkable. A large apartment above, (for that I have mentioned is on the ground-floor,) consisting of five rooms, and destined by Louis Quatorze for Madame de Maintenon, is now the infirmary, with neat white linen beds, and decorated with every text of Scripture by which could be insinuated that the foundress was a Queen. The hour of vespers being come, we were conducted to the chapel, and, as it was my curiosity that had led us thither, I was placed in the Maintenon's own tribune; my company in the adjoining gallery. The pensioners two and two, each band headed by a man, March orderly to their seats, and sing the whole service, which I confess was not a little tedious. The young ladies to the number of two hundred and fifty are dressed in black, with short aprons of the same, the latter and their stays bound with blue, yellow, green or red, to distinguish the classes; the captains and lieutenants have knots of a different colour for distinction. Their hair is curled and powdered, their coiffure a sort of French round-eared caps, with white tippets, a sort of ruff and large tucker: in short, a very pretty dress. The nuns are entirely in black, with crape veils and long trains, deep white handkerchiefs, and forehead cloths, and a very long train. The chapel is plain but very pretty, and in the middle of the choir under a flat marble lies the foundress. Madame de Cambis, one of the nuns, who are about forty, is beautiful as a Madonna.(1092) The abbess has no distinction but a larger and richer gold cross: her apartment consists of two very small rooms. Of Madame de Maintenon we did not see less than twenty pictures. The young one looking over her shoulder has a round face, without the least resemblance to those of her latter age. That in the roil mantle, of which you know I have a copy, is the most repeated; but there is another with a longer and leaner face, which has by far the most sensible look. She is in black, with a high point head and band, a long train, and is sitting in a chair of purple velvet. Before her knees stands her niece Madame de Noailles, a child; at a distance a view of Versailles or St. Cyr, I could not distinguish which. We were shown some rich reliquaries, and the corpo santo that was sent to her by the Pope. We were then carried into the public room of each class. In the first, the young ladies, who were playing at chess, were ordered to sing to us the choruses of Athaliah; in another, they danced minuets and country-dances while a nun, not quite so able as St. Cecilia, played on a violin. In the others, they acted before us the proverbs or conversations written by Madame de Maintenon for their instruction; for she was not only their foundress but their saint, and their adoration of her memory has quite eclipsed the Virgin Mary. We saw their dormitory, and saw them at supper; and at last were carried to their archives. where they produced volumes of her letters, and where one of the nuns gave me a small piece of paper with three sentences in her handwriting. I forgot to tell you, that this kind dame, who took to me extremely, asked me if we had many convents and many relics in England. I was much embarrassed for fear of destroying her good opinion of me, and so said we had but few now. Oh! we went to the apothecaries where they treated us with cordials, and where one of the ladies told me inoculation was a sin, as it was a voluntary detention from mass, and as voluntary a cause of eating gras. Our visit concluded in the garden, now grown very venerable, where the young ladies played at little games before us. After a stay of four hours we took our leave. I begged the abbess's blessing; she smiled, and said, she doubted I should not place much faith in it. She is a comely old gentlewoman, and very proud of having seen Madame de Maintenon. Well! was not I in the right to wish you with me? could you have passed a day more agreeably!
I will conclude my letter with a most charming trait of Madame de Mailly, which cannot be misplaced in such a chapter of royal concubines. Going to St. Sulpice, after she had lost the King's heart, a person present desired the crowd to make way for her. Some brutal young officers said, "Comment, pour cette catin-l'a!" She turned to them, and, with the most charming modesty said, "Messieurs, puisque vous me COnnoissez, priez Dieu pour moi." I am sure it will bring tears into your eyes. Was not she the Publican, and Maintenon the Pharisee? Good night! I hope I am going to dream of all I have been seeing. As my impressions and my fancy, when I am pleased, are apt to be strong. My night perhaps, may still be more productive of ideas than the day has been. It will be charming, indeed, if Madame de Cambis is the ruling tint. Adieu! Yours ever.
(1091) Madame du Barry, the celebrated mistress of Louis XV., was born in the lowest rank of society, and brought up in the most depraved habits; being known only by the name which her beauty had acquired for her, Mademoiselle l'Ange. She became the mistress of the Comte du Barry, (a gentleman belonging to a family of Toulon, of no distinction, well known as Le Grand du Barry, or, Du Barry le Rou'e,) and eventually the mistress of the King; and, when the influence she exercised over her royal protector had determined him to receive her publicly at court and a marriage was necessary to the purpose, Du Barry le Rou'e brought forward his younger brother, the Comte Guillaume du Barry, who readily submitted to this prostitution of his name and family.-E.
(1092) Madame du Deffand, in her letter to Walpole of the 10th of May 1776, enclosed the following portrait of Madame de Cambise, by Madame de la Valli'ere:—"Non, non, Madame, je ne farai point votre portrait: vous avez une mani'ere d''etre si noble, si fine, si piquante, si d'elicate, si s'eduisaitte; votre gentilesse et vos graces changent si souvent pour n'en 'etre que plus aimable, que l'on ne peut saisir aucun de vos traits ni au physique ni au moral." She was niece of La Marquise de Boufflers, and, having fled to England at the breaking out of the French Revolution, resided here until her death, which took place at Richmond in January 1809.-E.
Letter 372 To George Montagu, Esq. Arlington Street, Oct. 13, 1769. (page 560
I arrived last night at eleven o'clock, and found a letter from you, which gave me so much pleasure, that I must write you a line, though I am hurried to death. You cannot imagine how rejoiced I am that Lord North(1093) drags you to light again; it is a satisfaction I little expected. When do you come? I am impatient. I long to know your projects.
I had a dreadful passage of eight hours, was drowned, though not shipwrecked, and was sick to death. I have been six times at sea before, and never suffered the least, which makes the mortification the greater: but as Hercules was not more robust than I, though with an air so little Herculean, I have not so much as caught cold, though I was wet to the skin with the rain, had my lap full of waves, was washed from head to foot in the boat at ten o'clock at night, and stepped into the sea up to my knees. Q'avois-je 'a faire dans cette gal'ere?(1094) In truth, it is a little late to be seeking adventures. Adieu! I must finish, but I am excessively happy with what you have told me. Yours ever.
(1093) Lord North had appointed Mr. Montagu his private secretary.
(1094) Walpole left Paris on the 5th of October. Early on the morning of the 6th, Madame du Deffand thus wrote to him:- -"N'exigez point de gaiet'e, contentez-vous de ne pas trouver de tristesse: je n'envoyai point chez vous hier matin; j'ignore 'a quelle heure vous partites; tout ce que je sais c'est que vous n''etes plus ici." And again, on the 9th:—"Je ne respirerai 'a mon aise qu'apr'es une lettre de Douvres. Ah! je me ha'is bien de tout le mal que je vous cause; trois journ'ees de route, autant de nuits d'etestables, une embarquement, un passage, le risque de mille accidens, voil'a le bien que je vous procure. Ah! c'est bien vous qui pouvez dire en pensant de moi, 'Qu'allais-je faire dans cette gal'ere?'"-E.
Letter 373 To George Montagu, Esq. Strawberry Hill, Oct. 16, 1769. (page 560)
I arrived at my own Louvre last Wednesday night, and am now at my Versailles. Your last letter reached me but two days before I left Paris, for I have been an age at Calais and upon the sea. I could execute no commission for you, and, in truth, you gave me no explicit one; but I have brought you a bit of china, and beg you will be content with a little present, instead of a bargain. Said china is, or will be soon, in the custom-house; but I shall have it, I fear, long before you come to London.
I am sorry those boys got at my tragedy. I beg you would keep it under lock and key; it is not at all food for the public; at least not till I am "food for worms, good Percy." Nay, it is not an age to encourage any body, that has the least vanity, to step forth. There is a total extinction of all taste: our authors are vulgar, gross, illiberal: the theatre swarms with wretched translations, and ballad operas, and we have nothing new but improving abuse. I have blushed at Paris, when the papers came over crammed with ribaldry, or with Garrick's insufferable nonsense about Shakspeare. As that man's writings will be preserved by his name, who will believe that he was a tolerable actor? Cibber wrote as bad odes, but then Cibber wrote The Careless Husband and his own Life, which both deserve immortality. Garrick's prologues and epilogues are as bad as his Pindarics and pantomimes.(1095)
I feel myself here like a swan, that, after living six weeks in a nasty pool upon a common, is got back into its own Thames. I do nothing but plume and clean myself, and enjoy the verdure and silent waves. Neatness and greenth are so essential in my opinion to the country, that in France, where I see nothing but chalk and dirty peasants, I seem in a terrestrial purgatory that is neither town nor country. The face of England is so beautiful, that I do not believe Tempe or Arcadia were half so rural; for both lying in hot climates, must have wanted the turf of our lawns. It IS unfortunate to have so pastoral a taste, when I want a cane more than a crook. We are absurd creatures; at twenty, I loved nothing but London.
Tell me when you shall be in town. I think of passing Most Of my time here till after Christmas. Adieu!
(1095) Mr. J. Sharp, in a letter to Garrick, of the 29th of March in this year, says—"I met Mr. Gray at dinner last Sunday: he spoke handsomely of your happy knack of epilogues; but he calls the Stratford Jubilee, Vanity Fair." See Garrick Correspondence, vol. i. p. 337.-E.
Letter 374 To The Hon. H. S. Conway.
Strawberry Hill, Tuesday, Nov. 14, 1769. (page 561)
I am here quite alone, and did not think of going to town till Friday for the opera, which I have not yet seen. In compliment to you and your Countess, I will make an effort, and be there on Thursday; and will either dine with you at your own house, or at your brother's; which you choose. This is a great favour, and beyond my Lord Temple's journey to dine with my Lord Mayor.(1096) I am so sick of the follies of all sides, that I am happy to be at quiet here, and to know no more of them than what I am forced to see in the newspapers; and those I skip over as fast as I can.
The account you give me of Lady *** was just the same as I received from Paris. I will show you a very particular letter I received by a private hand from France; which convinces me that I guessed right, contrary to all the wise, that the journey to Fontainbleau would overset Monsieur de Choiseul. I think he holds but by a thread, which will snap soon.(1097) I am labouring hard with the Duchess(1098) to procure the Duke of Richmond satisfaction in the favour he has asked about his duchy;' but he shall not know it till it is completed, if I can be so lucky as to succeed. I think I shall, if they do not fall immediately.
You perceive how barren I am, and why I have not written to you. I pass my time in clipping and pasting prints; and do not think I have read forty pages since I came to England. I bought a poem called Trinculo's Trip to the Jubilee; having been struck with two lines in an extract in the papers,
"There the ear-piercing fife, And the ear-piercing wife—"
Alas! all the rest, and it is very long, is a heap of unintelligible nonsense, about Shakspeare, politics, and the Lord knows what. I am grieved that, with our admiration of Shakspeare, we can do nothing but write worse than ever he did. One would think the age studied nothing but his Love's Labour Lost, and Titus Andronicus. Politics and abuse have totally corrupted our taste. Nobody thinks of writing a line that is to last beyond the next fortnight. We might as well be given up to a controversial divinity, The times put me in mind of the Constantinopolitan empire; where, in an age of learning, the subtlest wits of Greece contrived to leave nothing behind them, but the memory of their follies and acrimony. Milton did not write his Paradise Lost till he had Outlived his politics. With all his parts, and noble sentiments of liberty, who would remember him for his barbarous prose? Nothing is more true than that extremes meet. The licentiousness of the press makes us as savage as our Saxon ancestors, who could only set their marks; and an outrageous pursuit of individual independence, grounded on selfish views, extinguishes genius as much as despotism does. The public good of our country is never thought of by men that hate half their country. Heroes confine their ambition to be leaders of the mob. Orators seek applause from their faction, not from posterity; and ministers forget foreign enemies, to defend themselves against a majority in Parliament. When any Caesar has conquered Gaul, I will excuse him for aiming at the perpetual dictature. If he has only jockeyed somebody out of the borough of Veii or Falernum, it is too impudent to call himself a patriot or a statesman. Adieu!
(1096) At Guildhall, on the 9th of November, in the second mayoralty of Alderman Beckford.-E.
(1097) Walpole had received a letter, of the 2d, from Madame du Deffand, describing the growing influence of Madame du Barry, and her increasing enmity to the Duc de Choiseul.-E.
(1098) The Duchess of Aubign'e.
Letter 375 To George Montagu, Esq. Arlington Street, Dec. 14, 1769. (page 562)
I cannot be silent, when I feel for you. I doubt not but the loss of Mrs. Trevor is very sensible to you, and I am heartily sorry for you. One cannot live any time, and not perceive the world slip away, as it were, from under one's feet: one's friends, one's connexions drop off, and indeed reconcile one to the same passage; but why repeat these things? I do not mean to write a fine consolation; all I intended was to tell you, that I cannot be indifferent to what concerns you.
I know as little how to amuse you: news there are none but politics, and politics there will be as long as we have a shilling left. They are no amusement to me, except in seeing two or three sets of people worry one another, for none of whom I care a straw.
Mr. Cumberland has produced a comedy called The Brothers. It acts well, but reads ill; though I can distinguish strokes of Mr. Bentley in it. Very few of the characters are marked, and the serious ones have little nature, and the comic ones are rather too much marked; however, the three middle acts diverted me very well.(1099)
I saw the Bishop of Durham(1100) at Carlton House, who told me he had given you a complete suit of armour. I hope you will have no occasion to lock yourself in it, though, between the fools and the knaves of the present time, I don't know but we may be reduced to defend our castles. If you retain any connexions with Northampton, I should be much obliged to you if you could procure from thence a print of an Alderman Backwell.(1101) It is valuable for nothing but its rarity, and it is not to be met with but there. I would give eight or ten shillings rather than not have it. When shall you look towards us?, how does your brother John? make my compliments to him. I need not say how much I am yours ever.
(1099) "The Brothers," Cumberland's first comedy, came out at Covent-Garden theatre on the 2d of December, and met with no inconsiderable success.-E.
(1100) The Hon. Dr. Richard Trevor, consecrated Bishop of St. David's in 1744, and translated to the see of Durham in 1762. He died in June 1771.-E.
(1101) Edward Backwell, alderman of London, of whom Granger gives the following character:—"He was a banker of great ability, industry, integrity, and very extensive credit. With such qualifications, he, in a trading nation, would, in the natural event of things, have made a fortune, except in such an age as that of charles the Second, when the laws were overborne by perfidy, violence, and rapacity; or in an age when bankers become gamesters, instead of merchant-adventurers; when they affect to live like princes, and are, with their miserable creditors, drawn into the prevailing vortex of luxury. Backwell carried on his business in the same shop which was afterwards occupied by Child. He, to avoid a prison, retired into Holland, where he died. His body was brought for sepulture to Tyringham church, near Newport Pagnel." Frequent mention of the Alderman is made by Pepys, in whose Diary is the following entry:—"April 12, 1669. This evening, coming home, we overtook Alderman Backwell's coach and his lady, and followed them to their house, and there made them the, first visit, where they received us with extraordinary civility, and owning the obligation But I do, contrary to my expectation, find her something a proud and vainglorious woman, in telling the number of her servants and family, and expenses;. He is also so, but he was ever of that strain. But here he showed me the model of his houses that he is going to build in Cornhill and Lombard-street; but he has purchased so much there that it looks like a little town, and must have cost him a great deal of money."-E.
Letter 376 To The Rev. Mr. Cole.(1102) Arlington Street, Dec. 21, 1769. (page 563)
Dear sir, I am very grateful for all your communications, and for the trouble you are so good as to take for me. I am glad you have paid Jackson, Though he is not only dear, (for the prints he has got for me are very common,) but they are not what I wanted, and I do not believe were mentioned in my list. However, as paying him dear for what I do not want, may encourage him to hunt for what I do want, I am very well content he should cheat me a little. I take the liberty of troubling you with a list I have printed (to avoid copying it several times), and beg you will be so good as to give it to him, telling him these are exactly what I do want, and no others. I will pay him well for any of these, and especially those marked thus x; and still more for those with double or treble marks. The print I want most is the Jacob Hall. I do not know whether it is not one of the London Cries, but he must be very sure it is the right. I will let you know certainly when Mr. West comes to town, who has one.
I shall be very happy to contribute to your garden: and if you will let me have exact notice in February how to send the shrubs, they shall not fail you; nor any thing else by which I can pay you any part of my debts. I am much pleased with the Wolsey and Cromwell, and beg to thank you and the gentleman from whom they came. Mr. Tyson's etchings will be particulary acceptable. I did hope to have seen or heard of him in October. Pray tell him he is a visit in my debt, and that I will trust him no longer than to next summer. Mr. Bentham, I find, one must trust and trust without end. It is pity so good a sort of man should be so faithless. Make my best compliments, however, to him and to my kind host and hostess.
I found my dear old blind friend at Paris perfectly well, and am returned so myself. London is very sickly, and full of bilious fevers, that have proved fatal to several persons, and in my Lord Gower's family have even seemed contagious. The weather is uncommonly hot, and we want frost to purify the air.
I need not say, I suppose, that the names scratched out in my list are of such prints as I have got since I printed it, and therefore what I no longer want. If Mr. Jackson only stays at Cambridge till the prints drop into his mouth, I shall never have them. If he would take the trouble of going to Bury, Norwich, Ely, Huntingdon, and such great towns, nay, look about in inns, I do not doubt but he would find at least some of them. He should be no loser by taking pains for me; but I doubt he chooses to be a great gainer without taking any. I shall not pay for any that are not in my list; but I ought not to trouble you, dear Sir, with these particulars. It is a little your own fault, for you have spoiled me.
Mr. Essex distresses me by his civility. I certainly would not have given him that trouble, if I had thought he would not let me pay him. Be so good as to thank him for me, and to let me know if there is any other way I could return the obligation. I hope, at least, he will make me a visit at Strawberry Hill, whenever he comes westward. I shall be very impatient to see you, dear Sir, both there and at Milton. Your faithful humble servant.
(1102) Now first printed, from the original in the British Museum.-E.
END OF THE THIRD VOLUME.