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- Letters of Horace Walpole, V4 - 10/169 -


Sir, I have read with great pleasure and information, your History of Scottish Councils. It gave me much more satisfaction than I could have expected from so dry a subject. It will be perused, do not doubt it, by men of taste and judgment; and it is happy that it will be read Without occasioning a controversy. The curse of modern times is, that almost every thing does create controversy, and that men who are willing to instruct or amuse the world have to dread malevolence and interested censure, instead of receiving thanks. If your part of our country is at all free from that odious spirit, you are to be envied. In our region we are given up to every venomous mischievous passion, and as we behold all the public vices that raged in and destroyed the remains of the Roman Commonwealth, so I wish we do not experience some of the horrors that brought on the same revolution. When we see men who call themselves patriots and friends of liberty attacking the House of Commons, to what, Sir, can you and I, who are really friends of liberty, impute such pursuits, but to interest and disappointed ambition! When we see, on one hand, the prerogative of the Crown excited against Parliament, and on the other, the King and Royal Family traduced and insulted in the most shameless manner, can we believe such a faction is animated by honesty or love of the constitution? When, as you very sensibly observe, the authors of grievances are the loudest to complain of them, and when those authors and their capital enemies shake hands, embrace, and join in a common cause, which set can we believe most or least sincere? And when every set of men have acted every part, to whom shall the well-meaning look up? What can the latter do, but sit with folded arms and pray for miracles? Yes, Sir, they may weep over a prospect of ruin too probably approaching, and regret a glorious country nodding to its fall, when victory, wealth, and daily universal improvements, might make it the admiration and envy of the world? Is the Crown to be forced to be absolute? Is Caesar to enslave us, because he conquered Gaul? Is some Cromwell to trample on us, because Mrs. Macaulay approves the army that turned out the House of Commons, the necessary consequence of such mad notions? Is eloquence to talk or write us out of ourselves? or is Catiline to save us, butt so as by fire? Sir, I talk thus freely, because it is a satisfaction, in ill-looking moments, to vent one's apprehensions in an honest bosom. YOU Will not, I am sure, suffer my letter to go out of your own hands. I have no views to satisfy or resentments to gratify. I have done with the world, except in the hopes of a quiet enjoyment of it for the few years I may have to come; but I love my country, though I desire and expect nothing from it, and I would wish to leave it to posterity, as secure and deserving to be valued, as I found it. Despotism, or unbounded licentiousness, can endear no nation to any honest man. The French can adore the monarch that starves them, and banditti are often attached to their chief; but no good Briton can love any constitution that does not secure the tranquillity and peace of mind of all.

(1) Now first collected.

Letter 2 To Sir David Dalrymple.(2) Arlington Street, Jan. 23, 1770. (page 26)

Sir, I have not had time to return you the enclosed sooner, but I give you my honour that it has neither been out of my hands, nor been copied. It is a most curious piece, but though affecting art has very little; so ill is the satire disguised. I agree with you in thinking it ought not to be published yet, as nothing is more cruel than divulging private letters which may wound the living. I have even the same tenderness for the children of persons concerned; but I laugh at delicacy for grandchildren, who can be affected by nothing but their pride- -and let that be hurt if it will. It always finds means of consoling itself.

The rapid history of Mr. Yorke is very touching.(3) For himself, he has escaped a torrent of obloquy, which this unfeeling and prejudiced moment was ready to pour on him. Many of his survivors may, perhaps, live to envy him! Madness and wickedness gain ground--and you may be sure borrow the chariot of virtue. Lord Chatham, not content with endeavouring to confound and overturn the legislature, has thrown out, that one member more ought to be added to each county;(4) so little do ambition -,And indulgence scruple to strike at fundamentals! Sir George Savile and Edmund Burke, as if envying the infamous intoxication of Wilkes, have attacked the House of Commons itself, in the most gross and vilifying language.(5) In short, the plot thickens fast, and Catilines start up in every street. I cannot say Ciceros and Catos arise to face them. The phlegmatic and pedants in history quote King William's and Sacheverel's times to show the present is not more serious; but if I have any reading, I must remember that the repetition of bad scenes brings about a catastrophe at last! It is small consolation to living sufferers to reflect that history will rejudge great criminals; nor is that sure. How seldom is history fairly stated! When do all men concur in the Same sentence? Do the guilty dead regard its judicature, or they who prefer the convict to the judge? Besides, an ape of Sylla will call himself Brutus, and the foolish people assist a proscription before they suspect that their hero is an incendiary. Indeed, Sir, we are, as Milton says--

"On evil days fallen and evil tongues!"

I shall be happy to find I have had too gloomy apprehensions. A man, neither connected with ministers nor opponents, may speculate too subtly. If all this is but a scramble for power, let it fall to whose lot it will! It is the attack on the constitution that strikes me. I have nothing to say for the corruption of senators; but if the senate itself is declared vile by authority, that is by a dissolution, will a re-election restore its honour? Will Wilkes, and Parson Horne, and Junius (for they will name the members) give us more virtuous representations than ministers have done? Reformation must be a blessed work in the hands of such reformers! Moderation, and attachment to the constitution, are my principles. Is the latter to be risked rather than endure any single evil? I would oppose, that is restrain, by opposition check, each branch of the legislature that predominates in its turn;--but if I detest Laud, it does not make me love Hugh Peters.

Adieu, Sir! I must not tire you with my reflections; but as I am flattered with thinking I have the sanction of the same sentiments in you, it is natural to indulge even unpleasing meditations when one meets with sympathy, and it is as natural for those who love their country to lament its danger. I am, Sir, etc.

(2) Now first collected.

(3) On the 17th, Mr. Charles Yorke was appointed lord chancellor, and a patent was ordered to be made out, creating him a peer, by the title of Lord Morden; but, three days after, before the patent could be completed, he suddenly closed his valuable life, at the early age of forty-eight.-E.

(4) Lord Chatham, on the preceding day, had made his celebrated speech on the state of the nation, which had the good fortune to be ably reported by Sir Philip Francis, and attracted the particular attention of Junius. The following is the passage which gave Walpole so much offence:--"Since we cannot cure the disorder, let us endeavour to infuse such a portion of new health into the constitution, as may enable it to support its most inveterate diseases. The representation of the counties is, I think, still preserved pure and uncorrupted. That of the greatest cities is upon a footing equally respectable; and there are many of the larger trading towns which stilt preserve their independence. The infusion of health which I now allude to would be to permit every county to elect one member more in addition to their present representation." Sir Philip Francis's report of this speech was first printed by Almon in 1792. Junius, in a letter to Wilkes, of the 7th of September 1771, says--"I approve highly of Lord Chatham's idea of infusing a portion of new health into the constitution, to enable it to bear its infirmities; a brilliant expression, and full of intrinsic wisdom." There can be little doubt that Junius and Sir Philip Francis were present in the House of Lords, when this speech was delivered. See Chatham Correspondence, vol. iii. p. 406.-E.

(5) The speeches of Sir George Savile and Mr. Burke, above alluded to, will be found in Sir Henry Cavendish's Debates.-E.

Letter 3. To George Montagu, Esq. Arlington Street, March 31, 1770. (page 28)

I shall be extremely obliged to you for Alderman Backwell. A scarce print is a real present to me, who have a table of weights and measures in my head very different from that of the rich and covetous. I am glad your journey was prosperous. The weather here has continued very sharp, but it has been making preparations for April to-day, and watered the streets with some soft showers. They will send me to Strawberry to-morrow, where I hope to find the lilacs beginning to put forth their little noses. Mr. Chute mends very slowly, but you know he has as much patience as gout.

I depend upon seeing you whenever you return this wayward. You will find the round chamber far advanced, though not finished; for my undertakings do not stride with the impetuosity of my youth. This single room has been half as long in completing as all the rest of the castle. My compliments to Mr. John, whom I hope to see at the same time.

Letter 4 To George Montagu, Esq. Strawberry Hill May 6, 1770. (page 28)

If you are like me, you are fretting at the weather. We have not a leaf, yet, large enough to make an apron for a Miss Eve at two years old. Flowers and fruits, if they come at all this year, must meet together as they do in a Dutch picture; our lords and ladies, however, couple as if it were the real Giovent`u dell' anno. Lord Albemarle,(6) you know has disappointed all his brothers and my niece; and Lord Fitzwilliam is declared sposo to Lady Charlotte Ponsonby.(7) It is a pretty match, and makes Lord Besborough as happy as possible.


Letters of Horace Walpole, V4 - 10/169

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