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- Letters of Horace Walpole, V4 - 120/169 -


If, as Lady Anne Conolly told your lordship, I have had a great deal of company, you must understand it of my house, not of me; for I have very little. Indeed, last Monday both my house and I were included. The Duke of York sent me word the night before, that he would come and see it, and of course I had the honour of showing it myself. He said, and indeed it seemed so, that he was much pleased; at least, I had every reason to be satisfied; for I never saw any prince more gracious and obliging, nor heard one utter more personally kind speeches.

I do not find that her grace the Countess of Bristol's(621) will is really known yet. They talk of two wills--to be sure, in her double capacity; and they say she has made three coheiresses to her jewels, the Empress of Russia, Lady Salisbury, and the whore of Babylon.(622) The first of those legatees, I am not sorry, is in a piteous scrape: I like the King of Sweden no better than I do her and the Emperor; but it is good that two destroyers should be punished by a third, and that two crocodiles should be gnawed by an insect. Thank God! we are not only at peace, but in full plenty--nay, and in full beauty too. Still better; though we have had rivers of rain, it has not, contrary to all precedent, washed away our warm weather. September, a month I generally dislike for its irresolute mixture of warm and cold, has hitherto been peremptorily fine. The apple and walnut-trees bend down with fruit, as in a poetic description of Paradise.

(621) The Duchess of Kingston, who died at Paris in August.-E.

(622) The newspapers had circulated a report that the Duchess had bequeathed her diamonds to the Empress of Russia and his Holiness the Pope.-E.

Letter 323 To Miss Hannah More. Strawberry Hill, Sept. 22, 1788. (page 408)

I don't like to defraud you of your compassion, my good friend, profuse as you are of it. I really suffered scarce any pain at all from my last fit of gout. I have known several persons who think there is a dignity in complaining; and, if you ask how they do, reply, "Why, I am pretty well to-day; but if you knew what I suffered yesterday!" Now methinks nobody has a right to tax another for pity on what is past; and besides, complaint of what is over can only make the hearer glad you are in pain no longer. Yes, yes, my dear Madam, you generally place your pity so profitably, that YOU shall not waste a drop upon me, who ought rather to be congratulated on being so well at my age.

Much less shall I allow you to make apologies for your admirable and proper conduct towards your Poor prot`eg`ee(623) And now you have told me the behaviour of a certain great dame, I will confess to you that I have known it some months by accident-nay, and tried to repair it. I prevailed on Lady * * * * *, who as readily undertook the commission, and told the Countess of her treatment of you. Alas! the answer was, "It is too late; I have no money." No! but she has, if she has a diamond left. I am indignant; yet, do you know, not at this duchess, or that countess, but at the invention of ranks, and titles, and pre-eminence. I used to hate that king and t'other prince; but, alas! on reflection I find the censure ought to fall on human nature in general. They are made of the same stuff as we, and dare we say what we should be in their situation? Poor creatures! think how they are educated, or rather corrupted, early, how flattered! To be educated properly, they should be led through hovels, and hospitals, and prisons. Instead of being reprimanded (and perhaps immediately after sugar-plum'd) for not learning their Latin or French grammar, they now and then should be kept fasting; and, if they cut their finger, should have no plaister till it festered. No part of a royal brat's memory, which is good enough, should be burthened but with the remembrance of human sufferings. In short, I fear our nature is so liable to be corrupted and perverted by greatness, rank, power, and wealth, that I am inclined to think that virtue is the compensation to the poor for the want of riches: nay, I am disposed to believe that the first footpad or highwayman has been a man of quality, or a prince, who could not bear having wasted his fortune, and was too lazy to work; for a beggar-born would think labour a more natural way of getting a livelihood than venturing his life. I have something a similar opinion about common women. No modest girl thinks of many men, till she has been in love with one, been ruined by him, and abandoned. But to return to my theme, and it will fall heavy on yourself. Could the milkwoman have been so bad, if you had merely kept her from starving, instead of giving her opulence? The soil, I doubt, was bad; but it could not have produced the rank weed of ingratitude, if you had not dunged it with gold, which rises from rock, and seems to meet with a congenial bed when it falls on the human heart.

And so Dr. Warton imagines I m writing "Walpoliana!" No, in truth, nor any thing else; nor shall-nor will I go out in a jest-book. Age has not only made me prudent, but, luckily, lazy; and, without the latter extinguisher, I do not know but that farthing candle my discretion would let my snuff of life flit to the last sparkle of folly, like what children call. the parson and clerk in a bit of burnt paper. You see by my writability in pressing my letters on you, that my pen has still a colt's tooth left, but I never indulge the poor old child with more paper than this small-sized sheet, I do not give it enough to make a paper kite and fly abroad on wings of booksellers. You ought to continue writing, for you do good your writings, or at least mean it; and if a virtuous intention fails, it is a sort of coin, which, though thrown away, still makes the donor worth more than he was before he gave it away. I delight too in the temperature of your piety, and that you would not see the enthusiastic exorcist. How shocking to suppose that the Omnipotent Creator of worlds delegates his power to a momentary insect to eject supernatural spirits that he had permitted to infest another insect, and had permitted to vomit blasphemies against himself! Pray do not call that enthusiasm, but delirium. I pity real enthusiasts, but I would shave their heads and take away some blood. The exorcist's associates are in a worse predicament, I doubt, and hope to make enthusiasts. If such abominable impostors were not rather a subject of indignation, I could smile at the rivalship between them and the animal magnetists, who are inveigling fools into their different pales. And alas! while folly has a shilling left, there will be enthusiasts and quack doctors; and there will be slaves while there are kings or sugar-planters.(624) I have remarked, that though Jesuits, etc. travel to distant East and West to propagate their religion and traffic, I never heard of one that made a journey into Asia or Africa to preach the doctrines of liberty, though those regions are so deplorably oppressed. Nay, I much doubt whether ever any chaplain of the regiments we have sent to India has once whispered to a native of Bengal, that there are milder forms of government than those of his country. No; security of property is not a wholesome doctrine to be inculcated in a land where the soil produces diamonds and gold! In short, if your Bristol exorcist believes he can cast out devils, why does he not go to Leadenhallstreet? There is a company whose name is legion.

By your gambols, as you call them, after the most ungambolling peeress in Christendom, and by your jaunts, I conclude, to my great satisfaction, that you are quite well. Change of scene and air are good for your spirits; and September, like all our old ladies, has given itself May airs, and must have made your journey very pleasant. Yet you will be glad to get back to your Cowslip-green, though it may offer you nothing but Michaelmas daisies. When you do leave it, I wish you could persuade Mrs. Garrick to settle sooner in London. There is full as good hay to be made in town at Christmas at Hampton, and some hay-makers that will wish for you particularly. Your most sincere friend.

(623) Ann Yearsley. See ant`e, p. 395, letter 313.-E.

(624) In the letter to which this is a reply, Miss More had said-- "in vain do we boast of the enlightened eighteenth century, and conceitedly talk as if human reason had not a manacle left about her, but that philosophy had broken down all the strongholds of prejudice, ignorance, and superstition: and yet at this very time Mesmer has got an hundred thousand pounds by animal magnetism in Paris, and Mainanduc is getting as much in London. There is a fortune-teller in Westminster who is making little less. Lavater's Physiognomy-books sell at fifteen guineas a set. The divining-rod is still considered as oracular in many places. Devils are cast out by seven ministers; and, to complete the disgraceful catalogue, slavery is vindicated in print, and defended in the House of Peers." Memoirs, vol. ii. P. 120.-E.

Letter 324 To The Right Hon. Lady Craven. Berkeley Square, Dec. 11, 1788. (page 411)

It is agreeable to your ladyship's usual goodness to honour me with another letter; and I may say, to your equity too, after I had proved to Monsieur Mercier, by the list of dates of my letters, that it was not mine, but the post's fault, that you did not receive one that I had the honour of writing to you above a year ago. Not, Madam, that I could wonder if you had the prudence to drop a correspondence with an old superannuated man; who, conscious of his decay, has had the decency of not troubling, with his dotages persons of not near your ladyship's youth and vivacity. I have been of opinion that few persons know when to die; I am not so English as to mean when to despatch themselves--no, but when to go out of the world. I have usually applied this opinion to those who have made a considerable figure; and, consequently, it was not adapted to myself. Yet even we ciphers ought not to fatigue the public scene when we are become lumber. Thus, being quite out of the question, I will explain my maxim, which is the more wholesome, the higher it is addressed. My opinion, then, is, that when any personage has shone as much as is possible in his or her best walk, (and, not to repeat both genders every minute, I will use the male as the common of the two,) he should take up his Strulbrugism, and be heard of no more. Instances will be still more explanatory. Voltaire ought to have pretended to die after Alzire, Mahomet, and Semiramis, and not have produced his wretched last pieces: Lord Chatham should have closed his political career with his immortal war: and how weak was Garrick, when he had quitted the stage, to limp after the tatters of fame by writing and reading pitiful poems; and even by sitting to read plays which he had acted with such fire and energy! We have another example in Mr. Anstey; who, if he had a friend upon earth, would have been obliged to him for being knocked on the head, the moment he had published the first edition of the Bath Guide; for, even in the second, he had exhausted his whole stock of inspiration, and has never written any thing tolerable since. When Such unequal authors print their works together, one man may apply in a new light the old hacked


Letters of Horace Walpole, V4 - 120/169

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