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- Letters of Horace Walpole, V4 - 140/169 -
prostituted in compliments, to express the real sense of gratitude, which I do feel at my heart, for the obligation I have to your lordship for an act of friendship as unexpected as it was unsolicited; which last circumstance doubles the favour, as it evinces your lordship's generosity and nobleness of temper, without surprising me. How can I thank your lordship, as I ought, for interesting yourself, and of yourself, to save me a little mortification, which I deserve, and should deserve more, had I the vanity to imagine that my printing a few copies of my disgusting tragedy would occasion different and surreptitious editions of it?
Mr. Walker has acquainted me, my lord, that your lordship has most kindly interposed to prevent a bookseller of Dublin from printing an edition of "The Mysterious Mother" without my consent; and, with the conscious dignity of a great mind, your lordship has not even hinted to me the graciousness of that favour. How have I merited such condescending goodness, my lord? Had I a prospect of longer life, I never could pay the debt of gratitude; the weightier, as your lordship did not intend I should know that I owe it. My gratitude can never be effaced; and I am charmed that it is due, and due with so much honour to me, that nothing could bribe me to have less obligation to your lordship, of which I am so proud. But as to the play itself, I doubt it must take its fate. Mr. Walker tells me the booksellers have desired him to remonstrate to me, urging that they have already expended fifty pounds; and Mr. Walker adds, as no doubt would be the case, that should this edition be stifled, when now expected, some other printer would publish it. I certainly might indemnify the present operator, but I know too much of the craft, not to be sure, that I should be persecuted by similar exactions; and, alas! I have exposed myself but too much to the tyranny of the press, not to know that it taxes delinquents as well as multiplies their faults.
In truth, my lord, it is too late now to hinder copies of my play from being spread. It has appeared here, both whole and in fragments: and, to prevent a spurious one, I was forced to have some printed myself: therefore, if I consent to an Irish edition, it is from no vain desire of diffusing the performance. Indeed, my good lord, I have lived too long not to have divested myself both of vanity and affected modesty. I have not existed to past seventy-three without having discovered the futility and triflingness of my own talents: and, at the same time, it would be impertinent to pretend to think that there is no merit in the execution of a tragedy, on which I have been so much flattered; though I am sincere in condemning the egregious absurdity of selecting a subject so improper for the stage, and even offensive to private readers.
But I have said too much on a personal theme; and therefore, after repeating a million of thanks to your lordship for the honour of your interposition, I will beg your lordship, if you please, to signify to the bookseller that you withdraw your prohibition: but I shall not answer Mr. Walker's letter, till I have your lordship's approbation, for You are both my lord chamberlain 'and licenser; and though I have a tolerably independent spirit, I may safely trust myself under the absolute power of one, who has voluntarily protected me against the licentiousness of those who have invaded my property, and who distinguishes so accurately and justly between license and liberty.
(740) Now first collected. This letter was written in consequence of one Walpole had received, informing him that a Dublin bookseller was about to print his tragedy of The Mysterious Mother. At this time, and indeed until the Union took place, there was no act of parliament which regulated literary property in Ireland.-E.
Letter 370 To Miss Agnes Berry. Berkeley Square, Feb. 18, 1791. (page 477)
Here is a shocking, not a fatal, codicil to Gunnilda's story. But first I should tell you, that two days after the explosion, the ignora Madre took a postchaise and four, and drove to Blenheim; but, not finding the Duke and Duchess there, she inquired where the Marquis was, and pursued him to Sir Henry Dashwood's: finding him there, she began about her poor daughter; but he interrupted her, said there was an end put to all that, and desired to lead her to her chaise, which he insisted on doing, and did. I think this another symptom Of the Minifry being accomplices to the daughter's enterprises. Well! after the groom's confession, and after Mr. Bowen had been confronted with her, and produced to her face her note to his wife, which she resolutely disowned, she desired the Duke of Argyll to let her take an oath on the Bible of her perfect innocence of every Circumstance of the whole transaction; which you may be sure he did not permit. N'importe: the next day, taking two of the Duchess of Bedford's servants for witnesses, she went before a justice of peace, swore to her innocence and ignorance throughout, even of the note to Mrs. Bowen; and then said to the magistrate, "Sir, from my youth you may imagine I do not know the solemnity of an oath but, to convince you I do, I know my salvation depends on what I have now sworn." Solve all this, if you can! Is it madness? Does even romance extend its inventions so far? or its dispensations? It is but a burlesque part of this wonderful tale, that old crazy Bedford exhibits Miss every morning on the causeway in Hyde Park; and declares her proteg`ee some time ago refused the hand of your acquaintance, Mr. Trevelyan.(741) Except of the contending Opera-houses, one can hear of nothing but Miss Gunning,,; but it is now grown so disgusting a story, that I shall be glad to hear and repeat to you no more about it.
The Pantheon has opened, and is small, they say, but pretty and simple; all the rest ill-conducted, and from the singers to the sceneshifters imperfect; the dances long and bad, and the whole performance so dilatory and tedious, that it lasted from eight to half an hour past twelve. The rival theatre is said to be magnificent and lofty, but it is doubtful whether it will be suffered to come to light: in short, the contest will grow politics; Dieu et Mon Droit supporting the Pantheon, and Ich Dien countenancing the Haymarket. It is unlucky that the amplest receptacle is to hold the minority!
O'Hara(742) is come to town. You will love him better than ever. He persuaded the captain of the ship, whom you will love for being persuaded, to stop at Lisbon, that he might see Mrs. Damer. O'Hara has been shockingly treated! The House of Richmond is on the point of receiving a very great blow. Colonel Lenox, who had been dangerously ill but was better, has relapsed with all the worst symptoms;(743) and is too weak to be sent to the south, as the physicians recommended, Lady Charlotte is breeding, but that is very precarious; and should it be a son, how many years ere that can be a comfortable resource!
Is not it strange that London, in February and Parliament sitting, should furnish no more paragraphs? Yet, confined at home and in every body's way, and consequently my room being a coffee-house from two to four, I probably hear all events worth relating as soon as they are born, and send you them before they are a week old. Indeed, I think the Gunninhiana may last you a month at Pisa, where, I suppose, the grass grows in the streets as fast as news. When I go out again I am likely to know less: I go but to few, and those the privatest places I can find, which are not the common growth of London; nor, but to amuse you, should I inquire after news. What is a juvenile world to me; or its pleasures, interests, or squabbles? I scarce know the performers by sight.
It is very hard! The Gunnings will not let me or the town have done with them. La Madre has advertised a Letter to the Duke of Argyll: so he is forced to collect counter affidavits. The groom has 'deposed that she promised him twenty pounds a year for his life, and he has given up a letter that she wrote to him. The mother, when she went after the Marquis, would have persuaded him to get into her chaise; but he would not venture being carried to Gretna-green, and married by force. She then wanted him to sign a paper, that all was over between him and her daughter. He said, "Madam, nothing was ever begun;" and refused. I told you wrong: mother and daughter were not actually in the Duchess of Bedford's house, but in Lord John Russel's, which she lent to them: nor were her servants witnesses to the oath before Justice Hide, but Dr. Halifax and the apothecary. The Signora and her Infanta now, for privacy, are retired into St. James's-street, next door to Brooks's; whence it is supposed Miss will angle for unmarried Marquises-perhaps for Lord Titchfield.(744) It is lost time for people to write novels, who can compose such a romance as these good folks have invented. Adieu!
(741) Mr. Trevelyan married in the following August, Maria, daughter of Sir Thomas Spencer Wilson, Bart. On the death of his father, in 1828, he succeeded to the title, as fifth baronet.-E.
(742) Afterwards lieutenant- governor of Gibraltar. He died in 1802.
(743) Colonel Lenox recovered from his illness, and, in 1806, succeeded his uncle as fourth Duke of Richmond. His grace was governor of Canada at the period of his decease, at Montreal, in 1819; and was succeeded by the son here anticipated; who was born on the 3d of August 1791.-E.
(744) In 1795, the, Marquis of Titchfield married Miss Scott, eldest daughter and heir of General John Scott, of Balcomie, in the county of Fife, and in 1809, succeeded his father as fourth Duke of Portland.-E.
Letter 371. \To The Miss Berrys. Berkeley Square, Feb. 26, 1791. (page 479)
I have no letter from you to answer, nor any thing new that is the least interesting to tell you. The Duke of Argyll has sent a gentleman with a cart-load of affidavits, which the latter read to mother and daughter, in order to prevent the publication of their libel; but it only enraged the former, -who vows she will print all she knows, that is, any thing she has heard by their entire intimacy in the family, or, no doubt, what she can invent or misrepresent. What a Medusa! There has been a fragment of a rehearsal in the Haymarket, but still the Pantheon remains master of the field of battle: the vanquished are preparing manifestoes,
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