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- Letters of Horace Walpole, V4 - 20/169 -
scarce. Economy and retrenchment are the words in fashion, and are founded in a little more than caprice. I have heard no instance of luxury but in Mademoiselle Guimard, a favourite dancer, who is building a palace: round the salle `a manger there are windows that open upon hot-houses, that are to produce flowers all winter. That is worthy of * * * * * *. There is a finer dancer, whom Mr. Hobart is to transplant to London; a Mademoiselle Heinel or Ingle, a Fleming.(59) She is tall, perfectly made, very handsome, and has a set of attitudes copied from the classics. She moves as gracefully slow as Pygmalion's statue when it was Coming to life, and moves her leg round as imperceptibly as if she was dancing in the zodiac. But she is not Virgo.
They make no more of breaking parliaments here than an English mob does of breaking windows. It is pity people are so ill-sorted. If this King and ours could cross over and figure in, Louis XV. would dissolve our parliament if Polly Jones did but say a word to him. They have got into such a habit of it here, that you would think a parliament was a polypus: they cut it in two, and by next morning half of it becomes a whole assembly. This has literally been the case at Besan`con.(60) Lord and Lady Barrymore, who are in the highest favour at Compiegne, will be able to carry over the receipt.
Everybody feels in their own way. My grief is to see the ruinous Condition of the palaces and pictures. I was yesterday at the Louvre. Le Brun's noble gallery, where the battles of Alexander are, and of which he designed the ceiling, and even the shutters, bolts, and locks, is in a worse condition than the old gallery at Somerset-house. It rains in upon the pictures, though there are stores of much more valuable pieces than those of Le Brun. Heaps of glorious works by Raphael and all the great masters are piled up and equally neglected at Versailles. Their care is not less destructive in private houses. The Duke of Orleans' pictures and the Prince of Monaco's have been cleaned, and varnished so thick that you May see your face in them; and some of them have been transported from board to cloth, bit by bit, and the seams filled up with colour; so that in ten years they will not be worth sixpence. It makes me as peevish as if I was posterity! I hope your lordship's works will last longer than these of Louis XIV. The glories of his si`ecle hasten fast to their end, and little will remain but those of his authors.
(59) "It was at this time," says Dr. Burney, "that dancing seemed first to gain the ascendant over music, by the superior talents of Mademoiselle Heinel, whose grace and execution were so perfect as to eclipse all other excellence. Crowds assembled at the Opera-house, more for the gratification of the eye than the ear; for neither the invention of a new composer, nor the talents of new singers, attracted the public to the theatre, which was almost abandoned till the arrival of this lady, whose extraordinary merit had an extraordinary recompense; for, besides the six hundred pounds' salary allowed her by the Honourable Mr. Hobart, as manager, she was complimented with a regallo of six hundred more from the Maccaroni Club. 'E molto particulare,' said Cocchi, the Composer; 'ma quei Inglesi non fanno conto d'alcuna cosa se non ben pagata:' It is very extraordinary that the English set no value upon any thing but what they pay an exorbitant price for."-E.
(60) The Parliaments of Besan`con, Bourdeaux, Toulouse and Britany, were, in succession, totally suppressed by Louis XV. New courts were assembled in their stead; most of the former members being sent into banishment.-E.
Letter 35 To The Hon. H. S. Conway. Arlington Street, Sept. 7, 1771. (page 61)
I arrived yesterday,(61) within an hour or two after you was gone, which mortified me exceedingly: Lord knows when I shall see you. You are so active and so busy, and cast bullets(62) and build bridges, are pontifex maximus, and, like Sir John Thorold or Cimon, triumph over land and wave, that one can never get a word with you. Yet I am very well worth a general's or a politician's ear. I have been deep in all the secrets of France, and confidant of some of the principals of both parties. I know what is, and is to be, though I am neither priest nor conjuror -and have heard a vast deal about breaking carabiniers and grenadiers; though, as usual, I dare say I shall give a woful account of both. The worst part is, that by the most horrid oppression and injustice their finances will very soon be in good order-unless some bankrupt turns Ravaillac, which will not surprise me. The horror the nation has conceived of the King and Chancellor makes it probable that the latter, at least, will be sacrificed. He seems not to be without apprehension, and has removed from the King's library a MS. trial of a chancellor who was condemned to be hanged under Charles VII. For the King, qui a fait ses `epreuves, and not to his honour, you will not wonder that he lives in terrors.
I have executed all Lady Ailesbury's commissions; but mind, I do not commission you to tell her, for you would certainly forget it. As you will, no doubt, come to town to report who burnt Portsmouth;(63) I will meet you here, if I am apprised of the day. Your niece's marriage,(64) pleases me extremely. Though I never saw him till last night, I know a great deal of her future husband, and like his character. His person is much better than I expected, and far preferable to many of the fine young moderns. He is better than Sir Watkin Williams Wynne, at least as well as the Duke of Devonshire, and Adonis compared to the charming Mr. Fitzpatrick. Adieu!
(61) Mr. Walpole arrived at Paris on the '10th of July, and left it on the 2d of September-E.
(62) Mr. Conway was now at the head of the ordnance, but with the title and appointments of lieutenant-general only. The particular circumstances attending this are thus recorded in a letter from Mr. Walpole to another correspondent at the time (January 1770), and deserve to be known:--"The King offered the mastership of the ordnance, on Lord Granby's resignation, to Mr. Conway, who is only lieutenant-general of it: he said he had lived in friendship with Lord Granby, and would not profit by his spoils; but, as he thought he could do some essential service in the office, where there were many abuses, if his Majesty would be pleased to let him continue as he is, be would do the business of the office without accepting the salary."-E.
(63) On the 27th of July, a fire had broken out in the dockyard at Portsmouth, which, as it might be highly prejudicial to the country at that period, excited universal alarm. The loss sustained by it, which at first was supposed to be half a million, is said to have been about one hundred and fifty thousand pounds.-E.
(64) The marriage of Lady Gertrude Seymour Conway to Lord Villiers, afterwards Earl of Grandison.
Letter 36 To The Rev. Mr. Cole. Strawberry Hill, Sept. 10, 1771. (page 62)
However melancholy the occasion is, I can but give you a thousand thanks, dear Sir-., for the kind trouble you have taken, and the information you have given me about poor Mr. Gray. I received your first letter at Paris; the last I found at my house in town, where I arrived only on Friday last. The circumstance of the professor refusing to rise in the night and visit him, adds to the shock. Who is that true professor of physic? Jesus! is their absence to murder as well as their presence?
I have not heard from Mr. Mason, but I have written to him. Be so good as to tell the Master at Pembroke,(65) though I have not the honour of knowing him, how sensible I am of his proposed attention to me, and how much I feel for him in losing a friend of so excellent a genius. Nothing will allay my own concern like seeing any of his compositions that I have not yet seen. It is buying them too dear--but when the author is irreparably lost, the produce of his Mind is the next best possession. I have offered my press to Mr. Mason, and hope it will be accepted.
Many thanks for the cross, dear Sir; it is precisely what I wished. I hope you and Mr. Essex preserve your resolution of passing a few days here between this and Christmas. Just at present I am not My own master, having stepped into the middle of a sudden match in my own family. Lord Hertford is going to marry his third daughter to Lord Villiers, son of Lady Grandison, the present wife of Sir Charles Montagu. We are all felicity, and in a round of dinners. I am this minute returned from Beaumont-lodge, at Old Windsor, where Sir Charles Grandison lives. I will let you know, if the papers do not, when our festivities are subsided.
I shall receive with gratitude from Mr. Tyson either drawing or etching of our departed friend; but wish not to have it inscribed to me, as it is an honour, more justly due to Mr. Stonehewer. If the Master of Pembroke will accept a copy of a small picture I have of Mr. Gray, painted soon after the publication of his Ode on Eton, it shall be at his service--and after his death I beg, it may be bequeathed to his college. Adieu!
(65) Dr. James Brown. Gray used to call him "le petit bon homme;" and Cole, in his Athene Cantab, says of him--"He is a very worthy man, a good scholar, small, and short-sighted." In the Chatham Correspondence there will be found an interesting letter from the Master of Pembroke to Lord Chatham, in which he thus speaks of his illustrious son, the future minister of this country: " Notwithsanding the illness of your son, I have myself seen, and have heard enough from his tutors, to be convinced both of his extraordinary genius and most amiable disposition. He promises fair, indeed to be one of those extraordinary persons whose eminent parts, equalled by as eminent industry, continue in a progressive state throughout their lives; such persons appear to be formed by Heaven to assist and bless mankind." Vol. iv. p. 311.-E.
Letter 37 To The Rev. Mr. Cole. Strawberry Hill, Oct. 12, 1771. (page 63)
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