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- Letters of Horace Walpole, V4 - 50/169 -
us to this pass. Pursue your own path, nor lean to the court that may be paid to you on either side, as I am sure you will not regard their being displeased that you do not go as far as their interested views may wish. If the court should receive any more of what they call good news, I think the war with France will be unavoidable. It was the victory at Long Island(262) and the frantic presumption it occasioned, that has ripened France's measures--And now we are to awe them by pressing--an act that speaks our impotence!--which France did not want to learn!
I would have come to town, but I had declared so much I would not, that I thought it would look as if I came to enjoy the distress of the ministers-but I do not enjoy the distress of my country. I think we are undone; I have always thought so-- whether we enslaved America, or lost it totally--so we that were against the war could expect no good issue. If you do return to Park-place to-morrow, you will oblige me much by breakfasting here - you know it wastes you very little time.
'I am glad I did not know of Mrs. Damer's sore throat till it is almost well. Pray take care and do not catch it.
Thank you for your care of me: I will not stay a great deal here, but at present I never was better in my life-and here I have no vexatious moments. I hate to dispute; I scorn to triumph myself, and it is very difficult to keep my temper when others do. I own I have another reason for my retirement, which is prudence. I have thought of it late, but, at least, I will not run into any new expense. it would cost me more than I care to afford to buy a house in town, Unless I do it to take some of my money out of the stocks, for which I tremble a little. My brother is seventy; and if I live myself, I Must not build too much on his life; and you know, if he fails, I lose the most secure part of my income. I refused from Holland, and last year from Lord North, to accept the place for my own life; and having never done a dirty thing, I will not disgrace myself at fifty-nine. I should like to live as well as I have done; but what I wish more, is to secure what I have already saved for those I would take care of after me. These are the true reasons of my dropping all thought of a better house in town, and of living so privately here. I -will not sacrifice my health to my prudence; but my temper is so violent, that I know the tranquillity I enjoy here in solitude is of much more benefit to my health, than the air of the country is detrimental to it. You see I can be reasonable when I have time to reflect; but philosophy has a poor chance with me when my warmth is stirred--and yet I know, that an angry old man out of parliament, and that can do nothing but be angry, is a ridiculous animal.
(261) On the opening of the session.
(262) On the 17th of August 1776, when the English army, under the command of General Howe, defeated the Americans at Flat Bush, in Long Island.-E.
Letter 116 To The Earl Of Strafford. Strawberry Hill, Nov. 2, 1776. (page 162)
Though inclination, and consciousness that a man of my age, who is neither in parliament nor in business, has little to do in the world, keep me a good deal out of it, yet I will not, my dear lord, encourage you in retirement; to which, for the interest of your friends, you have but too much propensity. The manners of the age cannot be agreeable to those who have lived in something soberer times; nor do I think, except in France, where old people are never out of fashion, that it is reasonable to tire those whose youth and spirits may excuse some dissipation. Above all things, it is my resolution never to profess retirement, lest, when I have lost all my real teeth, the imaginary one, called a colt's, should hurry me back and make me ridiculous. But one never outlives all one's contemporaries; one may assort with them. Few Englishmen, too, I have observed, can bear solitude without being hurt by it. Our climate makes us capricious, and we must rub off our roughness and humours against one another. We have, too, an always increasing resource, which is, that though we go not to the young, they must come to us: younger usurpers tread on their heels, as they did on ours, and revenge us that have been deposed. They may retain their titles, like Queen Christina, Sir M * * * N * * *, and Lord Rivers; but they find they have no subjects. If we could but live long enough, we should hear Lord Carlisle, Mr. Storer, etc. complain of the airs and abominable hours of the youth of the age. YOU see, my dear lord, my easy philosophy can divert itself with any thing, even with visions; which perhaps is the best way of treating the great vision itself, life. For half one's time one should laugh with the world, the other half at it--and then it is hard if we want amusement.
I am heartily glad, for your lordship's and Lady Anne Conolly's sakes, that General Howe(263) is safe. I sincerely interest myself for every body you are concerned for. I will say no more on a subject on which I fear I am so unlucky as to differ very much with your lordship, having always fundamentally disapproved our conduct with America. indeed, the present prospect of war with France, when we have so much disabled ourselves, and are exposed in so many quarters, is a topic for general lamentation, rather than for canvassing Of Opinions, which every man must form for himself: and I doubt the moment is advancing when we shall be forced to think alike, at least on the present.
I have not yet above a night at a time in town--but shall be glad to give your lordship and Lady Strafford a meeting there whenever you please. Your faithful humble servant.
(263) General Sir William Howe, brother of the Admiral, was then commander-in-chief of the British forces in America. He was married to a daughter of Lady Anne Conolly, and consequently to a niece of Lord Strafford.-E.
Letter 117 To The Rev. Mr. Cole. Strawberry Hill, Dec. 9, 1776. (page 163)
I know you love an episcopal print, and, therefore, I send you one of two, that have just been given to me. As you have time and patience, too, I recommend you to peruse Sir John Hawkins's History Of Music.(264) It is true, there are five huge volumes in quarto, and perhaps you may not care for the expense; but surely you can borrow them in the University, and, though you may no more than I, delight in the scientific, there is so much about cathedral service, and choirs, and other old matters, that I am sure you will be amused with a great deal, particularly the two last volumes, and the facsimiles of old music in the first. I doubt it is a work that will not sell rapidly, but it must have a place in all great libraries.
(264) A work full of amusement, and deserving of Walpole's good word, notwithstanding the witty criticism which Dr. Calcott passed upon it in his well known catch, "Have You Sir John Hawkins's History?" in which he makes the name of the rival work, "Burney's (Burn-HIS) History," express the fate which Hawkins's volumes deserved.-E.
Letter 118 To The Rev. Mr. Cole. Arlington Street, Feb. 20, 1777. (page 163)
Dear Sir, You are always my oracle in any antique difficulties. I have bought at Mr. Ives's(265) sale (immensely dear) the shutters of the altar at Edmondsbury: Mr. Ives had them from Tom Martin,(266) who married Peter Leneve's widow; so you see no shutters can be better descended on the mother's side. Next to high birth, personal merit is something: in that respect, my shutters are far from defective: on the contrary, the figures in the inside are so very good, as to amaze me who could paint them here in the reign of Henry VI.; they are worthy of the Bolognese school--but they have suffered in several places, though not considerably. Bowes is to repair them, under oath of only filling up the cracks, and restoring the peelings off, but without repainting or varnishing.
The possession of these boards, invaluable to me, was essential. They authenticate the sagacity of my guesses, a talent in an antiquary coequal with prophecy in a saint. On the outside is an archbishop, unchristened by the late possessors, but evidently Archbishop Kempe, or the same person with the prelate in my Marriage of Henry VI.,_ and you will allow from the collateral evidence that it must be Kempe, as I have so certainly discovered another person in my picture. The other outside is a cardinal, called by Mr. Ives, Babington; but I believe Cardinal Beaufort, for the lion of England stands by him, which a bastardly prince of the blood was more likely to assume than a true one. His face is not very like, nor very unlike, the face in my picture; but this is -shaven.-But now comes the great point. On the inside is Humphrey Duke of Gloucester kneeling--not only exactly resembling mine as possible, but with the same almost bald head, and the precisely same furred robe. An apostle-like personage stands behind him, holding a golden chalice, as his royal highness's offering, and, which is remarkable, the duke's velvet cap of state, with his coronet of strawberry-leaves.
I used to say, to corroborate my hypothesis, that the skull of Duke Humphrey at St. Alban's was very like the form of head in my picture, which argument diverted the late Lord Holland extremely--but I trust now that nobody will dispute any longer my perfect acquaintance with all Dukes of Gloucester.--By the way, did I ever tell You that when I published my Historic Doubts on Richard III., my niece's marriage not being then acknowledged, George Selwyn said, he did not think I should have doubted about the Duke of Gloucester? On the inside of another shutter is a man unknown: he is in a stable, as Joseph might be, but over him hangs a shield of arms, that are neither Joseph's nor Mary's. The colours are either black and white, or so changed as not to be distinguishable. * * " * I conclude the person who is in red and white was the donor of the altar-piece, or benefactor; and what I want of you is to discover him and his arms; and to tell me whether Duke Humphrey, Beaufort, Kempe, and Babington were connected with St. Edmondsbury, or whether this unknown person was not a retainer of Duke Humphrey, at least of the royal family.
At the same sale I bought a curious pair, that I conclude came from Blickling, with Hobart impaling Boleyn from which latter family the former enjoyed that seat. How does this third winter of the season agree with you? The wind to-day is sharper than a razor, and blows icicles into one's eyes. I was confined for
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