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- Letters of Horace Walpole, V4 - 60/169 -
of minor wits, critics, and monthly censors. I have not seen the Review you mention, nor ever do, but when something particular is pointed out to me. Literary squabbles I know preserve one's name, when one's work will not; but I despise the fame that depends on scolding till one is remembered, and remembered by whom? The scavengers of literature! Reviewers are like sextons, who in a charnel-house can tell you to what John Thompson or to what Tom-Matthews such a skull or such belonged--but who wishes to know? The fame that is only to be found in such vaults, is like the fires that burn unknown in tombs, and go out as fast as they are discovered. Lord Hardwicke is welcome to live among the dead if he likes',,it, and can contrive to live nowhere else.
Chatterton did abuse me under the title of Baron of Otranto,(319) but unluckily the picture is more like Dr. Milles and Chatterton's own devotees' than to me, who am but a recreant antiquary, and, as the poor lad found by experience, did not swallow every fragment that 'Was offered to me as an antique; though that is a feature he has bestowed Upon me.
I have seen, too, the criticism you mention on the Castle of Otranto, in the preface to the Old English Baron.(320) It is not at all oblique, but, though mixed with high compliments, directly attacks the visionary part, which, says the author or authoress, makes one laugh. I do assure you, I have not had the smallest inclination to return that attack. It would even be ungrateful, for the work is a professed imitation of mine, only stripped of the marvellous; and so entirely stripped, except in one awkward attempt at a ghost or two, that it is the most insipid dull nothing you ever saw. It certainly does not make me laugh; but what makes one doze, seldom makes one merry.
I am very sorry to have talked for near three pages on what relates to myself, who should be of no consequence, if people did not make me so, whether I will or not.- My not replying to them, I hope, is a proof I do not seek to make myself the topic of conversation. How very foolish are the squabbles of authors! They buzz and are troublesome, to-day, and then repose for ever on some shelf in a college' library, close by their antagonists, like Henry VI. and Edward IV. at Windsor.
I shall be in town in a few days, and will send You the heads of painters, which I left there; and along with them for yourself a translation of a French play,(321) that I have just printed there. It is not for your reading, but as one of the Strawberry editions, and one of the rarest; for I have printed but seventy-five copies. It was to oblige Lady Craven, - the translatress; and will be an aggravation of my offence to Sir Dudley's State Papers.
I hope this Elysian summer, for it has been above Indian, has dispersed all your complaints. Yet it does not agree with fruit; the peaches and nectarines are shrivelled to the size of damsons, and half of them drop. Yet you remember what portly bellies the peaches had at Paris, where it is generally as hot. I suppose our fruit-trees are so accustomed to rain, that they don't know how to behave without it. Adieu!
P. S. I can divert you with a new adventure that has happened to me in the literary way. About a month ago, I received a letter from Mr. Jonathan Scott, at Shrewsbury, to tell me he was possessed of MS. of Lord Herbert's Account of the Court of France,(322) which he designed to publish by subscription, and which he desired me to subscribe to, and to assist in the publication. I replied, that having been obliged to the late Lord Powis and his widow, I could not meddle with any such thing, without knowing that it had the consent of the present Earl and his mother.
Another letter, commending my reserve, told me Mr. Scott had applied for it formerly, and would again now. This showed me they did not consent. I have just received a third letter, owning the approbation has not yet arrived; but to keep me employed in the mean time, the modest Mr. Scott, whom I never saw, nor know more of than I did of Chatterton, proposes to me to get his fourth son a place in the civil department in India: the father not choosing it should be in the military, his three eldest sons being engaged in that branch already. If this fourth son breaks his neck, I suppose it will be laid to my charge! Yours ever.
(319) Chatterton exhibited a ridiculous portrait of Walpole: in the "Memoirs of a Sad Dog," under the character of "the redoubted Baron Otranto, who has spent his whole life in conjectures."-E.
(320) The Old English Baron, a romance of considerable repute which has been frequently reprinted, was the production of Clara Reeve. This Ingenious lady had published, in 1772, a translation of Barclay's Latin romance of Argenis, under the title of "The Phoenix, or the History of Polyarchus and Argenis." She was born at Ipswich, in 1738, died there in 1808.-E.
(321) "the Sleep Walker;" Strawberry Hill, 1778. It was translated from the French of M. Pont de Veyle, by Lady Craven, afterwards Margravine of Anspach.-E.
(322) By Lord Herbert's Account of the Court of France, Mr. Scott most probably referred to his "Letters written during his residence at the French Court" and which were first published from the originals, in the edition of his Life which appeared in 1826.-E.
Letter 146 To The Rev. Mr. Cole. September 1, 1778. (page 198)
I have now seen the Critical Review, with Lord Hardwicke's note, in which I perceive the sensibility of your friendship for me, dear Sir, but no rudeness on his part. Contemptuous it was to reprint Jane Shore's letter without any notice of my having given it before: the apology, too, is not made to me-but I am not affected by such incivilities, that imply more ill-will than boldness. As I expected more from your representation, I believe I expressed myself with more warmth than the occasion deserved; and, as I love to be just, I will, now I am perfectly cool, be so to Lord Hardwicke. His dislike of me was meritorious in him, as I conclude it was founded on my animosity to his father, as mine had been, from attachment to my own who was basely betrayed by the late Earl. The present has given me formerly many peevish marks of enmity; and I suspect, I don't know if justly, that he was the mover of the cabal in the Antiquarian Society against me- -but all their Misunderstandings were of a size that made me smile rather than provoked me. The Earl, as I told you, has since been rather wearisome in applications to me; which I received rather civilly, but encouraged no farther. When he wanted me to be his printer, I own I was not good Christian enough, not to be pleased with refusing, and yet in as well-bred excuses as I could form, pleading what was true at the time, as you know, that I had laid down my press-but so much for this idle story. I shall think no more of it, but adhere to my specific system. The antiquarians will be as ridiculous as they used to be; and, since it is impossible to infuse taste into them, they will be as dry and dull as their predecessors. One may revive what perished, but it will perish again, if more life is not breathed into it than it enjoyed originally. Facts, dates, and names will never please the multitude, unless there is some style and manner to recommend them, and unless some novelty is struck out from their appearance. The best merit of the society lies in their prints; for their volumes, no mortal will ever touch them but an antiquary. Their Saxon and Danish discoveries are not worth more than monuments of the Hottentots; and for Roman remains in Britain, they are upon a foot with what ideas we should get of Inigo Jones, if somebody was to publish views of huts and houses, that our officers run up at Senegal and Goree. Bishop Lyttelton used to torment me with barrows and Roman camps, and I would as soon have attended to the turf graves in our churchyards. I have no curiosity to know how awkward and clumsy men have been in the dawn of arts, or in their decay.
I exempt you entirely from my general censure on antiquaries, both for your singular modesty in publishing nothing yourself, and for collecting stone and bricks for others to build with. I wish your materials may ever fall into good hands--perhaps they will! our empire is falling to pieces! we are relapsing to a little island. n that state men are apt to inquire how great their ancestors have been; and, when a kingdom is past doing any thing, the few that are studious look into the memorials of past time; nations, like private persons, seek lustre from their progenitors, when they have none in themselves, and the farther they are from the dignity of their source. When half its colleges are tumbled down, the ancient university of Cambridge will revive from your Collections,(323) and you will be a living witness that saw its splendour.
Since I began this letter, I have had another curious adventure. I was in the Holbein chamber, when a chariot stopped at my door. A letter was brought up--and who should be below but--Dr. Kippis. The letter was to announce himself and his business, flattered me on My Writings, desired my assistance, and particularly my direction and aid for his writing the life of my father. I desired he would walk up, and received him very civilly, taking not the smallest notice of what you had told me of his flirts at me in the new Biographia. I told him if I had been applied to, I could have pointed out many errors in the old edition, but as they were chiefly in the printing, I supposed they would be corrected. With regard to my father's life, I said, it might be partiality, but I had such confidence in my father's virtues, that I was satisfied the more his life was examined, the clearer they would appear. That I also thought that the life of any man written under the direction of his family, did nobody honour; and that, as I was persuaded my father's would stand the test, I wished that none of his relations should interfere in it. That I did not doubt but the Doctor would speak impartially, and that was all I desired. He replied, that he did suppose I thought in that manner, and that all he asked was to be assisted in facts and dates. I said, if he would please to write the life first, and then communicate it to me, I would point out any errors in facts that I should perceive. He seemed mightily well satisfied-and so we parted-but is it not odd. that people are continually attacking me, and then come to me for' assistance?-- but when men write for profit, they are not very delicate.
I have resumed Mr. Baker's life, and pretty well arranged my plan; but I shall have little time to make any progress till October, as I am going soon to make some visits. Yours ever.
(323) His valuable Collections, in about a hundred volumes, in folio fairly written in his own band, Mr. Cole, on his death in
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