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- Letters of Horace Walpole, V4 - 70/169 -
the Laud, though the University of Oxford once offered 400 pounds for it--and if Queen Henrietta is by Vandyke, it is a very indifferent One. The affixing a higher value to the Pietro Cortona than to the octagon Guido is most absurd--I have often gazed on the latter, and preferred it even to the Doctor's. In short, the appraisers were determined to see what the Czarina Could give, rather than what the pictures were really worth--I am glad she seems to think so, for I hear no more of the sale--it is not very wise in me still to concern myself, at my age, about what I have SO little interest in-it is still less wise to be so anxious on trifles, when one's country is sinking. I do not know which is most Mad, my nephew, or our ministers--both the one and the other increase my veneration for the founder of Houghton!
I will not rob you of the prints you mention, dear Sir; one of them at least I know Mr. Pennant gave me. I do not admire him for his punctiliousness with you. Pray tell me the name Of your glass-painter; I do not think I shall want him, but it is not impossible. Mr. Essex agreed With me, that Jarvis's windows for Oxford, after Sir Joshua Reynolds, will not succeed. Most of his colours are opake, and their great beauty depending on a spot of light for Sun or moon, is an imposition. When his paintings are exhibited at Charing-cross, all the rest of the room is darkened to relieve them. That cannot be done at New College; or if done, the chapel would be too dark. If there are other lights, the effect will be lost.
This sultry weather will, I hope, quite restore YOU; People need not go to Lisbon and Naples, if we continue to have such summers. Yours most sincerely.
Letter 178 To The Rev. Mr. Cole. Strawberry Hill, August 12, 1779. (page 232)
I write from decency, dear Sir, not from having any thing particular to say, but to thank you for your offer of letting me see the arms of painted glass; which, however, I will decline, lest it should be broken, and as at present I have no occasion to employ the painter. If I build my offices, perhaps I may have; but I have dropped that thought for this year. The disastrous times do not inspire expense. Our alarms, I conclude, do not ruffle your hermitage. We are returning to our state of islandhood, and shall have little, I believe, to boast but of what we have been.
I see a History of Alien Priories announced;(365) do you know any thing of it, or of the author? I am ever yours.
(365) This was Mr. Gough's well-known work, entitled "Some Account of the Alien Priories, and of such Lands as they are known to have possessed in England and Wales," in two volumes octavo.-E.
Letter 179 To The Countess Of Ailesbury. Strawberry Hill, Friday night, 1779. (page 233)
I am not at all surprised, my dear Madam, at the intrepidity of Mrs. Damer;(366) she always was the heroic daughter of a hero. Her sense and coolness never forsake her. I, who am not so firm, shuddered at your ladyship's account. Now that she has stood fire for four hours, I hope she will give as clear proofs of her understanding, of which I have as high opinion as of her courage, and not return in any danger.
I am to dine at Ditton to-morrow, and will certainly talk on the subject You recommend; yet I am far, till I have heard more, from thinking with your ladyship, that more troops and artillery at Jersey would be desirable. Any considerable quantity of either, especially of the former, cannot be spared at this moment, when so big a cloud 'hangs over this island, nor would any number avail if the French should be masters at sea. A large garrison would but tempt the French thither, were it but to distress this country; and, what is worse, would encourage Mr. Conway to make an impracticable defence. If he is to remain in a situation so unworthy of him, I confess I had rather he was totally incapable of making any defence. I love him enough not to murmur at his exposing himself where his country and his honour demand him; but I would not have him measure himself in a place untenable against very superior force. My present comfort is, as to him, that France at this moment has a far vaster object. I have good reason to believe the government knows that a great army is ready to embark at St. Maloes, but will not stir till after a sea-fight, which we do not know but may be engaged at this moment. Our fleet is allowed to be the finest ever set forth by this country; but it is inferior in number by seventeen ships to the united squadron of the Bourbons. France, if successful, means to pour in a vast many thousands on us, and has threatened to burn the capital itself, Jersey, my dear Madam, does not enter into a calculation of such magnitude. The moment is singularly awful; yet the vaunts of enemies are rarely executed successfully and ably. Have we trampled America under our foot?
You have too good sense, Madam, to be imposed upon by my arguments, if they are insubstantial. You do know that I have had my terrors for Mr. Conway; but at present they are out of the question, from the insignificance of his island. DO not listen to rumours, nor believe a single one till it has been canvassed over and over. Fear, folly, fifty Motives, Will coin new reports every hour at such a conjuncture. When one is totally void of credit and power, patience is the only wisdom. I have seen dangers still more imminent. They were dispersed. Nothing happens in proportion to what is meditated. Fortune, whatever fortune is, is more constant than is the common notion. I do not give this as one of my solid arguments, but I have encouraged myself in being superstitious on the favourable side. I never, like most superstitious people, believe auguries against my wishes. We have been fortunate in the escape of Mrs. Damer, and in the defeat at Jersey even before Mr. Conway arrived-, and thence I depend on the same future prosperity. From the authority of persons who do not reason on such airy hopes, I am seriously persuaded, that if the fleets engage, the enemy will not gain advantage without deep-felt loss, enough probably to dismay their invasion. Coolness may succeed, and then negotiation. Surely, if we, can weather the summer, we shall, obstinate as we are against conviction, be compelled by the want of money to relinquish our ridiculous pretensions, now proved to be utterly impracticable; for, with an inferior navy at home, can we assert sovereignty over America? It is a contradiction in, terms and in fact. It may be hard of digestion to relinquish it, but it is impossible to pursue it. Adieu, my dear Madam! I have not left room for a line more.
(366) The packet in which she was crossing from Dover to Ostend was taken by a French frigate, after a running fight of several hours.
Letter 180 To The Hon. H. S. Conway. Strawberry Hill, Sept. 13, 1779. (page 234)
I am writing to you at random; not knowing whether or when this letter will go: but your brother told me last night that an officer, whose name I have forgot, was arrived from Jersey, and would return to you soon. I am sensible how very seldom I have written to you-but you have been few moments out of my thoughts. What they have been, you who know me so minutely may well guess, and why they do not pass my lips. Sense, experience, circumstances, can teach One to command one's self. outwardly, but do not divest a most friendly heart of its feelings. I believe the state of my Mind has contributed to bring on a very weak and decaying body my present disorders. I have not been well the whole summer; but for these three weeks much otherwise. It has at last ended in the gout, which to all appearance will be a short fit.
On public affairs I cannot speak. Every thing is so exaggerated on all sides, that what grains of truth remain in the sieve would appear cold and insipid; and the great manoeuvres you learn as soon as I. In the naval battle between Byron and D'Estaing, our captains were worthy of any age in our story.
You may imagine how happy I am at Mrs. Damer's return, and at her not being at Naples, as she was likely to have been, at the dreadful explosion of Vesuvius.(367) Surely it will have glutted Sir William's rage for volcanoes! How poor Lady Hamilton's nerves stood it I do not conceive. Oh, mankind! mankind! Are there not calamities enough in store for us, but must destruction be our amusement and pursuit?
I send this to Ditton,(368) where it may wait some days; but I would not suffer a sure opportunity to slip without a line. You are more obliged to me for all I do not say, than for whatever eloquence itself could pen.
P. S. I unseal my letter to add, that undoubtedly you will come to the Meeting of Parliament, which will be in October. Nothing can or ever did make me advise you to take a step unworthy of yourself. But surely you have higher and more sacred duties than the government of a mole-hill!
(367) On the 10th of August when the eruption was so great, that several villages were destroyed; a hunting seat belonging to the King of Naples, called Caccia Bella, shared the like fate.-E.
(368) Where Lord Hertford had then a villa.
Letter 181 To The Rev. Mr. Cole. Berkeley Square, Nov. 16, 1779. (page 235)
You ought not to accuse yourself only, when I have been as silent as you. Surely we have been friends too long to admit ceremony as a go-between. I have thought of writing to you several times, but found I had nothing worth telling you. I am rejoiced to hear your health has been better: mine has been worse the whole summer and autumn than ever it was without any positive distemper, and thence I conclude it is a failure in my constitution-of which, being a thing of course, we will say no more-nobody but a physician is bound to hear what he cannot cure-and if we will pay for what we cannot expect, it is our own fault.
I have seen Doctor Lort, who seems pleased with becoming a limb of Canterbury. I heartily wish the mitre may not devolve before
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