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Letters of Horace Walpole by Horace Walpole

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sat next to him said, "Sir, yours must be a very laborious
profession."--"No," replied the General, "we fight about four hours in
the morning, and two or three after dinner, and then we have all the
rest of the day to ourselves."

The King has been visiting camps,--and so has Sir William Howe, who, one
should think, had had enough of them; and who, one should think too, had
not achieved such exploits as should make him fond of parading himself
about, or expect many hosannahs. To have taken one town, and retreated
from two, is not very glorious in military arithmetic; and to have
marched twice to Washington, and returned without attacking him, is no
addition to the sum total.

Did I tell you that Mrs. Anne Pitt is returned, and acts great grief for
her brother? I suppose she was the dupe of the farce acted by the two
Houses and the Court, and had not heard that none of them carried on the
pantomime even to his burial. Her nephew gave a little into that mummery
even to me; forgetting how much I must remember of his aversion to his
uncle. Lord Chatham was a meteor, and a glorious one; people discovered
that he was not a genuine luminary, and yet everybody in mimickry has
been an _ignis fatuus_ about him. Why not allow his magnificent
enterprises and good fortune, and confess his defects; instead of being
bombast in his praises, and at the same time discover that the
amplification is insincere? A Minister who inspires great actions must
be a great Minister; and Lord Chatham will always appear so,--by
comparison with his predecessors and successors. He retrieved our
affairs when ruined by a most incapable Administration; and we are
fallen into a worse state since he was removed. Therefore, I doubt,
posterity will allow more to his merit, than it is the present fashion
to accord to it. Our historians have of late been fond of decrying Queen
Elizabeth, in order if possible to raise the Stuarts: but great actions
surmount foibles; and folly and guilt would always remain folly and
guilt, though there had never been a great man or woman in the world.
Our modern tragedies, hundreds of them do not contain a good line; nor
are they a jot the better, because Shakspeare, who was superior to all
mankind, wrote some whole plays that are as bad as any of our present

I shall be very glad to see your nephew, and talk of you with him; which
will be more satisfactory than questioning accidental travellers.



ARLINGTON STREET, _March_ 22, 1779.

If your representative dignity is impaired westward, you may add to
your eastern titles those of "Rose of India" and "Pearl of
Pondicherry."[1] The latter gem is now set in one of the vacant sockets
of the British diadem.

[Footnote 1: The authority of the great Warren Hastings, originally
limited to five years, was renewed this year; and he signalised the
prolongation of his authority by more vigorous attacks than ever on the
French fortresses in India. He sent one body of troops against
Chandemagore, their chief stronghold in Bengal; another against
Pondicherry, their head-quarters in the south of Hindostan; while a
third, under Colonel Goddard, defeated the two Mahratta chieftains
Scindia and Holkar, and took some of their strongest fortresses.]

I have nothing to subjoin to this high-flown paragraph, that will at all
keep pace with the majesty of it. I should have left to the _Gazette_ to
wish you joy, nor have begun a new letter without more materials, if I
did not fear you would be still uneasy about your nephew. I hear he has,
_since his parenthesis_, voted again with the Court; therefore he has
probably not taken a new _part_, but only made a Pindaric transition on
a particular question. I have seen him but twice since his arrival, and
from both those visits I had no reason to expect he would act
differently from what you wished. Perhaps it may never happen again. I
go so little into the world, that I don't at all know what company he
frequents. He talked so reasonably and tenderly with regard to you, that
I shall be much deceived if he often gives you any inquietude.

The place of Secretary of State is not replenished yet. Several
different successors have been talked of. At least, at present, there is
a little chance of its being supplied by the Opposition. Their numbers
have fallen off again, though they are more alert than they used to be.
I do not love to foretell, because no Elijah left me his mantle, in
which, it seems, the gift of prophecy resides; and, if I see clouds
gathering, I less care to announce their contents to foreign
post-offices. On the other hand, it is no secret, nor one to disguise if
it were, that the French trade must suffer immensely by our captures.

Private news I know none. The Bishops are trying to put a stop to one
staple commodity of that kind, Adultery. I do not suppose that they
expect to lessen it; but, to be sure, it was grown to a sauciness that
did call for a decenter veil. I do not think they have found out a good
cure; and I am of opinion, too, that flagrancy proceeds from national
depravity, which tinkering one branch will not remedy. Perhaps polished
manners are a better proof of virtue in an age than of vice, though
system-makers do not hold so: at least, decency has seldom been the
symptom of a sinking nation.

When one talks on general themes, it is a sign of having little to say.
It is not that there is a dearth of topics; but I only profess sending
you information on events that really have happened, to guide you
towards forming a judgment. At home, we are fed with magnificent hopes
and promises that are never realized. For instance, to prove discord in
America, Monsieur de la Fayette[1] was said to rail at the Congress,
and their whole system and transactions. There is just published an
intercourse between them that exhibits enthusiasm in him towards their
cause, and the highest esteem for him on their side. For my part, I see
as little chance of recovering America as of re-conquering the Holy
Land. Still, I do not amuse you with visions on either side, but tell
you nakedly what advantage has been gained or lost. This caution
abbreviates my letters; but, in general, you can depend on what I tell
you. Adieu!

[Footnote 1: Monsieur de la Fayette was a young French marquis of
ancient family, but of limited fortune. He was a man of no ability,
civil or military, and not even of much resolution, unless a blind
fanaticism for republican principles can be called so. When the American
war broke out he conceived such an admiration for Washington, that he
resigned his commission in the French army to cross over to America and
serve with the colonists; but it cannot be said that he was of any
particular service to their cause. Afterwards, in 1789, he entered
warmly into the schemes of the leaders of the Revolution, and
contributed greatly to the difficulties and misfortunes of the Royal
Family, especially by his conduct as Commander of the National Guard,
which was a contemptible combination of treachery and imbecility.]

_Tuesday 24th._

I hear this moment that an account is come this morning of D'Estaing
with sixteen ships being blocked up by Byron at Martinico, and that
Rowley with eight more was expected by the latter in a day or two.
D'Estaing, it is supposed, will be starved to surrender, and the island
too. I do not answer for this intelligence or consequences; but, if the
first is believed, you may be sure the rest is.



STRAWBERRY HILL, _July_ 7, 1779.

How much larger the war will be for the addition of Spain, I do not
know. Hitherto it has produced no events but the shutting of our ports
against France, and the junction of nine ships from Ferrol with the
French squadron. They talk of a great navy getting ready at Cadiz, and
of mighty preparations in the ports of France for an embarkation. As all
this must have been foreseen, I suppose we are ready to resist all

The Parliament rose last Saturday, not without an open division in the
Ministry: Lord Gower, President of the Council, heading an opposition to
a Bill for doubling the Militia, which had passed the Commons, and
throwing it out; which Lord North as publicly resented. I make no
comments on this, because I really know nothing of the motives.
Thoroughly convinced that all my ideas are superannuated, and too old to
learn new lessons, I only hear what passes, pretend to understand
nothing, and wait patiently for events as they present themselves. I
listen enough to be able to acquaint you with facts of public notoriety;
but attempt to explain none of them, if they do not carry legibility in
the van.

Your nephew, who lives more in the world, and is coming to you, will be
far more master of the details. He called here some few days ago, as I
was going out to dinner, but has kindly promised to come and dine here
before he sets out. His journey is infinitely commendable, as entirely
undertaken to please you. It will be very comfortable too, as surely the
concourse of English must much abate, especially as France is
interdicted. Travelling boys and self-sufficient governors would be an
incumbrance to you, could you see more of your countrymen of more
satisfactory conversation. Florence probably is improved since it had a
Court of its own, and there must be men a little more enlightened than
the poor Italians. Scarcely any of the latter that ever I knew but, if
they had parts, were buffoons. I believe the boasted _finesse_ of the
ruling clergy is pretty much a traditionary notion, like their jealousy.
More nations than one live on former characters after they are totally

I have been often and much in France. In the provinces they may still be
gay and lively; but at Paris, bating the pert _etourderie_ of very young
men, I protest I scarcely ever saw anything like vivacity--the Duc de
Choiseul alone had more than any hundred Frenchmen I could select. Their
women are the first in the world in everything but beauty; sensible,
agreeable, and infinitely informed. The _philosophes_, except Buffon,
are solemn, arrogant, dictatorial coxcombs--I need not say superlatively
disagreeable. The rest are amazingly ignorant in general, and void of
all conversation but the routine with women. My dear and very old friend
[Madame du Deffand] is a relic of a better age, and at nearly
eighty-four has all the impetuosity that _was_ the character of the
French. They have not found out, I believe, how much their nation is
sunk in Europe;--probably the Goths and Vandals of the North will open
their eyes before a century is past. I speak of the swarming empires
that have conglomerated within our memories. _We_ dispelled the vision
twenty years ago: but let us be modest till we do so again....


Last night I received from town the medal you promised me on the Moorish
alliance.[1] It is at least as magnificent as the occasion required, and
yet not well executed. The medallist Siriez, I conclude, is grandson of
my old acquaintance Louis Siriez of the Palazzo Vecchio.

[Footnote 1: A treaty had just been concluded between the Duke of
Tuscany and the Emperor of Morocco.]

Yesterday's Gazette issued a proclamation on the expected invasion from
Havre, where they are embarking mightily. Some think the attempt will be
on Portsmouth. To sweeten this pill, Clinton has taken a fort and
seventy men--not near Portsmouth, but New York; and there were reports
at the latter that Charleston is likely to surrender. This would be
something, if there were not a French war and a Spanish war in the way
between us and Carolina. Sir Charles Hardy is at Torbay with the whole
fleet, which perhaps was not a part of the plan at Havre: we shall see,
and you shall hear, if anything passes.

_Friday night, July 16th._

Your nephew has sent me word that he will breakfast with me to-morrow,
but shall not have time to dine. I have nothing to add to the foregoing
general picture. We have been bidden even by proclamation to expect an
invasion, and troops and provisions have for this week said to have been
embarked. Still I do not much expect a serious descent. The French, I
think, have better chances with less risk. They may ruin us in detail.
The fleet is at present at home or very near, and very strong; nor do I
think that the French plan is activity:--but it is idle to talk of the
present moment, when it will be some time before you receive this. I am
infinitely in more pain about Mr. Conway, who is in the midst of the
storm in a nutshell, and I know will defend himself as if he was in the
strongest fortification in Flanders--and, which is as bad, I believe the
Court would sacrifice the island to sacrifice him. They played that
infamous game last year on Keppel, when ten thousand times more was at
stake. They look at the biggest objects through the diminishing end of
every telescope; and, the higher they who look, the more malignant and
mean the eye....

Adieu! my dear Sir. In what manner we are to be undone, I do not guess;
but I see no way by which we can escape happily out of this crisis--I
mean, preserve the country and recover the Constitution. I thought for
four years that calamity would bring us to our senses: but alas! we have
none left to be brought to. We shall now suffer a greal deal, submit at
last to a humiliating peace, and people will be content.--So adieu,
England! it will be more or less a province or kind of province to
France, and its viceroy will be, in what does not concern France, its
despot--and will be content too! I shall not pity the country; I shall
feel only for those who grieve with me at its abject state; or for
posterity, if they do not, like other degraded nations, grow callously
reconciled to their ignominy.



_Sept._ 16, 1779.

I have received your letter by Colonel Floyd, and shall be surprised
indeed if Caesar does not find his own purple a little rumpled, as well
as his brother's mantle. But how astonished was I at finding that you
did not mention the dreadful eruption of Vesuvius. Surely you had not
heard of it! What are kings and their popguns to that wrath of Nature!
How Sesostris, at the head of an army of nations, would have fallen
prostrate to earth before a column of blazing embers eleven thousand
feet high! I am impatient to hear more, as you are of the little
conflict of us pigmies. Three days after my last set out, we received
accounts of D'Estaing's success against Byron and Barrington, and of the
capture of Grenada. I do not love to send first reports, which are
rarely authentic. The subsequent narrative of the engagement is more
favourable. It allows the victory to the enemy, but makes their loss of
men much the more considerable. Of ships we lost but one, taken after
the fight as going into port to refit. Sir Charles Hardy and
D'Orvilliers have not met; the latter is at Brest, the former at
Portsmouth. I never penetrated an inch into what is to be; and into some
distant parts of our history, I mean the Eastern, I have never liked to
look. I believe it an infamous scene; you know I have always thought it
so; and the Marattas are a nation of banditti very proper to scourge the
heroes of Europe, who go so far to plunder and put themselves into their
way. Nature gave to mankind a beautiful world, and larger than it could
occupy,--for, as to the eruption of Goths and Vandals occasioned by
excess of population, I very much doubt it; and mankind prefers
deforming the ready Paradise, to improving and enjoying it. Ambition and
mischief, which one should not think were natural appetites, seem almost
as much so as the impulse to propagation; and those pious rogues, the
clergy, preach against what Nature forces us to practise (or she could
not carry on her system), and not twice in a century say a syllable
against the Lust of Destruction! Oh! one is lost in moralising, as one
is in astronomy! In the ordinance and preservation of the great
universal system one sees the Divine Artificer, but our intellects are
too bounded to comprehend anything more.

Lord Temple is dead by an accident. I never had any esteem for his
abilities or character. He had grown up in the bask of Lord Chatham's
glory, and had the folly to mistake half the rays for his own. The world
was not such a dupe; and his last years discovered a selfish
restlessness, and discovered to him, too, that no mortal regarded him
but himself.

The Lucans are in my neighbourhood, and talk with much affection of you.



BERKELEY SQUARE, _Jan._ 13, 1780.

In consequence of my last, it is right to make you easy, and tell you
that I think we shall not have a Dutch war;[1] at least, nobody seems to
expect it. What excuses we have made, I do not know; but I imagine the
Hollanders are glad to gain by both sides, and glad not to be forced to
quarrel with either.

[Footnote 1: Walpole was mistaken in his calculations. "Holland at this
time was divided by two great parties--the party of the Staatholder, the
Prince of Orange, and the party inclining to France--of which the
Pensionary, Van Bethel, was among the principal members; and this party
was so insulting in their tone and measures, that at the end of 1780 we
were compelled to declare war against them" (Lord Stanhope, "History of
England," c. 63). But the war was not signalised by any action of

What might have been expected much sooner, appears at last--a good deal
of discontent; but chiefly where it was not much expected. The country
gentlemen, after encouraging the Court to war with America, now, not
very decently, are angry at the expense. As they have long seen the
profusion, it would have been happy had they murmured sooner. Very
serious associations are forming in many counties; and orders, under
the title of petitions, coming to Parliament for correcting abuses. They
talk of the waste of money; are silent on the thousands of lives that
have been sacrificed--but when are human lives counted by any side?

The French, who may measure with us in folly, and have exceeded us in
ridiculous boasts, have been extravagant in their reception of
D'Estaing,[1] who has shown nothing but madness and incapacity. How the
northern monarchs, who have at least exhibited talents for war and
politics, must despise the last campaign of England and France!

[Footnote 1: The Comte d'Estaing was the Commander-in-chief of the
French fleet in the West Indies in the years 1777-80. But, though his
force was always superior to ours, he always endeavoured to avoid a
battle; and succeeded in that timorous policy except on two occasions,
when Lord Howe and afterwards Admiral Byron brought him to action, but
only with indecisive results.]

I am once more got abroad, but more pleased to be able to do so, than
charmed with anything I have to do. Having outlived the glory and
felicity of my country, I carry that reflection with me wherever I go.
Last night, at Strawberry Hill, I took up, to divert my thoughts, a
volume of letters to Swift from Bolingbroke, Bathurst, and Gay; and what
was there but lamentations on the ruin of England, in that era of its
prosperity and peace, from wretches who thought their own want of power
a proof that their country was undone! Oh, my father! twenty years of
peace, and credit, and happiness, and liberty, were punishments to
rascals who weighed everything in the scales of self? It was to the
honour of Pope, that, though leagued with such a crew, and though an
idolater of their archfiend Bolingbroke and in awe of the malignant
Swift, he never gave in to their venomous railings; railings against a
man who, in twenty years, never attempted a stretch of power, did
nothing but the common business of administration, and by that
temperance and steady virtue, and unalterable good-humour and superior
wisdom, baffled all the efforts of faction, and annihilated the falsely
boasted abilities of Bolingbroke,[1] which now appear as moderate as his
character was in every light detestable. But, alas! that retrospect
doubled my chagrin instead of diverting it. I soon forgot an impotent
cabal of mock-patriots; but the scene they vainly sought to disturb
rushed on my mind, and, like Hamlet on the sight of Yorick's skull, I
recollected the prosperity of Denmark when my father ruled, and compared
it with the present moment! I look about for a Sir Robert Walpole; but
where is he to be found?

[Footnote: 1 It is only the excess of party spirit that could lead
Walpole to call Bolingbroke's abilities moderate; and he had no attacks
on his father to resent, since, though Bolingbroke was in 1724 permitted
to return to England, he only received a partial pardon, and was not
permitted to take his seat in Parliament. Walpole has more reason to
pronounce his character detestable; for which opinion he might have
quoted Dr. Johnson, who, in reference to an infidel treatise which he
bequeathed to Mallet for publication, called him "a scoundrel and a
coward--a scoundrel who spent his life in charging a popgun against
Christianity, which he had not the courage to let off, but left it to a
hungry Scotchman to pull the trigger after he was dead."]

This is not a letter, but a codicil to my last. You will soon probably
have news enough--yet appearances are not always pregnancies. When there
are more follies in a nation than principles and system, they counteract
one another, and sometimes, as has just happened in Ireland, are
composed _pulveris exigui jactu_. I sum up my wishes in that for peace:
but we are not satisfied with persecuting America, though the mischief
has recoiled on ourselves; nor France with wounding us, though with
little other cause for exultation, and with signal mischief to her own
trade, and with heavy loss of seamen; not to mention how her armies are
shrunk to raise her marine, a sacrifice she will one day rue, when the
_disciplined_ hosts of Goths and Huns begin to cast an eye southward.
But I seem to choose to read futurity, because I am not likely to see
it: indeed I am most rational when I say to myself, What is all this to
me? My thread is almost spun! almost all my business here is to bear
pain with patience, and to be thankful for intervals of ease. Though
Emperors and Kings may torment mankind, they will not disturb my
bedchamber; and so I bid them and you good-night!

P.S.--I have made use of a term in this letter, which I retract, having
bestowed a title on the captains and subalterns which was due only to
the colonel, and not enough for his dignity. Bolingbroke was more than a
rascal--he was a villain. Bathurst, I believe, was not a dishonest man,
more than he was prejudiced by party against one of the honestest and
best of men. Gay was a simple poor soul, intoxicated by the friendship
of men of genius, and who thought _they_ must be good who condescended
to admire _him_. Swift was a wild beast, who baited and worried all
mankind almost, because his intolerable arrogance, vanity, pride, and
ambition were disappointed; he abused Lady Suffolk, who tried and wished
to raise him, only because she had not power to do so: and one is sure
that a man who could deify that silly woman Queen Anne, would have been
more profuse of incense to Queen Caroline, who had sense, if the Court
he paid to her had been crowned with success. Such were the men who
wrote of virtue to one another; and even that mean, exploded miser, Lord
Bath, presumed to talk of virtue too!



STRAWBERRY HILL, _Feb._ 6, 1780.

I write only when I have facts to send. Detached scenes there have been
in different provinces: they will be collected soon into a drama in St.
Stephen's Chapel. One or two and twenty counties, and two or three
towns, have voted petitions.[1] But in Northamptonshire Lord Spencer
was disappointed, and a very moderate petition was ordered. The same
happened at Carlisle. At first, the Court was struck dumb, but have
begun to rally. Counter-protests have been signed in Hertford and
Huntingdon shires, in Surrey and Sussex. Last Wednesday a meeting was
summoned in Westminster Hall: Charles Fox harangued the people finely
and warmly; and not only a petition was voted, but he was proposed for
candidate for that city at the next general election, and was accepted
joyfully. Wilkes was his zealous advocate: how few years since a public
breakfast was given at Holland House to support Lord Luttrell against
Wilkes! Charles Fox and his brother rode thence at the head of their
friends to Brentford. Ovid's "Metamorphoses" contains not stranger
transformations than party can work.

[Footnote 1: These petitions were chiefly for economical reform, for
which Burke was preparing a Bill.]

I must introduce a new actor to you, a Lord George
Gordon,--metamorphosed a little, too, for his family were Jacobites and
Roman Catholics: he is the Lilburne of the Scottish Presbyterians, and
an apostle against the Papists. He dresses, that is, wears long lank
hair about his shoulders, like the first Methodists; though I take the
modern ones to be no Anti-Catholics. This mad lord, for so all his
family have been too, and are, has likewise assumed the patronage of
Ireland. Last Thursday he asked an audience of the King, and, the moment
he was admitted into the closet, began reading an Irish pamphlet, and
continued for an hour, till it was so dark he could not see; and then
left the pamphlet, exacting a promise on royal honour that his Majesty
would finish it. Were I on the throne, I would make Dr. Monro a Groom of
my Bedchamber: indeed it has been necessary for some time; for, of the
King's lords, Lord Bolingbroke is in a mad-house, and Lord Pomfret and
my nephew ought to be there. The last, being fond of onions, has lately
distributed bushels of that root to his Militia; Mr. Wyndham will not be

By the tenor of the petitions you would think we were starving; yet
there is a little coin stirring. Within this week there has been a cast
at hazard at the Cocoa tree, the difference of which amounted to a
hundred and four-score thousand pounds. Mr. O'Birne, an Irish gamester,
had won one hundred thousand pounds of a young Mr. Harvey of Chigwell,
just started from a midshipman[1] into an estate by his elder brother's
death. O'Birne said, "You can never pay me." "I can," said the youth;
"my estate will sell for the debt." "No," said O.; "I will win ten
thousand--you shall throw for the odd ninety." They did, and Harvey won.

[Footnote 1: Mr. Harvey was afterwards Sir Eliab Harvey, one of Nelson's
captains at Trafalgar. But unfortunately he so violently resented the
appointment of Lord Cochrane, who was only a post-captain, to carry out
the attack on the French fleet in Basque Roads, which he himself, who
was an admiral, had also suggested, and used such violent and
insubordinate language towards Lord Gambier, the Commander-in-chief
(who, though a most incompetent officer, had had nothing to do with the
appointment), that it was unavoidable that a court-martial should
sentence him to be cashiered. He was, however, restored to his rank
shortly afterwards. He was member of Parliament for Essex for many
years, and died in 1830.]

However, as it is a little necessary to cast about for resources, it is
just got abroad, that about a year ago we took possession of a trifling
district in India called the Province of Oude,[1] which contains four
millions of inhabitants, produces between three and four millions of
revenue, and has an army of 30,000 men: it was scarce thought of
consequence enough to deserve an article in the newspapers. If you are
so _old-style_ as to ask how we came to take possession, I answer, by
the new law of nations; by the law by which Poland was divided. You will
find it in the future editions of Grotius, tit. "Si une terre est a la
bienseance d'un grand Prince." Oude appertained by that very law to the
late Sujah Dowla. His successors were weak men, which _in India_ is
incapacity. Their Majesties the East India Company, whom God long
preserve, have _succeeded_.

[Footnote 1: Warren Hastings claimed large arrears of tribute from Asaph
ul Dowlah, the Nabob of Oude; but Walpole was misinformed when he
understood that he had in consequence annexed the province--a measure
which was never adopted till the spring of 1857, when its annexation by
Lord Dalhousie was among the causes that led to the outbreak of the

This petty event has ascertained the existence of a certain being, who,
till now, has not been much more than a matter of faith--the Grand Lama.
There are some affairs of trade between the sovereigns of Oude and his
Holiness the Lama. Do not imagine the East India Company have leisure to
trouble their heads about religion. Their commanding officer
corresponded with the Tartar Pope, who, it seems, is a very sensible
man. The Attorney-General asked this officer, who is come over, how the
Lama wrote. "Oh," said he, "like any person."--"Could I see his
letters?" said Mr. Wedderburne.--"Upon my word," said the officer, "when
the business was settled, I threw them into the fire." However, I hear
that somebody, not quite so mercantile, has published one of the Lama's
letters in the "Philosophical Transactions." Well! when we break in
Europe, we may pack up and remove to India, and be emperors again!

Do you believe me, my good Sir, when I tell you all these strange tales?
Do you think me distracted, or that your country is so? Does not this
letter seem an olio composed of ingredients picked out of the history of
Charles I., of Clodius and Sesostris, and the "Arabian Nights"? Yet I
could have coloured it higher without trespassing on truth; but when I,
inured to the climate of my own country, can scarcely believe what I
hear and see, how should you, who converse only with the ordinary race
of men and women, give credit to what I have ventured to relate, merely
because in forty years I have constantly endeavoured to tell you nothing
but truth? Moreover, I commonly reserve passages that are not of public
notoriety, not having the smallest inclination to put the credulity of
foreign post-offices to the test. I would have them think that we are
only mad with valour, and that Lord Chatham's cloak has been divided
into shreds no bigger than a silver penny amongst our soldiers and
sailors. Adieu!



BERKELEY SQUARE, _March_ 3, 1780.

As my last letter probably alarmed you, I write again to tell you that
nothing decisive has happened. The troops of the Palace even rallied a
little yesterday on Mr. Burke's Bill of Reformation, or Reduction, yet
with evident symptoms of _caution_; for Lord North, who wished to defer
the second reading, ventured to put it only to next Wednesday, instead
of to-day; and would have carried a longer adjournment with still
greater difficulty, for his majority was but of 35, and the minority
remained 195, a very formidable number. The Associations in the counties
increase, though not rapidly: yet it will be difficult for the Court to
stem such a torrent; and, I imagine, full as difficult for any man of
temper to direct them wholesomely. Ireland is still more impetuous.

Fortunately, happily, the tide abroad seems turned. Sir George Rodney's
victory[1] proves more considerable than it appeared at first. It
secures Gibraltar, eases your Mediterranean a little, and must vex the
Spaniards and their monarch, not satisfied before with his cousin of
Bourbon. Admiral Parker has had great success too amongst the latter's
transports. Oh! that all these elements of mischief may jumble into
peace! Monsieur Necker[2] alone shines in the quarter of France; but he
is carrying the war into the domains of the Church, where one cannot
help wishing him success. If he can root out monks, the Pope will have
less occasion to allow _gras_, because we cannot supply them with
_maigre_. It is droll that the Protestant Necker, and we Protestant
fishmongers, should overset the system of fasting; but ancient Alcorans
could not foresee modern contingencies.

[Footnote 1: On January 8th Sir George Rodney defeated the Spanish
fleet, which was on its way to join the force blockading Gibraltar, and
took the commander himself, Don Juan de Langara, prisoner.]

[Footnote 2: Necker's measure, to which Walpole alludes, was the
imposition of a property tax of 5 per cent. on all classes, even on the

I have told you that politics absorb all private news. I am going to a
ball this evening, which the Duke and Duchess of Bolton give to their
Royal Highnesses of Gloucester, who have now a very numerous Court. It
seems very improper for me to be at a ball; but you see that, on the
contrary, it is propriety that carries me thither. I am heartily weary
both of diversions and politics, and am more than half inclined to
retire to Strawberry. I have renounced dining abroad, and hide myself as
much as I can; but can one pin on one's breast a label to signify, that,
though one is sensible of being Methusalem in constitution, one must
sometimes be seen in a crowd for such and such reasons? I do often
exaggerate my pleas of bad health; and, could I live entirely alone,
would proclaim myself incurable; but, should one repent, one becomes
ridiculous by returning to the world; or one must have a companion,
which I never will have; or one opens a door to legatees, if one
advertises ill-health. Well! I must act with as much common sense as I
can; and, when one takes no part, one must temper one's conduct; and,
when the world is too young for one, not shock it, nor contradict it,
nor affix a peculiar character, but trust to its indifference for not
drawing notice, when one does not desire to be noticed. Rabelais's "Fais
ce que tu voudras" is not very difficult when one wishes to do nothing.
I have always been offended at those who will belong to a world with
which they have nothing to do. I have perceived that every age has not
only a new language and new modes, but a new way of articulating. At
first I thought myself grown deaf when with young people; but perceived
that I understood my contemporaries, though they whispered. Well! I must
go amongst those I do not comprehend so well, but shall leave them when
they go to supper.



STRAWBERRY HILL, _June_ 5, 1780.

Not a syllable yet from General Clinton. There has been a battle at sea
in the West Indies, which we might have gained; know we did not, but not
why: and all this is forgotten already in a fresher event. I have said
for some time that the field is so extensive, and the occurrences so
numerous, and so much pains are taken to involve them in falsehoods and
mystery, and opinions are so divided, that all evidences will be dead
before a single part can be cleared up; but I have not time, nor you
patience, for my reflections. I must hurry to the history of the day.
The Jack of Leyden of the age, Lord George Gordon,[1] gave notice to the
House of Commons last week, that he would, on Friday, bring in the
petition of the Protestant Association; and he openly declared to his
disciples, that he would not carry it unless _a noble army of martyrs,
not fewer than forty thousand_, would accompany him. Forty thousand, led
by such a lamb, were more likely to prove butchers than victims; and so,
in good truth, they were very near being. Have you faith enough in me to
believe that the sole precaution taken was, that the Cabinet Council on
Thursday empowered the First Lord of the Treasury to give proper orders
to the civil magistrates to keep the peace,--and his Lordship forgot

[Footnote 1: Lord George Gordon was a younger son of the Duke of Gordon;
and because the Parliament had passed a Bill to relieve the Roman
Catholics from some of the disabilities which seemed no longer desirable
nor just to maintain, he instigated a body calling itself the Protestant
Association to present a monster petition to the House of Commons, and
headed a procession of at least fifty thousand to march with it to the
House. The processionists behaved with great violence on their march,
insulting those members of both Houses whom they thought unfavourable to
their views; and, when the House adjourned without taking their petition
into consideration, they began to commit the most violent outrages. They
burnt Newgate; they burnt the house of the great Chief Justice, Lord
Mansfield; and for two days seemed masters of London, till the King
himself summoned a Privy Council, and issued orders for the troops to
put down the rioters. Many of the rioters were brought to trial and
executed. Lord George, being prosecuted for high treason, to which his
offence did not amount, instead of for sedition, was acquitted, to the
great indignation of the French historian, Lacretelle, that "Cet
extravagant scelerat ne paya point de sa tete un tel crime."]

Early on Friday morning the conservators of the Church of England
assembled in _St. George's_ Fields to encounter the dragon, the old
serpent, and marched in lines of six and six--about thirteen thousand
only, as they were computed--with a petition as long as the procession,
which the apostle himself presented; but, though he had given out most
Christian injunctions for peaceable behaviour, he did everything in his
power to promote a massacre. He demanded immediate repeal of toleration,
told Lord North he could have him torn to pieces, and, running every
minute to the door or windows, bawled to the populace that Lord North
would give them no redress, and that now this member, now that, was
speaking against them.

In the mean time, the Peers, going to their own Chamber, and as yet not
concerned in the petition, were assaulted; many of their glasses were
broken, and many of their persons torn out of the carriages. Lord Boston
was thrown down and almost trampled to death; and the two Secretaries of
State, the Master of the Ordnance, and Lord Willoughby were stripped of
their bags or wigs, and the three first came into the House with their
hair all dishevelled. The chariots of Sir George Savile and Charles
Turner, two leading advocates for the late toleration, though in
Opposition, were demolished; and the Duke of Richmond and Burke were
denounced to the mob as proper objects for sacrifice. Lord Mahon
laboured to pacify the tempest, and towards eight and nine, prevailed
on so many to disperse, that the Lords rose and departed in quiet; but
every avenue to the other House was besieged and blockaded, and for four
hours they kept their doors locked, though some of the warmest members
proposed to sally out, sword in hand, and cut their way. Lord North and
that House behaved with great firmness, and would not submit to give any
other satisfaction to the rioters, than to consent to take the Popish
laws into consideration on the following Tuesday; and, calling the
Justices of the Peace, empowered them to call out the whole force of the
country to quell the riot.

The magistrates soon brought the Horse and Foot Guards, and the pious
ragamuffins soon fled; so little enthusiasm fortunately had inspired
them; at least all their religion consisted in outrage and plunder; for
the Duke of Northumberland, General Grant, Mr. Mackinsy, and others, had
their pockets picked of their watches and snuff-boxes. Happily, not a
single life was lost.

This tumult, which was over between nine and ten at night, had scarce
ceased before it broke out in two other quarters. Old Haslang's[1]
Chapel was broken open and plundered; and, as he is a Prince of
Smugglers as well as Bavarian Minister, great quantities of run tea and
contraband goods were found in his house. This one cannot lament; and
still less, as the old wretch has for these forty years usurped a hired
house, and, though the proprietor for many years has offered to remit
his arrears of rent, he will neither quit the house nor pay for it.

[Footnote 1: Count Haslang was the Bavarian Minister.]

Monsieur Cordon, the Sardinian Minister, suffered still more. The mob
forced his chapel, stole two silver lamps, demolished everything else,
threw the benches into the street, set them on fire, carried the brands
into the chapel, and set fire to that; and, when the engines came, would
not suffer them to play till the Guards arrived, and saved the house and
probably all that part of the town. Poor Madame Cordon was confined by
illness. My cousin, Thomas Walpole, who lives in Lincoln's Inn Fields,
went to her rescue, and dragged her, for she could scarce stand with
terror and weakness, to his own house.

I doubt this narrative will not re-approach you and Mr. Wyndham. I have
received yours of the 20th of last month.

You will be indignant that such a mad dog as Lord George should not be
knocked on the head. Colonel Murray did tell him in the House, that, if
any lives were lost, his Lordship should join the number. Nor yet is he
so lunatic as to deserve pity. Besides being very debauched, he has more
knavery than mission. What will be decided on him, I do not know; every
man that heard him can convict him of the worst kind of sedition: but it
is dangerous to constitute a rascal a martyr. I trust we have not much
holy fury left; I am persuaded that there was far more dissoluteness
than enthusiasm in the mob: yet the episode is very disagreeable. I came
from town yesterday to avoid the birthday [June 4]. We have a report
here that the Papists last night burnt a Presbyterian meeting-house, but
I credit nothing now on the first report. It was said to be intended on
Saturday, and the Guards patrolled the streets at night; but it is very
likely that Saint George Gordon spread the insinuation himself.

My letter cannot set out before to-morrow; therefore I will postpone the
conclusion. In the mean time I must scold you very seriously for the
cameo you have sent me by Mr. Morrice. This house is full of your
presents and of my blushes. I love any one of them as an earnest of your
friendship; but I hate so many. You force upon me an air most contrary
to my disposition. I cannot thank you for your kindness; I entreated you
to send me nothing more. You leave me no alternative but to seem
interested or ungrateful. I can only check your generosity by being
brutal. If I had a grain of power, I would affront you and call your
presents bribes. I never gave you anything but a coffee-pot. If I could
buy a diamond as big as the Caligula, and a less would not be so
valuable, I would send it you. In one word, I will not accept the cameo,
unless you give me a promise under your hand that it shall be the last
present you send me. I cannot stir about this house without your gifts
staring me in the face. Do you think I have no conscience? I am sorry
Mr. Morrice is no better, and wonder at his return. What can invite him
to this country? Home never was so homely.


It is not true that a meeting-house has been burnt. I believe a Popish
chapel in the city has been attacked: and they talk here of some
disturbance yesterday, which is probable; for, when grace, robbery, and
mischief make an alliance, they do not like to give over:--but ten miles
from the spot are a thousand from truth. My letter must go to town
before night, or would be too late for the post. If you do not hear from
me again immediately, you will be sure that this _bourrasque_ has

_Thursday 8th._

I am exceedingly vexed. I sent this letter to Berkeley Square on
Tuesday, but by the present confusions my servant did not receive it in
time. I came myself yesterday, and found a horrible scene. Lord
Mansfield's house was just burnt down, and at night there were shocking
disorders. London and Southwark were on fire in six places; but the
regular troops quelled the sedition by daybreak, and everything now is
quiet. A camp of ten thousand men is formed in Hyde Park, and regiments
of horse and foot arrive every hour.

_Friday morn, 9th._

All has been quiet to-night. I am going to Strawberry for a little rest.
Your nephew told me last night that he sends you constant journals just



_Dec._ 11, 1780.

I should have been shamefully ungrateful, Sir, if I could ever forget
all the favours I have received from you, and had omitted any mark of
respect to you that it was in my power to show. Indeed, what you are so
good as to thank me for was a poor trifle, but it was all I had or shall
have of the kind. It was imperfect too, as some painters of name have
died since it was printed, which was nine years ago. They will be added
with your kind notices, should I live, which is not probable, to see a
new edition wanted. Sixty-three years, and a great deal of illness, are
too speaking mementos not to be attended to; and when the public has
been more indulgent than one had any right to expect, it is not decent
to load it with one's dotage!

I believe, Sir, that I may have been over-candid to Hogarth, and that
his spirit and youth and talent may have hurried him into more real
caricatures than I specified; yet he certainly restrained his bent that
way pretty early. Charteris,[1] I have seen; but though some years
older than you, Sir, I cannot say I have at all a perfect idea of him;
nor did I ever hear the curious anecdote you tell me of the banker and
my father. I was much better acquainted with Archbishop Blackburne. He
lived within two doors of my father in Downing Street, and took much
notice of me when I was near man.... He was a little hurt at not being
raised to Canterbury on Wake's death [1737], and said to my father, "You
did not think on me; but it is true, I am too old, I am too old."
Perhaps, Sir, these are gossiping stories, but at least they hurt nobody

[Footnote 1: Colonel Charteris, satirised by Hogarth's introduction of
his portrait in the "Harlot's Progress," was at his death still more
bitterly branded by Swift's friend, Dr. Arbuthnot, in the epitaph he
proposed for him: "Here continueth to rot the body of Francis Charteris,
who, in the course of his long life, displayed every vice except
prodigality and hypocrisy. His insatiable avarice saved him from the
first: his matchless impudence from the second." And he concludes it
with the explanation that his life was not useless, since "it was
intended to show by his example of how small estimation inordinate
wealth is in the sight of Almighty God, since He bestowed it on the most
unworthy of mortals."]

I can say little, Sir, for my stupidity or forgetfulness about Hogarth's
poetry, which I still am not sure I ever heard, though I knew him so
well; but it is an additional argument for my distrusting myself, if my
memory fails, which is very possible. A whole volume of Richardson's[1]
poetry has been published since my volume was printed, not much to the
honour of his muse, but exceedingly so to that of his piety and amiable
heart. You will be pleased, too, Sir, with a story Lord Chesterfield
told me (too late too) of Jervas,[2] who piqued himself on the reverse,
on total infidelity. One day that he had talked very indecently in that
strain, Dr. Arbuthnot,[3] who was as devout as Richardson, said to him,
"Come, Jervas, this is all an air and affectation; nobody is a sounder
believer than you."--"I!" said Jervas, "I believe nothing."--"Yes, but
you do," replied the Doctor; "nay, you not only believe, but practise:
you are so scrupulous an observer of the commandments, that you never
make the likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or on the earth
beneath, or," &c.

[Footnote 1: Richardson was a London bookseller, the author of the three
longest novels in the English language--"Pamela," "Clarissa Harbour,"
and "Sir Charles Grandison." They were extravagantly praised in their
day. But it was to ridicule "Pamela" that Fielding wrote "Joseph

[Footnote 2: Jervas was a fashionable portrait-painter in the first half
of the century. Lady Mary Montague, in one of her letters, speaks of him
in terms of the highest praise.]

[Footnote 3: Dr. Arbuthnot was the author of the celebrated satire on
the Partition Treaties, entitled "The History of John Bull," to which
Englishmen have ever since owed their popular nickname. It is to him
also that Pope dedicated the Prologue to his "Satires and Epistles."]

I fear, Sir, this letter is too long for thanks, and that I have been
proving what I have said, of my growing superannuated; but, having made
my will in my last volume, you may look on this as a codicil.

P.S.--I had sealed my letter, Sir, but break it open, lest you should
think soon, that I do not know what I say, or break my resolution
lightly. I shall be able to send you in about two months a very curious
work that I am going to print, and is actually in the press; but there
is not a syllable of my writing in it. It is a discovery just made of
two very ancient manuscripts, copies of which were found in two or three
libraries in Germany, and of which there are more complete manuscripts
at Cambridge. They are of the eleventh century at lowest, and prove
that painting in oil was then known, above three hundred years before
the pretended invention of Van Eyck. The manuscripts themselves will be
printed, with a full introductory Dissertation by the discoverer, Mr.
Raspe, a very learned German, formerly librarian to the Landgrave of
Hesse, and who writes English surprisingly well. The manuscripts are in
the most barbarous monkish Latin, and are much such works as our
booksellers publish of receipts for mixing colours, varnishes, &c. One
of the authors, who calls himself Theophilus, was a monk; the other,
Heraclius, is totally unknown; but the proofs are unquestionable. As my
press is out of order, and that besides it would take up too much time
to print them there, they will be printed here at my expense, and if
there is any surplus, it will be for Raspe's benefit.



BERKELEY SQUARE, _Dec._ 31, 1780.

I have received, and thank you much for the curious history of the Count
and Countess of Albany; what a wretched conclusion of a wretched family!
Surely no royal race was ever so drawn to the dregs! The other Countess
[Orford] you mention seems to approach still nearer to dissolution. Her
death a year or two ago might have prevented the sale of the
pictures,--not that I know it would. Who can say what madness in the
hands of villany would or would not have done? Now, I think, her dying
would only put more into the reach of rascals. But I am indifferent what
they do; nor, but thus occasionally, shall I throw away a thought on
that chapter.

All chance of accommodation with Holland is vanished. Count Welderen and
his wife departed this morning. All they who are to gain by privateers
and captures are delighted with a new field of plunder. Piracy is more
practicable than victory. Not being an admirer of wars, I shall reserve
my _feux de joie_ for peace.

My letters, I think, are rather eras than journals. Three days ago
commenced another date--the establishment of a family for the Prince of
Wales. I do not know all the names, and fewer of the faces that compose
it; nor intend. I, who kissed the hand of George I., have no colt's
tooth for the Court of George IV. Nothing is so ridiculous as an antique
face in a juvenile drawing-room. I believe that they who have spirits
enough to be absurd in their decrepitude, are happy, for they certainly
are not sensible of their folly; but I, who have never forgotten what I
thought in my youth of such superannuated idiots, dread nothing more
than misplacing myself in my old age. In truth, I feel no such appetite;
and, excepting the young of my own family, about whom I am interested, I
have mighty small satisfaction in the company of _posterity_; for so
the present generation seem to me. I would contribute anything to their
pleasure, but what cannot contribute to it--my own presence. Alas! how
many of this age are swept away before me: six thousand have been mowed
down at once by the late hurricane at Barbadoes alone! How Europe is
paying the debts it owes to America! Were I a poet, I would paint hosts
of Mexicans and Peruvians crowding the shores of Styx, and insulting the
multitudes of the usurpers of their continent that have been sending
themselves thither for these five or six years. The poor Africans, too,
have no call to be merciful to European ghosts. Those miserable slaves
have just now seen whole crews of men-of-war swallowed by the late

We do not yet know the extent of our loss. You would think it very
slight, if you saw how little impression it makes on a luxurious
capital. An overgrown metropolis has less sensibility than marble; nor
can it be conceived by those not conversant in one. I remember hearing
what diverted me then; a young gentlewoman, a native of our rock, St.
Helena, and who had never stirred beyond it, being struck with the
emotion occasioned there by the arrival of one or two of our China
ships, said to the captain, "There must be a great solitude in London as
often as the China ships come away!" Her imagination could not have
compassed the idea, if she had been told that six years of war, the
absence of an army of fifty or sixty thousand men of all our squadrons,
and a new debt of many, many millions, would not make an alteration in
the receipts at the door of a single theatre in London. I do not boast
of, or applaud, this profligate apathy. When pleasure is our business,
our business is never pleasure; and, if four wars cannot awaken us, we
shall die in a dream!



BERKELEY SQUARE, _Sept._ 7, 1781.

The combined fleets, to the amount of forty-seven or forty-nine sail,
brought news of their own arrival at the mouth of the Channel a day or
two before your letter, of August the 18th, brought an account of that
probability, and of the detachment for Minorca. Admiral Darby, on a
false alarm, or perhaps, a true one, had returned to Torbay a week ago,
where he is waiting for reinforcements. This is the fourth or fifth day
since the appearance of the enemy off Scilly. It is thought, I find here
(whither I came to-day), that the great object is our Jamaica fleet; but
that a detachment is gone to Ireland to do what mischief they can on the
coast before our ally, the Equinox, will beseech them to retire. Much
less force than this Armada would have done more harm two years ago,
when they left a card at Plymouth, than this can do; as Plymouth is now
very strong, and that there are great disciplined armies now in both
islands. Of Gibraltar we have no apprehensions.[1] I know less of

[Footnote 1: The Spaniards and French had been blockading Gibraltar for
more than two years, and continued the siege till the autumn of 1782,
when the blockading fleet was totally destroyed by the Governor, General
Eliot, who was created Lord Heathfield for the achievement.]

Lord George Gordon is standing candidate for the City of London on an
accidental vacancy; but his premature alarm last year has had a sinister
effect. In short, those riots have made mankind sick of them, and give
him no chance of success.

What can I say more? Nothing at present; but I will the moment any event
presents itself. My hope is that, after a fermentation, there will be a
settlement, and that peace will arise out of it.

The decree[1] you sent me against high heads diverted me. It is as
necessary here, but would not have such expeditious effect. The Queen
has never admitted feathers at Court; but, though the nation has grown
excellent courtiers, Fashion remained in opposition, and not a plume
less was worn anywhere else. Some centuries ago, the Clergy preached
against monstrous head-dresses; but Religion had no more power than our
Queen. It is better to leave the Mode to its own vagaries; if she is not
contradicted, she seldom remains long in the same mood. She is very
despotic; but, though her reign is endless, her laws are repealed as
fast as made.

[Footnote 1: _"The decree."_ The Grand Duke of Tuscany had just issued
an order prohibiting high head-dresses.]

Mrs. Damer,[1] General Conway's daughter, is going abroad to confirm a
very delicate constitution--I believe, at Naples. I will say very few
words on her, after telling you that, besides being his daughter, I love
her as my own child. It is not from wanting matter, but from having too
much. She has one of the most solid understandings I ever knew,
astonishingly improved, but with so much reserve and modesty, that I
have often told Mr. Conway he does not know the extent of her capacity
and the solidity of her reason. We have by accident discovered, that she
writes Latin like Pliny, and is learning Greek. In Italy she will be a
prodigy. She models like Bernini, has excelled the moderns in the
similitudes of her busts, and has lately begun one in marble. You must
keep all knowledge of these talents and acquisitions to yourself; she
would never forgive my mentioning, at least her mental qualities. You
may just hint that I talked of her statuary, as you may assist her if
she has a mind to borrow anything to copy from the Great Duke's
collection. Lady William Campbell, her uncle's widow, accompanies, who
is a very reasonable woman too, and equally shy. If they return through
Florence, pray give them a parcel of my letters. I had been told your
nephew would make you a visit this autumn, but I have heard nothing from
him. If you should see him, pray give him the parcel, for he will return
sooner than they.

[Footnote 1: Mrs. Damer had devoted herself to sculpture with an ability
which has given her a high place among artists. The bust of Nelson in
the armoury at Windsor is her work.]

I have a gouty pain in my hand, that would prevent my saying more, had
I more to say.



_Nov._ 29, 1781.

Your nephew is arrived, as he has told you himself; the sight of him,
for he called on me the next morning, was more than ordinarily welcome,
though your letter of the 10th, which I received the night before, had
dispelled many of my fears. I will now unfold them to you. A packet-boat
from Ostend was lost last week, and your nephew was named for one of the
passengers. As Mrs. Noel had expected him for a fortnight, I own my
apprehensions were strengthened; but I will say no more on a dissipated
panic. However, this incident and his half-wreck at Lerici will, I hope,
prevent him from the future from staying with you so late in the year;
and I see by your letter that you agree with me, of which I should be
sure though you had not said so.

I mentioned on Tuesday the captivity of Lord Cornwallis and his army,
the Columbus who was to bestow America on us again. A second army[1]
taken in a drag-net is an uncommon event, and happened but once to the
Romans, who sought adventures everywhere. We have not lowered our tone
on this new disgrace, though I think we shall talk no more of insisting
on _implicit submission_, which would rather be a gasconade than
firmness. In fact, there is one very unlucky circumstance already come
out, which must drive every American, to a man, from ever calling
himself our friend. By the tenth article of the capitulation, Lord
Cornwallis demanded that the loyal Americans in his army should not be
punished. This was flatly refused, and he has left them to be hanged. I
doubt no vote of Parliament will be able to blanch such a--such a--I
don't know what the word is for it; he must get his uncle the Archbishop
to christen it; there is no name for it in any Pagan vocabulary. I
suppose it will have a patent for being called Necessity. Well! there
ends another volume of the American war. It looks a little as if the
history of it would be all we should have for it, except forty
millions[2] of debt, and three other wars that have grown out of it, and
that do not seem so near to a conclusion. They say that Monsieur de
Maurepas, who is dying, being told that the Duc de Lauzun had brought
the news of Lord Cornwallis's surrender, said, from Racine's
"Mithridate" I think:--

Mes derniers regards out vu fuir les Romains.

How Lord Chatham will frown when they meet! for, since I began my
letter, the papers say that Maurepas is dead. The Duc de Nivernois, it
is said, is likely to succeed him as Minister; which is probable, as
they were brothers-in-law and friends, and the one would naturally
recommend the other. Perhaps, not for long, as the Queen's influence
gains ground.

[Footnote 1: The capitulation of Burgoyne at Saratoga has been mentioned
in a previous letter; and in October, 1781, Lord Cornwallis, whose army
was reduced to seven thousand men, was induced to surrender to
Washington, who, with eighteen thousand, had blockaded him at a village
called Yorktown; and it was the news of this disaster which at last
compelled the King to consent to relinquish the war.]

[Footnote 2: "_Forty millions._" Burke, in one of his speeches, asserted
the expense to have been L70,000,000, "besides one hundred thousand

The warmth in the House of Commons is prodigiously rekindled; but Lord
Cornwallis's fate has cost the Administration no ground _there_. The
names of most _eclat_ in the Opposition are two names to which those
walls have been much accustomed at the same period--CHARLES FOX and
WILLIAM PITT, second son of Lord Chatham.[1] Eloquence is the only one
of our brilliant qualities that does not seem to have degenerated
rapidly--but I shall leave debates to your nephew, now an ear-witness: I
could only re-echo newspapers. Is it not another odd coincidence of
events, that while the father Laurens is prisoner to Lord Cornwallis as
Constable of the Tower, the son Laurens signed the capitulation by which
Lord Cornwallis became prisoner? It is said too, I don't know if truly,
that this capitulation and that of Saratoga were signed on the same
anniversary. These are certainly the speculations of an idle man, and
the more trifling when one considers the moment. But alas! what would
_my_ most grave speculations avail? From the hour that fatal egg, the
Stamp Act, was laid, I disliked it and all the vipers hatched from it. I
now hear many curse it, who fed the vermin with poisonous weeds. Yet the
guilty and the innocent rue it equally hitherto! I would not answer for
what is to come! Seven years of miscarriages may sour the sweetest
tempers, and the most sweetened. Oh! where is the Dove with the
olive-branch? Long ago I told you that you and I might not live to see
an end of the American war. It is very near its end indeed now--its
consequences are far from a conclusion. In some respects, they are
commencing a new date, which will reach far beyond _us_. I desire not to
pry into that book of futurity. Could I finish my course in peace--but
one must take the chequered scenes of life as they come. What signifies
whether the elements are serene or turbulent, when a private old man
slips away? What has he and the world's concerns to do with one another?
He may sigh for his country, and babble about it; but he might as well
sit quiet and read or tell old stories; the past is as important to him
as the future.

[Footnote 1: Charles Fox and William Pitt were the second sons of the
first Lord Holland and the first Lord Chatham, Fox being by some years
the older. They were both men of great eloquence; but in this (as in
every other point) Pitt was the superior, even by the confession of Lord
Macaulay. As Prime Minister from 1783 to 1801, and afterwards in 1804-5,
Pitt proved himself the greatest statesman, the man more in advance of
his age than any of his predecessors or successors; while Fox's career
was for the most part one of an opposition so rancorous, and so
destitute of all patriotism, that he even exulted over the disasters of
Burgoyne and Cornwallis, and afterwards over the defeat of the Austrians
at Marengo in 1800, avowedly because the Austrians were our allies, and
it was a heavy blow to Pitt and his policy.]

_Dec. 3._

I had not sealed my letter, as it cannot set out till to-morrow; and
since I wrote it I have received yours, of the 20th of November, by your

I congratulate you on the success of your attempts, and admire the
heroic refusal of the General.[1] I shall certainly obey you, and not
mention it. Indeed, it would not easily be believed here, where as many
pence are irresistible....

[Footnote 1: General the Hon. James Murray was governor of Minorca,
which was besieged by the Spaniards, and was offered a vast bribe by the
Duc de Crillon, the commander of the besiegers, to give up Port St.

Don't trouble yourself about the third set of "Galuzzi." They are to be
had here now, and those for whom I intended them can buy them. I have
not made so much progress as I intended, and have not yet quite finished
the second volume. I detest Cosmo the Great. I am sorry, either that he
was so able a man, or so successful a man. When tyrants are great men
they should miscarry; if they are fools, they will miscarry of course.
Pray, is there any picture of Camilla Martelli, Cosmo's last wife? I had
never heard of her. The dolt, his son, I find used her ill, and then did
the same thing. Our friend, Bianca Capello, it seems, was a worthless
creature. I don't expect much entertainment but from the Life of
Ferdinand the Great. It is true I have dipped into the others,
particularly into the story of Cosmo the Third's wife, of whom I had
read much in French Memoires; and into that of John Gaston, which was so
fresh when I was at Florence; but as the author, in spite of the Great
Duke's injunctions, has tried to palliate some of the worst imputations
on Cosmo and his son Ferdinand, so he has been mighty modest about the
Caprean amours of John Gaston and his eldest brother. Adieu! I have
been writing a volume here myself. Pray remember to answer me about
Camilla Martelli.

P.S.--Is there any china left in the Great Duke's collection, made by
Duke Francis the First himself? Perhaps it was lately sold with what was
called the refuse of the wardrobe, whence I hear some charming things
were purchased, particularly the Medallions of the Medici, by Benvenuto
Cellini. That sale and the "History" are enough to make the old
Electress[1] shudder in her coffin.

[Footnote 1: The Electress Palatine Dowager was sister of John Gaston,
the last Grand Duke of the House of Medici; after her husband's death
she returned to Florence and died there.]



_April_ 13, 1782.

Your partiality to me, my good Sir, is much overseen, if you think me
fit to correct your Latin. Alas! I have not skimmed ten pages of Latin
these dozen years. I have dealt in nothing but English, French, and a
little Italian; and do not think, if my life depended on it, I could
write four lines of pure Latin. I have had occasion once or twice to
speak that language, and soon found that all my verbs were Italian with
Roman terminations. I would not on any account draw you into a scrape,
by depending on my skill in what I have half forgotten. But you are in
the metropolis of Latium. If you distrust your own knowledge, which I
do not, especially from the specimen you have sent me, surely you must
have good critics at your elbow to consult.

In truth, I do not love Roman inscriptions in lieu of our own
language,[1] though, if anywhere, proper in an University; neither can I
approve writing what the Romans themselves would not understand. What
does it avail to give a Latin tail to a Guildhall? Though the words are
used by moderns, would _major_ convey to Cicero the idea of a _mayor_?
_Architectus_, I believe, is the right word; but I doubt whether
_veteris jam perantiquae_ is classic for a dilapidated building--but do
not depend on me; consult some better judges.

[Footnote 1: Walpole certainly here shows himself superior in judgement
to Johnson, who, when Burke, Reynolds, and others, in a "round-robin,"
requested that the epitaph on Goldsmith, which was entrusted to him to
draw up, should be in English instead of Latin, refused, with the absurd
expression that "he would never be guilty of defacing Westminster Abbey
with an English inscription."]

Though I am glad of the late _revolution_,[1] a word for which I have
great reverence, I shall certainly not dispute with you thereon. I abhor
exultation. If the change produces peace, I shall make a bonfire in my
heart. Personal interest I have none; you and I shall certainly never
profit by the politics to which we are attached. The "Archaeologic
Epistle" I admire exceedingly, though I am sorry it attacks Mr.
Bryant,[2] whom I love and respect. The Dean is so absurd an oaf, that
he deserves to be ridiculed. Is anything more hyperbolic than his
preferences of Rowley to Homer, Shakspeare, and Milton? Whether Rowley
or Chatterton was the author, are the poems in any degree comparable to
those authors? is not a ridiculous author an object of ridicule? I do
not even guess at your meaning in your conclusive paragraph on that
subject: Dictionary-writer I suppose alludes to Johnson; but surely you
do not equal the compiler of a dictionary to a genuine poet? Is a
brickmaker on a level with Mr. Essex? Nor can I hold that exquisite wit
and satire are Billingsgate; if they were, Milles and Johnson would be
able to write an answer to the "Epistle." I do as little guess whom you
mean that got a pension by Toryism: if Johnson too, he got a pension for
having abused pensioners, and yet took one himself, which was
contemptible enough. Still less know I who preferred opposition to
principles, which is not a very common case; whoever it was, as Pope

The way he took was strangely round about.

[Footnote 1: In March Lord North resigned, and been replaced by Lord
Rockingham, who had been Prime Minister before in 1765.]

[Footnote 2: Bryant, the celebrated or notorious critic, who published a
treatise in which he denied the existence of Troy, and even called in
question that of Homer--a work which, whether Walpole agreed with him on
this point or not, afterwards drew down on him the indignant
denunciations of Byron. It was well for him that he wrote before the
discoveries of Dr. Schliemann.]



STRAWBERRY HILL, _Sept._ 8, 1782.

... I am perfectly ignorant of the state of the war abroad; they say we
are in no pain for Gibraltar: but I know that we are in a state of war
at home that is shocking. I mean, from the enormous profusion of
housebreakers, highwaymen, and footpads; and, what is worse, from the
savage barbarities of the two latter, who commit the most wanton
cruelties. This evil is another fruit of the American war. Having no
vent for the convicts that used to be transported to our late colonies,
a plan was adopted for confining them on board of lighters for the term
of their sentences. In those colleges, undergraduates in villainy
commence Masters of Arts, and at the expiration of their studies issue
as mischievous as if they had taken their degrees in law, physic, or
divinity, at one of our regular universities; but, having no profession,
nor testimonial to their characters, they can get no employment, and
therefore live upon the public. In short, the grievance is so crying,
that one dare not stir out after dinner but well-armed. If one goes
abroad to dinner, you would think one was going to the relief of
Gibraltar. You may judge how depraved we are, when the war has not
consumed half the reprobates, nor press-gangs thinned their numbers! But
no wonder--how should the morals of the people be purified, when such
frantic dissipation reigns above them? Contagion does not mount, but
descend. A new theatre is going to be erected merely for people of
fashion, that they may not be confined to vulgar hours--that is, to day
or night. Fashion is always silly, for, before it can spread far, it
must be calculated for silly people; as examples of sense, wit, or
ingenuity could be imitated only by a few. All the discoveries that I
can perceive to have been made by the present age, is to prefer riding
about the streets rather than on the roads or on the turf, and being too
late for everything. Thus, though we have more public diversions than
would suffice for two capitals, nobody goes to them till they are over.
This is literally true. Ranelagh, that is, the music there, finishes at
half an hour after ten at night; but the most fashionable set out for
it, though above a mile out of town, at eleven or later. Well! but is
not this censure being old and cross? were not the charming people of my
youth guilty of equivalent absurdities? Oh yes; but the sensible folks
of my youth had not lost America, nor dipped us in wars with half
Europe, that cost us fifteen millions a year. I believe the Jews went to
Ranelagh at midnight, though Titus was at Knightsbridge. But Titus
demolished their Ranelagh as well as Jerusalem. Adieu!



BERKELEY SQUARE, _Dec._ 2, 1783.

... Your nephew is in town, but confined by the gout. I called on him,
but did not see him; yet you may be very easy, for he expects to be
abroad in a day or two. I can make you as easy about another point, too;
but, if you have not learnt it from him, do not take notice to him that
you know it. Mrs. Noel has informed me that his daughter's treaty of
marriage is broken off, and in a fortunate way. The peer, father of the
lover, obliged _him_ to declare off; and Mrs. Noel says that your niece
is in good spirits. All this is just what one should have wished. Your
nephew has sent me a good and most curious print from you of the old
Pretender's marriage: I never saw one before. It is a great present to
my collection of English portraits. The Farnesian books I have not yet
received, and have forgotten the name of the gentleman to whom you
entrusted them, and must search among your letters for it; or, tell it
me again.

The politicians of London, who at present are not the most numerous
corporation, are warm on a Bill for a new regulation of the East Indies,
brought in by Mr. Fox.[1] Some even of his associates apprehended his
being defeated, or meant to defeat him; but his marvellous abilities
have hitherto triumphed conspicuously, and on two divisions in the House
of Commons he had majorities of 109 and 114. On _that_ field he will
certainly be victorious: the forces will be more nearly balanced when
the Lords fight the battle; but, though the Opposition will have more
generals and more able, he is confident that his troops will overmatch
theirs; and, in Parliamentary engagements, a superiority of numbers is
not vanquished by the talents of the commanders, as often happens in
more martial encounters. His competitor, Mr. Pitt, appears by no means
an adequate rival. Just like their fathers, Mr. Pitt has brilliant
language, Mr. Fox solid sense; and such luminous powers of displaying it
clearly, that mere eloquence is but a Bristol stone, when set by the
diamond Reason.

[Footnote 1: In the session of 1783 Fox, as the leader of the Coalition
Ministry in the House of Commons, brought in a Bill for the reform of
the government of India on the expiration of the existing Charter of the
Company. It was denounced by Pitt as having for its principal object the
perpetuation of the administration by the enormous patronage it would
place at the disposal of the Treasury; and, through the interposition of
the King, whose conduct on this occasion must be confessed to have been
wholly unconstitutional, it was defeated in the House of Lords. The King
on this dismissed the Ministry, and Pitt became Prime Minister.]

Do not wonder that we do not entirely attend to things of earth: Fashion
has ascended to a higher element. All our views are directed to the air.
_Balloons_ occupy senators, philosophers, ladies, everybody. France gave
us the _ton_; and, as yet, we have not come up to our model. Their
monarch is so struck with the heroism of two of his subjects who
adventured their persons in two of these new _floating batteries_, that
he has ordered statues of them, and contributed a vast sum towards their
marble immortality. All this may be very important: to me it looks
somewhat foolish. Very early in my life I remember this town at gaze on
a man who _flew down_ a rope from the top of St. Martin's steeple; now,
late in my day, people are staring at a voyage to the moon. The former
Icarus broke his neck at a subsequent flight: when a similar accident
happens to modern knights-errant, adieu to air-balloons.

_Apropos_, I doubt these new kites have put young Astley's nose out of
joint, who went to Paris lately under their Queen's protection,[1] and
expected to be Prime Minister, though he only ventured his neck by
dancing a minuet on three horses at full gallop, and really in that
attitude has as much grace as the Apollo Belvedere. When the arts are
brought to such perfection in Europe, who would go, like Sir Joseph
Banks, in search of islands in the Atlantic, where the natives in six
thousand years have not improved the science of carving fishing-hooks
out of bones or flints! Well! I hope these new mechanic meteors will
prove only playthings for the learned and the idle, and not be converted
into new engines of destruction to the human race, as is so often the
case of refinements or discoveries in science. _The wicked wit of man
always studies to apply the result of talents to enslaving, destroying,
or cheating his fellow-creatures._ Could we reach the moon, we should
think of reducing it to a province of some European kingdom.

[Footnote 1: In the spring Montgolfier had made the first ascent in a
balloon, which as a novelty created great excitement in Paris. The Queen
gave permission for the balloon to be called by her name; and the next
year, during a visit of Gustavus, King of Sweden, to Versailles, it went
up from the grounds of the Trianon, and made a successful voyage to
Chantilly (the Editor's "Life of Marie Antoinette," c. 19).]


P.S.--The Opposition in the House of Commons were so humbled by their
two defeats, that, though Mr. Pitt had declared he would contest every
clause (of the India Bill) in the committee, (where in truth, if the
Bill is so bad as he says, he ought at least to have tried to amend it,)
that he slunk from the contest, and all the blanks were filled up
without obstruction, the opponents promising only to resist it in its
last stage on Monday next; but really, having no hopes but in the House
of Lords, where, however, I do not believe they expect to succeed. Mr.
Pitt's reputation is much sunk; nor, though he is a much more correct
logician than his father, has he the same firmness and perseverance. It
is no wonder that he was dazzled by his own premature fame; yet his late
checks may be of use to him, and teach him to appreciate his strength
better, or to wait till it is confirmed. Had he listed under Mr. Fox,
who loved and courted him, he would not only have discovered modesty,
but have been more likely to succeed him, than by commencing his
competitor. But what have I to do to look into futurity?[1]

[Footnote 1: Evidently not much: as few prophecies have been more
strikingly and speedily falsified.]



STRAWBERRY HILL, _Oct._ 15, 1784.

As I have heard nothing from you, I flatter myself Lady Aylesbury mends,
or I think you would have brought her again to the physicians: you will,
I conclude, next week, as towards the end of it the ten days they named
will be expired. I must be in town myself about Thursday on some little
business of my own.

As I was writing this, my servants called me away to see a balloon; I
suppose Blanchard's, that was to be let off from Chelsea this morning. I
saw it from the common field before the window of my round tower. It
appeared about a third of the size of the moon, or less, when setting,
something above the tops of the trees on the level horizon. It was then
descending; and, after rising and declining a little, it sunk slowly
behind the trees, I should think about or beyond Sunbury, at five
minutes after one. But you know I am a very inexact guesser at measures
and distances, and may be mistaken in many miles; and you know how
little I have attended to these _airgonauts_: only t'other night I
diverted myself with a sort of meditation on future _airgonation_,
supposing that it will not only be perfected, but will depose
navigation. I did not finish it, because I am not skilled, like the
gentleman that used to write political ship-news, in that style which I
wanted to perfect my essay: but in the prelude I observed how ignorant
the ancients were in supposing Icarus melted the wax of his wings by too
near access to the sun, whereas he would have been frozen to death
before he made the first post on that road. Next, I discovered an
alliance between Bishop Wilkins's[1] art of flying and his plan of
universal language; the latter of which he no doubt calculated to
prevent the want of an interpreter when he should arrive at the moon.

[Footnote 1: Dr. Wilkins, Bishop of Chester in the reign of Charles II.,
was chiefly instrumental in the foundation of the Royal Society. Among
his works was a treatise to prove that "It is probable there may be
another habitable world in the moon, with a discourse concerning the
possibility of a passage thither." Burnet ("Hist. of his Own Times,"
Anno 1661) says of him, "He was a great observer and promoter of
experimental philosophy, which was then a new thing. He was naturally
ambitious, but was the wisest clergyman I ever knew." He married
Cromwell's sister, and his daughter was the wife of Archbishop

But I chiefly amused myself with ideas of the change that would be made
in the world by the substitution of balloons to ships. I supposed our
seaports to become _deserted villages_; and Salisbury Plain, Newmarket
Heath, (another canvass for alteration of ideas,) and all downs (but
_the_ Downs) arising into dockyards for aerial vessels. Such a field
would be ample in furnishing new speculations. But to come to my

"The good balloon Daedalus, Captain Wing-ate, will fly in a few days for
China; he will stop at the top of the Monument to take in passengers.

"Arrived on Brand-sands, the Vulture, Captain Nabob; the Tortoise snow,
from Lapland; the Pet-en-l'air, from Versailles; the Dreadnought, from
Mount Etna, Sir W. Hamilton, commander; the Tympany, Montgolfier; and
the Mine-A-in-a-bandbox, from the Cape of Good Hope. Foundered in a
hurricane, the Bird of Paradise, from Mount Ararat. The Bubble, Sheldon,
took fire, and was burnt to her gallery; and the Phoenix is to be cut
down to a second-rate."

In those days Old Sarum will again be a town and have houses in it.
There will be fights in the air with wind-guns and bows and arrows; and
there will be prodigious increase of land for tillage, especially in
France, by breaking up all public roads as useless. But enough of my
fooleries; for which I am sorry you must pay double postage.



_June_ 22, 1785.

Since I received your book,[1] Sir, I scarce ceased from reading till I
had finished it; so admirable I found it, and so full of good sense,
brightly delivered. Nay, I am pleased with myself, too, for having
formed the same opinions with you on several points, in which we do not
agree with the generality of men. On some topics, I confess frankly, I
do not concur with you: considering how many you have touched, it would
be wonderful if we agreed on all, or I should not be sincere if I said I
did. There are others on which I have formed no opinion; for I should
give myself an impertinent air, with no truth, if I pretended to have
any knowledge of many subjects, of which, young as you are, you seem to
have made yourself master. Indeed, I have gone deeply into nothing, and
therefore shall not discuss those heads on which we differ most; as
probably I should not defend my own opinions well. There is but one part
of your work to which I will venture any objection, though you have
considered it much, and I little, very little indeed, with regard to
your proposal, which to me is but two days old: I mean your plan for the
improvement of our language, which I allow has some defects, and which
wants correction in several particulars. The specific amendment which
you propose, and to which I object, is the addition of _a's_ and _o's_
to our terminations. To change _s_ for _a_ in the plural number of our
substantives and adjectives, would be so violent an alteration, that I
believe neither the power of Power nor the power of Genius would be able
to effect it. In most cases I am convinced that very strong innovations
are more likely to make impression than small and almost imperceptible
differences, as in religion, medicine, politics, &c.; but I do not think
that language can be treated in the same manner, especially in a refined

[Footnote 1: Mr. Pinkerton was a Scotch lawyer, who published a volume
entitled "Letters on Literature" under the name of Heron; which,
however, he afterwards suppressed, as full of ill-considered ideas,
which was not strange, as he was only twenty-five.]

When a nation first emerges from barbarism, two or three masterly
writers may operate wonders; and the fewer the number of writers, as the
number is small at such a period, the more absolute is their authority.
But when a country has been polishing itself for two or three centuries,
and when, consequently, authors are innumerable, the most super-eminent
genius (or whoever is esteemed so, though without foundation) possesses
very limited empire, and is far from meeting implicit obedience. Every
petty writer will contest very novel institutions: every inch of change
in any language will be disputed; and the language will remain as it
was, longer than the tribunal which should dictate very heterogeneous
alterations. With regard to adding _a_ or _o_ to final consonants,
consider, Sir, should the usage be adopted, what havoc it would make!
All our poetry would be defective in metre, or would become at once as
obsolete as Chaucer; and could we promise ourselves, that, though we
should acquire better harmony and more rhymes, we should have a new
crop of poets, to replace Milton, Dryden, Gray, and, I am sorry you will
not allow me to add, Pope! You might enjoin our prose to be reformed, as
you have done by the "Spectator" in your thirty-fourth Letter; but try
Dryden's "Ode" by your new institution.

I beg your pardon for these trivial observations: I assure you I could
write a letter ten times as long, if I were to specify all I like in
your work. I more than like most of it; and I am charmed with your
glorious love of liberty, and your other humane and noble sentiments.
Your book I shall with great pleasure send to Mr. Colman[1]: may I tell
him, without naming you, that it is written by the author of the comedy
I offered to him? He must be struck with your very handsome and generous
conduct in printing your encomiums on him, after his rejecting your
piece. It is as great as uncommon, and gives me as good an opinion of
your heart, Sir, as your book does of your great sense. Both assure me
that you will not take ill the liberty I have used in expressing my
doubts on your plan for amending our language, or for any I may use in
dissenting from a few other sentiments in your work; as I shall in what
I think your too low opinion of some of the French writers, of your
preferring Lady Mary Wortley to Madame de Sevigne, and of your esteeming
Mr. Hume a man of deeper and more solid understanding than Mr. Gray. In
the two last articles it is impossible to think more differently than we
do.[2] In Lady Mary's "Letters," which I never could read but once, I
discovered no merit of any sort; yet I have seen others by her
(unpublished) that have a good deal of wit; and for Mr. Hume, give me
leave to say that I think your opinion, "that he might have ruled a
state," ought to be qualified a little; as in the very next page you
say, his "History" is "a mere apology for prerogative," and a very weak
one. If he could have ruled a state, one must presume, at best, that he
would have been an able tyrant; and yet I should suspect that a man,
who, sitting coolly in his chamber, could forge but a weak apology for
the prerogative, would not have exercised it very wisely. I knew
personally and well both Mr. Hume and Mr. Gray, and thought there was no
degree of comparison between their understandings; and, in fact, Mr.
Hume's writings were so superior to his conversation, that I frequently
said he understood nothing till he had written upon it. What you say,
Sir, of the discord in his "History" from his love of prerogative and
hatred of churchmen, flatters me much; as I have taken notice of that
very unnatural discord in a piece I printed some years ago, but did not
publish, and which I will show to you when I have the pleasure of seeing
you here; a satisfaction I shall be glad to taste, whenever you will let
me know you are at leisure after the beginning of next week. I have the
honour to be, Sir, &c.

[Footnote 1: Mr. Colman was manager of the Haymarket Theatre.]

[Footnote 2: It is difficult to judge what were the published letters of
Lady Mary which Walpole could have seen. If Mr. Pinkerton preferred them
to those of Mme. de Sevigne, he could certainly have adduced plausible
reasons for his preference. There is far greater variety in them, as was
natural from the different lives led by the two fair writers. Mme. de
Sevigne's was almost confined to Paris and the Court; Lady Mary was a
great traveller. Her husband was English ambassador at Constantinople
and other places, and her letters give descriptions of that city, of
Vienna, the Hague, Venice, Rome, Naples, &c., &c. It may be fitly
pointed out here that in a letter to Lord Strafford Walpole expresses an
opinion that letter-writing is a branch of literature in which women are
likely to excel men; "for our sex is too jealous of the reputation of
good sense to hazard a thousand trifles and negligences which give
grace, ease, and familiarity to correspondence."]



_June_ 26, 1785.

I have sent your book to Mr. Colman, Sir, and must desire you in return
to offer my grateful thanks to Mr. Knight, who has done me an honour, to
which I do not know how I am entitled, by the present of his poetry,
which is very classic, and beautiful, and tender, and of chaste

To _your_ book, Sir, I am much obliged on many accounts; particularly
for having recalled my mind to subjects of delight, to which it was
grown dulled by age and indolence. In consequence of your reclaiming it,
I asked myself whence you feel so much disregard for certain authors
whose fame is established: you have assigned good reasons for
withholding your approbation from some, on the plea of their being
imitators: it was natural, then, to ask myself again, whence they had
obtained so much celebrity. I think I have discovered a cause, which I
do not remember to have seen noted; and _that_ cause I suspect to have
been, that certain of those authors possessed grace:--do not take me for
a disciple of Lord Chesterfield, nor imagine that I mean to erect grace
into a capital ingredient of writing, but I do believe that it is a
perfume that will serve from putrefaction, and is distinct even from
style, which regards expression. _Grace_, I think, belongs to _manner_.
It is from the charm of grace that I believe some authors, not in your
favour, obtained part of their renown; Virgil, in particular: and yet I
am far from disagreeing with you on his subject in general. There is
such a dearth of invention in the Aeneid (and when he did invent, it was
often so foolishly), so little good sense, so little variety, and so
little power over the passions, that I have frequently said, from
contempt for his matter, and from the charm of his harmony, that I
believe I should like his poem better, if I was to hear it repeated, and
did not understand Latin. On the other hand, he has more than harmony:
whatever he utters is said gracefully, and he ennobles his images,
especially in the Georgics; or, at least, it is more sensible there,
from the humility of the subject. A Roman farmer might not understand
his diction in agriculture; but he made a Roman courtier understand
farming, the farming of that age, and could captivate a lord of
Augustus's bedchamber, and tempt him to listen to themes of rusticity.
On the contrary, Statius and Claudian, though talking of war, would
make a soldier despise them as bullies. That graceful manner of thinking
in Virgil seems to me to be more than style, if I do not refine too
much: and I admire, I confess, Mr. Addison's phrase, that Virgil "tossed
about his dung with an air of majesty." A style may be excellent without
grace: for instance, Dr. Swift's. Eloquence may bestow an immortal
style, and one of more dignity; yet eloquence may want that ease, that
genteel air that flows from or constitutes grace. Addison himself was
master of that grace, even in his pieces of humour, and which do not owe
their merit to style; and from that combined secret he excels all men
that ever lived; but Shakspeare, in humour,[1] by never dropping into an
approach towards burlesque and buffoonery, when even his humour
descended to characters that in other hands would have been vulgarly
low. Is not it clear that Will Wimble was a gentleman, though he always
lived at a distance from good company? Fielding had as much humour,
perhaps, as Addison; but, having no idea of grace, is perpetually
disgusting. His innkeepers and parsons are the grossest of their
profession; and his gentlemen are awkward when they should be at their

[Footnote 1: "_Addison's humour._" Undoubtedly there is much
gentlemanlike humour in Addison's Sir Roger de Coverley; but to say that
he "excels all men that ever lived" in that quality is an exaggeration
hardly to be understood in a man who had seen the "Rivals" and the
"Critic." In the present day no one, it may be supposed, would echo it,
after Scott with the Baron, the Antiquary, Dalgetty, &c., and Thackeray
with Mrs. O'Dowd, Major Pendennis, and Colonel Newcome. The epithet
"_Vafer_" applied to Horace by Persius is not inapplicable to Addison.
There is a slyness about some of his sketches which breathes something
of the Horatian facetiousness. It is remarkable that in all this long
and varied criticism Walpole scarcely mentions _wit_, which he seems to
allow to no one but Horace and Boileau. His comparative denial of it to
Aristophanes and Lucian creates a supposition that his Greek was
inferior to his Latin scholarship. It is not always easy to distinguish
humour from wit; of the two, the former seems the higher quality. Wit is
verbal, conversant with language, combining keenness and terseness of
expression with a keen perception of resemblances or differences; humour
has, comparatively speaking, little to do with language, and is of
different kinds, varying with the class of composition in which it is
found. In one of his "Imaginary Conversations" Savage Landor remarks
that "It is no uncommon thing to hear, 'Such an one has humour rather
than wit.' Here the expression can only mean _pleasantry_, for whoever
has humour has wit, although it does not follow that whoever has wit has
humour.... The French have little humour, because they have little
_character_; they excel all nations in wit, because of their levity and

The Grecians had grace in everything; in poetry, in oratory, in
statuary, in architecture, and probably, in music and painting. The
Romans, it is true, were their imitators; but, having grace too,
imparted it to their copies, which gave them a merit that almost raises
them to the rank of originals. Horace's "Odes" acquired their fame, no
doubt, from the graces of his manner and purity of his style--the chief
praise of Tibullus and Propertius, who certainly cannot boast of more
meaning than Horace's "Odes."

Waller, whom you proscribe, Sir, owed his reputation to the graces of
his manner, though he frequently stumbled, and even fell flat; but a few
of his smaller pieces are as graceful as possible: one might say that he
excelled in painting ladies in enamel, but could not succeed in
portraits in oil, large as life. Milton had such superior merit, that I
will only say, that if his angels, his Satan, and his Adam have as much
dignity as the Apollo Belvedere, his Eve has all the delicacy and
graces of the Venus of Medicis; as his description of Eden has the
colouring of Albano. Milton's tenderness imprints ideas as graceful as
Guido's Madonnas: and the "Allegro," "Penseroso," and "Comus" might be
denominated from the three Graces; as the Italians gave similar titles
to two or three of Petrarch's best sonnets.

Cowley, I think, would have had grace (for his mind was graceful) if he
had had any ear, or if his task had not been vitiated by the pursuit of
wit; which, when it does not offer itself naturally, degenerates into
tinsel or pertness. Pertness is the mistaken affection of grace, as
pedantry produces erroneous dignity; the familiarity of the one, and the
clumsiness of the other, distort or prevent grace. Nature, that
furnishes samples of all qualities, and on the scale of gradation
exhibits all possible shades, affords us types that are more apposite
than words. The eagle is sublime, the lion majestic, the swan graceful,
the monkey pert, the bear ridiculously awkward. I mention these as more
expressive and comprehensive than I could make definitions of my
meaning; but I will apply the swan only, under whose wings I will
shelter an apology for Racine, whose pieces give me an idea of that
bird. The colouring of the swan is pure; his attitudes are graceful; he
never displeases you when sailing on his proper element. His feet may be
ugly, his notes hissing, not musical, his walk not natural; he can soar,
but it is with difficulty;--still, the impression the swan leaves is
that of grace. So does Racine.

Boileau may be compared to the dog, whose sagacity is remarkable, as
well as its fawning on its master, and its snarling at those it
dislikes. If Boileau was too austere to admit the pliability of grace,
he compensates by good sense and propriety. He is like (for I will drop
animals) an upright magistrate, whom you respect, but whose justice and
severity leave an awe that discourages familiarity. His copies of the
ancients may be too servile: but, if a good translator deserves praise,
Boileau deserves more. He certainly does not fall below his originals;
and, considering at what period he wrote, has greater merit still. By
his imitations he held out to his countrymen models of taste, and
banished totally the bad taste of his predecessors. For his "Lutrin,"[1]
replete with excellent poetry, wit, humour, and satire, he certainly was
not obliged to the ancients. Excepting Horace, how little idea had
either Greeks or Romans of wit and humour! Aristophanes and Lucian,
compared with moderns, were, the one a blackguard, and the other a
buffoon. In my eyes, the "Lutrin," the "Dispensary," and the "Rape of
the Lock," are standards of grace and elegance, not to be paralleled by
antiquity; and eternal reproaches to Voltaire, whose indelicacy in the
"Pucelle" degraded him as much, when compared with the three authors I
have named, as his "Henriade" leaves Virgil, and even Lucan, whom he
more resembles, by far his superiors.

[Footnote 1: The "Lutrin" is a critical poem in six cantos. Lutrin means
a desk; and Hallam, who does not seem to rate it very highly, regards
the plan of it as borrowed from Tassoni's "Secchia rapita," Secchia
meaning a pitcher.]

"The Dunciad" is blemished by the offensive images of the games; but the
poetry appears to me admirable; and, though the fourth book has
obscurities, I prefer it to the three others: it has descriptions not
surpassed by any poet that ever existed, and which surely a writer
merely ingenious will never equal. The lines on Italy, on Venice, on
Convents, have all the grace for which I contend as distinct from
poetry, though united with the most beautiful; and the "Rape of the
Lock," besides the originality of great part of the invention, is a
standard of graceful writing.

In general, I believe that what I call grace, is denominated elegance;
but by grace I mean something higher. I will explain myself by
instances--Apollo is graceful, Mercury is elegant. Petrarch, perhaps,
owed his whole merit to the harmony of his numbers and the graces of his
style. They conceal his poverty of meaning and want of variety. His
complaints, too, may have added an interest, which, had his passion been
successful, and had expressed itself with equal sameness, would have
made the number of his sonnets insupportable. Melancholy in poetry, I am
inclined to think, contributes to grace, when it is not disgraced by
pitiful lamentations, such as Ovid's and Cicero's in their banishments.
We respect melancholy, because it imparts a similar affection, pity. A
gay writer, who should only express satisfaction without variety, would
soon be nauseous.

Madame de Sevigne shines both in grief and gaiety. There is too much of
sorrow for her daughter's absence; yet it is always expressed by new
terms, by new images, and often by wit, whose tenderness has a
melancholy air. When she forgets her concern, and returns to her natural
disposition--gaiety, every paragraph has novelty: her allusions, her
applications are the happiest possible. She has the art of making you
acquainted with all her acquaintance, and attaches you even to the spots
she inhabited. Her language is correct, though unstudied; and, when her
mind is full of any great event, she interests you with the warmth of a
dramatic writer, not with the chilling impartiality of an historian.
Pray read her accounts of the death of Turenne, and of the arrival of
King James in France, and tell me whether you do not know their persons
as if you had lived at the time.

For my part, if you will allow me a word of digression (not that I have
written with any method), I hate the cold impartiality recommended to
Historians: "Si vis me flere, dolendum est Primum ipsi tibi:"[1] but,
that I may not wander again, nor tire, nor contradict you any more, I
will finish now, and shall be glad if you will dine at Strawberry Hill
next Sunday, and take a bed there, when I will tell you how many more
parts of your book have pleased me, than have startled my opinions, or,
perhaps, prejudices. I have the honour to be, Sir, with regard, &c.

[Footnote 1: A quotation from Horace's "Ars Poetica," 102.]



STRAWBERRY HILL, _Aug._ 26, 1785.

Though I am delighted to see your handwriting, I beg you will indulge me
no more with it. It fatigues you, and that gives me more pain than your
letters can give me satisfaction. Dictate a few words on your health to
your secretary; it will suffice. I don't care a straw about the King and
Queen of Naples, nor whether they visit your little Great Duke and
Duchess. I am glad when monarchs are playing with one another, instead
of scratching: it is better they should be idle than mischievous. As I
desire you not to write, I cannot be alarmed at a strange hand.

Your philosophic account of yourself is worthy of you. Still, I am
convinced you are better than you seem to think. A cough is vexatious,
but in old persons is a great preservative. It is one of the forms in
which the gout appears, and exercises and clears the lungs. I know
actually two persons, no chickens, who are always very ill if they have
no annual cough. You may imagine that I have made observations in plenty
on the gout: yes, yes, I know its ways and its jesuitic evasions. I beg
its pardon, it is a better soul than it appears to be; it is we that
misuse it: if it does not appear with all its credentials, we take it
for something else, and attempt to cure it. Being a remedy, and not a
disease, it will not be cured; and it is better to let it have its way.
If it is content to act the personage of a cough, pray humour it: it
will prolong your life, if you do not contradict it and fling it
somewhere else.

The Administration has received a total defeat in Ireland, which has
probably saved us another civil war.[1] Don't wonder that I am
continually recollecting my father's _Quieta non movere_. I have never
seen that maxim violated with impunity. They say, that in town a change
in the Ministry is expected. I am not of that opinion; but, indeed,
nobody can be more ignorant than I. I see nobody here but people
attached to the Court, and who, however, know no more than I do; and if
I did see any of the other side, they would not be able to give me
better information; nor am I curious.

[Footnote 1: In the session of 1785 Grattan opposed a body of
"resolutions" calculated to relieve the distress of the Irish
manufacturers, and altogether to emancipate the trade and commerce of
Ireland from many mischievous restrictions which had hitherto restrained
their progress. Lord Stanhope, in his "Life of Pitt," i. 273, quotes a
description of Grattan's speech as "a display of perhaps the most
beautiful eloquence ever heard, but seditious and inflammatory to a
degree hardly credible;" and he so far prevailed, that in the Irish
House of Commons the resolutions were only carried by a majority of
twenty-nine--one so small, that the Duke of Rutland, the
Lord-Lieutenant, felt it safer to withdraw them.]

A stranger event than a revolution in politics has happened at Paris.
The Cardinal de Rohan is committed to the Bastile for forging the
Queen's hand to obtain a collar of diamonds;[1] I know no more of the
story: but, as he is very gallant, it is guessed (_here_ I mean) that it
was a present for some woman. These circumstances are little Apostolic,
and will not prop the falling Church of Rome. They used to forge
donations and decretals. This is a new manoeuvre. Nor were Cardinals
wont to be treated so cavalierly for peccadilloes. The House of Rohan is
under a cloud: his Eminence's cousin, the Prince of Guemene,[2] was
forced to fly, two or three years ago, for being the Prince of
Swindlers. _Our_ Nabobs are not treated so roughly; yet I doubt they
collect diamonds still more criminally.

[Footnote 1: "_A collar of diamonds._" The transaction here referred
to--though, strangely enough, it is looked on as one that had a
political interest--was, in fact, a scheme of a broken-down gambler to
swindle a jeweller out of a diamond necklace of great value. The Court
jeweller had collected a large number of unusually fine diamonds, which
he had made into a necklace, in the hope that the Queen would buy it,
and the Cardinal de Rohan, who was a member of one of the noblest
families in France, but a man of a character so notoriously profligate,
that, when he was ambassador at Vienna, Maria Teresa had insisted on his
recall, was mixed up in the fraud in a manner scarcely compatible with
ignorance of its character. He was brought to trial with the more
evident agents in the fraud, and the whole history of the French
Parliaments scarcely records any transaction more disgraceful than his
acquittal. For some months the affair continued to furnish pretext to
obscure libellers to calumniate the Queen with insinuations not less
offensive than dangerous from their vagueness; all such writers finding
a ready paymaster in the infamous Duc d'Orleans.]

[Footnote 2: The Prince de Guemenee, a very profligate and extravagant
man, by 1782 had become so hopelessly embarrassed that he was compelled
to leave Paris, and consequently the Princess, his wife, who ever since
the birth of Louis XVI. had held the office of "Governess of the Royal
Children," a life-appointment, was forced to resign it, much to the
pleasure of the Queen, who disapproved of her character, and bestowed
the office on Mme. de Polignac, and when, at the beginning of the
Revolution, she also fled from Paris, on Mme. de Tourzel. But, in truth,
under Marie Antoinette the office was almost a sinecure. She considered
superintendence of the education of her children as among the most
important of her duties; and how judiciously she performed it is seen in
an admirable letter of hers to Mme. de Tourzel, which can hardly be
surpassed for its discernment and good-feeling. (See the Editor's "Life
of Marie Antoinette," iii. 55.)]

Your nephew will be sorry to hear that the Duke of Montrose's third
grandson, Master William Douglas, died yesterday of a fever. These poor
Montroses are most unfortunate persons! They had the comfort this spring
of seeing Lord Graham marry: the Duchess said, "I thought I should die
of grief, and now I am ready to die of joy." Lady Graham soon proved
with child, but soon miscarried; and the Duke and Duchess may not live
to have the consolation of seeing an heir--for we must hope and make
visions to the last! _I_ am asking for samples of Ginori's porcelain at
sixty-eight! Well! are not heirs to great names and families as frail
foundations of happiness? and what signifies what baubles we pursue?
Philosophers make systems, and we simpletons collections: and we are as
wise as they--wiser perhaps, for we know that in a few years our
rarities will be dispersed at an auction; and they flatter themselves
that their reveries will be immortal, which has happened to no system
yet. A curiosity may rise in value; a system is exploded.

Such reflections are applicable to politics, and make me look on them as
equally nugatory. Last year Mr. Fox was burnt in effigy; now Mr. Pitt
is. Oh! my dear Sir, it is all a farce! On _this day_, about a hundred
years ago (look at my date), was born the wisest man I have seen.[1] He
kept this country in peace for twenty years, and it flourished
accordingly. He injured no man; was benevolent, good-humoured, and did
nothing but the common necessary business of the State. Yet was he
burnt in effigy too; and so traduced, that his name is not purified
yet!--Ask why his memory is not in veneration? You will be told, from
libels and trash, that he was _the Grand Corruptor_.--What! did he
corrupt the nation to make it happy, rich, and peaceable? Who was
oppressed during his administration? Those saints Bolingbroke and
Pulteney were kept out of the Paradise of the Court; ay, and the
Pretender was kept out and was kept quiet. Sir Robert fell: a Rebellion
ensued in four years, and the crown shook on the King's head. The
nation, too, which had been tolerably corrupted before his time, and
which, with all its experience and with its eyes opened, has not cured
itself of being corrupt, is not quite so prosperous as in the day of
that man, who, it seems, poisoned its morals. Formerly it was the most
virtuous nation on the earth!

[Footnote 1: He means his own father, the Prime Minister from 1720 to

Under Henry VIII. and his children there was no persecution, no
fluctuation of religion: their Ministers shifted their faith four times,
and were sincere honest men! There was no servility, no flattery, no
contempt of the nation abroad, under James I. No tyranny under Charles
I. and Laud; no factions, no civil war! Charles II., however, brought
back all the virtues and morality, which, somehow or other, were
missing! His brother's was a still more blessed reign, though in a
different way! King William was disturbed and distressed by no
contending factions, and did not endeavour to bribe them to let him
pursue his great object of humbling France! The Duke of Marlborough was
not overborne in a similar and more glorious career by a detestable
Cabal!--and if Oxford and Bolingbroke did remove him, from the most
patriot motives, they, good men! used no corruption! Twelve Peerages
showered at once, to convert the House of Lords, were no bribes; nor was
a shilling issued for secret services; nor would a member of either
House have received it!

Sir R. Walpole came, and strange to tell, found the whole Parliament,
and every Parliament, at least a great majority of every Parliament,
ready to take his money. For what?--to undo their country!--which,
however, wickedly as he meant, and ready as they were to concur, he left
in every respect in the condition he found it, except in being improved
in trade, wealth, and tranquillity; till _its friends_ who expelled him,
had dipped their poor country in a war; which was far from mending its
condition. Sir Robert died, foretelling a rebellion, which happened in
less than six months, and for predicting which he had been ridiculed:
and in detestation of a maxim ascribed to him by his enemies, that
_every man has his price_, the tariff of every Parliament since has been
as well known as the price of beef and mutton; and the universal
electors, who cry out against that traffic, are not a jot less vendible
than their electors.--Was not Sir Robert Walpole an abominable Minister?


P.S.--The man who certainly provoked Ireland _to think_, is dead--Lord

[Footnote 1: Lord George Sackville Germaine, third son of Lionel [first]
Duke of Dorset, who, when secretary to his father, when Lord-Lieutenant
of Ireland, gave rise, by his haughty behaviour, to the factions that
have ever since disturbed that country, and at last shaken off its
submission to this country.--WALPOLE.]


I see, by the _Gazette_, that Lord Cowper's pinchbeck principality is
allowed. I wonder his Highness does not desire the Pope to make one of
his sons a bishop _in partibus infidelium_.



STRAWBERRY HILL, _Oct._ 4, 1785.

I don't love to transgress my monthly regularity; yet, as you must
prefer facts to words, why should I write when I have nothing to tell
you? The newspapers themselves in a peaceable autumn coin wonders from
Ireland, or live on the accidents of the Equinox. They, the newspapers,

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