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Selected English Letters (XV - XIX Centuries) by Various

Part 3 out of 7

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actions, or dictate your conversation. Be early what, if you are not,
you will when too late wish you had been. Consult your reason betimes:
I do not say, that it will always prove an unerring guide; for human
reason is not infallible; but it will prove the least erring guide
that you can follow. Books and conversation may assist it; but adopt
neither, blindly and implicitly: try both by that best rule which God
has given to direct us, reason. Of all the troubles, do not decline,
as many people do, that of thinking.

TO THE SAME

_Public speaking_

London, 9 _Dec_. o.s. 1749.

DEAR BOY,

It is now above forty years since I have never spoken nor written
one single word, without giving myself at least one moment's time to
consider, whether it was a good one or a bad one, and whether I could
not find out a better in its place. An unharmonious and rugged period,
at this time, shocks my ears; and I, like all the rest of the world,
will willingly exchange and give up some degree of rough sense, for
a good degree of pleasing sound. I will freely and truly own to you,
without either vanity or false modesty, that whatever reputation I
have acquired as a speaker, is more owing to my constant attention to
my diction than to my matter, which was necessarily just the same as
other people's. When you come into parliament, your reputation as a
speaker will depend much more upon your words, and your periods than
upon the subject. The same matter occurs equally to everybody of
common sense, upon the same question: the dressing it well, is what
excites the attention and admiration of the audience.

It is in parliament that I have set my heart upon your making a
figure; it is there that I want to have you justly proud of yourself,
and to make me justly proud of you. This means that you must be a good
speaker there; I use the word _must_, because I know you may if you
will. The vulgar, who are always mistaken, look upon a speaker and a
comet with the same astonishment and admiration, taking them both for
preternatural phenomena. This error discourages many young men from
attempting that character; and good speakers are willing to have their
talent considered as something very extraordinary, if not a peculiar
gift of God to his elect. But, let you and I analyze and simplify this
good speaker; let us strip him of those adventitious plumes with which
his own pride and the ignorance of others have decked him; and we
shall find the true definition of him to be no more than this: a
man of good common sense, who reasons justly, and expresses himself
elegantly, on that subject upon which he speaks. There is, surely, no
witchcraft in this. A man of sense, without a superior and astonishing
degree of parts, will not talk nonsense upon any subject; nor will he,
if he has the least taste or application, talk inelegantly. What then
does all this mighty art and mystery of speaking in parliament amount
to? Why, no more than this, that the man who speaks in the House
of Commons, speaks in that house, and to four hundred people, that
opinion upon a given subject which he would make no difficulty of
speaking in any house in England, round the fire, or at table, to
any fourteen people whatsoever; better judges, perhaps, and severer
critics of what he says, than any fourteen gentlemen of the House of
Commons.

I have spoken frequently in parliament, and not always without some
applause; and therefore I can assure you, from my experience, that
there is very little in it. The elegancy of the style and the turn of
the periods make the chief impression upon the hearers. Give them but
one or two round and harmonious periods in a speech, which they will
retain and repeat, and they will go home as well satisfied as people
do from an opera, humming all the way one or two favourite tunes that
have struck their ears, and were easily caught. Most people have ears,
but few have judgement; tickle those ears, and, depend upon it, you
will catch their judgements, such as they are.

Cicero, conscious that he was at the top of his profession (for in
his time eloquence was a profession), in order to set himself off,
defines, in his treatise _de Oratore_, an orator to be such a man as
never was, or never will be; and, by this fallacious argument, says
that he must know every art and science whatsoever, or how shall he
speak upon them? But with submission to so great an authority, my
definition of an orator is extremely different from, and I believe
much truer than, his. I call that man an orator who reasons justly,
and expresses himself elegantly, upon whatever subjects he treats.
Problems in geometry, equations in algebra, processes in chemistry,
and experiments in anatomy, are never, that I have heard of, the
objects of eloquence; and therefore I humbly conceive that a man may
be a very fine speaker, and yet know nothing of geometry, algebra,
chemistry, or anatomy. The subjects of all parliamentary debates are
subjects of common sense singly.

Thus I write whatever occurs to me, that I think may contribute either
to form or inform you. May my labour not be in vain! and it will not,
if you will but have half the concern for yourself that I have for
you. Adieu.

TO THE SAME

_The new Earl of Chatham_

Blackheath, 1 _Aug._ 1766.

MY DEAR FRIEND,

The curtain was at last drawn up, the day before yesterday, and
discovered the new actors together with some of the old ones. I do not
name them to you, because to-morrow's Gazette will do it full as well
as I could. Mr. Pitt, who had _carte blanche_ given him, named every
one of them: but what would you think he named himself for? Lord Privy
Seal; and (what will astonish you, as it does every mortal here) Earl
of Chatham. The joke here is, that he has had _a fall upstairs_, and
has done himself so much hurt, that he will never be able to stand
upon his legs again. Everybody is puzzled how to account for this
step; though it would not be the first time that great abilities have
been duped by low cunning. But be it what it will, he is now certainly
only Earl of Chatham; and no longer Mr. Pitt, in any respect whatever.
Such an event, I believe, was never read nor heard of. To withdraw,
in the fullness of his power, and in the utmost gratification of his
ambition, from the House of Commons, (which procured him his power,
and which could alone ensure it to him) and to go into that hospital
of incurables, the House of Lords, is a measure so unaccountable, that
nothing but proof positive could have made me believe it: but true it
is. Hans Stanley is to go ambassador to Russia; and my nephew, Ellis,
to Spain, decorated with the red ribband. Lord Shelburne is your
secretary of state, which I suppose he has notified to you this post
by a circular letter. Charles Townshend has now the sole management of
the House of Commons; but how long he will be content to be only Lord
Chatham's viceregent there, is a question which I will not pretend
to decide. There is one very bad sign for Lord Chatham in his new
dignity; which is, that all his enemies, without exception, rejoice at
it; and all his friends are stupefied and dumb-founded. If I mistake
not much, he will in the course of a year enjoy perfect _otium cum
dignitate_. Enough of politics.

Is the fair, or at least the fat Miss C---- with you still? It must
be confessed that she knows the art of courts, to be so received at
Dresden and so connived at in Leicester-fields.

There never was so wet a summer as this has been, in the memory of
man; we have not had one single day, since March, without some rain;
but most days a great deal. I hope that does not affect your health,
as great cold does; for with all these inundations it has not been
cold. God bless you!

SAMUEL JOHNSON

1709-1784

To BENNET LANGTON

_Postponement of a visit_

6 _May_, 1755.

SIR,

It has been long observed, that men do not suspect faults which
they do not commit; your own elegance of manners, and punctuality of
complaisance, did not suffer you to impute to me that negligence
of which I was guilty, and [for] which I have not since atoned.
I received both your letters, and received them with pleasure
proportioned to the esteem which so short an acquaintance strongly
impressed, and which I hope to confirm by nearer knowledge, though I
am afraid that gratification will be for a time withheld.

I have, indeed, published my book, of which I beg to know your
father's judgment, and yours; and I have now stayed long enough to
watch its progress in the world. It has, you see, no patrons, and
I think has yet had no opponents, except the critics of the
coffee-house, whose outcries are soon dispersed into the air, and are
thought on no more. From this, therefore, I am at liberty, and think
of taking the opportunity of this interval to make an excursion, and
why not then into Lincolnshire? or, to mention a stronger attraction,
why not to dear Mr. Langton? I will give the true reason, which I know
you will approve:--I have a mother more than eighty years old, who has
counted the days to the publication of my book, in hopes of seeing me;
and to her, if I can disengage myself here, I resolve to go.

As I know, dear sir, that to delay my visit for a reason like this
will not deprive me of your esteem, I beg it may not lessen your
kindness. I have very seldom received an offer of friendship which I
so earnestly desire to cultivate and mature. I shall rejoice to hear
from you, till I can see you, and will see you as soon as I can; for
when the duty that calls me to Lichfield is discharged, my inclination
will carry me to Langton. I shall delight to hear the ocean roar, or
see the stars twinkle, in the company of men to whom Nature does not
spread her volumes or utter her voice in vain.

Do not, dear sir, make the slowness of this letter a precedent
for delay, or imagine that I approved the incivility that I have
committed; for I have known you enough to love you, and sincerely to
wish a further knowledge; and I assure you once more, that to live in
a house that contains such a father and such a son, will be accounted
a very uncommon degree of pleasure by, dear sir, your most obliged and
most humble servant.

TO MISS PORTER

_A mother's death_

23 _Jan._ 1759.

You will conceive my sorrow for the loss of my mother, of the best
mother. If she were to live again, surely I should behave better to
her. But she is happy, and what is past is nothing to her; and for me,
since I cannot repair my faults to her, I hope repentance will
efface them. I return you and all those that have been good to her
my sincerest thanks, and pray God to repay you all with infinite
advantage. Write to me and comfort me, dear child. I shall be glad
likewise, if Kitty will write to me. I shall send a bill of twenty
pounds in a few days, which I thought to have brought to my mother;
but God suffered it not. I have not power or composure to say much
more. God bless you, and bless us all.

To JOSEPH BARETTI

_A letter of counsel_

21 _Dec._ 1762.

SIR,

You are not to suppose, with all your conviction of my idleness, that
I have passed all this time without writing to my Baretti. I gave
a letter to Mr. Beauclerk, who, in my opinion, and in his own, was
hastening to Naples for the recovery of his health; but he has stopped
at Paris, and I know not when he will proceed. Langton is with him.

I will not trouble you with speculations about peace and war. The good
or ill success of battles and embassies extends itself to a very small
part of domestic life: we all have good and evil, which we feel more
sensibly than our petty part of public miscarriage or prosperity. I am
sorry for your disappointment, with which you seem more touched than
I should expect a man of your resolution and experience to have been,
did I not know that general truths are seldom applied to particular
occasions; so that the fallacy of our self-love extends itself as wide
as our interest and affections. Every man believes that mistresses are
unfaithful, and patrons capricious; but he excepts his own mistress
and his own patron. We have all learned that greatness is negligent
and contemptuous, and that in courts, life is often languished away in
ungratified expectation; but he that approaches greatness, or glitters
in a court, imagines that destiny has at last exempted him from the
common lot.

Do not let such evils overwhelm you as thousands have suffered and
thousands have surmounted; but turn your thoughts with vigour to
some other plan of life, and keep always in your mind that, with due
submission to Providence, a man of genius has been seldom ruined but
by himself. Your patron's weakness or insensibility will finally do
you little hurt, if he is not assisted by your own passions. Of your
love I know not the propriety, nor can estimate the power; but in
love, as in every other passion, of which hope is the essence, we
ought always to remember the uncertainty of events. There is indeed
nothing that so much seduces reason from her vigilance, as the thought
of passing life with an amiable woman; and if all would happen that
a lover fancies, I know not what other terrestrial happiness would
deserve pursuit. But love and marriage are different states. Those who
are to suffer the evils together, and to suffer often for the sakes of
one another, soon lose that tenderness of look and that benevolence
of mind which arose from the participation of unmingled pleasure and
successive amusement. A woman we are sure will not be always fair,
we are not sure she will always be virtuous; and man cannot retain
through life that respect and assiduity by which he pleases for a day
or for a month. I do not however pretend to have discovered that life
has anything more to be desired than a prudent and virtuous marriage;
therefore know not what counsel to give you.

If you can quit your imagination of love and greatness, and leave your
hopes of preferment and bridal raptures to try once more the fortune
of literature and industry, the way through France is now open. We
flatter ourselves that we shall cultivate with great diligence the
arts of peace; and every man will be welcome among us who can teach
us anything we do not know. For your part, you will find all your old
friends willing to receive you....

To MRS. THRALE

_Travel in Scotland_

Skye, 21 _Sept._ 1773.

DEAREST MADAM,

I am so vexed at the necessity of sending yesterday so short a letter,
that I purpose to get a long letter beforehand by writing something
every day, which I may the more easily do, as a cold makes me now too
deaf to take the usual pleasure in conversation. Lady Macleod is very
good to me, and the place at which we now are, is equal in strength of
situation, in the wildness of the adjacent country, and in the plenty
and elegance of the domestic entertainment, to a castle in Gothic
romances. The sea with a little island is before us; cascades play
within view. Close to the house is the formidable skeleton of an old
castle probably Danish, and the whole mass of building stands upon
a protuberance of rock, inaccessible till of late but by a pair of
stairs on the sea side, and secure in ancient times against any enemy
that was likely to invade the kingdom of Skye.

Macleod has offered me an island; if it were not too far off I should
hardly refuse it: my island would be pleasanter than Brighthelmstone,
if you and my master could come to it; but I cannot think it pleasant
to live quite alone.

Oblitusque meorum, obliviscendus et illis.

That I should be elated by the dominion of an island to forgetfulness
of my friends at Streatham I cannot believe, and I hope never to
deserve that they should be willing to forget me.

It has happened that I have been often recognised in my journey
where I did not expect it. At Aberdeen I found one of my acquaintance
professor of physic; turning aside to dine with a country gentleman, I
was owned at table by one who had seen me at a philosophical lecture;
at Macdonald's I was claimed by a naturalist, who wanders about the
islands to pick up curiosities; and I had once in London attracted the
notice of Lady Macleod. I will now go on with my account.

The Highland girl made tea, and looked and talked not inelegantly; her
father was by no means an ignorant or a weak man; there were books in
the cottage, among which were some volumes of Prideaux's _Connection_:
this man's conversation we were glad of while we stayed. He had been
_out_, as they call it, in forty-five, and still retained his old
opinions. He was going to America, because his rent was raised beyond
what he thought himself able to pay.

At night our beds were made, but we had some difficulty in persuading
ourselves to lie down in them, though we had put on our own sheets;
at last we ventured, and I slept very soundly in the vale of Glen
Morrison, amidst the rocks and mountains. Next morning our landlord
liked us so well, that he walked some miles with us for our company,
through a country so wild and barren that the proprietor does not,
with all his pressure upon his tenants, raise more than four hundred
pounds a year for near one hundred square miles or sixty thousand
acres. He let us know that he had forty head of black cattle, an
hundred goats, and an hundred sheep, upon a farm that he remembered
let at five pounds a year, but for which he now paid twenty. He told
us some stories of their march into England. At last he left us,
and we went forward, winding among mountains, sometimes green and
sometimes naked, commonly so steep as not easily to be climbed by
the greatest vigour and activity: our way was often crossed by little
rivulets, and we were entertained with small streams trickling from
the rocks, which after heavy rains must be tremendous torrents.

About noon we came to a small glen, so they call a valley, which
compared with other places appeared rich and fertile; here our guides
desired us to stop, that the horses might graze, for the journey
was very laborious, and no more grass would be found. We made no
difficulty of compliance, and I sat down to take notes on a green
bank, with a small stream running at my feet, in the midst of savage
solitude, with mountains before me, and on either hand covered with
heath. I looked around me, and wondered that I was not more affected,
but the mind is not at all times equally ready to be put in motion;
if my mistress and master and Queeny had been there we should have
produced some reflections among us, either poetical or philosophical,
for though _solitude be the nurse of woe_, conversation is often the
parent of remarks and discoveries.

In about an hour we remounted, and pursued our journey. The lake by
which we had travelled for some time ended in a river, which we passed
by a bridge, and came to another glen, with a collection of huts,
called Auknashealds; the huts were generally built of clods of earth,
held together by the intertexture of vegetable fibres, of which earth
there are great levels in Scotland which they call mosses. Moss in
Scotland is bog in Ireland, and moss-trooper is bog-trotter: there
was, however, one hut built of loose stones, piled up with great
thickness into a strong though not solid wall. From this house we
obtained some great pails of milk, and having brought bread with us,
were very liberally regaled. The inhabitants, a very coarse tribe,
ignorant of any language but Erse, gathered so fast about us, that if
we had not had Highlanders with us, they might have caused more alarm
than pleasure; they are called the Clan of Macrae.

We had been told that nothing gratified the Highlanders so much as
snuff and tobacco, and had accordingly stored ourselves with both at
Fort Augustus. Boswell opened his treasure, and gave them each a piece
of tobacco roll. We had more bread than we could eat for the present,
and were more liberal than provident. Boswell cut it in slices, and
gave them an opportunity of tasting wheaten bread for the first time.
I then got some halfpence for a shilling, and made up the deficiencies
of Boswell's distribution, who had given some money among the
children. We then directed that the mistress of the stone house should
be asked what we must pay her: she, who perhaps had never before
sold anything but cattle, knew not, I believe, well what to ask, and
referred herself to us: we obliged her to make some demand, and one of
the Highlanders settled the account with her at a shilling. One of the
men advised her, with the cunning that clowns never can be without, to
ask more; but she said that a shilling was enough. We gave her half
a crown, and she offered part of it again. The Macraes were so well
pleased with our behaviour, that they declared it the best day they
had seen since the time of the old Laird of Macleod, who, I suppose,
like us, stopped in their valley, as he was travelling to Skye....

I cannot forbear to interrupt my narrative. Boswell, with some of his
troublesome kindness, has informed this family and reminded me that
the 18th of September is my birthday. The return of my birthday, if I
remember it, fills me with thoughts which it seems to be the general
care of humanity to escape. I can now look back upon three score
and four years, in which little has been done, and little has been
enjoyed; a life diversified by misery, spent part in the sluggishness
of penury, and part under the violence of pain, in gloomy discontent
or importunate distress. But perhaps I am better than I should have
been if I had been less afflicted. With this I will try to be content.

In proportion as there is less pleasure in retrospective
considerations, the mind is more disposed to wander forward into
futurity; but at sixty-four what promises, however liberal, of
imaginary good can futurity venture to make? Yet something will be
always promised and some promises will always be credited. I am hoping
and I am praying that I may live better in the time to come, whether
long or short, than I have yet lived, and in the solace of that
hope endeavour to repose. Dear Queeny's day is next, I hope she at
sixty-four will have less to regret....

You will now expect that I should give you some account of the Isle of
Skye, of which, though I have been twelve days upon it, I have little
to say. It is an island perhaps fifty miles long, so much indented by
inlets of the sea that there is no part of it removed from the water
more than six miles. No part that I have seen is plain; you are always
climbing or descending, and every step is upon rock or mire. A walk
upon ploughed ground in England is a dance upon carpets compared to
the toilsome drudgery of wandering in Skye. There is neither town nor
village in the island, nor have I seen any house but Macleod's, that
is not much below your habitation at Brighthelmstone. In the mountains
there are stags and roebucks, but no hares, and few rabbits; nor have
I seen anything that interested me as a zoologist, except an otter,
bigger than I thought an otter could have been.

You perhaps are imagining that I am withdrawn from the gay and
the busy world into regions of peace and pastoral felicity, and am
enjoying the relics of the golden age; that I am surveying nature's
magnificence from a mountain, or remarking her minuter beauties on the
flowery bank of a winding rivulet; that I am invigorating myself in
the sunshine, or delighting my imagination with being hidden from
the invasion of human evils and human passions in the darkness of a
thicket; that I am busy in gathering shells and pebbles on the shore,
or contemplative on a rock, from which I look upon the water, and
consider how many waves are rolling between me and Streatham.

The use of travelling is to regulate imagination by reality, and
instead of thinking how things may be, to see them as they are. Here
are mountains which I should once have climbed, but to climb steps
is now very laborious, and to descend them dangerous; and I am now
content with knowing, that by scrambling up a rock, I shall only see
other rocks, and a wider circuit of barren desolation. Of streams, we
have here a sufficient number, but they murmur not upon pebbles, but
upon rocks. Of flowers, if Chloris herself were here, I could present
her only with the bloom of heath. Of lawns and thickets, he must read
that would know them, for here is little sun and no shade. On the sea
I look from my window, but am not much tempted to the shore; for since
I came to this island, almost every breath of air has been a storm,
and what is worse, a storm with all its severity, but without its
magnificence, for the sea is here so broken into channels that there
is not a sufficient volume of water either for lofty surges or a loud
roar....

TO THE RIGHT HONOURABLE THE EARL OF CHESTERFIELD

_Patronage_

7 _Feb_. 1775.

MY LORD,

I have been lately informed, by the proprietor of _The World_, that
two papers, in which my _Dictionary_ is recommended to the public, are
by your lordship. To be so distinguished is an honour, which, being
very little accustomed to favours from the great, I know not well how
to receive, or in what terms to acknowledge.

When, upon some slight encouragement, I first visited your lordship, I
was overpowered, like the rest of mankind, by the enchantment of your
address, and could not forbear to wish that I might boast myself _le
vainqueur du vainqueur de la terre_;--that I might obtain that regard
for which I saw the world contending; but I found my attendance so
little encouraged, that neither pride nor modesty would suffer me to
continue it. When I had once addressed your lordship in public, I
had exhausted all the art of pleasing which a retired and uncourtly
scholar can possess. I had done all I could; and no man is well
pleased to have his all neglected, be it ever so little.

Seven years, my lord, have now passed, since I waited in your outward
rooms, or was repulsed from your door; during which time I have been
pushing on my work through difficulties, of which it is useless to
complain, and have brought it at last to the verge of publication,
without one act of assistance, one word of encouragement, or one smile
of favour. Such treatment I did not expect, for I never had a patron
before.

The shepherd in _Virgil_ grew at last acquainted with Love, and found
him a native of the rocks.

Is not a patron, my lord, one who looks with unconcern on a man
struggling for life in the water, and when he has reached ground,
encumbers him with help? The notice which you have been pleased to
take of my labours, had it been early had been kind; but it has
been delayed till I am indifferent, and cannot enjoy it; till I am
solitary, and cannot impart it; till I am known, and do not want it. I
hope it is no very cynical asperity, not to confess obligations,
where no benefit has been received, or to be unwilling that the public
should consider me as owing that to a patron, which Providence has
enabled me to do for myself.

Having carried on my work thus far with so little obligation to any
favourer of learning, I shall not be disappointed though I shall
conclude it, if less be possible, with less; for I have been long
wakened from that dream of hope in which I once boasted myself with so
much exultation.

My Lord,

Your Lordship's most humble,
most obedient servant.

To JAMES BOSWELL

_A silent friend_

13 _July_, 1779.

DEAR SIR,

What can possibly have happened that keeps us two such strangers to
each other? I expected to have heard from you when you came home; I
expected afterwards. I went into the country and returned, and yet
there is no letter from Mr. Boswell. No ill, I hope, has happened; and
if ill should happen, why should it be concealed from him who loves
you? Is it a fit of humour, that has disposed you to try who can hold
out longest without writing? If it be, you have the victory. But I am
afraid of something bad; set me free from my suspicions.

My thoughts are at present employed in guessing the reason of your
silence; you must not expect that I should tell you anything, if I had
anything to tell. Write, pray write to me, and let me know what is or
what has been the cause of this long interruption.

To MRS. THRALE

_A great man's fortitude_

19 _June_, 1783.

ON Monday the 16th, I sat for my picture and walked a considerable way
with little inconvenience. In the afternoon and evening I felt myself
light and easy, and began to plan schemes of life. Thus I went to bed,
and in a short time waked and sat up, as has been long my custom,
when I felt a confusion and indistinctness in my head, which lasted,
I suppose, about half a minute. I was alarmed, and prayed God, that
however he might afflict my body, he would spare my understanding.
This prayer, that I might try the integrity of my faculties, I made in
Latin verse. The lines were not very good, but I knew them not to be
very good: I made them easily, and concluded myself to be unimpaired
in my faculties.

Soon after I perceived that I had suffered a paralytic stroke,
and that my speech was taken from me. I had no pain, and so little
dejection in this dreadful state, that I wondered at my own apathy,
and considered that perhaps death itself, when it should come, would
excite less horror than seems now to attend it.

In order to rouse the vocal organs, I took two drams. Wine has been
celebrated for the production of eloquence. I put myself into violent
motion, and I think repeated it; but all was vain. I then went to bed,
and strange as it may seem, I slept. When I saw light, it was time to
contrive what I should do. Though God stopped my speech, he left me
my hands; I enjoyed a mercy which was not granted to my dear friend
Lawrence, who now perhaps overlooks me as I am writing, and rejoices
that I have what he wanted. My first note was necessarily to my
servant, who came in talking, and could not immediately comprehend why
he should read what I put into his hands. I then wrote a card to Mr.
Allen, that I might have a discreet friend at hand, to act as occasion
should require. In penning this note I had some difficulty; my hand,
I knew not how nor why, made wrong letters. I then wrote to Dr. Taylor
to come to me, and bring Dr. Heberden: and I sent to Dr. Brocklesby,
who is my neighbour. My physicians are very friendly, and give me
great hopes; but you may imagine my situation. I have so far recovered
my vocal powers, as to repeat the Lord's Prayer with no very imperfect
articulation. My memory, I hope, yet remains as it was! but such an
attack produces solicitude for the safety of every faculty.

LAURENCE STERNE

1713-1768

To Miss LUMLEY

_The disconsolate lover_

[1740-1]

You bid me tell you, my dear L., how I bore your departure for S----,
and whether the valley, where D'Estella stands, retains still its
looks, or if I think the roses or jessamines smell as sweet as when
you left it. Alas! everything has now lost its relish and look! The
hour you left D'Estella I took to my bed. I was worn out with fevers
of all kinds, but most by that fever of the heart with which thou
knowest well I have been wasting these two years--and shall continue
wasting till you quit S----. The good Miss S----, from the forebodings
of the best of hearts, thinking I was ill, insisted upon my going to
her. What can be the cause, my dear L., that I never have been able to
see the face of this mutual friend, but I feel myself rent to pieces?
She made me stay an hour with her, and in that short space I burst
into tears a dozen different times, and in such affectionate gusts of
passion, that she was constrained to leave the room, and sympathize
in her dressing-room. I have been weeping for you both, said she, in
a tone of the sweetest pity--for poor L.'s heart, I have long known
it--her anguish is as sharp as yours--her heart as tender--her
constancy as great--her virtues as heroic--Heaven brought you not
together to be tormented. I could only answer her with a kind look,
and a heavy sigh, and returned home to your lodgings (which I have
hired till your return) to resign myself to misery. Fanny had prepared
me a supper--she is all attention to me--but I sat over it with tears;
a bitter sauce, my L., but I could eat it with no other; for the
moment she began to spread my little table, my heart fainted within
me. One solitary plate, one knife, one fork, one glass! I gave a
thousand pensive, penetrating looks at the chair thou hadst so often
graced, in those quiet and sentimental repasts, then laid down my
knife and fork, and took out my handkerchief, and clapped it across
my face, and wept like a child. I could do so this very moment, my L.;
for, as I take up my pen, my poor pulse quickens, my pale face glows,
and tears are trickling down upon the paper, as I trace the word
L----. O thou! blessed in thyself, and in thy virtues, blessed to all
that know thee--to me most so, because more do I know of thee than all
thy sex. This is the philtre, my L., by which thou hast charmed me,
and by which thou wilt hold me thine, while virtue and faith hold this
world together. This, my friend, is the plain and simple magic, by
which I told Miss ---- I have won a place in that heart of thine, on
which I depend so satisfied, that time, or distance, or change of
everything which might alarm the hearts of little men, create no
uneasy suspense in mine. Wast thou to stay in S---- these seven
years, thy friend, though he would grieve, scorns to doubt, or to be
doubted--'tis the only exception where security is not the parent of
danger.

I told you poor Fanny was all attention to me since your
departure--contrives every day bringing in the name of L. She told
me last night (upon giving me some hartshorn), she had observed my
illness began the very day of your departure for S----; that I had
never held up my head, had seldom, or scarce ever, smiled, had fled
from all society; that she verily believed I was broken-hearted, for
she had never entered the room, or passed by the door, but she heard
me sigh heavily; that I neither eat, or slept, or took pleasure in
anything as before. Judge then, my L., can the valley look so well,
or the roses and jessamines smell so sweet as heretofore? Ah me! but
adieu--the vesper bell calls me from thee to my GOD.

To DAVID GARRICK

_Le chevalier Shandy_

Paris, 19 _March_, 1762.

DEAR GARRICK,

This will be put into your hands by Dr. Shippen, a physician, who has
been here some time with Miss Poyntz, and is at this moment setting
out for your metropolis; so I snatch the opportunity of writing to you
and my kind friend Mrs. Garrick. I see nothing like her here, and yet
I have been introduced to one half of their best Goddesses, and in a
month more shall be admitted to the shrines of the other half; but I
neither worship or fall (much) on my knees before them; but, on the
contrary, have converted many unto Shandeism; for be it known, I
Shandy it away fifty times more than I was ever wont, talk more
nonsense than ever you heard me talk in your days--and to all sorts
of people. _Qui le diable est cet homme-la_--said Choiseul t'other
day--_ce chevalier Shandy_? You'll think me as vain as a devil, was I
to tell you the rest of the dialogue; whether the bearer knows it or
no, I know not. 'Twill serve up after supper, in Southampton-street,
amongst other small dishes, after the fatigues of Richard III. O God!
they have nothing here, which gives the nerves so smart a blow, as
those great characters in the hands of Garrick! but I forgot I
am writing to the man himself. The devil take (as he will) these
transports of enthusiasm! Apropos, the whole city of Paris is
_bewitched_ with the comic opera, and if it was not for the affair
of the Jesuits, which takes up one half of our talk, the comic opera
would have it all. It is a tragical nuisance in all companies as it
is, and was it not for some sudden starts and dashes of Shandeism,
which now and then either break the thread, or entangle it so, that
the devil himself would be puzzled in winding it off, I should die a
martyr--this by the way I never will.

I send you over some of these comic operas by the bearer, with the
_Sallon_, a satire. The French comedy, I seldom visit it--they act
scarce in anything but tragedies--and the Clairon is great, and Mile.
Dumesnil, in some places, still greater than her; yet I cannot bear
preaching--I fancy I got a surfeit of it in my younger days. There
is a tragedy to be damned to-night--peace be with it, and the gentle
brain which made it! I have ten thousand things to tell you I cannot
write, I do a thousand things which cut no figure, _but in the
doing_--and as in London, I have the honour of having done and said a
thousand things I never did or dreamed of--and yet I dream abundantly.
If the devil stood behind me in the shape of a courier, I could not
write faster than I do, having five letters more to dispatch by the
same gentleman; he is going into another section of the globe, and
when he has seen you, will depart in peace.

The Duke of Orleans has suffered my portrait to be added to the number
of some odd men in his collection; and a gentleman who lives with him
has taken it most expressively, at full length: I purpose to obtain an
etching of it, and to send it you. Your prayer for me of _rosy health_
is heard. If I stay here for three or four months, I shall return more
than reinstated. My love to Mrs. Garrick.

To MR. FOLEY AT PARIS

_An adventure on the road_

Toulouse, 14 _Aug_. 1762.

MY DEAR FOLEY,

After many turnings (_alias_ digressions), to say nothing of downright
overthrows, stops, and delays, we have arrived in three weeks at
Toulouse, and are now settled in our houses with servants, &c., about
us, and look as composed as if we had been here seven years. In
our journey we suffered so much from the heats, it gives me pain to
remember it; I never saw a cloud from Paris to Nismes half as broad as
a twenty-four sols piece. Good God! we were toasted, roasted, grilled,
stewed and carbonaded on one side or other all the way; and being all
done enough (_assez cuits_) in the day, we were eat up at night by
bugs, and other unswept-out vermin, the legal inhabitants (if length
of possession gives right) of every inn we lay at. Can you conceive
a worse accident than that in such a journey, in the hottest day and
hour of it, four miles from either tree or shrub which could cast a
shade of the size of one of Eve's fig leaves, that we should break a
hind wheel into ten thousand pieces, and be obliged in consequence
to sit five hours on a gravelly road, without one drop of water, or
possibility of getting any? To mend the matter, my two postillions
were two dough-hearted fools, and fell a-crying. Nothing was to be
done! By heaven, quoth I, pulling off my coat and waistcoat, something
shall be done, for I'll thrash you both within an inch of your lives,
and then make you take each of you a horse, and ride like two devils
to the next post for a cart to carry my baggage, and a wheel to
carry ourselves. Our luggage weighed ten quintals. It was the fair
of Baucaire, all the world was going, or returning; we were asked by
every soul who passed by us, if we were going to the fair of Baucaire.
No wonder, quoth I, we have goods enough! _vous avez raison, mes
amis_....

THOMAS GRAY

1716-1771

To RICHARD WEST

_Scenery at Tivoli_

Tivoli, 20 _May_, 1740.

This day being in the palace of his Highness the Duke of Modena, he
laid his most serene commands upon me to write to Mr. West, and said
he thought it for his glory, that I should draw up an inventory of all
his most serene possessions for the said West's perusal. Imprimis,
a house, being in circumference a quarter of a mile, two feet and an
inch; the said house containing the following particulars, to wit,
a great room. Item, another great room; item, a bigger room; item,
another room; item, a vast room; item, a sixth of the same; a seventh
ditto; an eighth as before; a ninth as above said; a tenth (see No.
1); item, ten more such, besides twenty besides, which, not to be too
particular, we shall pass over. The said rooms contain nine chairs,
two tables, five stools and a cricket. From whence we shall proceed
to the garden, containing two millions of superfine laurel hedges,
a clump of cypress trees, and half the river Teverone.--Finis. Dame
Nature desired me to put in a list of her little goods and chattels,
and, as they were small, to be very minute about them. She has built
here three or four little mountains, and laid them out in an irregular
semi-circle; from certain others behind, at a greater distance, she
has drawn a canal, into which she has put a little river of hers,
called Anio; she has cut a huge cleft between the two innermost of her
four hills, and there she has left it to its own disposal; which she
has no sooner done, but, like a heedless chit, it tumbles headlong
down a declivity fifty feet perpendicular, breaks itself all to
shatters, and is converted into a shower of rain, where the sun forms
many a bow, red, green, blue, and yellow. To get out of our metaphors
without any further trouble, it is the most noble sight in the world.
The weight of that quantity of waters, and the force they fall with,
have worn the rocks they throw themselves among into a thousand
irregular craggs, and to a vast depth. In this channel it goes boiling
along with a mighty noise till it comes to another steep, where you
see it a second time come roaring down (but first you must walk
two miles farther) a greater height than before, but not with that
quantity of waters; for by this time it has divided itself, being
crossed and opposed by the rocks, into four several streams, each of
which, in emulation of the great one, will tumble down too; and it
does tumble down, but not from an equally elevated place; so that you
have at one view all these cascades intermixed with groves of olive
and little woods, the mountains rising behind them, and on the top of
one (that which forms the extremity of one of the half-circle's horns)
is seated the town itself. At the very extremity of that extremity, on
the brink of the precipice, stands the Sybil's temple, the remains
of a little rotunda, surrounded with its portico, above half of whose
beautiful Corinthian pillars are still standing and entire; all this
on one hand. On the other, the open Campagna of Rome, here and there
a little castle on a hillock, and the city itself at the very brink of
the horizon, indistinctly seen (being eighteen miles off) except the
dome of St. Peter's; which, if you look out of your window, wherever
you are, I suppose, you can see. I did not tell you that a little
below the first fall, on the side of the rock, and hanging over that
torrent, are little ruins which they show you for Horace's house, a
curious situation to observe the

Praeceps Anio et Tiburni lucus, et uda
Mobilibus pomaria rivis.

Maecenas did not care for such a noise, it seems, and built him a
house (which they also carry one to see) so situated that it sees
nothing at all of the matter, and for anything he knew there might be
no such river in the world. Horace had another house on the other side
of the Teverone, opposite to Maecenas's; and they told us there was
a bridge of communication, by which _andava il detto Signor per
trastullarsi coll' istesso Orazio_. In coming hither we crossed the
Aquae Albulae, a vile little brook that stinks like a fury, and they
say it has stunk so these thousand years. I forgot the Piscina of
Quintilius Varus, where he used to keep certain little fishes. This
is very entire, and there is a piece of the aqueduct that supplied it
too; in the garden below is old Rome, built in little, just as it was,
they say. There are seven temples in it, and no houses at all; they
say there were none.

TO THE SAME

_A poet's melancholy_

London, 27 _May_, 1742.

Mine, you are to know is a white Melancholy, or rather Leucocholy
for the most part; which, though it seldom laughs or dances, nor ever
amounts to what one called Joy or Pleasure, yet is a good easy sort
of a state, and _ca ne laisse que de s'amuser._ The only fault is its
insipidity; which is apt now and then to give a sort of Ennui, which
makes one form certain little wishes that signify nothing. But there
is another sort, black indeed, which I have now and then felt, that
has somewhat in it like Tertullian's rule of faith, _Credo quia
impossibile est_; for it believes, nay, is sure of everything that is
unlikely, so it be but frightful; and on the other hand excludes and
shuts its eyes to the most possible hopes, and everything that is
pleasurable; from this the Lord deliver us! for none but he and
sunshiny weather can do it. In hopes of enjoying this kind of weather
I am going into the country for a few weeks, but shall be never the
nearer any society; so, if you have any charity, you will continue to
write. My life is like Harry the Fourth's supper of Hens, 'Poulets a
la broche, Poulets en Ragout, Poulets en Hachis, Poulets en Fricassees
'. Reading here, Reading there; nothing but books with different
sauces. Do not let me lose my desert then; for though that be Reading
too, yet it has a very different flavour. The May seems to be come
since your invitation; and I propose to bask in her beams and dress me
in her roses.

Et caput in verna semper habere rosa.

I shall see Mr. ---- and his Wife, nay, and his Child, too, for he has
got a Boy. Is it not odd to consider one's Cotemporaries in the grave
light of Husband and Father? There is my lords Sandwich and Halifax,
they are Statesmen: Do not you remember them dirty boys playing at
cricket? As for me, I am never a bit the older, nor the bigger, nor
the wiser than I was then: no, not for having been beyond sea. Pray,
how are you?...

To HORACE WALPOLE

_The fate of Selima_

Cambridge, 1 _March_, 1747.

As one ought to be particularly careful to avoid blunders in a
compliment of condolence, it would be a sensible satisfaction to
me (before I testify my sorrow, and the sincere part I take in your
misfortune) to know for certain, who it is that I lament. I knew Zara
and Selima (Selima, was it? or Fatima?) or rather I knew both of them
together; for I cannot justly say which was which. Then as to your
handsome Cat, the name you distinguished her by, I am no less at a
loss, as well knowing one's handsome cat is always the cat one likes
best; or if one be alive and the other dead, it is usually the latter
that is the handsomest. Besides, if the point were never so clear, I
hope you do not think me so ill-bred or so imprudent as to forfeit all
my interest in the survivor; Oh no! I would rather seem to mistake,
and to be sure it must be the tabby one that had met with this sad
accident. Till this affair is a little better determined, you will
excuse me if I do not begin to cry:

Tempus inane peto, requiem, spatiumque doloris.

Which interval is the more convenient, as it gives time to rejoice
with you on your new honours. This is only a beginning; I reckon next
week we shall hear you are a free-Mason, or a Gormorgon at least.
Heigh ho! I feel (as you to be sure have done long since) that I have
very little to say, at least in prose. Somebody will be the better for
it; I do not mean you, but your Cat, feue Mademoiselle Selime, whom I
am about to immortalize for one week or fortnight, as follows.

... There's a poem for you, it is rather too long for an Epitaph.

TO THE SAME

_Publication of the Elegy_

Cambridge, 11 _Feb_. 1751.

As you have brought me into a little sort of distress, you must assist
me, I believe, to get out of it as well as I can. Yesterday I had
the misfortune of receiving a letter from certain gentlemen (as their
bookseller expresses it), who have taken the _Magazine of Magazines_
into their hands. They tell me that an _ingenious_ poem, called
_Reflections in a Country Churchyard_, has been communicated to them,
which they are printing forthwith; that they are informed that the
_excellent_ author of it is I by name, and that they beg not only his
_indulgence_, but the _honour_ of his correspondence, &c. As I am not
at all disposed to be either so indulgent, or so correspondent, as
they desire, I have but one bad way left to escape the honour they
would inflict upon me; and, therefore, am obliged to desire you would
make Dodsley print it immediately (which may be done in less than a
week's time) from your copy, but without my name, in what form is
most convenient for him, but on his best paper and character; he must
correct the press himself, and print it without any interval between
the stanzas, because the sense is in some places continued
beyond them; and the title must be,--_Elegy, written in a Country
Churchyard_. If he would add a line or two to say it came into
his hands by accident, I should like it better. If you behold the
_Magazine of Magazines_ in the light that I do, you will not refuse to
give yourself this trouble on my account, which you have taken of your
own accord before now. If Dodsley do not do this immediately, he may
as well let it alone.

TO THE SAME

_At Burnham_

[Burnham,] _Sept_. 1737.

I was hindered in my last, and so could not give you all the trouble
I would have done. The description of a road, which your coach wheels
have so often honoured, it would be needless to give you; suffice
it that I arrived safe at my uncle's, who is a great hunter in
imagination; his dogs take up every chair in the house, so I am forced
to stand at this present writing; and though the gout forbids him
galloping after them in the field, yet he continues to regale his ears
and nose with their comfortable noise and stink. He holds me mighty
cheap, I perceive, for walking when I should ride, and reading when
I should hunt. My comfort amidst all this is, that I have at the
distance of half a mile, through a green lane, a forest (the vulgar
call it a common) all my own, at least as good as so, for I spy no
human thing in it but myself. It is a little chaos of mountains and
precipices; mountains, it is true, that do not ascend much above the
clouds, nor are the declivities quite so amazing as Dover Cliff; but
just such hills as people who love their necks as well as I do may
venture to climb, and crags that give the eye as much pleasure as if
they were more dangerous. Both vale and hill are covered with most
venerable beeches, and other very reverend vegetables, that, like most
other ancient people, are always dreaming out their old stories to the
winds.

_And as they bow their hoary tops relate,
In murm'ring sounds, the dark decrees of fate;
While visions, as poetic eyes avow,
Cling to each leaf, and swarm on every bough._

At the foot of one of these squats ME I (_ilpenseroso_), and there
grow to the trunk for a whole morning. The timorous hare and sportive
squirrel gambol round me like Adam in Paradise, before he had an Eve;
but I think he did not use to read Virgil, as I commonly do there.
In this situation I often converse with my Horace, aloud too, that is
talk to you, but I do not remember that I ever heard you answer me.
I beg pardon for taking all the conversation to myself, but it is
entirely your own fault....

To THE REV. WILLIAM MASON

_The Laureateship_

19 _Dec_. 1757.

DEAR MASON,

Though I very well know the bland emollient saponaceous qualities both
of sack and silver, yet if any great man would say to me, 'I make you
Rat-catcher to his Majesty, with a salary of L300 a-year and two butts
of the best Malaga; and though it has been usual to catch a mouse or
two, for form's sake, in public once a year, yet to you, sir, we shall
not stand on these things,' I cannot say I should jump at it; nay, if
they would drop the very name of the office, and call me Sinecure
to the King's Majesty, I should feel a little awkward, and think
everybody I saw smelt a rat about me; but I do not pretend to blame
any one else that has not the same sensations; for my part, I would
rather be serjeant trumpeter or pinmaker to the palace. Nevertheless
I interest myself a little in the history of it, and rather wish
somebody may accept it who will retrieve the credit of the thing, if
it be retrieveable, or ever had any credit. Rowe was, I think, the
last man of character that had it. As to Settle, whom you mention,
he belonged to my lord mayor, not to the King. Eusden was a person
of great hopes in his youth, though at last he turned out a drunken
person. Dryden was as disgraceful to the office from his character,
as the poorest scribbler could have been from his verses. The office
itself has always humbled the professor hitherto (even in an age when
kings were somebody), if he were a poor writer by making him more
conspicuous, and if he were a good one by setting him at war with the
little fry of his own profession, for there are poets little enough to
envy even a poet laureate.

To DR. WHARTON

_A holiday in Kent_

Pembroke College, 26 _Aug_. 1766.

DEAR DOCTOR,

Whatever my pen may do, I am sure my thoughts expatiate nowhere
oftener, or with more pleasure, than to Old Park. I hope you have made
my peace with Miss Deborah. It is certain, whether her name were in
my letter or not, she was as present to my memory as the rest of the
little family; and I desire you would present her with two kisses
in my name, and one a piece to all the others; for I shall take the
liberty to kiss them all (great and small) as you are to be my proxy.

In spite of the rain, which I think continued with very short
intervals till the beginning of this month, and quite effaced the
summer from the year, I made a shift to pass May and June, not
disagreeably, in Kent. I was surprised at the beauty of the road
to Canterbury, which (I know not why) had not struck me in the same
manner before. The whole country is a rich and well cultivated garden;
orchards, cherry grounds, hop grounds, intermixed with corn and
frequent villages, gentle risings covered with wood, and everywhere
the Thames and Medway breaking in upon the landscape, with all their
navigation. It was indeed owing to the bad weather that the whole
scene was dressed in that tender emerald green, which one usually sees
only for a fortnight in the opening of Spring; and this continued till
I left the country. My residence was eight miles east of Canterbury,
in a little quiet valley on the skirts of Barham Down; in these parts
the whole soil is chalk, and whenever it holds up, in half an hour
it is dry enough to walk out. I took the opportunity of three or four
days fine weather to go into the Isle of Thanet, saw Margate (which
is Bartholomew Fair by the seaside), Ramsgate, and other places there;
and so came by Sandwich, Deal, Dover, Folkestone, and Hythe, back
again. The coast is not like Hartlepool, there are no rocks, but
only chalky cliffs, of no great height, till you come to Dover. There
indeed they are noble and picturesque, and the opposite coasts of
France begin to bound your view, which was left before to range
unlimited by anything but the horizon; yet it is by no means a
_shipless_ sea, but everywhere peopled with white sails and vessels of
all sizes in motion; and take notice (except in the Isle, which is all
corn fields, and has very little enclosure), there are in all places
hedgerows and tall trees, even within a few yards of the beach,
particularly Hythe stands on an eminence covered with wood. I shall
confess we had fires of a night (aye and a day too) several times even
in June: but don't go too far and take advantage of this, for it was
the most untoward year that ever I remember.

Your friend Rousseau (I doubt) grows tired of Mr. Davenport and
Derbyshire; he has picked a quarrel with David Hume, and writes
him letters of fourteen pages folio, upbraiding him with all his
_noirceurs_; take one only as a specimen. He says, that at Calais
they chanced to sleep in the same room together, and that he overheard
David talking in his sleep, and saying, '_Ah! je le tiens, ce
Jean-Jacques la_.' In short (I fear), for want of persecution and
admiration (for these are his real complaints), he will go back to the
Continent.

What shall I say to you about the ministry? I am as angry as a
common council man of London about my Lord Chatham; but a little more
patient, and will hold my tongue till the end of the year. In the
meantime I do mutter in secret, and to you, that to quit the House of
Commons, his natural strength, to sap his own popularity and grandeur
(which no one but himself could have done) by assuming a foolish
title; and to hope that he could win by it, and attach to him a court
that hate him, and will dismiss him as soon as ever they dare, was the
weakest thing that ever was done by so great a man. Had it not been
for this, I should have rejoiced at the breach between him and Lord
Temple, and at the union between him and the Duke of Grafton and
Mr. Conway: but patience! we shall see! Stonehewer perhaps is in the
country (for he hoped for a month's leave of absence), and if you see
him you will learn more than I can tell you.

HORACE WALPOLE

1717-1797

To RICHARD WEST

_Floods in the Arno_

From Florence, _Nov_. 1740.

Child, I am going to let you see your shocking proceedings with us. On
my conscience, I believe 'tis three months since you wrote to either
Gray or me. If you had been ill, Ashton would have said so; and if
you had been dead, the gazettes would have said it. If you had been
angry,--but that's impossible; how can one quarrel with folks three
thousand miles off? We are neither divines nor commentators, and
consequently have not hated you on paper. 'Tis to show that my charity
for you cannot be interrupted at this distance that I write to you,
though I have nothing to say, for 'tis a bad time for small news; and
when emperors and czarinas are dying all up and down Europe, one can't
pretend to tell you of anything that happens within our sphere. Not
but that we have our accidents too. If you have had a great wind in
England, we have had a great water at Florence. We have been trying
to set out every day, and pop upon you[1] ... It is fortunate that
we stayed, for I don't know what had become of us! Yesterday, with
violent rains, there came flouncing down from the mountains such a
flood that it floated the whole city. The jewellers on the Old Bridge
removed their commodities, and in two hours after the bridge was
cracked. The torrent broke down the quays and drowned several
coach-horses, which are kept here in stables under ground. We were
moated into our house all day, which is near the Arno, and had the
miserable spectacles of the ruins that were washed along with the
hurricane. There was a cart with two oxen not quite dead, and four men
in it drowned: but what was ridiculous, there came tiding along a
fat hay-cock, with a hen and her eggs, and a cat. The torrent is
considerably abated; but we expect terrible news from the country,
especially from Pisa, which stands so much lower, and nearer the
sea. There is a stone here, which, when the water overflows, Pisa is
entirely flooded. The water rose two ells yesterday above that stone.
Judge!

For this last month we have passed our time but dully, all diversions
silenced on the Emperor's death, and everybody out of town. I have
seen nothing but cards and dull pairs of cicisbeos. I have literally
seen so much of love and pharaoh since being here, that I believe I
shall never love either again so long as I live. Then I am got into
a horrid lazy way of a morning. I don't believe I should know seven
o'clock in the morning again if I was to see it. But I am returning to
England, and shall grow very solemn and wise! Are you wise? Dear West,
have pity on one who has done nothing of gravity for these two years,
and do laugh sometimes. We do nothing else, and have contracted such
formidable ideas of the good people of England that we are already
nourishing great black eyebrows and great black beards, and teasing
our countenances into wrinkles.

[Footnote 1: MS. torn here.]

To RICHARD BENTLEY

_Pictures and Garrick_

Strawberry Hill, 15 _Aug_. 1755.

MY DEAR SIR,

Though I wrote to you so lately, and have certainly nothing new to
tell you, I can't help scribbling a line to you to-night, as I am
going to Mr. Rigby's for a week or ten days, and must thank you first
for the three pictures. One of them charms me, the Mount Orgueil,
which is absolutely fine; the sea, and shadow upon it, are masterly.
The other two I don't, at least won't, take for finished. If you
please, Elizabeth Castle shall be Mr. Muentz's performance: indeed I
see nothing of you in it. I do reconnoitre you in the Hercules and
Nessus; but in both, your colours are dirty, carelessly dirty: in
your distant hills you are improved, and not hard. The figures are too
large--I don't mean in the Elizabeth Castle, for there they are neat;
but the centaur, though he dies as well as Garrick can, is outrageous.
Hercules and Deianira are by no means so: he is sentimental, and she
most improperly sorrowful. However, I am pleased enough to beg you
would continue. As soon as Mr. Muentz returns from the Vine, you shall
have a good supply of colours. In the meantime why give up the good
old trade of drawing? Have you no Indian ink, no soot-water, no snuff,
no coat of onion, no juice of anything? If you love me, draw: you
would if you knew the real pleasure you can give me. I have been
studying all your drawings; and next to architecture and trees, I
determine that you succeed in nothing better than animals. Now (as
the newspapers say) the late ingenious Mr. Seymour is dead, I would
recommend horses and greyhounds to you. I should think you capable of
a landscape or two with delicious bits of architecture. I have known
you execute the light of a torch or lanthorn so well, that if it
was called Schalken, a housekeeper at Hampton Court or Windsor, or
a Catherine at Strawberry Hill, would show it, and say it cost ten
thousand pounds. Nay, if I could believe that you would ever execute
any more designs I proposed to you, I would give you a hint for a
picture that struck me t'other day in Perefixe's _Life of Henry IV_.
He says, the king was often seen lying upon a common straw-bed among
the soldiers, with a piece of brown bread in one hand, and a bit
of charcoal in t'other, to draw an encampment, or town that he was
besieging. If this is not character and a picture, I don't know what
is.

I dined to-day at Garrick's: there were the Duke of Grafton, Lord and
Lady Rochford, Lady Holderness, the crooked Mostyn, and Dabreu the
Spanish minister; two regents, of which one is lord chamberlain, the
other groom of the stole; and the wife of a secretary of state. This
is being _sur un assez bon ton_ for a player! Don't you want to ask me
how I like him? Do want, and I will tell you.--I like her exceedingly;
her behaviour is all sense, and all sweetness too. I don't know how,
he does not improve so fast upon me: there is a great deal of parts,
and vivacity, and variety, but there is a great deal too of mimicry
and burlesque. I am very ungrateful, for he flatters me abundantly;
but unluckily I know it. I was accustomed to it enough when my father
was first minister: on his fall I lost it all at once: and since that,
I have lived with Mr. Chute, who is all vehemence; with Mr. Fox, who
is all disputation; with Sir Charles Williams, who has no time from
flattering himself; with Gray, who does not hate to find fault with
me; with Mr. Conway, who is all sincerity; and with you and Mr. Rigby,
who have always laughed at me in a good-natured way. I don't know how,
but I think I like all this as well--I beg his pardon, Mr. Raftor does
flatter me; but I should be a cormorant for praise, if I could swallow
it whole as he gives it me.

Sir William Yonge, who has been extinct so long, is at last dead; and
the war, which began with such a flirt of vivacity, is I think gone to
sleep. General Braddock has not yet sent over to claim the surname of
Americanus. But why should I take pains to show you in how many ways I
know nothing?--Why; I can tell it you in one word--why, Mr. Cambridge
knows nothing!--I wish you good-night!

To GEORGE, LORD LYTTELTON

_Gray's Odes_

Strawberry Hill, 25 _Aug_. 1757.

MY LORD,

It is a satisfaction one can't often receive, to show a thing of
great merit to a man of great taste. Your Lordship's approbation is
conclusive, and it stamps a disgrace on the age, who have not given
themselves the trouble to see any beauties in these _Odes_ of Mr.
Gray. They have cast their eyes over them, found them obscure, and
looked no further, yet perhaps no compositions ever had more sublime
beauties than are in each. I agree with your Lordship in preferring
the last upon the whole; the three first stanzas and half, down to
_agonizing King_, are in my opinion equal to anything in any language
I understand. Yet the three last of the first Ode please me very near
as much. The description of Shakespeare is worthy Shakespeare: the
account of Milton's blindness, though perhaps not strictly defensible,
is very majestic. The character of Dryden's poetry is as animated as
what it paints. I can even like the epithet _Orient_; as the last is
the empire of fancy and poesy, I would allow its livery to be erected
into a colour. I think _blue-eyed Pleasures_ is allowable: when Homer
gave eyes of what hue he pleased to his Queen-Goddesses, sure Mr. Gray
may tinge those of their handmaids.

In answer to your Lordship's objection to _many-twinkling_, in that
beautiful epode, I will quote authority to which you will yield. As
Greek as the expression is, it struck Mrs. Garrick, and she says, on
that whole picture, that Mr. Gray is the only poet who ever understood
dancing.

These faults I think I can defend, and can excuse others; even the
great obscurity of the latter, for I do not see it in the first; the
subject of it has been taken for music,--it is the Power and Progress
of Harmonious Poetry. I think his objection to prefixing a title to it
was wrong--that Mr. Cooke published an ode with such a title. If the
Louis the Great, whom Voltaire has discovered in Hungary, had not
disappeared from history himself, would not Louis Quatorze have
annihilated him? I was aware that the second would have darknesses,
and prevailed for the insertion of what notes there are, and would
have had more. Mr. Gray said, whatever wanted explanation did not
deserve it, but that sentence was never so far from being an axiom as
in the present case. Not to mention how he had shackled himself with
strophe, antistrophe, and epode (yet acquitting himself nobly),
the nature of prophecy forbade him naming his kings. To me they are
apparent enough--yet I am far from thinking either piece perfect,
though with what faults they have, I hold them in the first rank of
genius and poetry. The second strophe of the first Ode is inexcusable,
nor do I wonder your Lordship blames it; even when one does understand
it, perhaps the last line is too turgid. I am not fond of the
antistrophe that follows. In the second Ode he made some corrections
for the worse. _Brave Urion_ was originally _stern_: brave is insipid
and commonplace. In the third antistrophe, _leave me unblessed,
unpitied_, stood at first, _leave your despairing Caradoc_. But the
capital faults in my opinion are these--what punishment was it to
Edward I to hear that his grandson would conquer France? or is so
common an event as Edward III being deserted on his death-bed, worthy
of being made part of a curse that was to avenge a nation? I can't
cast my eye here, without crying out on those beautiful lines that
follow, _Fair smiles the morn_? Though the images are extremely
complicated, what painting in the whirlwind, likened to a lion lying
in ambush for his evening prey, _in grim repose_. Thirst and hunger
mocking Richard II appear to me too ludicrously like the devils in
_The Tempest_, that whisk away the banquet from the shipwrecked Dukes.
From thence to the conclusion of Queen Elizabeth's portrait, which he
has faithfully copied from Speed, in the passage where she humbled the
Polish Ambassador, I admire. I can even allow that image of Rapture
hovering like an ancient grotesque, though it strictly has little
meaning: but there I take my leave--the last stanza has no beauties
for me. I even think its obscurity fortunate, for the allusions to
Spenser, Shakespeare, Milton, are not only weak, but the two last
returning again, after appearing so gloriously in the first Ode, and
with so much fainter colours, enervate the whole conclusion.

Your Lordship sees that I am no enthusiast to Mr. Gray: his great
lustre has not dazzled me, as his obscurity seems to have blinded his
contemporaries. Indeed, I do not think that they ever admired him,
except in his Churchyard, though the Eton Ode was far its superior,
and is certainly not obscure. The Eton Ode is perfect: those of more
masterly execution have defects, yet not to admire them is total want
of taste. I have an aversion to tame poetry; at best, perhaps the art
is the sublimest of the _difficiles nugae_; to measure or rhyme prose
is trifling without being difficult.

To GEORGE MONTAGU

_At Lady Suffolk's_

Arlington Street, 11 _Jan_. 1764.

It is an age, I own, since I wrote to you; but except politics,
what was there to send you? and for politics, the present are too
contemptible to be recorded by anybody but journalists, gazetteers,
and such historians! The ordinary of Newgate, or Mr.----, who write
for their monthly half-crown, and who are indifferent whether Lord
Bute, Lord Melcombe, or Maclean is their hero, may swear they
find diamonds on dunghills; but you will excuse _me_, if I let our
correspondence lie dormant rather than deal in such trash. I am forced
to send Lord Hertford and Sir Horace Mann such garbage, because
they are out of England, and the sea softens and makes palatable any
potion, as it does claret; but unless I can divert _you_, I had rather
wait till we can laugh together; the best employment for friends,
who do not mean to pick one another's pockets, nor make a property of
either's frankness. Instead of politics, therefore, I shall amuse you
to-day with a fairy tale.

I was desired to be at my Lady Suffolk's on New Year's morn, where I
found Lady Temple and others. On the toilet Miss Hotham spied a small
round box. She seized it with all the eagerness and curiosity of
eleven years. In it was wrapped up a heart-diamond ring, and a paper
in which, in a hand as small as Buckinger's, who used to write the
Lord's Prayer in the compass of a silver penny, were the following
lines:

Sent by a sylph, unheard, unseen,
A new-year's gift from Mab our queen:
But tell it not, for if you do,
You will be pinch'd all black and blue.
Consider well, what a disgrace,
To show abroad your mottled face:
Then seal your lips, put on the ring,
And sometimes think of Ob. the King.

You will easily guess that Lady Temple was the poetess, and that we
were delighted with the genteelness of the thought and execution. The
child, you may imagine, was less transported with the poetry than the
present. Her attention, however, was hurried backwards and forwards
from the ring to a new coat, that she had been trying on when sent for
down; impatient to revisit her coat, and to show the ring to her maid,
she whisked upstairs; when she came down again, she found a letter
sealed, and lying on the floor--new exclamations! Lady Suffolk bade
her open it: here it is:

Your tongue, too nimble for your sense,
Is guilty of a high offence;
Hath introduced unkind debate,
And topsy-turvy turn'd our state.
In gallantry I sent the ring,
The token of a love-sick king:
Under fair Mab's auspicious name
From me the trifling present came.
You blabb'd the news in Suffolk's ear;
The tattling zephyrs brought it here,
As Mab was indolently laid
Under a poppy's spreading shade.
The jealous queen started in rage;
She kick'd her crown, and beat her page:
'Bring me my magic wand ', she cries;
'Under that primrose, there it lies;
I'll change the silly, saucy chit,
Into a flea, a louse, a nit,
A worm, a grasshopper, a rat,
An owl, a monkey, hedgehog, bat.
But hold, why not by fairy art
Transform the wretch, into--?
Ixion once a cloud embraced,
By Jove and jealousy well placed;
What sport to see proud Oberon stare
And flirt it with a--!'
Then thrice she stamped the trembling ground,
And thrice she waved her wand around;
When I, endow'd with greater skill,
And less inclined to do you ill,
Mutter'd some words, withheld her arm,
And kindly stopp'd the unfinish'd charm.
But though not changed to owl or bat,
Or something more indelicate;
Yet, as your tongue has run too fast,
Your boasted beauty must not last.
No more shall frolic Cupid lie
In ambuscade in either eye,
From thence to aim his keenest dart
To captivate each youthful heart:
No more shall envious misses pine
At charms now flown, that once were thine:
No more, since you so ill behave,
Shall injured Oberon be your slave.

There is one word which I could wish had not been there, though it is
prettily excused afterwards. The next day my Lady Suffolk desired I
would write her a patent for appointing Lady Temple poet laureate to
the fairies. I was excessively out of order with a pain in my stomach,
which I had had for ten days, and was fitter to write verses like
a poet laureate, than for making one; however, I was going home to
dinner alone, and at six I sent her some lines, which you ought to
have seen how sick I was, to excuse; but first, I must tell you my
tale methodically. The next morning by nine o'clock Miss Hotham (she
must forgive me twenty years hence for saying she was eleven, for I
recollect she is but ten) arrived at Lady Temple's, her face and neck
all spotted with saffron, and limping. 'Oh, madam!' said she, 'I am
undone for ever if you do not assist me!' 'Lord, child,' cried my Lady
Temple, 'what is the matter?' thinking she had hurt herself, or lost
the ring, and that she was stolen out before her aunt was up. 'Oh,
madam,' said the girl, 'nobody but you can assist me!' My Lady Temple
protests the child acted her part so well as to deceive her. 'What can
I do for you?' 'Dear madam, take this load from my back; nobody but
you can.' Lady Temple turned her round, and upon her back was tied a
child's waggon. In it were three tiny purses of blue velvet; in one of
them a silver cup, in another a crown of laurel, and in the third
four new silver pennies, with the patent, signed at top, 'Oberon
Imperator'; and two sheets of warrants strung together with blue silk
according to form; and at top an office seal of wax and a chaplet of
cut paper on it. The warrants were these:

From the Royal Mews:
A waggon with the draught horses, delivered by
command without fee.

From the Lord Chamberlain's Office:
A warrant with the royal sign manual, delivered
by command without fee, being first entered
in the office books.

From the Lord Steward's Office:
A butt of sack, delivered without fee or gratuity,
with an order for returning the cask for the
use of the office, by command.

From the Great Wardrobe:
Three velvet bags, delivered without fee, by
command.

From the Treasurer of the Household's Office:
A year's salary paid free from land-tax, poundage,
or any other deduction whatever, by command.

From the Jewel Office:
A silver butt, a silver cup, a wreath of bays, by
command without fee.

Then came the Patent:

By these presents be it known,
To all who bend before our throne,
Fays and fairies, elves and sprites,
Beauteous dames and gallant knights,
That we, Oberon the grand,
Emperor of fairy-land,
King of moonshine, prince of dreams,
Lord of Aganippe's streams,
Baron of the dimpled isles
That lie in pretty maidens' smiles,
Arch-treasurer of all the graces
Dispersed through fifty lovely faces,
Sovereign of the slipper's order,
With all the rites thereon that border,
Defender of the sylphic faith,
Declare--and thus your monarch saith:
Whereas there is a noble dame,
Whom mortals Countess Temple name,
To whom ourself did erst impart
The choicest secrets of our art,
Taught her to tune the harmonious line
To our own melody divine,
Taught her the graceful negligence,
Which, scorning art and veiling sense,
Achieves that conquest o'er the heart
Sense seldom gains, and never art;
This lady, 'tis our royal will,
Our laureate's vacant seat should fill:
A chaplet of immortal bays
Shall crown her brow and guard her lays;
Of nectar sack an acorn cup
Be at her board each year filled up;
And as each quarter feast comes round
A silver penny shall be found
Within the compass of her shoe--
And so we bid you all adieu!

Given at our palace of Cowslip Castle, the shortest night of the year.

OBERON.

And underneath,

HOTHAMINA.

How shall I tell you the greatest curiosity of the story? The whole
plan and execution of the second act was laid and adjusted by my
Lady Suffolk herself and Will. Chetwynd, Master of the Mint, Lord
Bolingbroke's Oroonoho-Chetwynd; he fourscore, she past seventy-six;
and what is more, much worse than I was, for, added to her deafness,
she has been confined these three weeks with the gout in her eyes, and
was actually then in misery, and had been without sleep. What
spirits, and cleverness, and imagination, at that age, and under those
afflicting circumstances! You reconnoitre her old court knowledge, how
charmingly she has applied it! Do you wonder I pass so many hours and
evenings with her? Alas! I had like to have lost her this morning!
They had poulticed her feet to draw the gout downwards, and began to
succeed yesterday, but to-day it flew up into her head, and she was
almost in convulsions with the agony, and screamed dreadfully; proof
enough how ill she was, for her patience and good breeding make her
for ever sink and conceal what she feels. This evening the gout has
been driven back to her foot, and I trust she is out of danger. Her
loss would be irreparable to me at Twickenham, where she is by far the
most rational and agreeable company I have....

To LADY HERVEY

_A quiet life_

Strawberry Hill, 11 _June_, 1765.

I am almost as much ashamed, Madam, to plead the true cause of my
faults towards your ladyship, as to have been guilty of any neglect.
It is scandalous, at my age, to have been carried backwards and
forwards to balls and suppers and parties by very young people, as
I was all last week. My resolutions of growing old and staid are
admirable: I wake with a sober plan, and intend to pass the day with
my friends--then comes the Duke of Richmond, and hurries me down to
Whitehall to dinner--then the Duchess of Grafton sends for me to too
in Upper Grosvenor Street--before I can get thither, I am begged
to step to Kensington, to give Mrs. Anne Pitt my opinion about
a bow-window--after the loo, I am to march back to Whitehall to
supper--and after that, am to walk with Miss Pelham on the terrace
till two in the morning, because it is moonlight and her chair is not
come. All this does not help my morning laziness; and by the time I
have breakfasted, fed my birds and my squirrels, and dressed, there is
an auction ready. In short, Madam, this was my life last week, and
is I think every week, with the addition of forty episodes.--Yet,
ridiculous as it is, I send it to your ladyship, because I had
rather you should laugh at me than be angry. I cannot offend you in
intention, but I fear my sins of omission are equal to a good many
Christian's. Pray forgive me. I really will begin to be between forty
and fifty by the time I am fourscore: and I truly believe I shall
bring my resolutions within compass; for I have not chalked out any
particular business that will take me above forty years more; so that,
if I do not get acquainted with the grandchildren of all the present
age, I shall lead a quiet sober life yet before I die....

To THE REV. WILLIAM COLE

_Gray's death_

Paris, 12 _Aug_. 1771.

DEAR SIR,

I am excessively shocked at reading in the papers that Mr. Gray is
dead! I wish to God you may be able to tell me it is not true! Yet
in this painful uncertainty I must rest some days! None of my
acquaintance are in London. I do not know to whom to apply but to you.
Alas! I fear in vain! Too many circumstances speak it true! the detail
is exact;--a second paper arrived by the same post, and does not
contradict it--and what is worse, I saw him but four or five
days before I came hither; he had been to Kensington for the air,
complained of gout flying about him, of sensations of it in his
stomach, and indeed, thought him changed, and that he looked
ill--still I had not the least idea of his being in danger.--I started
up from my chair, when I read the paragraph--a cannon-ball could
not have surprised me more! The shock but ceased, to give way to my
concern; and my hopes are too ill founded to mitigate it. If nobody
has the charity to write to me, my anxiety must continue till the end
of the month, for I shall set out on my return on the 26th; and unless
you receive this time enough for your answer to leave London on the
20th, in the evening, I cannot meet it, till I find it in Arlington
Street, whither I beg you to direct it.

If the event is but too true, pray add to this melancholy service,
that of telling me any circumstances you know of his death. Our long,
very long friendship, and his genius, must endear to me everything
that relates to him. What writings has he left? Who are his executors?
I should earnestly wish, if he has destined anything to the public,
to print it at my press--it would do me honour, and would give me an
opportunity of expressing what I feel for him. Methinks, as we grow
old, our only business here is to adorn the graves of our friends, or
to dig our own.

To THE REV. WILLIAM MASON

_The quarrel with Gray_

2 _March_, 1773.

What shall I say? How shall I thank you for the kind manner in which
you submit your papers to my correction? But if you are friendly, I
must be just. I am so far from being dissatisfied, that I must beg to
shorten your pen, and in that respect only would I wish, with regard
to myself, to alter your text. I am conscious that in the beginning of
the differences between Gray and me, the fault was mine. I was
young, too fond of my own diversions; nay, I do not doubt, too much
intoxicated by indulgence, vanity, and the insolence of my situation,
as a prime minister's son, not to have been inattentive to the
feelings of one, I blush to say it, that I knew was obliged to me;
of one, whom presumption and folly made me deem not very superior
in parts, though I have since felt my infinite inferiority to him.
I treated him insolently. He loved me, and I did not think he did. I
reproached him with the difference between us, when he acted from the
conviction of knowing that he was my superior. I often disregarded
his wish of seeing places, which I would not quit my own amusements to
visit, though I offered to send him thither without me. Forgive me,
if I say that his temper was not conciliating, at the same time that I
will confess to you that he acted a most friendly part, had I had the
sense to take advantage of it. He freely told me my faults. I declared
I did not wish to hear them, nor would correct them. You will not
wonder, that with the dignity of his spirit, and the obstinate
carelessness of mine, the breach must have widened till we became
incompatible.

After this confession, I fear you will think I fall short in the
words I wish to have substituted for some of yours. If you think them
inadequate to the state of the case, as I own they are, preserve this
letter, and let some future Sir John Dalrymple produce it to load my
memory; but I own I do not desire that any ambiguity should aid his
invention to forge an account for me. If you have no objection, I
would propose your narrative should run thus ... and contain no more,
till a proper time shall come for publishing the truth, as I have
stated it to you. While I am living, it is not pleasant to see my
private disagreements discussed in magazines and newspapers.

To THE COUNTESS OF UPPER OSSORY

_Fashionable intelligence_

Strawberry Hill, 27 _March_, 1773.

What play makes you laugh very much, and yet is a very wretched
comedy? Dr. Goldsmith's _She Stoops to Conquer_. Stoops indeed!--so
she does, that is the Muse; she is draggled up to the knees, and has
trudged, I believe, from Southwark fair. The whole view of the
piece is low humour, and no humour is in it. All the merit is in the
situations, which are comic; the heroine has no more modesty than Lady
Bridget, and the author's wit is as much _manque_ as the lady's; but
some of the characters are well acted, and Woodward speaks a poor
prologue, written by Garrick, admirably.

You perceive, Madam, that I have boldly sallied to a play; but the
heat of the house and of this sultry March half killed me, yet I limp
about as if I was young and pleased. From the play I travelled
to Upper Grosvenor Street, to Lady Edgecumbe's, supped at Lady
Hertford's. That Maccaroni rake, Lady Powis, who is just come to her
estate and spending it, calling in with news of a fire in the Strand
at past one in the morning, Lady Hertford, Lady Powis, Mrs. Howe, and
I, set out to see it, and were within an inch of seeing the Adelphi
buildings burnt to the ground. I was to have gone to the Oratorio
next night for Miss Linley's sake, but, being engaged to the French
ambassador's ball afterwards, I thought I was not quite Hercules
enough for so many labours, and declined the former.

The house was all arbours and bowers, but rather more approaching to
Calcutta, where so many English were stewed to death; for as the Queen
would not dis-Maid of Honour herself of Miss Vernon till after the
Oratorio, the ball-room was not opened till she arrived, and we were
penned together in the little hall till we could not breathe. The
quadrilles were very pretty: Mrs. Darner, Lady Sefton, Lady Melbourne,
and the Princess Czartoriski in blue satin, with blond and _collets
montes a la reine Elizabeth_; Lord Robert Spencer, Mr. Fitzpatrick,
Lord Carlisle, and I forget whom, in like dresses with red sashes,
_derouge_, black hats with diamond loops and a few feathers before,
began; then the Henri Quatres and Quatresses, who were Lady Craven,
Miss Minching, the two Misses Vernons, Mr. Storer, Mr. Hanger, the Duc
de Lauzun, and George Damer, all in white, the men with black hats and
white feathers napping behind, danced another quadrille, and then both
quadrilles joined; after which Mrs. Hobart, all in gauze and spangles,
like a spangle-pudding, a Miss I forget, Lord Edward Bentinck, and
a Mr. Corbet, danced a _pas-de-quatre_, in which Mrs. Hobart indeed
performed admirably.

The fine Mrs. Matthews in white, trimmed down all the neck and
petticoat with scarlet cock's feathers, appeared like a new macaw
brought from Otaheite; but of all the pretty creatures next to the
Carrara (who was not there) was Mrs. Bunbury; so that with her I was
in love till one o'clock, and then came home to bed. The Duchess of
Queensberry had a round gown of rose-colour, with a man's cape, which,
with the stomacher and sleeves, was all trimmed with mother-of-pearl
earrings. This Pindaric gown was a sudden thought to surprise the
Duke, with whom she had dined in another dress. Did you ever see so
good a joke?...

Lord Chesterfield was dead before my last letter that foretold his
death set out. Alas! I shall have no more of his lively sayings,
Madam, to send you. Oh yes! I have his last: being told of the quarrel
in Spitalfields, and even that Mrs. F[itzroy] struck Miss P[oole], he
said, I always thought Mrs. F. a _striking_ beauty.'

Thus, having given away all his wit to the last farthing, he has left
nothing but some poor witticisms in his will, tying up his heir by
forfeitures and jokes from going to Newmarket.

I wrote this letter at Strawberry, and find nothing new in town to add
but a cold north-east that has brought back all our fires and furs.
Pray tell me a little of your Ladyship's futurity, and whether you
will deign to pass through London.

TO THE REV. WILLIAM COLE

_Antiquaries and authors_

Arlington Street, 27 _April_, 1773.

... Mr. Gough wants to be introduced to me! Indeed! I would see
him;... but he is so dull that he would only be troublesome--and
besides, you know I shun authors, and would never have been one
myself, if it obliged me to keep such bad company. They are always
in earnest, and think their profession serious, and will dwell upon
trifles, and reverence learning. I laugh at all these things, and
write only to laugh at them, and divert myself. None of us are authors
of any consequence; and it is the most ridiculous of all vanities to
be vain of being _mediocre_. A page in a great author humbles me
to the dust; and the conversation of those that are not superior
to myself, reminds me of what will be thought of myself. I blush to
flatter them, or to be flattered by them, and should dread letters
being published some time or other, in which they would relate our
interviews, and we should appear like those puny conceited witlings
in Shenstone's and Hughes's _Correspondence_, who give themselves airs
from being in possession of the soil of Parnassus for the time being;
as peers are proud, because they enjoy the estates of great men who
went before them. Mr. Gough is very welcome to see Strawberry Hill; or
I would help him to any scraps in my possession, that would assist
his publications; though he is one of those industrious who are
only re-burying the dead--but I cannot be acquainted with him. It is
contrary to my system and my humour; and besides, I know nothing
of barrows, and Danish intrenchments, and Saxon barbarisms, and
Phoenician characters--in short, I know nothing of those ages that
knew nothing--how then should I be of use to modern litterati? All the
Scotch metaphysicians have sent me their works. I did not read one of
them, because I do not understand what is not understood by those that
write about it; and I did not get acquainted with one of the writers.
I should like to be acquainted with Mr. Anstey, even though he wrote
Lord Buckhorse, or with the author of the _Heroic Epistle_--I have no
thirst to know the rest of my contemporaries, from the absurd bombast
of Dr. Johnson down to the silly Dr. Goldsmith; though the latter
changeling has had bright gleams of parts, and though the former had
sense, till he changed it for words, and sold it for a pension. Don't
think me scornful. Recollect that I have seen Pope, and lived with
Gray. Adieu!

TO THE MISS BERRYS

_Their first meeting_

Tuesday night, 8 o'clock, 17 _Sept._ 1793.

My beloved spouses,

Whom I love better than Solomon loved his one spouse--or his one
thousand. I lament that the summer is over; not because of its
iniquity, but because you two made it so delightful to me, that six
weeks of gout could not sour it. Pray take care of yourselves--not
for your own sakes, but for mine; for, as I have just had my quota of
gout, I may, possibly, expect to see another summer; and, as you allow
that I do know my own, and when I wish for anything and have it, am
entirely satisfied, you may depend upon it that I shall be as happy
with a third summer, if I reach it, as I have been with the two last.

Consider, that I have been threescore years and ten looking for a
society that I perfectly like; and at last there dropped out of the
clouds into Lady Herries's room two young gentlewomen, who I so little
thought were sent thither on purpose for me, that when I was told they
were the charming Miss Berrys, I would not even go to the side of the
chamber where they sat. But, as Fortune never throws anything at one's
head without hitting one, I soon found out that the charming Berrys
were precisely _ce qu'il me fallait_; and that though young enough to
be my great-grand-daughters, lovely enough to turn the heads of all
our youths, and sensible enough, if said youths have any brains, to
set all their heads to rights again. Yes, sweet damsels, I have found
that you can bear to pass half your time with an antediluvian, without
discovering any _ennui_ or disgust; though his greatest merit towards
you is, that he is not one of those old fools who fancy they are in
love in their dotage. I have no such vagary; though I am not
sorry that some folks think I am so absurd, since it frets their
selfishness.

OLIVER GOLDSMITH

1728-1774

TO HIS MOTHER

_At Cork_

[c. 1751.]

My dear mother,

If you will sit down and calmly listen to what I say, you shall be
fully resolved in every one of those many questions you have asked me.
I went to Cork and converted my horse, which you prize so much higher
than Fiddleback, into cash, took my passage in a ship bound for
America, and, at the same time, paid the captain for my freight and
all the other expenses of my voyage. But it so happened that the wind
did not answer for three weeks; and you know, mother, that I could not
command the elements. My misfortune was, that, when the wind served, I
happened to be with a party in the country, and my friend the captain
never inquired after me, but set sail with as much indifference as if
I had been on board. The remainder of my time I employed in the city
and its environs, viewing everything curious; and you know no one can
starve while he has money in his pocket.

Reduced, however, to my last two guineas, I began to think of my
dear mother and friends whom I had left behind me, and so bought
that generous beast Fiddleback, and made adieu to Cork with only five
shillings in my pocket. This, to be sure, was but a scanty allowance
for man and horse towards a journey of above a hundred miles; but I
did not despair, for I knew I must find friends on the road.

I recollected particularly an old and faithful acquaintance I made at
college, who had often and earnestly pressed me to spend a summer
with him, and he lived but eight miles from Cork. This circumstance
of vicinity he would expatiate on to me with peculiar emphasis. 'We
shall,' says he, 'enjoy the delights of both city and country, and you
shall command my stable and my purse.'

However, upon the way, I met a poor woman all in tears, who told me
her husband had been arrested for a debt he was not able to pay, and
that his eight children must now starve, bereaved as they were of his
industry, which had been their only support. I thought myself at home,
being not far from my good friend's house, and therefore parted with
a moiety of all my store; and pray, mother, ought I not to have given
her the other half-crown, for what she got would be of little use to
her? However, I soon arrived at the mansion of my affectionate friend,
guarded by the vigilance of a huge mastiff, who flew at me, and
would have torn me to pieces but for the assistance of a woman, whose
countenance was not less grim than that of the dog; yet she with great
humanity relieved me from the jaws of this Cerberus, and was prevailed
on to carry up my name to her master.

Without suffering me to wait long, my old friend, who was then
recovering from a severe fit of sickness, came down in his nightcap,
nightgown, and slippers, and embraced me with the most cordial
welcome, showed me in, and after giving me a history of his
indisposition, assured me that he considered himself peculiarly
fortunate in having under his roof the man he most loved on earth, and
whose stay with him must, above all things, contribute to his perfect
recovery. I now repented sorely I had not given the poor woman the
other half-crown, as I thought all my bills of humanity would be
punctually answered by this worthy man. I revealed to him my whole
soul; I opened to him all my distresses; and freely owned that I
had but one half-crown in my pocket; but that now, like a ship after
weathering out the storm, I considered myself secure in a safe and
hospitable harbour. He made no answer, but walked about the room,
rubbing his hands as one in deep study. This I imputed to the
sympathetic feelings of a tender heart, which increased my esteem for
him, and as that increased, I gave the most favourable interpretation
to his silence. I construed it into delicacy of sentiment, as if he
dreaded to wound my pride by expressing his commiseration in words,
leaving his generous conduct to speak for itself.

It now approached six o'clock in the evening; and as I had eaten no
breakfast, and as my spirits were raised, my appetite for dinner grew
uncommonly keen. At length the old woman came into the room with two
plates, one spoon, and a dirty cloth which she laid upon the table.
This appearance, without increasing my spirits, did not diminish my
appetite. My protectress soon returned with a small bowl of sago, a
small porringer of sour milk, a loaf of stale brown bread, and
the heel of an old cheese all over crawling with mites. My friend
apologized that his illness obliged him to live on slops, and that
better fare was not in the house; observing, at the same time, that
a milk diet was certainly the most healthful; and at eight o'clock he
again recommended a regular life, declaring that for his part he would
lie down with the lamb and rise with the lark. My hunger was at this
time so exceedingly sharp that I wished for another slice of the loaf,
but was obliged to go to bed without even that refreshment.

This lenten entertainment I had received made me resolve to depart as
soon as possible; accordingly, next morning, when I spoke of going,
he did not oppose my resolution; he rather commended my design, adding
some very sage counsel upon the occasion. 'To be sure,' said he, 'the
longer you stay away from your mother, the more you will grieve her
and your other friends; and possibly they are already afflicted at
hearing of this foolish expedition you have made.' Notwithstanding all
this, and without any hope of softening such a sordid heart, I again
renewed the tale of my distress, and asking 'how he thought I could
travel above a hundred miles upon one half-crown?' I begged to borrow
a single guinea, which I assured him should be repaid with thanks.
'And you know, sir,' said I, 'it is no more than I have often done for
you.' To which he firmly answered, 'Why, look you, Mr. Goldsmith, that
is neither here nor there. I have paid you all you ever lent me, and
this sickness of mine has left me bare of cash. But I have bethought
myself of a conveyance for you; sell your horse, and I will furnish
you with a much better one to ride on.' I readily grasped at his
proposal, and begged to see the nag; on which he led me to his
bedchamber, and from under the bed he pulled out a stout oak stick.
'Here he is,' said he; 'take this in your hand, and it will carry you
to your mother's with more safety than such a horse as you ride.' I
was in doubt, when I got it into my hand, whether I should not in the
first place apply it to his pate; but a rap at the street-door
made the wretch fly to it, and when I returned to the parlour,
he introduced me, as if nothing of the kind had happened, to the
gentleman who entered, as Mr. Goldsmith, his most ingenious and worthy
friend, of whom he had so often heard him speak with rapture. I could
scarcely compose myself; and must have betrayed indignation in my mien
to the stranger, who was a counsellor-at-law in the neighbourhood, a
man of engaging aspect and polite address.

After spending an hour, he asked my friend and me to dine with him at
his house. This I declined at first, as I wished to have no further
communication with my hospitable friend; but at the solicitation of
both I at last consented, determined as I was by two motives; one,
that I was prejudiced in favour of the looks and manner of the
counsellor; and the other, that I stood in need of a comfortable
dinner. And there, indeed, I found everything that I could wish,
abundance without profusion, and elegance without affectation. In the
evening, when my old friend, who had eaten very plentifully at his
neighbour's table, but talked again of lying down with the lamb, made
a motion to me for retiring, our generous host requested I should take
a bed with him, upon which I plainly told my old friend that he might
go home and take care of the horse he had given me, but that I should
never re-enter his doors. He went away with a laugh, leaving me to

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