Imágenes de página

Gray's letters are followed by those of Mr. Walpole to Joha Chute, Esq. of the Vine in Hampshire, with a portrait ; from the year 1753 to 1771.

The first of these letters is on Prospects, Places, Gardening, &c. Speaking of Sir James Dashwood's seat at High Wycombe, Mr.W. says: . It is a vast new house, situated so high, that it seems to stand for the county as well as himself.' In 1754 he says to his friend :

« The only event since you left London was the tragi-comedy that was acted last Saturday at thc opera. One of the dramatic guards fell flat on his face and motionless in an apoplectic sit. The princess * and her children were there. Miss Chudieigh, who apparemment had never seen a man fall on his face before, went into the most theatric fit of kicking and shricking that ever was seen. Several other women, who were preparing their fits, were so distanced, that she had the whole house to herself, and indeed such a confusion for half an hour I never saw! The next day at my lady Townshend's, old Charles Stanhope asked what these fits were called ? Charles Townshend replied, “ The true convulsive fiis, to be had only of the maler.

Among his comicalities, Mr.W. says, p. 415: You never saw any thing so droll as Mrs. Clive's countenance, between the heat of the summer, the pride in her legacy to and the efforts to appear concerned.'.

In 1758, he begins a letter (p. 416.) thus: «The Tower guns have sworn through thick and thin that prince Ferdinand has entirely demolished the French, and the city-bon Gres all believe it. However, as no officer is yet come, nor confirma. tion, my crackers suspend their belief. Our great fleet is stepped ashore again near Cherbourg; I suppose, to singe half a yard inore of the coast. This is all I know ; less, as you may perceive, than any thing but the Gazette.'-In 1706, another Ictter has this queerality: However, I have been at one opera, Mr. Wesley's. They have boys and girls with charming voices, that sing hymns, in parts, to Scotch ballad tunes; but indeed so long, that one would think they were already in eternity, and knew how much time they had before them.'-In subsequent letters, from France, he draws portraits of his acquaintances which are never favourable likenesses.

Next occur letters to the Earl of Strafford, from the year 1750 to 1790, with a portrait of that noble lord.

The first six of these letters are Gilled with ridicule and jokes, not very brilliant, on our blunders and misfortunes at the beginning of the war of 1756; concerning the continuation of

«* The princess of Wales, mother to his present majesty.'

• † A legacy of 501. left her by John Robarts Earl of Radnor, the Lait of chat family.'


[ocr errors]

which in the year 1759, the sarcastic writer is obliged to change his note, and to observe :

- We have taken more places and ships in a week than would have set up such pedant nations as Greece and Rome to all futurity. If we did but call fir William Johnson, Gulielmus Johnsonus Niagaricus; and Amherst, Galfridus Amhersta Ticonderogicus, we should be quoted a thousand years hence as the patterns of valour, virtue, and disinterestedness; for posterity always ascribes all manner of modesty and self-denial to those that take the most pains to perpetuate their own glory. Then admiral Boscawen has, in a very Roman style, made free with the coast of Portugal, and used it to make a bonfire of the French flect. When Mr. Pitt was told of this infraction of a neutral territory, he replied, “ It is very true, but they are burned."

- In short, we want but a little more insolence and a worse cause to make us a very classic nation.'

At p.444, he says : I tell you nothing of the rupture of lord Halifax's match, of which you must have heard so much ; but you will like a bon mot upon it-They say the hundreds of Drury have got the better of the thousands of Drury *,'

P. 453. August 1763. .

• I have waited in hopes that the world would do something worth telling you: it will not, and I cannot stay any longer without asking you how you do, and hoping you have not quite forgot me. It has rained such deluges, that I had some thoughts of turning my gallery into an ark, and began to pack up a pair of bantams, a pair of cats, in short, a pair of every living creature about my house : but it is grown fine at last, and the workmen quit my without hoisting a sail in it.'

P. 468. « Though I have done with politics (1771) one cannot help hearing them-nay reading them ; for, like fiies, they come to breakfast with one's bread and butter.'

P. 471. Speaking of the improper treatment of pictures in France, he says, it makes me as peevish as if I were posterity.' P. 475. • Few Englishmen, I have observed, can bear solitude without being hurt by it. Our climate makes us capricious, and we must rub off our roughnesses and humours against one another.'

During the latter years of this correspondence, the author is very gloomy. Perpetual censure of administration, national degeneracy, present distress, and impending ruin! P. 488. Complaining of late hours, he says, “The sun and the seasons were not gone out of fashion when I was young.' All these letters commence with apologies for their worthlessness, which we suppose, in course, are answered by compliments of contra

* Lord Halifax then kept Miss Falkener, the singer, of Drury. lane theatre ; and the marriage broken off was with a daughter of Sir Thomas Drury, an heiress.

diction :

diction : so that, like a see-saw at whist; the suits are contio nued without interruption. The letters abound in gossipping stories from the capital, and a more than ordinary struggle at wit, with a less than ordinary successo

The letters to the Earl of Strafford are succeeded by those to the Right Hon. Mary Lepel, Lady Hervey.

These epistles are in a cheerful tone of old-fashioned gallantry and politeness. The account which the author gives of himself, and the manly and useful manner of passing his time, will amuse his most serious readers. As to his female friends, he seems to have been regarded by them as an innocent plaything, with many amusing qualities, which they could enjoy without risking their reputations.

On his arrival at Paris, 1765, he says, p. 525-'I am but two days old, sure, and I doubt I wish I was really so, and had my life to begin, to live here. Complaining of the dirt of the country, which is melancholy after the purity of Strawberry,'-- he adds: • In short, madam, being as tired as one can be of one's own country,—I don't say whether that is much or little, I find myself wonderfully disposed to like this:-In. deed Iwish I could wash it.'

Though constantly speaking of his favour with the first people of Paris, he seems jealous of that which Hume enjoyed : --Mr.Hume, that is, the Modes asked much after your ladyship.'

There are several English here, whether I will or will not. I certainly did not come for them.' At p.528, we have an excellent paragraph on the disadvantages and embarrassments occasioned to a stranger by the want of facility in speaking the language of the country:

I may be charmed with the French, but your ladyship must not expect that they will fall in love with me. Without affecting to lower myself, the disadvantage of speaking a language worse than any idiot one meets, is insurmountable : the silliest Frenchman is eloquent to me, and leaves me embarrassed and obscure. I could game twenty other reasons, if this one was not sufficient. As it is, my own defects are the sole cause of my not liking Paris entirely : the constraint I am under from not being perfectly master of their language, and from being so much in the dark, as one necessarily must be, on half the subjects of their conversation, prevents my enjoying that case for which their society is calculated. I am much amused, but not comfortable.'

We cannot resist the pleasure of inserting the author's admirable account of the power which Mad. Geoffrin had over him: MadGeoffrin came and sat two hours last night by my bed side *: I could have sworn it had been my lady Her


[ocr errors]

* He was then in gouty confinement.

rey, she was so good to me. It was with so much sense, information, instruction, and correction! The manner of the latter charms me. I never saw any body in my days that catches one's faults and vanities and impositions so quick, that explains them to one so clearly, and convinces one so easily. I never liked to be set right before! You cannot imagine how I taste it! I make her both my confessor and director, and begin to think I shall be a reasonable creature at last, which I had never intended to be. The next time I see her, I believe I shall say, “ Oh! Common Sense, sit down: I have been thinking so and so ; is not it absurd ?"-for t’other sense and wisdom, I never liked them; I shall now hate them for her sake. If it was worth her while, I assure your ladyship she might govern me like a child.'

We are next presented with letters to Caroline Campbell, Countess Dowager of Ailesbury. From the year 1760 to 1779.

Had we room, we should here be tempted to insert whole letters as well as fragments; as Mr. W. wrote to none of his correspondents more naturally and affectionately than to this worthy and amiable Countess, who was the wife of his dearest friend Marshal Conway. The Id of these letters to Lady Ailesbury, then at the Hague, is uncommonly lively and characteristic. In the postscript to the Illd, he asks--- Pray, madam, do the gnats bite your legs? Mine are swelled as big as one, which is saying a great deal for me. In the IVth, he gives her ladyship a pleasant account of the coronation, 1761; with portraits and anecdotes in his own ironical style.

The following reflections, p. 567, are very Walpolean :

• Old age is no such unconfortable thing, if one gives one's self up to it with a good grace, and don't drag it about

To midnight dances and the public show. If one stays quietly in one's own house in the country, and cares for nothing but one's self, scolds one's servants, con. demns every thing that is new, and recollects how charming a thousand things were formerly that were very disagreeable, one gets over the winters very well, and the summers get over themselves.'

Thent chan the ey encomiast. la petite bonds

The ensuing letters to Mrs. Hannah More are laboured, and less pleasant than the preceding to the natural unpretending Coun. tess. They are very encomiastic, and manifestly in payment, value received. He is making la petite bouche at the complies ments of his ingenious correspondent, and says, in his own peculiar idiom, that he has made a resolution not to expose his pen's grey hairs.'


Nature gave to Mr. Walpole a tongue to talk virtue, and even heroism, but not a mind nor a body adapted to act either. He talks what he should feel, but feels not what he talks : yet he puts a good face on his infirmities, and talks patience, at least :

P. 599. You commend me (says he) for not complaining of my chronical evil-but, my dear madam, I should be blameable for the reverse. If I would live to seventy-two, ought I not to compound for the incumbrances of old age? And who has fewer? And who has more cause to be thankful to Providence for his lot? The gout, it is true, comes frequently, but the fits are short, and very tolerable; the intervals are full health. My eyes are perfect, my hearing but little impaired, chiefly to whispers, for which I certainly have little occasion : my spirits never fail ; and though my hands and feet are crippled, I can use both, and do not wish to box, wrestle, or dance a hornpipe. In short, I am just infirm enough to enjoy all the prero. gatives of old age, and to plead them against any thing that I have not a mind to do. Young men must conform to every folly in fashion, drink when they had rather be sober, fight a duel if somebody else is wrong-headed, marry to please their fathers, not themselves, and shiver in a white waistcoat, because ancient almanacs, copying the Arabian, placed the month of June after May; though, when the style was reformed, it ought to have been intercalated be. tween December and January.- Indeed, I have been so childish as to cut my hay for the same reason, and am now weeping over it by the fire-side.',

One or two of the letters on the French revolution appear to have been written with due horror at its dreadful consequences, It seems to have put his lordship in humour with poor Louis XVI. though a king. Religion, too, has fared the better for the decorum with which good breeding obliged him to soften sarcasm, in speaking of it to Mrs. H. More.

Here break we off. - The liberality with which we have presented our readers with so large a portion of the medullary substance of this most entertaining volume, we hope, will not only be a gratification to those who cannot purchase the work,, but be some incitement to those who can; when we assure them that there are innumerable excellent letters to celebrated and eminent persons, which, so, far from inserting them entire, or even extracting fragments from them, we, have not been able to name.

In the course of our examination of this voluminous work, we have praised and censured with the utmost freedom and sincerity, without the least intention of deviating from the exact line of truth; as literally, as if the shade of the author had exclaimed in the words of Shakspeare,

* Speak of me as I am: nothing extenuatė,

Nor set down aught in malice:”

« AnteriorContinuar »