« AnteriorContinuar »
sit coolly meditating new tortures, new anguish for that poor, helpless, miserable woman, after four years of unexampled sufferings? Oh! if such crimes are not made a dreadful lesson, this world might become a theatre of canibals!'
1 P.257- Speakingof the royal visit to Strawberry-Hill, he says:
* Besides \\v. Queen and the six Princesses, I am to have the Duchess of York and the Princess of Or;inge! Woe is me! at seventy-eight, and with scarce a hand or foot to my back!'
Though our author, both as Mr W and as Lord O. speaks contemptuously, and indeed with rancour, of kings in general, lie does not seem to wish for a republic here: if he ever did, the French induced him to change his mind: but, perhaps from a general spleen that he could not himself succeed his father, there has been no British minister since, whom he did not wish to pull down; though we have not been able to discover whom he wished to set up.
Marshal Conway died July 10, 1795, three days after the date of Lord Orford's last letter to him, which concludes thus:
* I have not redde the new French constitution, which seems longerMhan probably its reign will be. The five sovereigns will, I suppose, be the first guillotined. Adieu !—O.'
The next series of letters is that which is addressed to Mr. Bentley, son of the celebrated learned commentator; bearing date from 1752 to 1756. This gentleman, being a great friend of the poet Gray, designed the humorous plates to the folio edition of his poems. He likewise produced an unsuccessful comedy called The Wishes*, founded on les trots Souhaits of la Fontaine. The first of these letters is extremely amusing, it occupies nine 4to pages, and is wholly descriptive of a Kentish tour, including Knowle, the castle in Tunbridge town, Summerhill, Lamberhurst, Bayham Abbey, Hurst Monceaux, Battel, and Ptnshurst; written in a lively, minute, and discriminate manner; particularly the descriptions of Knowle 2nd Penshurst.
The lid letter describes Yorkshire; the IITd, Worcestershire, Hagley, Worcester city, Malvern• Abbey, and, afterward, Gloucester cathedral, &c. The IVth contains nothing very memorable, except the author's public declaration that he hated his uncle, old Horace Walpole, as much as Georgell. feared his young nephew, Frederic II. of Prussia. Vth, Miscellaneous. Vlth, An unchristian, sarcastic, and mock elegiac letter, on the death of Mr. Pelham, chancellor of the Exchequer. VII. Political scandal. VIII. Chiefly about Gothic ornaments for Strawberry-Hill. I A- Casllcs, Chinese houses,
* it jiiiscanitd on the stage in the year 1761. See M. R. vol. xxv.
U 4 Tombs, Tombs, Negroes, Jews, Irishmen, Princesses, and Mohawksall ridiculed. X. More Strawberry-beds, and enviously severe criticisms on other places. The end of this letter, however, is good. The Xlth is in his first and best manner: here follows a specimen:
• If you was dead, to be sure you would have got somebody to tell me so. If you was alive, to be sure in all this time you would have told me so yourself. It is a month to-day sinct I received a line from you. There was a Florentine ambassador here in Oliver's reign, who with great circumspection wrote to his court, "Some say the protector is dead, others say he is not: for my part, I believe neither one nor t'other." I quote this sage personage, to shew you that I have a good precedent, in case I had a mind to continue neutral upon the point of your existence. I can't resolve to believe you dead, lest I should be forced to write to Mr. S. again to bemoan you; and on the other hand, it is convenient to me to believe you living, because I have just received the inclosed from your sister, and the money from Ely. However, if you are actually dead, be so good as to. order your executor to receive the money and to answer your sister's letter. If you arc not dead, 1 can tell you who is, and at the same time whose death is to remain as doubtful as yours till tomorrow morning. Don't be alarmed! it is only the queen dowager • of Prussia. As excessive as the concern for her is at court, the whole royal family, out of great consideration for the mercers, lacemen, &c. agreed not to shed a tear for her till to-morrow morning, when the birth-day will be over; but they are all to rise by six o'clock to-morrow morning to cry quarts. This is the sum of all the news that I learnt to-day on coming from Strawberry-hill, except that lady Betty Waldegrave was robbed t'other night in Hyde-park, under the very noses of the lamps and the patrole. If any body is robbed at the ball at court to-uight, you shall hear in my next dispatch.'
XII. P. 299. A scolding letter to his friend, terminated with two bans mots of Madame de Sevigne. XIII. Comic and jocose. 'My ladyT. has been dying, and was wofully frightened, and took prayers; but she is recovered now, even of her repentance.' The XlVth, XVth, and XVIth, are chatty and entertaining.
Thcst letters', amounting to thirty-five, are too numerous for the rest even of their contents to be separately mentioned. What Mr.W. saysof learned men, p.322, is not very flattering to the son of one of the most learned men of our country: * You know I have always thought a running footman as meritorious a Being as a learned man. Why is there more merit in having travelled one's eyes over so many reams of paper, than in having carried pne's legs over so many acres of ground?'
The anecdotes of the times in these letters, particularly during the eventful year 1755, at the breaking out of the war with
France France for American territory, and at the beginning of the first Mr. Pitt's coming into power, are extremely entertaining.
The succeeding correspondence in this volume is with the poet Gray, dating from the year 1753 to tne 7ear 1768. A print of Mr. G. is prefixed to these letters, from an original picture during youth, which does the poet's personal appearance much more honour, than that which his friend Mason has given, from memory, in the 4to edition of his works.
Gray, who was intended for the law, quitted that pursuit, in order to travel with his school-fellow Mr. Walpole, in 1739; a measure that must have appeared to his friends to be pregnant with the most flattering prospects of future patronage; Sir Robert "Walpole, Mr. W.'s father, being then at the zenith of his power as-prime minister: but a difference happening between the travellers, at Reggio in Italy, they parted, and seem not to have met again till the year 1744; when a reconciliation was effected by the mediation of a lady, (says Mr. Mason, in his life of the poet,) who wished well to both parties. We know less of Mr. Gray's than of Mr. Walpole's temper and private life; with the latter of whom his writings and letters make us so well acquainted, that we cannot help supposing that he must have been a man of difficult commerce, particularly under the same roof, or in a post-chaise through bad roads, and in want of accustomed conveniences and comforts. It has been often said, with some truth, that nothing tries a temper more than the accidents and disappointments incident to travelling; and Mr. W.—who had prejudices, antipathies, timidities, and singularities, to which it would be a slavery implicitly to conform, and who, perhaps, never forgot that he was the son of a prime minister, and allied to many great families in the kingdom,—might exact a respect and a compliance with his humours, which a man of Gray's lofty genius and cultivated mind would be likely to disdain.
The first letter of Mr. W. to the Poet in this collection is on the subject of the print above mentioned, which Dodsley wished to have prefixed to the 4to edition of the odes: but Gray's extreme repugnance to the proposal obliged his friends to drop it. The 3d letter of Mr. W. is a very severs and peevish account of the people at I'aris, who were studying night and day to amuse and please him. In Gray's answer to this letter, from Cambridge, 1765, is an excellent admonition to Mr. W. to take care of his health, and neither to quack himself nor be quacked by others- He speaks of the Gout* « connoisseur.—
The next is a very long letter by Mr. W. from Paris, in 1766, giving an account of his mode of living, aud how much he
was ■was -the fashion with persons of the highest class in that capita]. In this letter, is a character, n'rcely and discriminately drawn, of the two leading and rival female wits,— Mad.Geoffrin, who continued the celebrated establishment of Mad. Tencin in favour of authors, by furnishing each who attended her conversazioni with a pair of velvet breeches (culottes de velcurs) as a new-year's gift;—and the blind Mad. du DefFand,who used to satisfy her curiosity concerning the features of strangers who were presented to her, by feeling their faces; and who, thinking that an indecorous trick had been played on her, when she felt the face of Mr. Gibbon, cried out fi-doncl voiis m'avtz .trompe. Mr. W. here also draws characters of Mad. de BoufHers, Mad. de Rochefort, and the Ducheffe de Choiseul.
Who would not imagine that the republican oath of hatred to royalty had been administered to some of our countrymen at this early period? Gray says, p. 370,
* Mr. Mason, who is here, desires to present bis respects to you. Me says, that to efface from our annals the history of any tyrant is to do an effential injury to mankind: but he forgives it, because you have shown Henry the seventh to be 3 greater devil than Richard.'
Mr. Walpole, in answer to this paragraph, says (p. 372): 'I am much obliged and flattered by Mr. Mason's approbation, and particularly by having had almost the same thought with him. I said, "People need not be angry at my excusing Richard; I have not diminished their fund of hatred, I have only transferred it from Richard to Henry.'
The remainder of this division of letters between Messrs. Walpole and Gray chiefly concerns the " Historic Doubts:"— fending, proving, propping up the tottering edifice, and venting spleen against all who doubt of his doubts.
At this time, Gray, Mason, and Walpole, formed a party hostile to all around them. They certainly had great merit: but not all the me^rit in the kingdom. Yet the contempt and arrogance with which they treated every other candidate for fame, abroad and at home, were so offensive that many, who were disposed to admire their writings, unwillingly allowed them their due share of praise.
After this series, we find ' Letters from Thomas Gray to the Honourable Horace Walpole, not printed by Mr. Mason'in his 4to life and edition of his friend's works.' These letters include the period from 1746 to 1764, and are written with the same simplicity and characteristic pleasantry which distinguish those that were formerly published. The poe't will appear, by these documents, to have less grotesque wit and whimsical fancy than his noble friend, but much more temper and toleralion. We are tempted to extract a wholesome and gentle reproof given by him to his quondam school-fellow, ,so early as the year 1747, on the chapter of petulance and presumption:
4 I am very sorry to hear you treat philosophy and her followers like a parcel of monks and hermits, and think myself obliged to vindicate a profession I honour, bien que1 je n?en tienne pas boutique (as mad. Sevigne says). The first man ^hat ever bore the name, if you remember, used to say, that life was like the Olympic gamps (the greatest public assembly of his age and country), where some came to show their strength and agility of body, as the champions; others, as the musicians, orators, poets and historians, to show their excellence in those arts; the traders, to get money; and the better sort, to enjoy the spectacle, and judge of all these. They did not then run away from society for fear of its temptations: they passed their days in the midst of it: conversation was their business: they cultivated the arts of persuasion, on purpose to show men it was their interest, as well as their duty, not to be foolish, and false, and unjust; and that too in many instances with success: which is not very strange; for they showed by their life that their lessons were not impracticable; and that pleasures were no temptations, but to such as' wanted a clear perception of the pains annexed to them.' *
In a letter to Mr,W. respecting the first three volumes ofDodsley's collection of poems, in which Mr.Gray's own performances first appeared, we find him fastidious, but somewhat more just to Johnson than his friend. * I am sorry to differ from you, but London f is to me one of the few imitations, that have all the ease and all the spirit of the original. The same man's verses at the opening of Garrick's theatre are far from bad.' This praise of Johnsqn's famous prologue is meagre, and superciliously given; yet it is more than either Mr. Walpole or Mr. Mason would ever bestow, either on the verse or prose of ■Johnson.—So narrow is the spirit of political prejudice! These Whigs could never pardon Johnson's Jacobitism :—the time was, when the Tories would allow no merit in Paradise Lost!
Where, we may ask, are Mr. Walpole's memoirs of his own time, after which Mr. Gray inquires so anxiously? (p. 390) are they concealed in a casket which is not to be opened till a distant period?
t * Never perhaps was a more admirable picture drawn of true philosophy and its real and important services; services not confined to the speculative opinions of the studious, but adapted to the common purposes of life, and promoting the general happiness of mankind; not upon the chimerical basis of a system, but on the immutable foundations of truth and virtue. E.'
f A well-known poem so intitled, written by Dr. Johnson in imitation of Juvenal.