SELECTED AND EDITED BY
CHARLES DUKE YONGE, M.A.
AUTHOR OF "THE HISTORY OF FRANCE UNDER THE BOURBONS," "A LIFE OF MARIE ANTOINETTE," ETC., ETC.
WITH PORTRAITS AND ILLUSTRATIONS
T. FISHER UNWIN
NEW YORK: G.P. PUTNAM'S SONS
1. TO MONTAGU, May 2, 1736.—Marriage of the Princess of Wales—Very lively
2. TO THE SAME, May 6, 1736.—Fondness for Old Stories—Reminiscences of Eton, etc.
3. TO THE SAME, March 20, 1737.—Wish to Travel—Superiority of French Manners to English in their manner to Ladies
4. TO WEST, April 21, 1739.—Theatres at Paris—St. Denis—Fondness of the French for Show, and for Gambling—Singular Signs—The Army the only Profession for Men of Gentle Birth—Splendour of the Public Buildings
5. TO THE SAME, 1739.—Magnificence of Versailles—The Chartreux Relics
6. TO THE SAME, February 27, 1740.—The Carnival—The Florentines Civil, Good-natured, and Fond of the English—A Curious Challenge
7. TO THE SAME, June 14, 1740.—Herculaneum—Search should be made for other Submerged Cities—Quotations from Statius
8. TO CONWAY, July 5, 1740.—Danger of Malaria—Roman Catholic Relics—"Admiral Hosier's Ghost"—Contest for the Popedom
9. TO THE SAME, July 9, 1740
10. TO WEST, Oct. 2, 1740.—A Florentine Wedding—Addison's Descriptions are Borrowed from Books—A Song of Bondelmonti's, with a Latin Version by Gray, and an English One by the Writer
11. TO MANN, Jan. 22, 1742.—Debate on Pulteney's Motion for a Committee on Papers Relating to the War—Speeches of Pulteney, Pitt, Sir R. Walpole, Sir W. George, etc.—Smallness of the Ministerial Majority
12. TO THE SAME, May 26, 1742.—Ranelagh Gardens Opened—Garrick, "A Wine-merchant turned Player"—Defeat of the Indemnity Bill
13. TO THE SAME, Dec. 9, 1742.—Debate on Disbanding the Hanoverian Troops—First Speech of Murray (afterwards Earl of Mansfield)—Bon Mot of Lord Chesterfield
14. TO THE SAME, Feb. 24, 1743.—King Theodore—Handel Introduces Oratorios
15. TO THE SAME, July 4, 1743.—Battle of Dettingen—Death of Lord Wilmington
16. TO THE SAME, Sept. 7, 1743.—French Actors at Clifden—A new Roman Catholic Miracle—Lady Mary Wortley
17. TO THE SAME, March 29, 1745.—Death of his Father—Matthews and Lestock in the Mediterranean—Thomson's "Tancred and Sigismunda"—Akenside's Odes—Conundrums in Fashion
18. TO THE SAME, May 11, 1745.—Battle of Fontenoy—The Ballad of the Prince of Wales
19. TO MONTAGU, August 1, 1745.—M. De Grignan—Livy's Patavinity—The Marechal De Belleisle—Whiston Prophecies the Destruction of the World—The Duke of Newcastle
20. TO MANN, Sept. 6, 1745.—Invasion of Scotland by the Young Pretender—Forces are said to be Preparing in France to join him
21. TO THE SAME, Sept. 20, 1745.—This and the following Letters give a Lively Account of the Progress of the Rebellion till the Retreat from Derby, after which no particular interest attaches to it
22. TO THE SAME, Sept. 27, 1745.—Defeat of Cope
23. TO THE SAME, Oct. 21, 1745.—General Wade is Marching to Scotland—Violent Proclamation of the Pretender
24. TO THE SAME, Nov. 22, 1745.—Gallant Resistance of Carlisle—Mr. Pitt attacks the Ministry
25. TO THE SAME, Dec. 9, 1745.—The Rebel Army has Retreated from Derby—Expectation of a French Invasion
26. TO THE SAME, April 25, 1746.—Battle of Culloden
27. TO THE SAME, Aug. 1, 1746.—Trial of the Rebel Lords Balmerino and Kilmarnock
28. TO THE SAME, Oct. 14, 1746.—The Battle of Rancoux
29. TO CONWAY, Oct. 24, 1746.—On Conway's Verses—No Scotchman is capable of such Delicacy of Thought, though a Scotchwoman may be—Akenside's, Armstrong's, and Glover's Poems
30. TO THE SAME, June 8, 1747.—He has bought Strawberry Hill
31. TO THE SAME, Aug. 29, 1748.—His Mode of Life—Planting—Prophecies of New Methods and New Discoveries in a Future Generation
32. TO MANN, May 3, 1749.—Rejoicings for the Peace—Masquerade at Ranelagh—Meeting of the Prince's Party and the Jacobites—Prevalence of Drinking and Gambling—Whitefield
33. TO THE SAME, March 11, 1750.—Earthquake in London—General Panic—Marriage of Casimir, King of Poland
34. TO THE SAME, April 2, 1750.—General Panic—Sherlock's Pastoral Letter—Predictions of more Earthquakes—A General Flight from London—Epigrams by Chute and Walpole himself—French Translation of Milton
35. TO THE SAME, April 1, 1751.—Death of Walpole's Brother, and of the Prince of Wales—Speech of the young Prince—Singular Sermon on His Death
36. TO THE SAME, June 18, 1751.—Changes in the Ministry and Household—The Miss Gunnings—Extravagance in London—Lord Harcourt, Governor of the Prince of Wales
37. TO THE SAME, June 12, 1753.—Description of Strawberry Hill—Bill to Prevent Clandestine Marriages
38. TO MONTAGU, May 19, 1756.—No News from France but what is Smuggled—The King's Delight at the Vote for the Hanover Troops—Bon Mot of Lord Denbigh
39. TO THE SAME, Oct. 17, 1756.—Victory of the King of Prussia at Lowositz—Singular Race—Quarrel of the Pretender with the Pope
40. TO THE SAME, Nov. 4, 1756.—Ministerial Negotiations—Loss of Minorca—Disaster in North America
41. TO THE EARL OF STRAFFORD, July 4, 1757.—The King of Prussia's Victories—Voltaire's "Universal History"
42. TO ZOUCH, August 3, 1758.—His own "Royal and Noble Authors"
43. TO THE SAME, Oct. 21, 1758.—His "Royal and Noble Authors"—Lord Clarendon—Sir R. Walpole and Lord Bolingbroke—The Duke of Leeds
44. TO MANN, Oct. 24, 1758.—Walpole's Monument to Sir Horace's Brother—Attempted Assassination of the King of Portugal—Courtesy of the Duc D'Aiguillon to his English Prisoners
45. TO ZOUCH, Dec. 9, 1758.—A New Edition of Lucan—Comparison of "Pharsalea"—Criticism on the Poet, with the Aeneid—Helvetius's Work, "De L'Esprit"
46. TO CONWAY, Jan. 19, 1759.—State of the House of Commons
47. TO DALRYMPLE, Feb. 25, 1759.—Robertson's "History of Scotland"—Comparison of Ramsay and Reynolds as Portrait-Painters—Sir David's "History of the Gowrie Conspiracy"
48. TO THE SAME, July 11, 1759.—Writers of History: Goodall, Hume, Robertson—Queen Christina
49. TO CONWAY, Aug. 14, 1759.—The Battle of Minden—Lord G. Sackville
50. TO MANN, Sept. 13, 1759.—Admiral Boscawen's Victory—Defeat of the King of Prussia—Lord G. Sackville
51. TO MONTAGU, Oct. 21, 1759.—A Year of Triumphs
52. TO THE SAME, Nov. 8, 1759.—French Bankruptcy—French Epigram
53. TO THE SAME, Jan. 7, 1760.—He lives amongst Royalty—Commotions in Ireland
54. TO THE SAME, Jan. 14, 1760.—Severity of the Weather—Scarcity in Germany—A Party at Prince Edward's—Charles Townsend's Comments on La Fontaine
55. TO MANN, Feb. 28, 1760.—Capture of Carrickfergus
56. TO DALRYMPLE, April 4, 1760.—The Ballad of "Hardyknute"—Mr. Home's "Siege of Aquileia"—"Tristram Shandy"—Bishop Warburton's Praise of it
57. TO THE SAME, June 20, 1760.—Erse Poetry—"The Dialogues of the Dead"—"The Complete Angler"
58. TO MONTAGU, Sept. 1, 1760.—Visits in the Midland Counties—Whichnovre—Sheffield—The new Art of Plating—Chatsworth—Haddon Hall—Hardwicke—Apartments of Mary Queen of Scots—Newstead—Althorp
59. TO THE SAME, April 16, 1761.—Gentleman's Dress—Influence of Lord Bute—Ode by Lord Middlesex—G. Selwyn's Quotation
60. TO THE SAME, May 5, 1761.—Capture of Belleisle—Gray's Poems—Hogarth's Vanity
61. TO THE SAME, May 22, 1761.—Intended Marriage of the King—Battles in Germany—Capture of Pondicherry—Burke
62. TO MANN, Sept. 10, 1761.—Arrival of the Princess of Mecklenburgh—The Royal Wedding—The Queen's Appearance and Behaviour
63. TO THE COUNTESS OF AILESBURY, Sept. 27, 1761.—The Coronation and subsequent Gaieties
64. TO THE SAME, Nov. 28, 1761.—A Court Ball—Pamphlets on Mr. Pitt—A Song by Gray
65. TO MANN, Jan. 29, 1762.—Death of the Czarina Elizabeth—The Cock-lane Ghost—Return to England of Lady Mary Wortley
66. TO ZOUCH, March 20, 1762.—His own "Anecdotes of Painting"—His Picture of the Wedding of Henry VII.—Burnet's Comparison of Tiberius and Charles II.—Addison's "Travels"
67. TO MANN, Aug. 12, 1762.—Birth of the Prince of Wales—The Czarina—Voltaire's Historical Criticisms—Immense Value of the Treasures brought over in the Hermione
68. TO CONWAY, Sept. 9, 1762.—Negotiations for Peace—Christening of the Prince of Wales
69. TO MANN, Oct. 3, 1762.—Treasures from the Havannah—The Royal Visit to Eton—Death of Lady Mary—Concealment of Her Works—Voltaire's "Universal History"
70. TO THE SAME, April 30, 1763.—Resignation of Lord Bute—French Visitors—Walpole and No. 45
71. TO MONTAGU, May 17, 1763.—A Party at "Straberri"—Work of his Printing Press—Epigrams—A Garden Party at Esher
72. TO CONWAY, May 21, 1763.—General Character of the French—Festivities on the Queen's Birthday
73. TO THE EARL OF HERTFORD, Dec. 29, 1763.—The ordinary way of Life in England—Wilkes—C. Townshend—Count Lally—Lord Clive—Lord Northington—Louis Le Bien Aime—The Drama in France
74. TO MONTAGU, Jan.11, 1764.—A New Year's Party at Lady Suffolk's—Lady Temple, Poetess Laureate to the Muses
75. TO MANN, Jan. 18, 1764.—Marriage of the Prince of Brunswick: His Popularity
76. TO THE EARL OF HERTFORD, Feb. 6, 1764.—Gambling Quarrels—Mr. Conway's Speech
77. TO THE SAME, Feb. 15, 1764.—Account of the Debate on the General Warrant
78. TO MANN, June 8, 1764.—Lord Clive—Mr. Hamilton, Ambassador to Naples—Speech of Louis XV.
79. TO THE SAME, Aug. 13, 1764.—The King of Poland—Catherine of Russia
80. TO THE EARL OF HERTFORD, Oct. 5, 1764.—Madame De Boufflers' Writings—King James's Journal
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.
I. HORACE WALPOLE
From an engraving after a sketch by Sir THOS. LAWRENCE, P.R.A.
II. SIR HORACE MANN
III. STRAWBERRY HILL, FROM THE SOUTH-EAST
IV. GEORGE MONTAGU
V. THE LIBRARY, STRAWBERRY HILL
VI. HORACE WALPOLE
From a picture in the National Portrait Gallery, by NATHANIEL HONE, R.A.
It is creditable to our English nobility, and a feature in their character that distinguishes them from their fellows of most other nations, that, from the first revival of learning, the study of literature has been extensively cultivated by men of high birth, even by many who did not require literary fame to secure them a lasting remembrance; and they have not contented themselves with showing their appreciation of intellectual excellence by their patronage of humbler scholars, but have themselves afforded examples to other labourers in the hive, taking upon themselves the toils, and earning no small nor undeserved share of the honours of authorship. The very earliest of our poets, Chaucer, must have been a man of gentle birth, since he was employed on embassies of importance, and was married to the daughter of a French knight of distinction, and sister of the Duchess of Lancaster. The long civil wars of the fifteenth century prevented his having any immediate followers; but the sixteenth opened more propitiously. The conqueror of Flodden was also "Surrey of the deathless lay"; and from his time to the present day there is hardly a break in the long line of authors who have shown their feeling that noble birth and high position are no excuses for idleness, but that the highest rank gains additional illustration when it is shown to be united with brilliant talents worthily exercised. The earliest of our tragic poets was Sackville Earl of Dorset. The preux chevalier of Elizabeth's Court, the accomplished and high-minded Sidney, took up the lyre of Surrey: Lord St. Albans, more generally known by his family name of Bacon, "took all learning for his province"; and, though peaceful studies were again for a while rudely interrupted by the "dark deeds of horrid war," the restoration of peace was, as it had been before, a signal for the resumption of their studies by many of the best-born of the land. Another Earl of Dorset displayed his hereditary talent not less than his martial gallantry. Lord Roscommon well deserved the praises which Dryden and Pope, after his death, liberally bestowed. The great Lord Chancellor Clarendon devoted his declining years to a work of a grander class, leaving us a History which will endure as long as the language itself; while ladies of the very highest rank, the Duchess of Newcastle and Lady Mary Wortley Montague, vindicated the claims of their sex to share with their brethren the honours of poetical fame.
[Footnote 1: "Lay of the Last Minstrel," vi. 14.]
Among this noble and accomplished brotherhood the author of these letters is by general consent allowed to be entitled to no low place. Horace Walpole, born in the autumn of 1717, was the youngest son of that wise minister, Sir Robert Walpole, who, though, as Burke afterwards described him, "not a genius of the first class," yet by his adoption of, and resolute adherence to a policy of peace throughout the greater part of his administration, in which he was fortunately assisted by the concurrence of Fleury of France, contributed in no slight degree to the permanent establishment of the present dynasty on the throne. He received his education at the greatest of English schools, Eton, to which throughout his life he preserved a warm attachment; and where he gave a strong indication of his preference for peaceful studies and his judicious appreciation of intellectual ability, by selecting as his most intimate friend Thomas Gray, hereafter to achieve a poetical immortality by the Bard and the Elegy. From Eton they both went to Cambridge, and, when they quitted the University, in 1738, joined in a travelling tour through France and Italy. They continued companions for something more than two years; but at the end of that time they separated, and in the spring of 1741 Gray returned to England. The cause of their parting was never distinctly avowed; Walpole took the blame, if blame there was, on himself; but, in fact, it probably lay in an innate difference of disposition, and consequently of object. Walpole being fond of society, and, from his position as the Minister's son, naturally courted by many of the chief men in the different cities which they visited; while Gray was of a reserved character shunning the notice of strangers, and fixing his attention on more serious subjects than Walpole found attractive.
In the autumn of the same year Walpole himself returned home. He had become a member of Parliament at the General Election in the summer, and took his seat just in time to bear a part in the fierce contest which terminated in the dissolution of his father's Ministry. His maiden speech, almost the only one he ever made, was in defence of the character and policy of his father, who was no longer in the House of Commons to defend himself. And the result of the conflict made no slight impression on his mind; but gave a colour to all his political views.
He began almost immediately to come forward as an author: not, however, as—
Obliged by hunger and request of friends;
for in his circumstances he was independent, and even opulent; but seeking to avenge his father by squibs on Mr. Pulteney (now Lord Bath), as having been the leader of the attacks on him, and on the new Ministry which had succeeded him. In one respect that age was a happy one for ministers and all connected with them. Pensions and preferments were distributed with a lavish hand; and, even while he was a schoolboy, he had received more than one "patent place," as such were called, in the Exchequer, to which before his father's resignation others were added, which after a time raised his income to above L5,000 a year, a fortune which in those times was exceeded by comparatively few, even of those regarded as wealthy. So rich, indeed, was he, that before he was thirty he was able to buy Strawberry Hill, "a small house near Twickenham," as he describes it at first, but which he gradually enlarged and embellished till it grew into something of a baronial castle on a small scale, somewhat as, under the affectionate diligence of a greater man, Abbotsford in the present century became one of the lions of the Tweed.
[Footnote 1: The speech was made March 23, 1742; but Sir Robert had resigned office, and been created Earl of Orford in the February preceding.]
From this time forth literary composition, with the acquisition of antiques and curiosities for the decoration of "Strawberry" occupied the greater part of his life. He erected a printing press, publishing not only most of his own writings, but some also of other authors, such as poems of Gray, with whom he kept up uninterrupted intercourse. But, in fact, his own works were sufficiently numerous to keep his printers fully employed. He was among the most voluminous writers of a voluminous age. In the course of the next twenty years he published seven volumes of memoirs of the last ten years of the reign of George II. and the first ten of George III.; five volumes of a work entitled "Royal and Noble Authors;" several more of "Anecdotes of Painting;" "The Mysterious Mother," a tragedy; "The Castle of Otranto," a romance; and a small volume to which he gave the name of "Historic Doubts on Richard III." Of all these not one is devoid of merit. He more than once explains that the "Memoirs" have no claim to the more respectable title of "History"; and he apologises for introducing anecdotes which might be thought inconsistent with what Macaulay brands as "a vile phrase," the dignity of history. He excuses this, which he looked on as a new feature in historical composition, on the ground that, if trifles, "they are trifles relating to considerable people; such as all curious people have ever loved to read." "Such trifles," he says, "are valued, if relating to any reign one hundred and fifty years ago; and, if his book should live so long, these too might become acceptable." Readers of the present day will not think such apology was needed. The value of his "trifles" has been proved in a much shorter time; for there is no subsequent historian of that period who has not been indebted to him for many particulars of which no other trustworthy record existed. Walpole had in a great degree a historical mind; and perhaps there are few works which show a keener critical insight into the value of old traditions than the "Historic Doubts," directed to establish, not, indeed, Richard's innocence of the crimes charged against him, but the fact that, with respect to many of them, his guilt has never been proved by any evidence which is not open to the gravest impeachment. His "Royal and Noble Authors," and his "Anecdotes of Painting" are full of entertainment, not unmixed with instruction. "The Mysterious Mother" was never performed on the stage, nor is it calculated for representation; since he himself admits that the subject is disgusting. But dramas not intended for representation, and which therefore should perhaps be more fitly called dramatic poems, were a species of composition to which more than one writer of reputation had lately begun to turn their attention; though dramas not designed for the stage seem to most readers defective in their very conception, as lacking the stimulus which the intention of submitting them to the extemporaneous ocular judgement of the public can alone impart. Among such works, however, "The Mysterious Mother" is admitted to rank high for vigorous description and poetic imagery. A greater popularity, which even at the present day has not wholly passed away, since it is still occasionally reprinted, was achieved by "The Castle of Otranto," which, as he explains it in one of his letters, owed its origin to a dream. Novels had been a branch of literature which had slumbered for several years after the death of Defoe, but which the genius of Fielding and Smollett had again brought into fashion. But their tales purported to be pictures of the manners of the day. This was rather the forerunner of Mrs. Radcliffe's weird tales of supernatural mystery, which for a time so engrossed the public attention as to lead that "wicked wag," Mr. George Coleman, to regard them as representatives of the class, and to describe how—
A novel now is nothing more Than an old castle and a creaking door; A distant hovel; Clanking of chains, a gallery, a light, Old armour, and a phantom all in white, And there's a novel.
[Footnote 1: "'The Castle of Otranto' was the father of that marvellous series which once overstocked the circulating library, and closed with Mrs. Radcliffe."—D'Israeli, "Curiosities of Literature," ii. 115.]
He had published it anonymously as a tale that had been found in the library of an ancient family in the North of England; but it was not indebted solely to the mystery of its authorship for its favourable reception—since, after he acknowledged it as his own work in a second edition, the sale did not fall off. And it deserved success, for, though the day had passed when even the most credulous could place any faith in swords that required a hundred men to lift, and helmets which could only fit the champion whose single strength could wield such a weapon, the style was lively and attractive, and the dialogue was eminently dramatic and sparkling.
But the interest of all these works has passed away. The "Memoirs" have served their turn as a guide and aid to more regular historians, and the composition which still keeps its author's fame alive is his Correspondence with some of his numerous friends, male and female, in England or abroad, which he maintained with an assiduity which showed how pleasurable he found the task, while the care with which he secured the preservation of his letters, begging his correspondents to retain them, in case at any future time he should desire their return, proves that he anticipated the possibility that they might hereafter be found interesting by other readers than to those to whom they were addressed.
But he did not suffer either his writings or the enrichment of "Strawberry" with antiquarian treasures to engross the whole of his attention. For the first thirty years and more of his public life he was a zealous politician. And it is no slight proof how high was the reputation for sagacity and soundness of judgement which he enjoyed, that in the ministerial difficulties caused by Lord Chatham's illness, he was consulted by the leaders of more than one section of the Whig party, by Conway, the Duke of Bedford, the Duke of Grafton, Lord Holland, and others; that his advice more than once influenced their determinations; and that he himself drew more than one of the letters which passed between them. Even the King himself was not ignorant of the weight he had in their counsels, and, on one occasion at least, condescended to avail himself of it for a solution of some of the embarrassments with which their negotiations were beset.
But after a time his attendance in Parliament, which had never been very regular, grew wearisome and distasteful to him. At the General Election of 1768 he declined to offer himself again as a candidate for Lynn, which he had represented for several years. And henceforth his mornings were chiefly occupied with literature; the continuation of his Memoirs; discussion of literary subjects with Gibbon, Voltaire, Mason, and others, while his evenings were passed in the society of his friends, a mode of enjoying his time in which he was eminently calculated to shine, since abundant testimony has come down to us from many competent judges of the charm of his conversation; the liveliness of his disposition acting as a most attractive frame to the extent and variety of his information.
Among his distractions were his visits to France, which for some time were frequent. He had formed a somewhat singular intimacy with a blind old lady, the Marquise du Deffand, a lady whose character in her youth had been something less than doubtful, since she had been one of the Regent Duc d'Orleans's numerous mistresses; but who had retained in her old age much of the worldly acuteness and lively wit with which she had borne her part in that clever, shameless society. Her salon was now the resort of many personages of the highest distinction, even of ladies themselves of the most unstained reputation, such as the Duchesse de Choiseul; and the rumours or opinions which he heard in their company enabled him to enrich his letters to his friends at home with comments on the conduct of the French Parliament, of Maupeon, Maurepas, Turgot, and the King himself, which, in many instances, attest the shrewdness with which he estimated the real bearing of the events which were taking place, and anticipated the possible character of some of those which were not unlikely to ensue.
Thus, with a mind which, to the end, was so active and so happily constituted as to be able to take an interest in everything around him, and, even when more than seventy years old, to make new friends to replace those who had dropped off, he passed a long, a happy, and far from an useless life. When he was seventy-four he succeeded to his father's peerage, on the death of his elder brother; but he did not long enjoy the title, by which, indeed, he was not very careful to be distinguished, and in the spring of 1797 he died, within a few months of his eightieth birthday.
A great writer of the last generation, whose studies were of a severer cast, and who, conscious perhaps of his own unfitness to shine at the tea-table of fashionable ladies, was led by that feeling to undervalue the lighter social gifts which formed conspicuous ingredients in Walpole's character, has denounced him not only as frivolous in his tastes, but scarcely above mediocrity in his abilities (a sentence to which Scott's description of him as "a man of great genius" may be successfully opposed); and is especially severe on what he terms his affectation in disclaiming the compliments bestowed on his learning by some of his friends. The expressed estimate of his acquirements and works which so offended Lord Macaulay was that "there is nobody so superficial, that, except a little history, a little poetry, a little painting, and some divinity, he knew nothing; he had always lived in the busy world; had always loved pleasure; played loo till two or three in the morning; haunted auctions—in short, did not know so much astronomy as would carry him to Knightsbridge; not more physic than a physician; nor, in short, anything that is called science. If it were not that he laid up a little provision in summer, like the ant, he should be as ignorant as the people he lived with." In Lord Macaulay's view, Walpole was never less sincere than when pronouncing such a judgement on his works. He sees in it nothing but an affectation, fishing for further praises; and, fastening on his account of his ordinary occupations, he pronounces that a man of fifty should be ashamed of playing loo till after midnight.
[Footnote 1: Letter to Mann, Feb. 6, 1760.]
In spite, however, of Lord Macaulay's reproof, something may be said in favour of a man who, after giving his mornings to works which display no little industry as well as talent, unbent his bow in the evening at lively supper-parties, or even at the card-table with fair friends, where the play never degenerated into gambling. And his disparagement of his learning, which Lord Macaulay ridicules as affectation, a more candid judgement may fairly ascribe to sincere modesty. For it is plain from many other passages in his letters, that he really did undervalue his own writings; and that the feeling which he thus expressed was genuine is to a great extent proved by the patience, if not thankfulness, with which he allowed his friend Mann to alter passages in "The Mysterious Mother," and confessed the alterations to be improvements. It may be added that Lord Macaulay's disparagement of his judgement and his taste is not altogether consistent with his admission that Walpole's writings possessed an "irresistible charm" that "no man who has written so much is so seldom tiresome;" that, even in "The Castle of Otranto," which he ridicules, "the story never flags for a moment," and, what is more to our present purpose, he adds that "his letters are with reason considered his best performance;" and that those to his friend at Florence, Sir H. Mann, "contain much information concerning the history of that time: the portion of English History of which common readers know the least."
Of these letters it remains for us now to speak. The value of such pour servir, to borrow a French expression, that is to say, to serve as materials to supply the historian of a nation or an age with an acquaintance with events, or persons, or manners, which would be sought for in vain among Parliamentary records, or ministerial despatches, has long been recognised. Two thousand years ago, those of the greatest of Roman orators and statesmen were carefully preserved; and modern editors do not fear to claim for them a place "among the most valuable of all the remains of Roman literature; the specimens which they give of familiar intercourse, and of the public and private manners of society, drawing up for us the curtain from scenes of immense historical interest, and laying open the secret workings, the complications, and schemes of a great revolution period." Such a description is singularly applicable to the letters of Walpole; and the care which he took for their preservation shows that he was not without a hope that they also would be regarded as interesting and valuable by future generations. He praises one of his correspondents for his diligence in collecting and publishing a volume of letters belonging to the reigns of James I. and Charles I., on the express ground that "nothing gives so just an idea of an age as genuine letters; nay, history waits for its last seal from them." And it is not too much to say that they are superior to journals and diaries as a mine to be worked by the judicious historian; while to the general public they will always be more attractive, from the scope they afford to elegance of style, at which the diary-keeper does not aim; and likewise from their frequently recording curious incidents, fashions, good sayings, and other things which, from their apparently trifling character, the grave diarist would not think worth preserving.
[Footnote 1: D'Israeli has remarked that "the gossiping of a profound politician, or a vivacious observer, in one of their letters, often by a spontaneous stroke reveals the individual, or by a simple incident unriddles a mysterious event;" and proceeds to quote Bolingbroke's estimate of the importance, from this point of view, of "that valuable collection of Cardinal d'Ossat's Memoirs" ("Curiosities of Literature," iii. p. 381).]
[Footnote 2: The Rev. J.E. Yonge, Preface to an edition of "Cicero's Letters."]
He, however, was not the first among the moderns to achieve a reputation by his correspondence. In the generation before his birth, a French lady, Madame de Sevigne, had, with an affectionate industry, found her chief occupation and pleasure in keeping her daughters in the provinces fully acquainted with every event which interested or entertained Louis XIV. and his obsequious Court; and in the first years of the eighteenth century a noble English lady, whom we have already mentioned, did in like manner devote no small portion of her time to recording, for the amusement and information of her daughter, her sister, and her other friends at home, the various scenes and occurrences that came under her own notice in the foreign countries in which for many years her lot was cast, as the wife of an ambassador. In liveliness of style, Lady Mary Montague is little if at all inferior to her French prototype; while, since she was endowed with far more brilliant talents, and, from her foreign travels, had a wider range of observation, her letters have a far greater interest than could attach to those of a writer, however accomplished and sagacious, whose world was Paris, with bounds scarcely extending beyond Versailles on one side, and Compiegne on the other. To these fair and lively ladies Walpole was now to succeed as a third candidate for epistolary fame; though, with his habit of underrating his own talents, he never aspired to equal the gay Frenchwoman; (the English lady's correspondence was as yet unknown). There is evident sincerity in his reproof of one of his correspondents who had expressed a most flattering opinion: "You say such extravagant things of my letters, which are nothing but gossiping gazettes, that I cannot bear it; you have undone yourself with me, for you compare them to Madame de Sevigne's. Absolute treason! Do you know there is scarcely a book in the world I love so much as her letters?"
Yet critics who should place him on an equality with her would not be without plausible grounds for their judgement. Many circumstances contributed to qualify him in a very special degree for the task which, looking at his letters in that light, he may be said to have undertaken. His birth, as the son of a great minister; his comparative opulence; even the indolent insignificance of his elder brothers, which caused him to be looked upon as his father's representative, and as such to be consulted by those who considered themselves as the heirs of his policy, while the leader of that party in the House of Commons, General Conway, was his cousin, and the man for whom he ever felt the strongest personal attachment,—were all advantages which fell to the lot of but few. And to these may be added the variety of his tastes, as attested by the variety of his published works. He was a man who observed everything, who took an interest in everything. His correspondents, too, were so various and different as to ensure a variety in his letters. Some were politicians, ministers at home, or envoys abroad; some were female leaders of fashion, planning balls and masquerades, summoning him to join an expedition to Ranelagh or Vauxhall; others were scholars, poets, or critics, inviting comments on Gray's poems, on Robertson's style, on Gibbon's boundless learning; or on the impostures of Macpherson and Chatterton; others, again, were antiquarians, to whom the helmet of Francis, or a pouncet-box of the fair Diana, were objects of far greater interest than the intrigues of a Secretary of State, or the expedients of a Chancellor of the Exchequer; and all such subjects are discussed by him with evidently equal willingness, equal clearness, and liveliness.
It would not be fair to regard as a deduction from the value of those letters which bear on the politics of the day the necessity of confessing that they are not devoid of partiality—that they are coloured with his own views, both of measures and persons. Not only were political prejudices forced upon him by the peculiarities of his position, but it may be doubted whether any one ever has written, or can write, of transactions of national importance which are passing under his own eyes, as it were, with absolute impartiality. It may even be a question whether, if any one did so, it would not detract from his own character, at least as much as it might add to the value of his writings. In one of his letters, Byron enumerates among the merits of Mitford's "History of Greece," "wrath and partiality," explaining that such ingredients make a man write "in earnest." And, in Walpole's case, the dislike which he naturally felt towards those who had overthrown his father's administration by what, at a later day, they themselves admitted to have been a factious and blamable opposition, was sharpened by his friendship for his cousin Conway. At the same time we may remark in passing that his opinions and prejudices were not so invincible as to blind him to real genius and eminent public services; and the admirers of Lord Chatham may fairly draw an argument in favour of his policy from Walpole's admission of its value in raising the spirit of the people; an admission which, it may be supposed, it must have gone against his grain to make in favour of a follower of Pulteney.
But from his letters on other topics, on literature and art, no such deduction has to be made. His judgement was generally sound and discriminating. He could appreciate the vast learning and stately grandiloquence of Gibbon, and the widely different style of Robertson. Nor is it greatly to his discredit that his disgust at what he considers Hume's needless parade of scepticism and infidelity, which did honour to his heart, blinded him in a great degree to the historian's unsurpassed acuteness and insight, and (to borrow the eulogy of Gibbon) "the careless inimitable felicities" of his narrative. He was among the first to recognize the peculiar genius of Crabbe, and to detect the impostures of Macpherson and Chatterton, while doing full justice to "the astonishing prematurity" of the latter's genius. And in matters of art, so independent as well as correct was his taste, that he not only, in one instance, ventured to differ from Reynolds, but also proved to be right in his opinion that a work extolled by Sir Joshua, was but a copy, and a poor one.
On his qualifications to be a painter of the way of life, habits, and manners (quorum pars magna fuit) of the higher classes in his day, it would be superfluous to dwell. Scott, who was by no means a warm admirer of his character, does not hesitate to pronounce him "certainly the best letter-writer in the English language;" and the great poet who, next to Scott, holds the highest place in the literary history of the last two centuries, adds his testimony not only to the excellence of his letters, but also to his general ability as that of a high order. "It is the fashion to underrate Horace Walpole, firstly, because he was a nobleman, and, secondly, because he was a gentleman; but, to say nothing of the composition of his incomparable letters and of 'The Castle of Otranto,' he is the 'Ultimus Romanorum,' the author of 'The Mysterious Mother,' a tragedy of the highest order, and not a puling love-play. He is the father of the first romance, and the last tragedy in our language; and surely worthy of a higher place than any living writer, be he who he may."
[Footnote 1: Byron, Preface to "Marino Faliere." But in the last sentence the poet certainly exaggerated his admiration for Walpole; since it is sufficiently notorious from his own letters, and from more than one passage in his works, as where he ranks Scott as second to Shakespeare alone, that he deservedly admired him more than all their contemporaries put together.]
And it seems not unnatural to entertain a hope that a selection from a correspondence which extorted such an eulogy from men whose own letters form no small part of the attraction of Lockhart's and Moore's biographies, will be acceptable to many who, while lacking courage, or perhaps leisure, to grapple with publications in many volumes, may welcome the opportunity thus here afforded them of forming an acquaintance, however partial, with works which, in their entire body, are deservedly reckoned among the masterpieces of our literature.
[Footnote 1: It may be proper to point out that, in some few instances, a letter is not given in its entirety; but, as in familiar correspondence, it must constantly happen that, while the incidents mentioned in one portion of a letter are full of interest, of others—such as marriages, deaths, &c.—the importance is of the most temporary and transitory character. It may be hoped that the liberty taken of leaving out such portions will be regarded as, if not commendable, at the least excusable.]
LETTERS OF HORACE WALPOLE.
MARRIAGE OF THE PRINCESS OF WALES—VERY LIVELY.
[Footnote 1: This letter, written before he was nineteen, is worth noticing as a proof how innate was his liveliness of style, since in that respect few of the productions of his maturer age surpasses it. It also shows how strong already was his expectations that his letters would hereafter be regarded as interesting and valuable.]
TO GEORGE MONTAGU, ESQ.
[Footnote 1: George Montagu, Esq., of Roel, in the county of Gloucester, son of Brigadier-General Edward Montagu, and long M.P. for Northampton. He was the grandnephew of the first Earl of Halifax of the Montagu family, the statesman and poet, and was the contemporary at Eton of Walpole and Gray. When his cousin, the Earl of Halifax, was Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland, he was his secretary; and when Lord North was Chancellor of the Exchequer, he occupied the same position with him. He died May 10, 1780, leaving the bulk of his fortune to Lord North. Walpole's letters to him, 272 in number, and dating between 1736 and 1770, were first published in 1818, "from the Originals in the possession of the Editor." There was a coolness between Walpole and Montagu several years before the latter's death, the correspondence dropping very abruptly. The cause is explained by Walpole in a letter to Cole, dated May 11, 1780. Mr. Montagu's brother, Edward, was killed at Fontenoy. His sister, Arabella, was married to a Mr. Wetenhall—a relation of the Wetenhall mentioned in De Grammont. "Of Mr. Montagu, it is only remembered that he was a gentleman-like body of the vieille cour, and that he was usually attended by his brother John (the Little John of Walpole's correspondence), who was a midshipman at the age of sixty, and found his chief occupation in carrying about his brother's snuff-box" (Quarterly Rev. for April, 1818, p. 131).]
KING'S COLLEGE, May 2, 1736.
Dear Sir,—Unless I were to be married myself, I should despair ever being able to describe a wedding so well as you have done: had I known your talent before, I would have desired an epithalamium. I believe the Princess will have more beauties bestowed on her by the occasional poets, than even a painter would afford her. They will cook up a new Pandora, and in the bottom of the box enclose Hope, that all they have said is true. A great many, out of excess of good breeding, having heard it was rude to talk Latin before women, propose complimenting her in English; which she will be much the better for. I doubt most of them, instead of fearing their compositions should not be understood, should fear they should: they write they don't know what, to be read by they don't know who. You have made me a very unreasonable request, which I will answer with another as extraordinary: you desire I would burn your letters: I desire you would keep mine. I know but of one way of making what I send you useful, which is, by sending you a blank sheet: sure you would not grudge threepence for a halfpenny sheet, when you give as much for one not worth a farthing. You drew this last paragraph on you by your exordium, as you call it, and conclusion. I hope, for the future, our correspondence will run a little more glibly, with dear George, and dear Harry [Conway]; not as formally as if we were playing a game at chess in Spain and Portugal; and Don Horatio was to have the honour of specifying to Don Georgio, by an epistle, whither he would move. In one point I would have our correspondence like a game at chess; it should last all our lives—but I hear you cry check; adieu!
Dear George, yours ever.
[Footnote 1: Augusta, younger daughter of Frederic II., Duke of Saxe-Gotha, married (27th April, 1736) to Frederick, Prince of Wales, father of George III.
In 1736, I wrote a copy of Latin verses, published in the "Gratulatio Acad. Cantab.," on the marriage of Frederick, Prince of Wales.—Walpole (Short Notes).]
FONDNESS FOR OLD STORIES—REMINISCENCES OF ETON, ETC.
TO GEORGE MONTAGU, ESQ.
KING'S COLLEGE, May 6, 1736.
Dear George,—I agree with you entirely in the pleasure you take in talking over old stories, but can't say but I meet every day with new circumstances, which will be still more pleasure to me to recollect. I think at our age 'tis excess of joy, to think, while we are running over past happinesses, that it is still in our power to enjoy as great. Narrations of the greatest actions of other people are tedious in comparison of the serious trifles that every man can call to mind of himself while he was learning those histories. Youthful passages of life are the chippings of Pitt's diamond, set into little heart-rings with mottoes; the stone itself more worth, the filings more gentle and agreeable.—Alexander, at the head of the world, never tasted the true pleasure that boys of his own age have enjoyed at the head of a school. Little intrigues, little schemes, and policies engage their thoughts; and, at the same time that they are laying the foundation for their middle age of life, the mimic republic they live in furnishes materials of conversation for their latter age; and old men cannot be said to be children a second time with greater truth from any one cause, than their living over again their childhood in imagination. To reflect on the season when first they felt the titillation of love, the budding passions, and the first dear object of their wishes! how unexperienced they gave credit to all the tales of romantic loves! Dear George, were not the playing fields at Eton food for all manner of flights? No old maid's gown, though it had been tormented into all the fashions from King James to King George, ever underwent so many transformations as those poor plains have in my idea. At first I was contented with tending a visionary flock, and sighing some pastoral name to the echo of the cascade under the bridge. How happy should I have been to have had a kingdom only for the pleasure of being driven from it, and living disguised in an humble vale! As I got further into Virgil and Clelia, I found myself transported from Arcadia to the garden of Italy; and saw Windsor Castle in no other view than the Capitoli immobile saxum. I wish a committee of the House of Commons may ever seem to be the senate; or a bill appear half so agreeable as a billet-doux. You see how deep you have carried me into old stories; I write of them with pleasure, but shall talk of them with more to you. I can't say I am sorry I was never quite a schoolboy: an expedition against bargemen, or a match at cricket, may be very pretty things to recollect; but, thank my stars, I can remember things that are very near as pretty. The beginning of my Roman history was spent in the asylum, or conversing in Egeria's hallowed grove; not in thumping and pummelling king Amulius's herdsmen. I was sometimes troubled with a rough creature or two from the plough; one, that one should have thought, had worked with his head, as well as his hands, they were both so callous. One of the most agreeable circumstances I can recollect is the Triumvirate, composed of yourself, Charles, and
Your sincere friend.
WISH TO TRAVEL—SUPERIORITY OF FRENCH MANNERS TO ENGLISH IN THEIR MANNER TO LADIES.
TO GEORGE MONTAGU, ESQ.
KING'S COLLEGE, March 20, 1737.
Dear George,—The first paragraph in my letter must be in answer to the last in yours; though I should be glad to make you the return you ask, by waiting on you myself. 'Tis not in my power, from more circumstances than one, which are needless to tell you, to accompany you and Lord Conway to Italy: you add to the pleasure it would give me, by asking it so kindly. You I am infinitely obliged to, as I was capable, my dear George, of making you forget for a minute that you don't propose stirring from the dear place you are now in. Poppies indeed are the chief flowers in love nosegays, but they seldom bend towards the lady; at least not till the other flowers have been gathered. Prince Volscius's boots were made of love-leather, and honour leather; instead of honour, some people's are made of friendship: but since you have been so good to me as to draw on this, I can almost believe you are equipped for travelling farther than Rheims. 'Tis no little inducement to make me wish myself in France, that I hear gallantry is not left off there; that you may be polite, and not be thought awkward for it. You know the pretty men of the age in England use the women with no more deference than they do their coach-horses, and have not half the regard for them that they have for themselves. The little freedoms you tell me you use take off from formality, by avoiding which ridiculous extreme we are dwindled into the other barbarous one, rusticity. If you had been at Paris, I should have inquired about the new Spanish ambassadress, who, by the accounts we have thence, at her first audience of the queen, sat down with her at a distance that suited respect and conversation.
Adieu, dear George,
Yours most heartily.
THEATRES AT PARIS—ST. DENIS—FONDNESS OF THE FRENCH FOR SHOW, AND FOR GAMBLING—SINGULAR SIGNS—THE ARMY THE ONLY PROFESSION FOR MEN OF GENTLE BIRTH—SPLENDOUR OF THE PUBLIC BUILDINGS.
TO RICHARD WEST, ESQ.
PARIS, April 21, N.S. 1739.
[Footnote 1: He is here dating according to the French custom. In England the calendar was not rectified by the disuse of the "Old Style" till 1752.]
Dear West,—You figure us in a set of pleasures, which, believe me, we do not find; cards and eating are so universal, that they absorb all variation of pleasures. The operas, indeed, are much frequented three times a week; but to me they would be a greater penance than eating maigre: their music resembles a gooseberry tart as much as it does harmony. We have not yet been at the Italian playhouse; scarce any one goes there. Their best amusement, and which, in some parts, beats ours, is the comedy; three or four of the actors excel any we have: but then to this nobody goes, if it is not one of the fashionable nights; and then they go, be the play good or bad—except on Moliere's nights, whose pieces they are quite weary of. Gray and I have been at the Avare to-night: I cannot at all commend their performance of it. Last night I was in the Place de Louis le Grand (a regular octagon, uniform, and the houses handsome, though not so large as Golden Square), to see what they reckoned one of the finest burials that ever was in France. It was the Duke de Tresmes, governor of Paris and marshal of France. It began on foot from his palace to his parish-church, and from thence in coaches to the opposite end of Paris, to be interred in the church of the Celestins, where is his family-vault. About a week ago we happened to see the grave digging, as we went to see the church, which is old and small, but fuller of fine ancient monuments than any, except St. Denis, which we saw on the road, and excels Westminster; for the windows are all painted in mosaic, and the tombs as fresh and well preserved as if they were of yesterday. In the Celestins' church is a votive column to Francis II., which says, that it is one assurance of his being immortalized, to have had the martyr Mary Stuart for his wife. After this long digression, I return to the burial, which was a most vile thing. A long procession of flambeaux and friars; no plumes, trophies, banners, led horses, scutcheons, or open chariots; nothing but
friars, White, black, and grey, with all their trumpery.
This godly ceremony began at nine at night, and did not finish till three this morning; for, each church they passed, they stopped for a hymn and holy water. By the bye, some of these choice monks, who watched the body while it lay in state, fell asleep one night, and let the tapers catch fire of the rich velvet mantle lined with ermine and powdered with gold flower-de-luces, which melted the lead coffin, and burnt off the feet of the deceased before it wakened them. The French love show; but there is a meanness reigns through it all. At the house where I stood to see this procession, the room was hung with crimson damask and gold, and the windows were mended in ten or a dozen places with paper. At dinner they give you three courses; but a third of the dishes is patched up with salads, butter, puff-paste, or some such miscarriage of a dish. None, but Germans, wear fine clothes; but their coaches are tawdry enough for the wedding of Cupid and Psyche. You would laugh extremely at their signs: some live at the Y grec, some at Venus's toilette, and some at the sucking cat. You would not easily guess their notions of honour: I'll tell you one: it is very dishonourable for any gentleman not to be in the army, or in the king's service as they call it, and it is no dishonour to keep public gaming-houses: there are at least a hundred and fifty people of the first quality in Paris who live by it. You may go into their houses at all hours of the night, and find hazard, pharaoh, &c. The men who keep the hazard-table at the Duke de Gesvres' pay him twelve guineas each night for the privilege. Even the princesses of the blood are dirty enough to have shares in the banks kept at their houses. We have seen two or three of them; but they are not young, nor remarkable but for wearing their red of a deeper dye than other women, though all use it extravagantly.
The weather is still so bad, that we have not made any excursions to see Versailles and the environs, not even walked in the Tuileries; but we have seen almost everything else that is worth seeing in Paris, though that is very considerable. They beat us vastly in buildings, both in number and magnificence. The tombs of Richelieu and Mazarin at the Sorbonne and the College de Quatre Nations are wonderfully fine, especially the former. We have seen very little of the people themselves, who are not inclined to be propitious to strangers, especially if they do not play and speak the language readily. There are many English here: Lord Holdernesse, Conway and Clinton, and Lord George Bentinck; Mr. Brand, Offley, Frederic, Frampton, Bonfoy, &c. Sir John Cotton's son and a Mr. Vernon of Cambridge passed through Paris last week. We shall stay here about a fortnight longer, and then go to Rheims with Mr. Conway for two or three months. When you have nothing else to do, we shall be glad to hear from you; and any news. If we did not remember there was such a place as England, we should know nothing of it: the French never mention it, unless it happens to be in one of their proverbs. Adieu!
To-morrow we go to the Cid. They have no farces, but petites pieces like our 'Devil to Pay.'
MAGNIFICENCE OF VERSAILLES—THE CHARTREUX RELICS.
TO RICHARD WEST, ESQ.
FROM PARIS, 1739.
Dear West,—I should think myself to blame not to try to divert you, when you tell me I can. From the air of your letter you seem to want amusement, that is, you want spirits. I would recommend to you certain little employments that I know of, and that belong to you, but that I imagine bodily exercise is more suitable to your complaint. If you would promise me to read them in the Temple garden, I would send you a little packet of plays and pamphlets that we have made up, and intend to dispatch to "Dick's" the first opportunity.—Stand by, clear the way, make room for the pompous appearance of Versailles le Grand!——But no: it fell so short of my idea of it, mine, that I have resigned to Gray the office of writing its panegyric. He likes it. They say I am to like it better next Sunday; when the sun is to shine, the king is to be fine, the water-works are to play, and the new knights of the Holy Ghost are to be installed! Ever since Wednesday, the day we were there, we have done nothing but dispute about it. They say, we did not see it to advantage, that we ran through the apartments, saw the garden en passant, and slubbered over Trianon. I say, we saw nothing. However, we had time to see that the great front is a lumber of littleness, composed of black brick, stuck full of bad old busts, and fringed with gold rails. The rooms are all small, except the great gallery, which is noble, but totally wainscoted with looking-glass. The garden is littered with statues and fountains, each of which has its tutelary deity. In particular, the elementary god of fire solaces himself in one. In another, Enceladus, in lieu of a mountain, is overwhelmed with many waters. There are avenues of water-pots, who disport themselves much in squirting up cascadelins. In short, 'tis a garden for a great child. Such was Louis Quatorze, who is here seen in his proper colours, where he commanded in person, unassisted by his armies and generals, and left to the pursuit of his own puerile ideas of glory.
[Footnote 1: A celebrated coffee-house, near the Temple Gate in Fleet Street, where quarto poems and pamphlets were taken in.]
We saw last week a place of another kind, and which has more the air of what it would be, than anything I have yet met with: it was the convent of the Chartreux. All the conveniences, or rather (if there was such a word) all the adaptments are assembled here, that melancholy, meditation, selfish devotion, and despair would require. But yet 'tis pleasing. Soften the terms, and mellow the uncouth horror that reigns here, but a little, and 'tis a charming solitude. It stands on a large space of ground, is old and irregular. The chapel is gloomy: behind it, through some dark passages, you pass into a large obscure hall, which looks like a combination-chamber for some hellish council. The large cloister surrounds their burying-ground. The cloisters are very narrow and very long, and let into the cells, which are built like little huts detached from each other. We were carried into one, where lived a middle-aged man not long initiated into the order. He was extremely civil, and called himself Dom Victor. We have promised to visit him often. Their habit is all white: but besides this he was infinitely clean in his person; and his apartment and garden, which he keeps and cultivates without any assistance, was neat to a degree. He has four little rooms, furnished in the prettiest manner, and hung with good prints. One of them is a library, and another a gallery. He has several canary-birds disposed in a pretty manner in breeding-cages. In his garden was a bed of good tulips in bloom, flowers and fruit-trees, and all neatly kept. They are permitted at certain hours to talk to strangers, but never to one another, or to go out of their convent. But what we chiefly went to see was the small cloister, with the history of St. Bruno, their founder, painted by Le Soeur. It consists of twenty-two pictures, the figures a good deal less than life. But sure they are amazing! I don't know what Raphael may be in Rome, but these pictures excel all I have seen in Paris and England. The figure of the dead man who spoke at his burial, contains all the strongest and horridest ideas, of ghastliness, hypocrisy discovered, and the height of damnation, pain and cursing. A Benedictine monk, who was there at the same time, said to me of this picture: C'est une fable, mais on la croyoit autrefois. Another, who showed me relics in one of their churches, expressed as much ridicule for them. The pictures I have been speaking of are ill preserved, and some of the finest heads defaced, which was done at first by a rival of Le Soeur's. Adieu! dear West, take care of your health; and some time or other we will talk over all these things with more pleasure than I have had in seeing them.
THE CARNIVAL—THE FLORENTINES CIVIL, GOOD-NATURED, AND FOND OF THE ENGLISH—A CURIOUS CHALLENGE.
TO RICHARD WEST, ESQ.
FLORENCE, February 27, 1740, N.S.
Well, West, I have found a little unmasqued moment to write to you; but for this week past I have been so muffled up in my domino, that I have not had the command of my elbows. But what have you been doing all the mornings? Could you not write then?—No, then I was masqued too; I have done nothing but slip out of my domino into bed, and out of bed into my domino. The end of the Carnival is frantic, bacchanalian; all the morn one makes parties in masque to the shops and coffee-houses, and all the evening to the operas and balls. Then I have danced, good gods! how have I danced! The Italians are fond to a degree of our country dances: Cold and raw they only know by the tune; Blowzybella is almost Italian, and Buttered peas is Pizelli al buro. There are but three days more; but the two last are to have balls all the morning at the fine unfinished palace of the Strozzi; and the Tuesday night a masquerade after supper: they sup first, to eat gras, and not encroach upon Ash-Wednesday. What makes masquerading more agreeable here than in England, is the great deference that is showed to the disguised. Here they do not catch at those little dirty opportunities of saying any ill-natured thing they know of you, do not abuse you because they may, or talk gross bawdy to a woman of quality. I found the other day, by a play of Etheridge's, that we have had a sort of Carnival even since the Reformation; 'tis in She would if She could, they talk of going a-mumming in Shrove-tide.—
After talking so much of diversions, I fear you will attribute to them the fondness I own I contract for Florence; but it has so many other charms, that I shall not want excuses for my taste. The freedom of the Carnival has given me opportunities to make several acquaintances; and if I have not found them refined, learned, polished, like some other cities, yet they are civil, good-natured, and fond of the English. Their little partiality for themselves, opposed to the violent vanity of the French, makes them very amiable in my eyes. I can give you a comical instance of their great prejudice about nobility; it happened yesterday. While we were at dinner at Mr. Mann's, word was brought by his secretary, that a cavalier demanded audience of him upon an affair of honour. Gray and I flew behind the curtain of the door. An elderly gentleman, whose attire was not certainly correspondent to the greatness of his birth, entered, and informed the British minister, that one Martin, an English painter, had left a challenge for him at his house, for having said Martin was no gentleman. He would by no means have spoke of the duel before the transaction of it, but that his honour, his blood, his &c. would never permit him to fight with one who was no cavalier; which was what he came to inquire of his excellency. We laughed loud laughs, but unheard: his fright or his nobility had closed his ears. But mark the sequel: the instant he was gone, my very English curiosity hurried me out of the gate St. Gallo; 'twas the place and hour appointed. We had not been driving about above ten minutes, but out popped a little figure, pale but cross, with beard unshaved and hair uncombed, a slouched hat, and a considerable red cloak, in which was wrapped, under his arm, the fatal sword that was to revenge the highly injured Mr. Martin, painter and defendant. I darted my head out of the coach, just ready to say, "Your servant, Mr. Martin," and talk about the architecture of the triumphal arch that was building there; but he would not know me, and walked off. We left him to wait for an hour, to grow very cold and very valiant the more it grew past the hour of appointment. We were figuring all the poor creature's huddle of thoughts, and confused hopes of victory or fame, of his unfinished pictures, or his situation upon bouncing into the next world. You will think us strange creatures; but 'twas a pleasant sight, as we knew the poor painter was safe. I have thought of it since, and am inclined to believe that nothing but two English could have been capable of such a jaunt. I remember, 'twas reported in London, that the plague was at a house in the city, and all the town went to see it.
I have this instant received your letter. Lord! I am glad I thought of those parallel passages, since it made you translate them. 'Tis excessively near the original; and yet, I don't know, 'tis very easy too.—It snows here a little to-night, but it never lies but on the mountains. Adieu!
P.S.—What is the history of the theatres this winter?
HERCULANEUM—SEARCH SHOULD BE MADE FOR OTHER SUBMERGED CITIES—QUOTATIONS FROM STATIUS.
TO RICHARD WEST, ESQ.
NAPLES, June 14, 1740, N.S.
Dear West,—One hates writing descriptions that are to be found in every book of travels; but we have seen something to-day that I am sure you never read of, and perhaps never heard of. Have you ever heard of a subterraneous town? a whole Roman town, with all its edifices, remaining under ground? Don't fancy the inhabitants buried it there to save it from the Goths: they were buried with it themselves; which is a caution we are not told that they ever took. You remember in Titus's time there were several cities destroyed by an eruption of Vesuvius, attended with an earthquake. Well, this was one of them, not very considerable, and then called Herculaneum. Above it has since been built Portici, about three miles from Naples, where the King has a villa. This underground city is perhaps one of the noblest curiosities that ever has been discovered. It was found out by chance, about a year and half ago. They began digging, they found statues; they dug further, they found more. Since that they have made a very considerable progress, and find continually. You may walk the compass of a mile; but by the misfortune of the modern town being overhead, they are obliged to proceed with great caution, lest they destroy both one and t'other. By this occasion the path is very narrow, just wide enough and high enough for one man to walk upright. They have hollowed, as they found it easiest to work, and have carried their streets not exactly where were the ancient ones, but sometimes before houses, sometimes through them. You would imagine that all the fabrics were crushed together; on the contrary, except some columns, they have found all the edifices standing upright in their proper situation. There is one inside of a temple quite perfect, with the middle arch, two columns, and two pilasters. It is built of brick plastered over, and painted with architecture: almost all the insides of the houses are in the same manner; and, what is very particular, the general ground of all the painting is red. Besides this temple, they make out very plainly an amphitheatre: the stairs, of white marble, and the seats are very perfect; the inside was painted in the same colour with the private houses, and great part cased with white marble. They have found among other things some fine statues, some human bones, some rice, medals, and a few paintings extremely fine. These latter are preferred to all the ancient paintings that have ever been discovered. We have not seen them yet, as they are kept in the King's apartment, whither all these curiosities are transplanted; and 'tis difficult to see them—but we shall. I forgot to tell you, that in several places the beams of the houses remain, but burnt to charcoal; so little damaged that they retain visibly the grain of the wood, but upon touching crumble to ashes. What is remarkable, there are no other marks or appearance of fire, but what are visible on these beams.
There might certainly be collected great light from this reservoir of antiquities, if a man of learning had the inspection of it; if he directed the working, and would make a journal of the discoveries. But I believe there is no judicious choice made of directors. There is nothing of the kind known in the world; I mean a Roman city entire of that age, and that has not been corrupted with modern repairs. Besides scrutinising this very carefully, I should be inclined to search for the remains of the other towns that were partners with this in the general ruin. 'Tis certainly an advantage to the learned world, that this has been laid up so long. Most of the discoveries in Rome were made in a barbarous age, where they only ransacked the ruins in quest of treasure, and had no regard to the form and being of the building; or to any circumstances that might give light into its use and history. I shall finish this long account with a passage which Gray has observed in Statius, and which directly pictures out this latent city:—
Haec ego Chalcidicis ad te, Marcelle, sonabam Littoribus, fractas ubi Vestius egerit iras, Aemula Trinacriis volvens incendia flammis. Mira fides! credetne virum ventura propago, Cum segetes iterum, cum jam haec deserta virebunt, Infra urbes populosque premi?
SYLV. lib. iv. epist. 4.
Adieu, my dear West! and believe me yours ever.
[Footnote 1: It was known from the account of Pliny that other towns had been destroyed by the same eruption as Herculaneum, and eight years after the date of this letter some fresh excavations led to the discovery of Pompeii. Matthews, in his "Diary of an Invalid," describes both, and his account explains why Pompeii, though the smaller town, presents more attractions to the scholar or the antiquarian. "On our way home we explored Herculaneum, which scarcely repays the labour. This town is filled up with lava, and with a cement caused by the large mixture of water with the shower of earth and ashes which destroyed it; and it is choked up as completely as if molten lead had been poured into it. Besides, it is forty feet below the surface, and another town is now built over it.... Pompeii, on the contrary, was destroyed by a shower of cinders in which there was a much less quantity of water. It lay for centuries only twelve feet below the surface, and, these cinders being easily removed, the town has been again restored to the light of day" (vol. i. p. 254).]
DANGER OF MALARIA—ROMAN CATHOLIC RELICS—"ADMIRAL HOSIER'S GHOST"—CONTEST FOR THE POPEDOM.
TO THE HON. H.S. CONWAY.
RE DI COFANO, vulg. RADICOFANI,
July 5, 1740, N.S.
You will wonder, my dear Hal, to find me on the road from Rome: why, intend I did to stay for a new popedom, but the old eminences are cross and obstinate, and will not choose one, the Holy Ghost does not know when. There is a horrid thing called the malaria, that comes to Rome every summer, and kills one, and I did not care for being killed so far from Christian burial. We have been jolted to death; my servants let us come without springs to the chaise, and we are wore threadbare: to add to our disasters, I have sprained my ancle, and have brought it along, laid upon a little box of baubles that I have bought for presents in England. Perhaps I may pick you out some little trifle there, but don't depend upon it; you are a disagreeable creature, and may be I shall not care for you. Though I am so tired in this devil of a place, yet I have taken it into my head, that it is like Hamilton's Bawn, and I must write to you. 'Tis the top of a black barren mountain, a vile little town at the foot of an old citadel: yet this, know you, was the residence of one of the three kings that went to Christ's birthday; his name was Alabaster, Abarasser, or some such thing; the other two were kings, one of the East, the other of Cologn. 'Tis this of Cofano, who was represented in an ancient painting, found in the Palatine Mount, now in the possession of Dr. Mead; he was crowned by Augustus. Well, but about writing—what do you think I write with? Nay, with a pen; there was never a one to be found in the whole circumference but one, and that was in the possession of the governor, and had been used time out of mind to write the parole with: I was forced to send to borrow it. It was sent me under the conduct of a serjeant and two Swiss, with desire to return it when I should have done with it. 'Tis a curiosity, and worthy to be laid up with the relics which we have just been seeing in a small hovel of Capucins on the side of the hill, and which were all brought by his Majesty from Jerusalem. Among other things of great sanctity there is a set of gnashing of teeth, the grinders very entire; a bit of the worm that never dies, preserved in spirits; a crow of St. Peter's cock, very useful against Easter; the crisping and curling, frizzling and frowncing of Mary Magdalen, which she cut off on growing devout. The good man that showed us all these commodities was got into such a train of calling them the blessed this, and the blessed that, that at last he showed us a bit of the blessed fig-tree that Christ cursed.
[Footnote 1: Hamilton's Bawn is an old building near Richhill, in the County of Armagh, the subject of one of Swift's burlesque poems.]
FLORENCE, July 9.
My dear Harry,—We are come hither, and I have received another letter from you with "Hosier's Ghost." Your last put me in pain for you, when you talked of going to Ireland; but now I find your brother and sister go with you, I am not much concerned. Should I be? You have but to say, for my feelings are extremely at your service to dispose as you please. Let us see: you are to come back to stand for some place; that will be about April. 'Tis a sort of thing I should do, too; and then we should see one another, and that would be charming: but it is a sort of thing I have no mind to do; and then we shall not see one another, unless you would come hither—but that you cannot do: nay, I would not have you, for then I shall be gone.—So, there are many ifs that just signify nothing at all. Return I must sooner than I shall like. I am happy here to a degree. I'll tell you my situation. I am lodged with Mr. Mann, the best of creatures. I have a terreno all to myself, with an open gallery on the Arno, where I am now writing to you. Over against me is the famous Gallery: and, on either hand, two fair bridges. Is not this charming and cool? The air is so serene, and so secure, that one sleeps with all the windows and doors thrown open to the river, and only covered with a slight gauze to keep away the gnats. Lady Pomfret has a charming conversation once a week. She has taken a vast palace and a vast garden, which is vastly commode, especially to the cicisbeo-part of mankind, who have free indulgence to wander in pairs about the arbours. You know her daughters: Lady Sophia is still, nay she must be, the beauty she was: Lady Charlotte is much improved, and is the cleverest girl in the world; speaks the purest Tuscan, like any Florentine. The Princess Craon has a constant pharaoh and supper every night, where one is quite at one's ease. I am going into the country with her and the prince for a little while, to a villa of the Great Duke's. The people are good-humoured here and easy; and what makes me pleased with them, they are pleased with me. One loves to find people care for one, when they can have no view in it.
[Footnote 1: "Admiral Hosier's Ghost" is the title of a ballad by Glover on the death of Admiral Hosier, a distinguished admiral, who had been sent with a squadron to blockade the Spanish treasure-ships in Porto Bello, but was prohibited from attacking them in the harbour. He died in 1727, according to the account that the poet adopted, of mortification at the inaction to which his orders compelled him; but according to another statement, more trustworthy if less poetical, of fever.]
You see how glad I am to have reasons for not returning; I wish I had no better.
As to "Hosier's Ghost," I think it very easy, and consequently pretty; but, from the ease, should never have guessed it Glover's. I delight in your, "the patriots cry it up, and the courtiers cry it down, and the hawkers cry it up and down," and your laconic history of the King and Sir Robert, on going to Hanover, and turning out the Duke of Argyle. The epigram, too, you sent me on the same occasion is charming.
Unless I sent you back news that you and others send me, I can send you none. I have left the Conclave, which is the only stirring thing in this part of the world, except the child that the Queen of Naples is to be delivered of in August. There is no likelihood the Conclave will end, unless the messages take effect which 'tis said the Imperial and French ministers have sent to their respective courts for leave to quit the Corsini for the Albani faction: otherwise there will never be a pope. Corsini has lost the only one he could have ventured to make pope, and him he designed; 'twas Cenci, a relation of the Corsini's mistress. The last morning Corsini made him rise, stuffed a dish of chocolate down his throat, and would carry him to the scrutiny. The poor old creature went, came back, and died. I am sorry to have lost the sight of the Pope's coronation, but I might have staid for seeing it till I had been old enough to be pope myself.
[Footnote 1: The contest was caused by the death of Clement XII. The successful candidate was Benedict XIV.]
Harry, what luck the Chancellor has! first, indeed, to be in himself so great a man; but then in accident: he is made Chief Justice and peer, when Talbot is made Chancellor and peer. Talbot dies in a twelvemonth, and leaves him the seals at an age when others are scarce made Solicitors:—then marries his son into one of the first families of Britain, obtains a patent for a Marquisate and eight thousand pounds a year after the Duke of Kent's death: the Duke dies in a fortnight, and leaves them all! People talk of Fortune's wheel, that is always rolling: troth, my Lord Hardwicke has overtaken her wheel, and rolled away with it.... Yours ever.
A FLORENTINE WEDDING—ADDISON'S DESCRIPTIONS ARE BORROWED FROM BOOKS—A SONG OF BONDELMONTI'S, WITH A LATIN VERSION BY GRAY, AND AN ENGLISH ONE BY THE WRITER.
TO RICHARD WEST, ESQ.
FLORENCE, Oct. 2, 1740, N.S.
Dear West,—T'other night as we (you know who we are) were walking on the charming bridge, just before going to a wedding assembly, we said, "Lord, I wish, just as we are got into the room, they would call us out, and say, West is arrived! We would make him dress instantly, and carry him back to the entertainment. How he would stare and wonder at a thousand things, that no longer strike us as odd!" Would not you? One agreed that you should have come directly by sea from Dover, and be set down at Leghorn, without setting foot in any other foreign town, and so land at Us, in all your first full amaze; for you are to know, that astonishment rubs off violently; we did not cry out Lord! half so much at Rome as at Calais, which to this hour I look upon as one of the most surprising cities in the universe. My dear child, what if you were to take this little sea-jaunt? One would recommend Sir John Norris's convoy to you, but one should be laughed at now for supposing that he is ever to sail beyond Torbay. The Italians take Torbay for an English town in the hands of the Spaniards, after the fashion of Gibraltar, and imagine 'tis a wonderful strong place, by our fleet's having retired from before it so often, and so often returned.
[Footnote 1: Sir John Norris was one of the most gallant and skilful seamen of his time; but an expedition in which he had had the command had lately proved fruitless. He had been instructed to cruise about the Bay of Biscay, in the hope of intercepting some of the Spanish treasure-ships; but the weather had been so uninterruptedly stormy that he had been compelled to return to port without having even seen an enemy. The following lines were addressed to him upon this occasion:
Homeward, oh! bend thy course; the seas are rough; To the Land's End who sails, has sailed enough.]
We went to this wedding that I told you of; 'twas a charming feast: a large palace finely illuminated; there were all the beauties, all the jewels, and all the sugar-plums of Florence. Servants loaded with great chargers full of comfits heap the tables with them, the women fall on with both hands, and stuff their pockets and every creek and corner about them. You would be as much amazed at us as at anything you saw: instead of being deep in the liberal arts, and being in the Gallery every morning, as I thought of course to be sure I would be, we are in all the idleness and amusements of the town. For me, I am grown so lazy, and so tired of seeing sights, that, though I have been at Florence six months, I have not seen Leghorn, Pisa, Lucca, or Pistoia; nay, not so much as one of the Great Duke's villas. I have contracted so great an aversion to inns and post-chaises, and have so absolutely lost all curiosity, that, except the towns in the straight road to Great Britain, I shall scarce see a jot more of a foreign land; and trust me, when I return, I will not visit Welsh mountains, like Mr. Williams. After Mount Cenis, the Boccheto, the Giogo, Radicofani, and the Appian Way, one has mighty little hunger after travelling. I shall be mighty apt to set up my staff at Hyde-park-corner: the alehouseman there at Hercules's Pillars was certainly returned from his travels into foreign parts.
[Footnote 1: The sign of the Hercules' Pillars remained in Piccadilly till very lately. It was situated on part of the ground now  occupied by the houses of Mr. Drummond Smith and his brother.—MISS BERRY. That is, on the space between Hamilton Place and Apsley House. It was the inn mentioned in Fielding's "Tom Jones," and was notorious as a favourite resort of the Marquis of Granby.]
Now I'll answer your questions.
I have made no discoveries in ancient or modern arts. Mr. Addison travelled through the poets, and not through Italy; for all his ideas are borrowed from the descriptions, and not from the reality. He saw places as they were, not as they are. I am very well acquainted with Doctor Cocchi; he is a good sort of man, rather than a great man; he is a plain honest creature, with quiet knowledge, but I dare say all the English have told you, he has a very particular understanding: I really don't believe they meant to impose on you, for they thought so. As to Bondelmonti, he is much less; he is a low mimic; the brightest cast of his parts attains to the composition of a sonnet: he talks irreligion with English boys, sentiment with my sister [Lady Walpole], and bad French with any one that will hear him. I will transcribe you a little song that he made t'other day; 'tis pretty enough; Gray turned it into Latin, and I into English; you will honour him highly by putting it into French, and Ashton into Greek. Here 'tis.
Spesso Amor sotto la forma D'amista ride, e s'asconde; Poi si mischia, e si confonde Con lo sdegno e col rancor.
In pietade ei si trasforma, Par trastullo e par dispetto, Ma nel suo diverso aspetto, Sempre egli e l'istesso Amor.