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
81. TO MANN, Dec. 20, 1764.—Madame de Boufflers at Strawberry—The French Opinion of the English Character—Richardson's Novels—Madame de Beaumont
82. TO THE EARL OF HERTFORD, Feb. 12, 1765.—Debate on American Taxes—Petition of the Periwig-Makers—Female Head-dresses—Lord Byron's Duel—Opening of Almack's—No. 45
83. TO COLE, March 9, 1765.—His "Castle of Otranto"—Bishop Percy's Collection of Old Ballads
84. TO THE EARL OF HERTFORD, March 26, 1765.—Illness of the King—French and English Actors and Actresses: Clairon, Garrick, Quin, Mrs. Clive
85. TO MANN, May 25, 1765.—Riots of Weavers—Ministerial Changes—Factious Conduct of Mr. Pitt
86. TO MONTAGU, July 28, 1765.—Prospects of Old Age when joined to Gout
87. TO LADY HERVEY, Sept. 14, 1765.—Has reached Paris—The French Opera—Illness of the Dauphin—Popularity of Mr. Hume
88. TO MONTAGU, Sept. 22, 1765.—Is Making New Friends in Paris—Decay of the French Stage—Le Kain—Dumenil—New French inclination for Philosophy and Free-Thinking—General Admiration of Hume's History and Richardson's Novels
89. TO CHUTE, Oct. 3, 1765.—His Presentation at Court—Illness of the Dauphin—Description of his Three Sons
90. TO CONWAY, Jan. 12, 1766.—Supper Parties at Paris—Walpole Writes a Letter from Le Roi de Prusse a Monsieur Rousseau
91. TO GRAY, Jan. 25, 1766.—A Constant Round of Amusements—A Gallery of Female Portraits—Madame Geoffrin—Madame du Deffand—Madame de Mirepoix—Madame de Boufflers—Madame de Rochfort—The Marechale de Luxemburg—The Duchesse de Choiseul—An old French Dandy—M. de Maurepas—Popularity of his Letter to Rousseau
92. TO MANN, Feb. 29, 1766.—Situation of Affairs in England—Cardinal York—Death of Stanilaus Leczinski, Ex-King of Poland
93. TO CONWAY, April 8, 1766.—Singular Riot in Madrid—Changes in the French Ministry—Insurrections in the Provinces
94. TO MONTAGU, June 20, 1766.—The Bath Guide—Swift's Correspondence
95. TO CHUTE, Oct. 10, 1766.—Bath—Wesley
96. TO MANN, July 20, 1767.—Ministerial Difficulties—Return of Lord Clive
97. TO THE SAME, Sept. 27, 1767.—Death of Charles Townshend and of the Duke of York—Whist the New Fashion in France
98. TO GRAY, Feb. 18, 1768.—Some New Poems of Gray—Walpole's "Historic Doubts"—Boswell's "Corsica"
99. TO MANN, March 31, 1768.—Wilkes is returned M.P. for Middlesex—Riots in London—Violence of the Mob
100. TO MONTAGU, April 15, 1768.—Fleeting Fame of Witticisms—"The Mysterious Mother"
101. TO MANN, June 9, 1768.—Case of Wilkes
102. TO MONTAGU, June 15, 1768.—The English Climate
103. TO VOLTAIRE, July 27, 1768.—Voltaire's Criticisms on Shakespeare—Parnell's "Hermit"
104. TO THE EARL OF STRAFFORD, Aug. 16, 1768.—Arrival of the King of Denmark—His Popularity with the Mob
105. TO MANN, Jan. 31, 1769.—Wilkes's Election—The Comtesse de Barri—The Duc de Choiseul's Indiscretion
106. TO MONTAGU, May 11, 1769.—A Garden Party at Strawberry—A Ridotto at Vauxhall
107. TO MANN, June 14, 1769.—Paoli—Ambassadorial Etiquette
108. TO CHUTE, Aug. 30, 1765.—His Return to Paris—Madame Deffand—A Translation of "Hamlet"—Madame Dumenil—Voltaire's "Merope" and "Les Guebres"
109. TO MONTAGU, Sept. 17, 1769.—The French Court—The Young Princes—St. Cyr—Madame de Mailly
110. TO MANN, Feb. 27, 1770.—A Masquerade—State of Russia
111. TO THE SAME, May 6, 1770.—Wilkes—Burke's Pamphlet—Prediction of American Republics—Extravagance in England
112. TO MONTAGU, May 6, 1770.—Masquerades in Fashion—A Lady's Club
113. TO MANN, June 15, 1770,—The Princess of Wales is gone to Germany—Terrible Accident in Paris
114. TO THE SAME, Dec. 29, 1770.—Fall of the Duc de Choiseul's Ministry
115. TO THE SAME, Feb. 22, 1771.—Peace with Spain—Banishment of the French Parliament—Mrs. Cornelys's Establishment—The Queen of Denmark 116. TO THE SAME, April 26, 1771.—Quarrel of the House of Commons with the City—Dissensions in the French Court and Royal Family—Extravagance in England
117. TO CONWAY, July 30, 1771.—Great Distress at the French Court
118. TO CHUTE, August 5, 1771.—English Gardening in France—Anglomanie—He is weary of Paris—Death of Gray
119. TO COLE, Jan. 28, 1772.—Scantiness of the Relics of Gray—Garrick's Prologues, &c.—Wilkes's Squint
120. TO MANN, April 9, 1772.—Marriage of the Pretender—The Princess Louise, and her Protection of the Clergy—Fox's Eloquence
121. TO COLE, Jan. 8, 1773.—An Answer to his "Historic Doubts"—His Edition of Grammont
122. TO MANN, July10, 1774.—Popularity of Louis XVI.—Death of Lord Holland—Bruce's "Travels"
123. TO THE SAME, Oct. 6, 1774.—Discontent in America—Mr. Grenville's Act for the Trial of Election Petitions—Highway Robberies
124. TO THE SAME, Oct. 22, 1774.—The Pope's Death—Wilkes is returned for Middlesex—A Quaker at Versailles
125. TO THE COUNTESS OF AILESBURY, Nov. 7, 1774.—Burke's Election at Bristol—Resemblance of one House of Commons to Another—Comfort of Old Age
126. TO MANN, Nov. 24, 1774.—Death of Lord Clive—Restoration of the French Parliament—Prediction of Great Men to arise in America—The King's Speech
127. TO CONWAY AND LADY AYLESBURY, Jan. 15, 1775.—Riots at Boston—A Literary Coterie at Bath-Easton
128. TO GEM, April 4, 1776.—Opposition of the French Parliaments to Turgot's Measures
129. TO CONWAY, June 20, 1776.—His Decorations at "Strawberry"—His Estimate of himself, and his Admiration of Conway
130. TO MANN, Dec. 1, 1776.—Anglomanie in Paris—Horse-Racing
131. TO COLE, June 19, 1777.—Ossian—Chatterton
132. TO MANN, Oct. 26, 1777.—Affairs in America—The Czarina and the Emperor of China
133. TO THE SAME, May 31, 1778.—Death of Lord Chatham—Thurlow becomes Lord Chancellor
134. TO COLE, June 3, 1778.—Exultation of France at our Disasters in America—Franklin—Necker—Chatterton
135. TO MANN, July 7, 1778.—Admiral Keppel's Success—Threats of Invasion—Funeral of Lord Chatham
136. TO CONWAY, July 8, 1778.—Suggestion of Negotiations with France—Partition of Poland
137. TO MANN, Oct. 8, 1778.—Unsuccessful Cruise of Keppel—Character of Lord Chatham
138. TO THE SAME, March 22, 1779.—Capture of Pondicherry—Changes in the Ministry—La Fayette in America
139. TO THE SAME, July 7, 1779.—Divisions in the Ministry—Character of the Italians and of the French
140. TO THE SAME, Sept. 16, 1779.—Eruption of Vesuvius—Death of Lord Temple
141. TO THE SAME, Jan. 13, 1780.—Chances of War with Holland—His Father's Policy—Pope—Character of Bolingbroke
142. TO THE SAME, Feb. 6, 1780.—Political Excitement—Lord G. Gordon—Extraordinary Gambling Affairs in India
143. TO THE SAME, March 3, 1780.—Rodney's Victory—Walpole inclines to Withdraw from Amusements
144. TO THE SAME, June 5, 1780.—The Gordon Riots
145. TO DALRYMPLE, Dec. 11, 1780.—Hogarth—Colonel Charteris—Archbishop Blackburne—Jervas—Richardson's Poetry
146. TO MANN, Dec. 31, 1780.—The Prince of Wales—Hurricane at Barbadoes—A "Voice from St. Helena"
147. TO THE SAME, Sept. 7, 1781.—Naval Movements—Siege of Gibraltar—Female Fashions
148. TO THE SAME, Nov. 29, 1781.—Capitulation of Lord Cornwallis—Pitt and Fox
149. TO COLE, April 13, 1782.—The Language proper for Inscriptions in England—Fall of Lord North's Ministry—Bryant
150. TO MANN, Sept. 8, 1782.—Highwaymen and Footpads
151. TO THE SAME, Dec. 2, 1783.—Fox's India Bill—Balloons
152. TO CONWAY, Oct. 15, 1784.—Balloons
153. TO PINKERTON, June 22, 1785.—His Letters on Literature—Disadvantage of Modern Writers—Comparison of Lady Mary Wortley with Madame de Sevigne
154. TO THE SAME, June 26, 1785.—Criticism on various Authors: Greek, Latin, French, and English—Humour of Addison, and of Fielding—Waller—Milton—Boileau's "Lutrin"—"The Rape of the Lock"—Madame de Sevigne
155. TO MANN, Aug. 26, 1785.—Ministerial Difficulties—The Affair of the Necklace in Paris—Fluctuating Unpopularity of Statesmen—Fallacies of History
156. TO THE SAME, Oct. 4, 1785.—Brevity of Modern Addresses—The old Duchess of Marlborough
157. TO THE SAME, Oct. 30, 1785.—Lady Craven—Madame Piozzi—"The Rolliad"—Herschel's Astronomical Discovery
158. TO MISS MORE, Oct. 14, 1787.—Mrs. Yearsley—Madame Piozzi—Gibbon—"Le Mariage de Figaro"
159. TO THE SAME, July 12, 1788.—Gentlemen Writers—His own Reasons for Writing when Young—Voltaire—"Evelina"—Miss Seward—Hayley
160. TO MANN, Feb. 12, 1789.—Divisions in the Royal Family—The Regency—The Irish Parliament
161. TO MISS BERRY, June 30, 1789.—"The Arabian Nights"—The Aeneid—Boccalini—Orpheus and Eurydice
162. TO CONWAY, July 15, 1789.—Dismissal of Necker—Baron de Breteuil—The Duc D'Orleans—Mirabeau
163. TO THE SAME, July 1, 1790.—Bruce's "Travels"—Violence of the French Jacobins—Necker
164. TO MISS BERRYS, June 8, 1791.—The Prince of Wales—Growth of London and other Towns
165. TO THE SAME, Aug. 23, 1791.—Sir W. and Lady Hamilton—A Boat-race—The Margravine of Anspach
166. TO THE SAME, Oct. 15, 1793.—Arrest of the Duchesse de Biron—The Queen of France—Pythagoras
167. TO CONWAY, July 2, 1795.—Expectations of a Visit to Strawberry by the Queen
168. TO THE SAME, July 7, 1795.—Report of the Visit
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.
I. LADY MARY WORTLEY-MONTAGU
II. THOMAS GRAY, THE POET
Photographed from a drawing in the National Portrait Gallery, made by JAMES BASIRE, the engraver, from a sketch from life by Gray's friend, the Rev. WILLIAM MASON.
III. STRAWBERRY HILL, FROM THE NORTH-WEST
IV. SIR ROBERT WALPOLE
From a mezzotint by J. SIMON, after a picture by Sir GODFREY KNELLER.
V. VIEW OF GARDEN, STRAWBERRY HILL, FROM THE GREAT BED-CHAMBER
VI. REPRODUCTIONS OF HANDWRITING OF THOMAS GRAY AND HORACE WALPOLE
LETTERS OF HORACE WALPOLE.
MADAME DE BOUFFLERS AT STRAWBERRY—THE FRENCH OPINION OF THE ENGLISH CHARACTER—RICHARDSON'S NOVELS—MADAME DE BEAUMONT.
TO SIR HORACE MANN.
ARLINGTON STREET, Dec. 20, 1764.
... My journey to Paris is fixed for some time in February, where I hear I may expect to find Madame de Boufflers, Princess of Conti. Her husband is just dead; and you know the House of Bourbon have an alacrity at marrying their old mistresses. She was here last year, being extremely infected with the Anglomanie, though I believe pretty well cured by her journey. She is past forty, and does not appear ever to have been handsome, but is one of the most agreeable and sensible women I ever saw; yet I must tell you a trait of her that will not prove my assertion. Lady Holland asked her how she liked Strawberry Hill? She owned that she did not approve of it, and that it was not digne de la solidite Angloise. It made me laugh for a quarter of an hour. They allot us a character we have not, and then draw consequences from that idea, which would be absurd, even if the idea were just. One must not build a Gothic house because the nation is solide. Perhaps, as everything now in France must be a la Grecque, she would have liked a hovel if it pretended to be built after Epictetus's—but Heaven forbid that I should be taken for a philosopher! Is it not amazing that the most sensible people in France can never help being domineered by sounds and general ideas? Now everybody must be a geometre, now a philosophe, and the moment they are either, they are to take up a character and advertise it: as if one could not study geometry for one's amusement or for its utility, but one must be a geometrician at table, or at a visit! So the moment it is settled at Paris that the English are solid, every Englishman must be wise, and, if he has a good understanding, he must not be allowed to play the fool. As I happen to like both sense and nonsense, and the latter better than what generally passes for the former, I shall disclaim, even at Paris, the profondeur, for which they admire us; and I shall nonsense to admire Madame de Boufflers, though her nonsense is not the result of nonsense, but of sense, and consequently not the genuine nonsense that I honour. When she was here, she read a tragedy in prose to me, of her own composition, taken from "The Spectator:" the language is beautiful and so are the sentiments.
There is a Madame de Beaumont who has lately written a very pretty novel, called "Lettres du Marquis du Roselle." It is imitated, too, from an English standard, and in my opinion a most woful one; I mean the works of Richardson, who wrote those deplorably tedious lamentations, "Clarissa" and "Sir Charles Grandison," which are pictures of high life as conceived by a bookseller, and romances as they would be spiritualized by a Methodist teacher: but Madame de Beaumont has almost avoided sermons, and almost reconciled sentiments and common sense. Read her novel—you will like it.
DEBATE ON AMERICAN TAXES—PETITION OF THE PERIWIG-MAKERS—FEMALE HEAD-DRESSES—LORD BYRON'S DUEL—OPENING OF ALMACK'S—NO. 45.
TO THE EARL OF HERTFORD.
ARLINGTON STREET, Feb. 12, 1765.
A great many letters pass between us, my dear lord, but I think they are almost all of my writing. I have not heard from you this age. I sent you two packets together by Mr. Freeman, with an account of our chief debates. Since the long day, I have been much out of order with a cold and cough, that turned to a fever: I am now taking James's powder, not without apprehensions of the gout, which it gave me two or three years ago.
There has been nothing of note in Parliament but one slight day on the American taxes, which, Charles Townshend supporting, received a pretty heavy thump from Barre, who is the present Pitt, and the dread of all the vociferous Norths and Rigbys, on whose lungs depended so much of Mr. Grenville's power. Do you never hear them to Paris?
[Footnote 1: Mr. Grenville's taxation of stamps and other articles in our American colonies, which caused great discontent, and was repealed by Lord Rockingham's Ministry.]
The operations of the Opposition are suspended in compliment to Mr. Pitt, who has declared himself so warmly for the question on the Dismission of officers, that that motion waits for his recovery. A call of the House is appointed for next Wednesday, but as he has had a relapse, the motion will probably be deferred. I should be very glad if it was to be dropped entirely for this session, but the young men are warm and not easily bridled.
If it was not too long to transcribe, I would send you an entertaining petition of the periwig-makers to the King, in which they complain that men will wear their own hair. Should one almost wonder if carpenters were to remonstrate, that since the peace their trade decays, and that there is no demand for wooden legs? Apropos my Lady Hertford's friend, Lady Harriot Vernon, has quarrelled with me for smiling at the enormous head-gear of her daughter, Lady Grosvenor. She came one night to Northumberland House with such display of friz, that it literally spread beyond her shoulders. I happened to say it looked as if her parents had stinted her in hair before marriage, and that she was determined to indulge her fancy now. This, among ten thousand things said by all the world, was reported to Lady Harriot, and has occasioned my disgrace. As she never found fault with anybody herself, I excuse her. You will be less surprised to hear that the Duchess of Queensberry has not yet done dressing herself marvellously: she was at Court on Sunday in a gown and petticoat of red flannel....
We have not a new book, play, intrigue, marriage, elopement, or quarrel; in short, we are very dull. For politics, unless the ministers wantonly thrust their hands into some fire, I think there will not even be a smoke. I am glad of it, for my heart is set on my journey to Paris, and I hate everything that stops me. Lord Byron's foolish trial is likely to protract the session a little; but unless there is any particular business, I shall not stay for a puppet-show. Indeed, I can defend my staying here by nothing but my ties to your brother. My health, I am sure, would be better in another climate in winter. Long days in the House kill me, and weary me into the bargain. The individuals of each party are alike indifferent to me; nor can I at this time of day grow to love men whom I have laughed at all my lifetime—no, I cannot alter;—Charles Yorke or a Charles Townshend are alike to me, whether ministers or patriots. Men do not change in my eyes, because they quit a black livery for a white one. When one has seen the whole scene shifted round and round so often, one only smiles, whoever is the present Polonius or the Gravedigger, whether they jeer the Prince, or flatter his phrenzy.
[Footnote 1: In a previous letter Walpole mentions the duel caused by a dispute at cards, in which Lord Byron was so unfortunate as to kill his cousin, Mr. Chaworth.]
Thursday night, 14th.
The new Assembly Room at Almack's was opened the night before last, and they say is very magnificent, but it was empty; half the town is ill with colds, and many were afraid to go, as the house is scarcely built yet. Almack advertized that it was built with hot bricks and boiling water—think what a rage there must be for public places, if this notice, instead of terrifying, could draw anybody thither. They tell me the ceilings were dropping with wet—but can you believe me, when I assure you the Duke of Cumberland was there?—Nay, had had a levee in the morning, and went to the Opera before the assembly! There is a vast flight of steps, and he was forced to rest two or three times. If he dies of it,—and how should he not?—it will sound very silly when Hercules or Theseus ask him what he died of, to reply, "I caught my death on a damp staircase at a new club-room."
[Footnote 1: Almack was a Scotchman, who got up a sort of female club in King Street, St. James's, at the place since known as Willis's Rooms. In the first half of the present century the balls of Almack's were the most fashionable and exclusive in London, under the government of six lady patronesses, without a voucher from one of whom no one could obtain admittance. For a long time after trousers had become the ordinary wear they were proscribed at Almack's, and gentlemen were required to adhere to the more ancient and showy attire of knee-breeches; and it was said that in consequence of one having attempted unsuccessfully to obtain admission in trousers the tickets for the next ball were headed with a notice that "gentlemen would not be admitted without breeches and stockings."]
Williams, the reprinter of the North Briton, stood in the pillory to-day in Palace Yard. He went in a hackney-coach, the number of which was 45. The mob erected a gallows opposite him, on which they hung a boot with a bonnet of straw. Then a collection was made for Williams, which amounted to near L200. In short, every public event informs the Administration how thoroughly they are detested, and that they have not a friend whom they do not buy. Who can wonder, when every man of virtue is proscribed, and they have neither parts nor characters to impose even upon the mob! Think to what a government is sunk, when a Secretary of State is called in Parliament to his face "the most profligate sad dog in the kingdom," and not a man can open his lips in his defence. Sure power must have some strange unknown charm, when it can compensate for such contempt! I see many who triumph in these bitter pills which the ministry are so often forced to swallow; I own I do not; it is more mortifying to me to reflect how great and respectable we were three years ago, than satisfactory to see those insulted who have brought such shame upon us. 'Tis poor amends to national honour to know, that if a printer is set in the pillory, his country wishes it was my Lord This, or Mr. That. They will be gathered to the Oxfords, and Bolingbrokes, and ignominious of former days; but the wound they have inflicted is perhaps indelible. That goes to my heart, who had felt all the Roman pride of being one of the first nations upon earth!—Good night!—I will go to bed, and dream of Kings drawn in triumph; and then I will go to Paris, and dream I am pro-consul there: pray, take care not to let me be awakened with an account of an invasion having taken place from Dunkirk! Yours ever, H.W.
[Footnote 1: This was the last occasion on which the punishment of the pillory was inflicted.]
[Footnote 2: A scandal, for which there was no foundation, imputed to the Princess of Wales an undue intimacy with John Earl of Bute; and with a practical pun on his name the mob in some of the riots which were common in the first years of his reign showed their belief in the lie by fastening a jack-boot and a petticoat together and feeding a bonfire with them.]
[Footnote 3: One article in the late treaty of peace had stipulated for the demolition of Dunkirk.]
HIS "CASTLE OF OTRANTO"—BISHOP PERCY'S COLLECTION OF OLD BALLADS.
TO THE REV. WILLIAM COLE.
STRAWBERRY HILL, March 9, 1765.
Dear Sir,—I had time to write but a short note with the "Castle of Otranto," as your messenger called on me at four o'clock, as I was going to dine abroad. Your partiality to me and Strawberry have, I hope, inclined you to excuse the wildness of the story. You will even have found some traits to put you in mind of this place. When you read of the picture quitting its panel, did not you recollect the portrait of Lord Falkland, all in white, in my Gallery? Shall I even confess to you, what was the origin of this romance! I waked one morning, in the beginning of last June, from a dream, of which, all I could recover was, that I had thought myself in an ancient castle (a very natural dream for a head filled like mine with Gothic story), and that on the uppermost banister of a great staircase I saw a gigantic hand in armour. In the evening I sat down, and began to write, without knowing in the least what I intended to say or relate. The work grew on my hands, and I grew fond of it—add, that I was very glad to think of anything, rather than politics. In short, I was so engrossed with my tale, which I completed in less than two months, that one evening, I wrote from the time I had drunk my tea, about six o'clock, till half an hour after one in the morning, when my hand and fingers were so weary, that I could not hold the pen to finish the sentence, but left Matilda and Isabella talking, in the middle of a paragraph. You will laugh at my earnestness; but if I have amused you, by retracing with any fidelity the manners of ancient days, I am content, and give you leave to think me idle as you please....
Lord Essex's trial is printed with the State Trials. In return for your obliging offer, I can acquaint you with a delightful publication of this winter, "A Collection of Old Ballads and Poetry," in three volumes, many from Pepys's Collection at Cambridge. There were three such published between thirty and forty years ago, but very carelessly, and wanting many in this set: indeed, there were others, of a looser sort, which the present editor [Dr. Percy], who is a clergyman, thought it decent to omit....
[Footnote 1: Dr. Percy, Bishop of Dromore, in Ireland, was the heir male of the ancient Earls of Northumberland, and the title of his collection was "Reliques of English Poetry." He was also himself the author of more than one imitation of the old ballads, one of which is mentioned by Johnson in a letter to Mr. Langton: "Dr. Percy has written a long ballad in many fits [fyttes]. It is pretty enough: he has printed and will soon publish it" (Boswell, iii., ann. 1771).]
My bower is determined, but not at all what it is to be. Though I write romances, I cannot tell how to build all that belongs to them. Madame Danois, in the Fairy Tales, used to tapestry them with jonquils; but as that furniture will not last above a fortnight in the year, I shall prefer something more huckaback. I have decided that the outside shall be of treillage, which, however, I shall not commence, till I have again seen some of old Louis's old-fashioned Galanteries at Versailles. Rosamond's bower, you, and I, and Tom Hearne know, was a labyrinth: but as my territory will admit of a very short clew, I lay aside all thoughts of a mazy habitation: though a bower is very different from an arbour, and must have more chambers than one. In short, I both know, and don't know what it should be. I am almost afraid I must go and read Spenser, and wade through his allegories, and drawling stanzas, to get at a picture. But, good night! you see how one gossips, when one is alone, and at quiet on one's own dunghill!—Well! it may be trifling; yet it is such trifling as Ambition never is happy enough to know! Ambition orders palaces, but it is Content that chats for a page or two over a bower.
ILLNESS OF THE KING—FRENCH AND ENGLISH ACTORS AND ACTRESSES: CLAIRON, GARRICK, QUIN, MRS. CLIVE.
TO THE EARL OF HERTFORD.
ARLINGTON STREET, March 26, 1765.
Three weeks are a great while, my dear lord, for me to have been without writing to you; but besides that I have passed many days at Strawberry, to cure my cold (which it has done), there has nothing happened worth sending across the sea. Politics have dozed, and common events been fast asleep. Of Guerchy's affair, you probably know more than I do; it is now forgotten. I told him I had absolute proof of his innocence, for I was sure, that if he had offered money for assassination, the men who swear against him would have taken it.
The King has been very seriously ill, and in great danger. I would not alarm you, as there were hopes when he was at the worst. I doubt he is not free yet from his complaint, as the humour fallen on his breast still oppresses him. They talk of his having a levee next week, but he has not appeared in public, and the bills are passed by commission; but he rides out. The Royal Family have suffered like us mortals; the Duke of Gloucester has had a fever, but I believe his chief complaint is of a youthful kind. Prince Frederick is thought to be in a deep consumption; and for the Duke of Cumberland, next post will probably certify you of his death, as he is relapsed, and there are no hopes of him. He fell into his lethargy again, and when they waked him, he said he did not know whether he could call himself obliged to them.
I dined two days ago at Monsieur de Guerchy's, with the Count de Caraman, who brought me your letter. He seems a very agreeable man, and you may be sure, for your sake, and Madame de Mirepoix's, no civilities in my power shall be wanting. I have not yet seen Schouvaloff, about whom one has more curiosity—it is an opportunity of gratifying that passion which one can so seldom do in personages of his historic nature, especially remote foreigners. I wish M. de Caraman had brought the "Siege of Calais," which he tells me is printed, though your account has a little abated my impatience. They tell us the French comedians are to act at Calais this summer—is it possible they can be so absurd, or think us so absurd as to go thither, if we would not go further? I remember, at Rheims, they believed that English ladies went to Calais to drink champagne—is this the suite of that belief? I was mightily pleased with the Duc de Choiseul's answer to the Clairon; but when I hear of the French admiration of Garrick, it takes off something of my wonder at the prodigious adoration of him at home. I never could conceive the marvellous merit of repeating the works of others in one's own language with propriety, however well delivered. Shakespeare is not more admired for writing his plays, than Garrick for acting them. I think him a very good and very various player—but several have pleased me more, though I allow not in so many parts. Quin in Falstaff, was as excellent as Garrick in Lear. Old Johnson far more natural in everything he attempted. Mrs. Porter and your Dumesnil surpassed him in passionate tragedy; Cibber and O'Brien were what Garrick could never reach, coxcombs, and men of fashion. Mrs. Clive is at least as perfect in low comedy—and yet to me, Ranger was the part that suited Garrick the best of all he ever performed. He was a poor Lothario, a ridiculous Othello, inferior to Quin in Sir John Brute and Macbeth, and to Cibber in Bayes, and a woful Lord Hastings and Lord Townley. Indeed, his Bayes was original, but not the true part: Cibber was the burlesque of a great poet, as the part was designed, but Garrick made it a Garretteer. The town did not like him in Hotspur, and yet I don't know whether he did not succeed in it beyond all the rest. Sir Charles Williams and Lord Holland thought so too, and they were no bad judges. I am impatient to see the Clairon, and certainly will, as I have promised, though I have not fixed my day. But do you know you alarm me! There was a time when I was a match for Madame de Mirepoix at pharaoh, to any hour of the night, and I believe did play with her five nights in a week till three and four in the morning—but till eleven o'clock to-morrow morning—Oh! that is a little too much, even at loo. Besides, I shall not go to Paris for pharaoh—if I play all night, how shall I see everything all day?
[Footnote 1: Schouvaloff was notorious as a favourite of the Empress Catharine.]
[Footnote 2: Mdlle. Clairon had been for some years the most admired tragic actress in France. In that age actors and actresses in France were exposed to singular insults. M. Lacroix, in his "France in the Eighteenth Century," tells us: "They were considered as inferior beings in the social scale; excommunicated by the Church, and banished from society, they were compelled to endure all the humiliations and affronts which the public chose to inflict on them in the theatre; and, if any of them had the courage to make head against the storm, and to resist the violence and cruelty of the pit, they were sent to prison, and not released but on condition of apologising to the tyrants who had so cruelly insulted them. Many had a sufficient sense of their own dignity to withdraw themselves from this odious despotism after having been in prison in Fort l'Evecque, their ordinary place of confinement, by the order of the gentlemen of the chamber or the lieutenant of police; and it was in this way that Mdlle. Clairon bade farewell to the Comedie Francaise and gave up acting in 1765, when at the very height of her talent, and in the middle of her greatest dramatic triumphs." The incident here alluded to by Walpole was that "a critic named Freron had libelled her in a journal to which he contributed; and, as she could not obtain justice, she applied to the Duc de Choiseul, the Prime Minister. Even he was unable to put her in the way of obtaining redress, and sought to pacify her by comparing her position to his own. 'I am,' said he, 'mademoiselle, like yourself, a public performer; with this difference in your favour, that you choose what parts you please, and are sure to be crowned with the applause of the public; for I reckon as nothing the bad taste of one or two wretched individuals who have the misfortune of not adoring you. I, on the other hand, am obliged to act the parts imposed on me by necessity. I am sure to please nobody; I am satirised, criticised, libelled, hissed; yet I continue to do my best. Let us both, then, sacrifice our little resentments and enmities to the public service, and serve our country, each in our own station. Besides, the Queen has condescended to forgive Freron, and you may therefore, without compromising your dignity, imitate Her Majesty's clemency'" ("Mem. de Bachaumont," i. 61). But Mdlle. was not to be pacified, nor to be persuaded to expose herself to a repetition of insult; but, though only forty-one, she retired from the stage for ever.]
[Footnote 3: Quin was employed by the Princess of Wales to teach her son elocution, and when he heard how generally his young sovereign was praised for the grace and dignity of his delivery of his speech to his Parliament, he boasted, "Ah, it was I taught the boy to speak."]
[Footnote 4: Garrick was not only a great actor, but also a great reformer of the stage. He seems to have excelled equally both in tragedy and comedy, which makes it natural to suppose that in some parts he may have been excelled by other actors; though he had no equal (and perhaps never has had) in both lines. He was also himself the author of several farces of more than average merit.]
Lady Sophia Thomas has received the Baume de vie, for which she gives you a thousand thanks, and I ten thousand.
We are extremely amused with the wonderful histories of your hyena in the Gevaudan; but our fox-hunters despise you: it is exactly the enchanted monster of old romances. If I had known its history a few months ago, I believe it would have appeared in the "Castle of Otranto,"—the success of which has, at last, brought me to own it, though the wildness of it made me terribly afraid; but it was comfortable to have it please so much, before any mortal suspected the author: indeed, it met with too much honour far, for at first it was universally believed to be Mr. Gray's. As all the first impression is sold, I am hurrying out another, with a new preface, which I will send you.
[Footnote 1: A wolf of enormous size, and, in some respects, irregular conformation, which for a long time ravaged the Gevaudan; it was, soon after the date of this letter, killed, and Mr. Walpole saw it in Paris.]
RIOTS OF WEAVERS—MINISTERIAL CHANGES—FACTIOUS CONDUCT OF MR. PITT.
TO SIR HORACE MANN.
ARLINGTON STREET, May 25, 1765, sent by way of Paris.
My last I think was of the 16th. Since that we have had events of almost every sort. A whole administration dismissed, taken again, suspended, confirmed; an insurrection; and we have been at the eve of a civil war. Many thousand Weavers rose, on a bill for their relief being thrown out of the House of Lords by the Duke of Bedford. For four days they were suffered to march about the town with colours displayed, petitioning the King, surrounding the House of Lords, mobbing and wounding the Duke of Bedford, and at last besieging his house, which, with his family, was narrowly saved from destruction. At last it grew a regular siege and blockade; but by garrisoning it with horse and foot literally, and calling in several regiments, the tumult is appeased. Lord Bute rashly taking advantage of this unpopularity of his enemies, advised the King to notify to his Ministers that he intended to dismiss them,—and by this step, no succedaneum being prepared, reduced his Majesty to the alternative of laying his crown at the foot of Mr. Pitt, or of the Duke of Bedford; and as it proved at last, of both. The Duke of Cumberland was sent for, and was sent to Mr. Pitt, from whom, though offering almost carte blanche, he received a peremptory refusal. The next measure was to form a Ministry from the Opposition. Willing were they, but timid. Without Mr. Pitt nobody would engage. The King was forced to desire his old Ministers to stay where they were. They, who had rallied their very dejected courage, demanded terms, and hard ones indeed—promise of never consulting Lord Bute, dismission of his brother, and the appointment of Lord Granby to be Captain-General—so soon did those tools of prerogative talk to their exalted sovereign in the language of the Parliament to Charles I.
The King, rather than resign his sceptre on the first summons, determined to name his uncle Captain-General. Thus the commanders at least were ready on each side; but the Ministers, who by the Treaty of Paris showed how little military glory was the object of their ambition, having contented themselves with seizing St. James's without bloodshed. They gave up their General, upon condition Mr. Mackenzie and Lord Holland were sacrificed to them, and, tacitly, Lord Northumberland, whose government they bestow on Lord Weymouth without furnishing another place to the earl, as was intended for him. All this is granted. Still there are inexplicable riddles. In the height of negotiation, Lord Temple was reconciled to his brother George, and declares himself a fast friend to the late and present Ministry. What part Mr. Pitt will act is not yet known—probably not a hostile one; but here are fine seeds of division and animosity sown!
I have thus in six words told you the matter of volumes. You must analyse them yourself, unless you have patience to wait till the consequences are the comment. Don't you recollect very similar passages in the time of Mr. Pelham, the Duke of Newcastle, Lord Granville, and Mr. Fox? But those wounds did not penetrate so deep as these! Here are all the great, and opulent noble families engaged on one side or the other. Here is the King insulted and prisoner, his Mother stigmatised, his Uncle affronted, his Favourite persecuted. It is again a scene of Bohuns, Montforts, and Plantagenets.
While I am writing, I received yours of the 4th, containing the revolutions in the fabric and pictures of the palace Pitti. My dear sir, make no excuse; we each write what we have to write; and if our letters remain, posterity will read the catastrophes of St. James's and the Palace Pitti with equal indifference, however differently they affect you and me now. For my part, though agitated like Ludlow or my Lord Clarendon on the events of the day, I have more curiosity about Havering in the Bower, the jointure house of ancient royal dowagers, than about Queen Isabella herself. Mr. Wilkes, whom you mention, will be still more interested, when he hears that his friend Lord Temple has shaken hands with his foes Halifax and Sandwich; and I don't believe that any amnesty is stipulated for the exile. Churchill, Wilkes's poet, used to wish that he was at liberty to attack Mr. Pitt and Charles Townshend,—the moment is come, but Churchill is gone! Charles Townshend has got Lord Holland's place—and yet the people will again and again believe that nothing is intended but their interest.
When I recollect all I have seen and known, I seem to be as old as Methuselah: indeed I was born in politics,—but I hope not to die in them. With all my experience, these last five weeks have taught me more than any other ten years; accordingly, a retreat is the whole scope of my wishes; but not yet arrived.
Your amiable sister, Mrs. Foote, is settled in town; I saw her last night at the Opera with Lady Ailesbury. She is enchanted with Manzuoli—and you know her approbation is a test, who has heard all the great singers, learnt of all, and sings with as much taste as any of them. Adieu!
PROSPECTS OF OLD AGE WHEN JOINED TO GOUT.
TO GEORGE MONTAGU, ESQ.
STRAWBERRY HILL, July 28, 1765.
The less one is disposed, if one has any sense, to talk of oneself to people that inquire only out of compliment, and do not listen to the answer, the more satisfaction one feels in indulging a self-complacency, by sighing to those that really sympathise with our griefs. Do not think it is pain that makes me give this low-spirited air to my letter. No, it is the prospect of what is to come, not the sensation of what is passing, that affects me. The loss of youth is melancholy enough; but to enter into old age through the gate of infirmity most disheartening. My health and spirits make me take but slight notice of the transition, and, under the persuasion of temperance being a talisman, I marched boldly on towards the descent of the hill, knowing I must fall at last, but not suspecting that I should stumble by the way. This confession explains the mortification I feel. A month's confinement to one who never kept his bed a day is a stinging lesson, and has humbled my insolence to almost indifference. Judge, then, how little I interest myself about public events. I know nothing of them since I came hither, where I had not only the disappointment of not growing better, but a bad return in one of my feet, so that I am still wrapped up and upon a couch. It was the more unlucky as Lord Hertford is come to England for a very few days. He has offered to come to me; but as I then should see him only for some minutes, I propose being carried to town to-morrow. It will be so long before I can expect to be able to travel, that my French journey will certainly not take place so soon as I intended, and if Lord Hertford goes to Ireland, I shall be still more fluctuating; for though the Duke and Duchess of Richmond will replace them at Paris, and are as eager to have me with them, I have had so many more years heaped upon me within this month, that I have not the conscience to trouble young people, when I can no longer be as juvenile as they are. Indeed I shall think myself decrepit, till I again saunter into the garden in my slippers and without my hat in all weathers,—a point I am determined to regain if possible; for even this experience cannot make me resign my temperance and my hardiness. I am tired of the world, its politics, its pursuits, and its pleasures; but it will cost me some struggles before I submit to be tender and careful. Christ! Can I ever stoop to the regimen of old age? I do not wish to dress up a withered person, nor drag it about to public places; but to sit in one's room, clothed warmly, expecting visits from folks I don't wish to see, and tended and nattered by relations impatient for one's death! Let the gout do its worse as expeditiously as it can; it would be more welcome in my stomach than in my limbs. I am not made to bear a course of nonsense and advice, but must play the fool in my own way to the last, alone with all my heart, if I cannot be with the very few I wished to see: but, to depend for comfort on others, who would be no comfort to me; this surely is not a state to be preferred to death: and nobody can have truly enjoyed the advantages of youth, health, and spirits, who is content to exist without the two last, which alone bear any resemblance to the first.
You see how difficult it is to conquer my proud spirit: low and weak as I am, I think my resolution and perseverance will get the better, and that I shall still be a gay shadow; at least, I will impose any severity upon myself, rather than humour the gout, and sink into that indulgence with which most people treat it. Bodily liberty is as dear to me as mental, and I would as soon flatter any other tyrant as the gout, my Whiggism extending as much to my health as to my principles, and being as willing to part with life, when I cannot preserve it, as your uncle Algernon when his freedom was at stake. Adieu!
HAS REACHED PARIS—THE FRENCH OPERA—ILLNESS OF THE DAUPHIN—POPULARITY OF MR. HUME.
TO THE RIGHT HON. LADY HERVEY.
PARIS, Sept. 14, 1765.
I am but two days old here, Madam, and I doubt I wish I was really so, and had my life to begin, to live it here. You see how just I am, and ready to make amende honorable to your ladyship. Yet I have seen very little. My Lady Hertford has cut me to pieces, and thrown me into a caldron with tailors, periwig-makers, snuff-box-wrights, milliners, &c., which really took up but little time; and I am come out quite new, with everything but youth. The journey recovered me with magic expedition. My strength, if mine could ever be called strength, is returned; and the gout going off in a minuet step. I will say nothing of my spirits, which are indecently juvenile, and not less improper for my age than for the country where I am; which, if you will give me leave to say it, has a thought too much gravity. I don't venture to laugh or talk nonsense, but in English.
Madame Geoffrin came to town but last night, and is not visible on Sundays; but I hope to deliver your ladyship's letter and packet to-morrow. Mesdames d'Aiguillon, d'Egmont, and Chabot, and the Duc de Nivernois are all in the country. Madame de Boufflers is at l'Isle Adam, whither my Lady Hertford is gone to-night to sup, for the first time, being no longer chained down to the incivility of an ambassadress. She returns after supper; an irregularity that frightens me, who have not yet got rid of all my barbarisms. There is one, alas! I never shall get over—the dirt of this country: it is melancholy, after the purity of Strawberry! The narrowness of the streets, trees clipped to resemble brooms, and planted on pedestals of chalk, and a few other points, do not edify me. The French Opera, which I have heard to-night, disgusted me as much as ever; and the more for being followed by the Devin de Village, which shows that they can sing without cracking the drum of one's ear. The scenes and dances are delightful: the Italian comedy charming. Then I am in love with treillage and fountains, and will prove it at Strawberry. Chantilly is so exactly what it was when I saw it above twenty years ago, that I recollected the very position of Monsieur le Duc's chair and the gallery. The latter gave me the first idea of mine; but, presumption apart, mine is a thousand times prettier. I gave my Lord Herbert's compliments to the statue of his friend the Constable; and, waiting some time for the concierge, I called out, Ou est Vatel?
In short, Madam, being as tired as one can be of one's own country,—I don't say whether this is much or little,—I find myself wonderfully disposed to like this. Indeed I wish I could wash it. Madame de Guerchy is all goodness to me; but that is not new. I have already been prevented by great civilities from Madame de Brentheim and my old friend Madame de Mirepoix; but am not likely to see the latter much, who is grown a most particular favourite of the King, and seldom from him. The Dauphin is ill, and thought in a very bad way. I hope he will live, lest the theatres should be shut up. Your ladyship knows I never trouble my head about royalties, farther than it affects my interest. In truth, the way that princes affect my interest is not the common way.
I have not yet tapped the chapter of baubles, being desirous of making my revenues maintain me here as long as possible. It will be time enough to return to my Parliament when I want money.
Mr. Hume, that is the Mode, asked much about your ladyship. I have seen Madame de Monaco, and think her very handsome, and extremely pleasing. The younger Madame d'Egmont, I hear, disputes the palm with her; and Madame de Brionne is not left without partisans. The nymphs of the theatres are laides a faire peur, which at my age is a piece of luck, like going into a shop of curiosities, and finding nothing to tempt one to throw away one's money.
There are several English here, whether I will or not. I certainly did not come for them, and shall connect with them as little as possible. The few I value, I hope sometimes to hear of. Your ladyship guesses how far that wish extends. Consider, too, Madam, that one of my unworthinesses is washed and done away, by the confession I made in the beginning of my letter.
IS MAKING NEW FRIENDS IN PARIS—DECAY OF THE FRENCH STAGE—LE KAIN—DUMENIL—NEW FRENCH INCLINATION FOR PHILOSOPHY AND FREE-THINKING—GENERAL ADMIRATION OF HUME'S HISTORY AND RICHARDSON'S NOVELS.
TO GEORGE MONTAGU, ESQ.
PARIS, Sept. 22, 1765.
The concern I felt at not seeing you before I left England, might make me express myself warmly, but I assure you it was nothing but concern, nor was mixed with a grain of pouting. I knew some of your reasons, and guessed others. The latter grieve me heartily; but I advise you to do as I do: when I meet with ingratitude, I take a short leave both of it and its host. Formerly I used to look out for indemnification somewhere else; but having lived long enough to learn that the reparation generally proved a second evil of the same sort, I am content now to skin over such wounds with amusements, which at least leave no scars. It is true, amusements do not always amuse when we bid them. I find it so here; nothing strikes me; everything I do is indifferent to me. I like the people very well, and their way of life very well; but as neither were my object, I should not much care if they were any other people, or it was any other way of life. I am out of England, and my purpose is answered.
Nothing can be more obliging than the reception I meet with everywhere. It may not be more sincere (and why should it?) than our cold and bare civility; but it is better dressed, and looks natural; one asks no more. I have begun to sup in French houses, and as Lady Hertford has left Paris to-day, shall increase my intimacies. There are swarms of English here, but most of them are going, to my great satisfaction. As the greatest part are very young, they can no more be entertaining to me than I to them, and it certainly was not my countrymen that I came to live with. Suppers please me extremely; I love to rise and breakfast late, and to trifle away the day as I like. There are sights enough to answer that end, and shops you know are an endless field for me. The city appears much worse to me than I thought I remembered it. The French music as shocking as I knew it was. The French stage is fallen off, though in the only part I have seen Le Kain I admire him extremely. He is very ugly and ill made, and yet has an heroic dignity which Garrick wants, and great fire. The Dumenil I have not seen yet, but shall in a day or two. It is a mortification that I cannot compare her with the Clairon, who has left the stage. Grandval I saw through a whole play without suspecting it was he. Alas! four-and-twenty years make strange havoc with us mortals! You cannot imagine how this struck me! The Italian comedy, now united with their opera comique, is their most perfect diversion; but alas! harlequin, my dear favourite harlequin, my passion, makes me more melancholy than cheerful. Instead of laughing, I sit silently reflecting how everything loses charms when one's own youth does not lend it gilding! When we are divested of that eagerness and illusion with which our youth presents objects to us, we are but the caput mortuum of pleasure.
Grave as these ideas are, they do not unfit me for French company. The present tone is serious enough in conscience. Unluckily, the subjects of their conversation are duller to me than my own thoughts, which may be tinged with melancholy reflections, but I doubt from my constitution will never be insipid.
The French affect philosophy, literature, and free-thinking: the first never did, and never will possess me; of the two others I have long been tired. Free-thinking is for one's self, surely not for society; besides one has settled one's way of thinking, or knows it cannot be settled, and for others I do not see why there is not as much bigotry in attempting conversions from any religion as to it. I dined to-day with a dozen savans, and though all the servants were waiting, the conversation was much more unrestrained, even on the Old Testament, than I would suffer at my own table in England, if a single footman was present. For literature, it is very amusing when one has nothing else to do. I think it rather pedantic in society; tiresome when displayed professedly; and, besides, in this country one is sure it is only the fashion of the day. Their taste in it is worst of all: could one believe that when they read our authors, Richardson and Mr. Hume should be their favourites? The latter is treated here with perfect veneration. His History, so falsified in many points, so partial in as many, so very unequal in its parts, is thought the standard of writing.
In their dress and equipages they are grown very simple. We English are living upon their old gods and goddesses; I roll about in a chariot decorated with cupids, and look like the grandfather of Adonis.
Of their parliaments and clergy I hear a good deal, and attend very little: I cannot take up any history in the middle, and was too sick of politics at home to enter into them here. In short, I have done with the world, and live in it rather than in a desert, like you. Few men can bear absolute retirement, and we English worst of all. We grow so humorsome, so obstinate and capricious, and so prejudiced, that it requires a fund of good-nature like yours not to grow morose. Company keeps our rind from growing too coarse and rough; and though at my return I design not to mix in public, I do not intend to be quite a recluse. My absence will put it in my power to take up or drop as much as I please. Adieu! I shall inquire about your commission of books, but having been arrived but ten days, have not yet had time. Need I say?—no I need not—that nobody can be more affectionately yours than, &c.
HIS PRESENTATION AT COURT—ILLNESS OF THE DAUPHIN—DESCRIPTION OF HIS THREE SONS.
TO JOHN CHUTE, ESQ.
PARIS, Oct. 3, 1765.
I don't know where you are, nor when I am likely to hear of you. I write at random, and, as I talk, the first thing that comes into my pen.
I am, as you certainly conclude, much more amused than pleased. At a certain time of life, sights and new objects may entertain one, but new people cannot find any place in one's affection. New faces with some name or other belonging to them, catch my attention for a minute—I cannot say many preserve it. Five or six of the women that I have seen already are very sensible. The men are in general much inferior, and not even agreeable. They sent us their best, I believe, at first, the Duc de Nivernois. Their authors, who by the way are everywhere, are worse than their own writings, which I don't mean as a compliment to either. In general, the style of conversation is solemn, pedantic, and seldom animated, but by a dispute. I was expressing my aversion to disputes: Mr. Hume, who very gratefully admires the tone of Paris, having never known any other tone, said with great surprise, "Why, what do you like, if you hate both disputes and whisk?"
What strikes me the most upon the whole is, the total difference of manners between them and us, from the greatest object to the least. There is not the smallest similitude in the twenty-four hours. It is obvious in every trifle. Servants carry their lady's train, and put her into her coach with their hat on. They walk about the streets in the rain with umbrellas to avoid putting on their hats; driving themselves in open chaises in the country without hats, in the rain too, and yet often wear them in a chariot in Paris when it does not rain. The very footmen are powdered from the break of day, and yet wait behind their master, as I saw the Duc of Praslin's do, with a red pocket-handkerchief about their necks. Versailles, like everything else, is a mixture of parade and poverty, and in every instance exhibits something most dissonant from our manners. In the colonnades, upon the staircases, nay in the antechambers of the royal family, there are people selling all sorts of wares. While we were waiting in the Dauphin's sumptuous bedchamber, till his dressing-room door should be opened, two fellows were sweeping it, and dancing about in sabots to rub the floor.
You perceive that I have been presented. The Queen took great notice of me; none of the rest said a syllable. You are let into the King's bedchamber just as he has put on his shirt; he dresses and talks good-humouredly to a few, glares at strangers, goes to mass, to dinner, and a-hunting. The good old Queen, who is like Lady Primrose in the face, and Queen Caroline in the immensity of her cap, is at her dressing-table, attended by two or three old ladies, who are languishing to be in Abraham's bosom, as the only man's bosom to whom they can hope for admittance. Thence you go to the Dauphin, for all is done in an hour. He scarce stays a minute; indeed, poor creature, he is a ghost, and cannot possibly last three months. The Dauphiness is in her bedchamber, but dressed and standing; looks cross, is not civil, and has the true Westphalian grace and accents. The four Mesdames, who are clumsy plump old wenches, with a bad likeness to their father, stand in a bedchamber in a row, with black cloaks and knotting-bags, looking good-humoured, not knowing what to say, and wriggling as if they wanted to make water. This ceremony too is very short; then you are carried to the Dauphin's three boys, who you may be sure only bow and stare. The Duke of Berry looks weak and weak-eyed: the Count de Provence is a fine boy; the Count d'Artois well enough. The whole concludes with seeing the Dauphin's little girl dine, who is as round and as fat as a pudding.
[Footnote 1: The Duc de Berri was afterwards Louis XVI.; the Comte de Provence became Louis XVIII.; and the Comte d'Artois, Charles X.]
In the Queen's antechamber we foreigners and the foreign ministers were shown the famous beast of the Gevaudan, just arrived, and covered with a cloth, which two chasseurs lifted up. It is an absolute wolf, but uncommonly large, and the expression of agony and fierceness remains strongly imprinted on its dead jaws.
I dined at the Duc of Praslin's with four-and-twenty ambassadors and envoys, who never go but on Tuesdays to Court. He does the honours sadly, and I believe nothing else well, looking important and empty. The Duc de Choiseul's face, which is quite the reverse of gravity, does not promise much more. His wife is gentle, pretty, and very agreeable. The Duchess of Praslin, jolly, red-faced, looking very vulgar, and being very attentive and civil. I saw the Duc de Richelieu in waiting, who is pale, except his nose, which is red, much wrinkled, and exactly a remnant of that age which produced General Churchill, Wilks the player, the Duke of Argyll, &c. Adieu!
SUPPER PARTIES AT PARIS—WALPOLE WRITES A LETTER FROM LE ROI DE PRUSSE A MONSIEUR ROUSSEAU.
TO THE HON. H.S. CONWAY.
PARIS, Jan. 12, 1766.
I have received your letter by General Vernon, and another, to which I have writ an answer, but was disappointed of a conveyance I expected. You shall have it with additions, by the first messenger that goes; but I cannot send it by the post, as I have spoken very freely of some persons you name, in which we agree thoroughly. These few lines are only to tell you I am not idle in writing to you.
I almost repent having come hither; for I like the way of life and many of the people so well, that I doubt I shall feel more regret at leaving Paris than I expected. It would sound vain to tell you the honours and distinctions I receive, and how much I am in fashion; yet when they come from the handsomest women in France, and the most respectable in point of character, can one help being a little proud? If I was twenty years younger, I should wish they were not quite so respectable. Madame de Brionne, whom I have never seen, and who was to have met me at supper last night at the charming Madame d'Egmont's, sent me an invitation by the latter for Wednesday next. I was engaged, and hesitated. I was told, "Comment! savez-vous que c'est qu'elle ne feroit pas pour toute la France?" However, lest you should dread my returning a perfect old swain, I study my wrinkles, compare myself and my limbs to every plate of larks I see, and treat my understanding with at least as little mercy. Yet, do you know, my present fame is owing to a very trifling composition, but which has made incredible noise. I was one evening at Madame Geoffrin's joking on Rousseau's affectations and contradictions, and said some things that diverted them. When I came home, I put them into a letter, and showed it next day to Helvetius and the Duc de Nivernois; who were so pleased with it, that after telling me some faults in the language, which you may be sure there were, they encouraged me to let it be seen. As you know I willingly laugh at mountebanks, political or literary, let their talents be ever so great, I was not averse. The copies have spread like wild-fire; et me voici a la mode! I expect the end of my reign at the end of the week with great composure. Here is the letter:—
LE ROI DE PRUSSE A MONSIEUR ROUSSEAU.
MON CHER JEAN JACQUES,
Vous avez renonce a Geneve votre patrie; vous vous etes fait chasser de la Suisse, pays tant vante dans vos ecrits; la France vous a decrete. Venez donz chez moi; j'admire vos talens; je m'amuse de vos reveries, qui (soit dit en passant) vous occupent trop, et trop long tems. Il faut a la fin etre sage et heureux. Vous avez fait assez parler de vous par des singularites peu convenables a un veritable grand homme. Demontrez a vos ennemis que vous pouvez avoir quelquefois le sens commun: cela les fachera, sans vous faire tort. Mes etats vous offrent une retraite paisible; je vous veux du bien, et je vous en ferai, si vous le trouvez bon. Mais si vous vous obstiniez a rejetter mons secours, attendez-vous que je ne le dirai a personne. Si vous persistez a vous creuser l'esprit pour trouver de nouveaux malheurs, choisissez les tels que vous voudrez. Je suis roi, je puis vous en procurer au gre de vos souhaits: et ce qui surement ne vous arrivera pas vis a vis de vos ennemis, je cesserai de vous persecuter quand vous cesserez de mettre votre gloire a l'etre.
Votre bon ami,
[Footnote 1: Rousseau was always ready to believe in plots to mortify and injure him; and he was so much annoyed by this composition of Walpole's, that, shortly after his arrival in England, he addressed the following letter to The London Chronicle:—
"WOOTTON [IN DERBYSHIRE], March 3, 1766
"You have failed, Sir, in the respect which every private person owes to a crowned head, in attributing publicly to the King of Prussia a letter full of extravagance and malignity, of which, for those very reasons, you ought to have known he could not be the author. You have even dared to transcribe his signature, as if you had seen him write it with his own hand. I inform you, Sir, that the letter was fabricated at Paris, and what rends my heart is that the impostor has accomplices in England. You owe to the King of Prussia, to truth, and to me to print the letter which I write to you, and which I sign, as an atonement for a fault with which you would doubtless reproach yourself severely, if you knew to what a dark transaction you have rendered yourself an accessory. I salute you, Sir, very sincerely,
The Princesse de Ligne, whose mother was an Englishwoman, made a good observation to me last night. She said, "Je suis roi, je puis vous procurer de malheurs," was plainly the stroke of an English pen. I said, then I had certainly not well imitated the character in which I wrote. You will say I am a bold man to attack both Voltaire and Rousseau. It is true; but I shoot at their heel, at their vulnerable part.
I beg your pardon for taking up your time with these trifles. The day after to-morrow we go in cavalcade with the Duchess of Richmond to her audience; I have got my cravat and shammy shoes. Adieu!
A CONSTANT ROUND OF AMUSEMENTS—A GALLERY OF FEMALE PORTRAITS—MADAME GEOFFRIN—MADAME DU DEFFAND—MADAME DE MIREPOIX—MADAME DE BOUFFLERS—MADAME DE ROCHFORT—THE MARECHALE DE LUXEMBURG—THE DUCHESSE DE CHOISEUL—AN OLD FRENCH DANDY—M. DE MAUREPAS—POPULARITY OF HIS LETTER TO ROUSSEAU.
TO MR. GRAY.
PARIS, Jan. 25, 1766.
I am much indebted to you for your kind letter and advice; and though it is late to thank you for it, it is at least a stronger proof that I do not forget it. However, I am a little obstinate, as you know, on the chapter of health, and have persisted through this Siberian winter in not adding a grain to my clothes, and going open-breasted without an under waistcoat. In short, though I like extremely to live, it must be in my own way, as long as I can: it is not youth I court, but liberty; and I think making oneself tender is issuing a general warrant against one's own person. I suppose I shall submit to confinement when I cannot help it; but I am indifferent enough to life not to care if it ends soon after my prison begins.
I have not delayed so long to answer your letter, from not thinking of it, or from want of matter, but from want of time. I am constantly occupied, engaged, amused, till I cannot bring a hundredth part of what I have to say into the compass of a letter. You will lose nothing by this: you know my volubility, when I am full of new subjects; and I have at least many hours of conversation for you at my return. One does not learn a whole nation in four or five months; but, for the time, few, I believe, have seen, studied, or got so much acquainted with the French as I have.
By what I said of their religious or rather irreligious opinions, you must not conclude their people of quality atheists—at least, not the men. Happily for them, poor souls! they are not capable of going so far into thinking. They assent to a great deal, because it is the fashion, and because they don't know how to contradict. They are ashamed to defend the Roman Catholic religion, because it is quite exploded; but I am convinced they believe it in their hearts. They hate the Parliaments and the philosophers, and are rejoiced that they may still idolise royalty. At present, too, they are a little triumphant: the Court has shown a little spirit, and the Parliaments much less: but as the Duc de Choiseul, who is very fluttering, unsettled, and inclined to the philosophers, has made a compromise with the Parliament of Bretagne, the Parliaments might venture out again, if, as I fancy will be the case, they are not glad to drop a cause, of which they began to be a little weary of the inconveniences.
The generality of the men, and more than the generality are dull and empty. They have taken up gravity, thinking it was philosophy and English, and so have acquired nothing in the room of their natural levity and cheerfulness. However, as their high opinion of their own country remains, for which they can no longer assign any reason, they are contemptuous and reserved, instead of being ridiculously, consequently pardonably, impertinent. I have wondered, knowing my own countrymen, that we had attained such a superiority. I wonder no longer, and have a little more respect for English heads than I had.
The women do not seem of the same country: if they are less gay than they were, they are more informed, enough to make them very conversable. I know six or seven with very superior understandings; some of them with wit, or with softness, or very good sense.
Madame Geoffrin, of whom you have heard much, is an extraordinary woman, with more common sense than I almost ever met with. Great quickness in discovering characters, penetration in going to the bottom of them, and a pencil that never fails in a likeness—seldom a favourable one. She exacts and preserves, spite of her birth and their nonsensical prejudices about nobility, great court and attention. This she acquires by a thousand little arts and offices of friendship: and by a freedom and severity, which seem to be her sole end of drawing a concourse to her; for she insists on scolding those she inveigles to her. She has little taste and less knowledge, but protects artisans and authors, and courts a few people to have the credit of serving her dependents. She was bred under the famous Madame Tencin, who advised her never to refuse any man; for, said her mistress, though nine in ten should not care a farthing for you, the tenth may live to be an useful friend. She did not adopt or reject the whole plan, but fully retained the purport of the maxim. In short, she is an epitome of empire, subsisting by rewards and punishments. Her great enemy, Madame du Deffand, was for a short time mistress of the Regent, is now very old and stoneblind, but retains all her vivacity, wit, memory, judgment, passions, and agreeableness. She goes to Operas, Plays, suppers, and Versailles; gives suppers twice a week; has everything new read to her; makes new songs and epigrams, ay, admirably, and remembers every one that has been made these four-score years. She corresponds with Voltaire, dictates charming letters to him, contradicts him, is no bigot to him or anybody, and laughs both at the clergy and the philosophers. In a dispute, into which she easily falls, she is very warm, and yet scarce ever in the wrong: her judgment on every subject is as just as possible; on every point of conduct as wrong as possible: for she is all love and hatred, passionate for her friends to enthusiasm, still anxious to be loved, I don't mean by lovers, and a vehement enemy, but openly. As she can have no amusement but conversation, the least solitude and ennui are insupportable to her, and put her into the power of several worthless people, who eat her suppers when they can eat nobody's of higher rank; wink to one another and laugh at her; hate her because she has forty times more parts—and venture to hate her because she is not rich. She has an old friend whom I must mention, a Monsieur Pondeveyle, author of the "Fatpuni," and the "Complaisant," and of those pretty novels, the "Comte de Cominge," the "Siege of Calais," and "Les Malheurs de l'Amour." Would you not expect this old man to be very agreeable? He can be so, but seldom is: yet he has another very different and very amusing talent, the art of parody, and is unique in his kind. He composes tales to the tunes of long dances: for instance, he has adapted the Regent's "Daphnis and Chloe" to one, and made it ten times more indecent; but is so old, and sings it so well, that it is permitted in all companies. He has succeeded still better in les caracteres de la danse, to which he has adapted words that express all the characters of love. With all this he has not the least idea of cheerfulness in conversation; seldom speaks but on grave subjects, and not often on them; is a humourist, very supercilious, and wrapt up in admiration of his own country, as the only judge of his merit. His air and look are cold and forbidding; but ask him to sing, or praise his works, his eyes and smiles open and brighten up. In short, I can show him to you: the self-applauding poet in Hogarth's Rake's Progress, the second print, is so like his very features and very wig, that you would know him by it, if you came hither—for he certainly will not go to you.
[Footnote 1: "The famous Mme. Tencin." "Infamous" would be more appropriate. She had been the mistress of Dubois, and was the mother of D'Alembert.]
[Footnote 2: His description of her on first making her acquaintance was not altogether complimentary. In a letter of the preceding October he calls her "an old blind debauchee of wit." In fact, she had been one of the mistresses of the Regent, Duc d'Orleans, and at first his chief inducement to court her society was to hear anecdotes of the Regent. But gradually he became so enamoured of her society that he kept up an intimacy with her till her death in 1783. There must be allowed to be much delicate perception and delineation of character in this description of the French fine ladies of the time.]
[Footnote 3: To the above portrait of Madame du Deffand it may be useful to subjoin the able development of her character which appeared in the Quarterly Review for May, 1811, in its critique on her Letters to Walpole:—"This lady seems to have united the lightness of the French character with the solidity of the English. She was easy and volatile, yet judicious and acute; sometimes profound and sometimes superficial. She had a wit playful, abundant, and well-toned; an admirable conception of the ridiculous, and great skill in exposing it; a turn for satire, which she indulged, not always in the best-natured manner, yet with irresistible effect; powers of expression varied, appropriate, flowing from the source, and curious without research; a refined taste for letters, and a judgment both of men and books in a high degree enlightened and accurate."]
Madame de Mirepoix's understanding is excellent of the useful kind, and can be so when she pleases of the agreeable kind. She has read, but seldom shows it, and has perfect taste. Her manner is cold, but very civil; and she conceals even the blood of Lorraine, without ever forgetting it. Nobody in France knows the world better, and nobody is personally so well with the King. She is false, artful, and insinuating beyond measure when it is her interest, but indolent and a coward. She never had any passion but gaming, and always loses. For ever paying court, the sole produce of a life of art is to get money from the King to carry on a course of paying debts or contracting new ones, which she discharges as fast as she is able. She advertised devotion to get made dame du palais to the Queen; and the very next day this Princess of Lorraine was seen riding backwards with Madame Pompadour in the latter's coach. When the King was stabbed, and heartily frightened, the mistress took a panic too, and consulted D'Argenson, whether she had not best make off in time. He hated her, and said, By all means. Madame de Mirepoix advised her to stay. The King recovered his spirits, D'Argenson was banished, and La Marechale inherited part of the mistress's credit.—I must interrupt my history of illustrious women with an anecdote of Monsieur de Maurepas, with whom I am much acquainted, and who has one of the few heads which approach to good ones, and who luckily for us was disgraced, and the marine dropped, because it was his favourite object and province. He employed Pondeveyle to make a song on the Pompadour: it was clever and bitter, and did not spare even Majesty. This was Maurepas absurd enough to sing at supper at Versailles. Banishment ensued; and lest he should ever be restored, the mistress persuaded the King that he had poisoned her predecessor Madame de Chateauroux. Maurepas is very agreeable, and exceedingly cheerful; yet I have seen a transient silent cloud when politics are talked of.
[Footnote 1: The Comte d'Argenson was Minister at War.]
Madame de Boufflers, who was in England, is a savante, mistress of the Prince of Conti, and very desirous of being his wife. She is two women, the upper and the lower. I need not tell you that the lower is gallant, and still has pretensions. The upper is very sensible, too, and has a measured eloquence that is just and pleasing—but all is spoiled by an unrelaxed attention to applause. You would think she was always sitting for her picture to her biographer.
Madame de Rochfort is different from all the rest. Her understanding is just and delicate; with a finesse of wit that is the result of reflection. Her manner is soft and feminine, and though a savante, without any declared pretensions. She is the decent friend of Monsieur de Nivernois; for you must not believe a syllable of what you read in their novels. It requires the greatest curiosity, or the greatest habitude, to discover the smallest connexion between the sexes here. No familiarity, but under the veil of friendship, is permitted, and Love's dictionary is as much prohibited, as at first sight one should think his ritual was. All you hear, and that pronounced with nonchalance, is, that Monsieur un tel has had Madame une telle.
The Duc de Nivernois has parts, and writes at the top of the mediocre, but, as Madame Geoffrin says, is manque par tout; guerrier manque, ambassadeur manque, homme d'affaires manque, and auteur manque—no, he is not homme de naissance manque. He would think freely, but has some ambition of being governor to the Dauphin, and is more afraid of his wife and daughter, who are ecclesiastic fagots. The former out-chatters the Duke of Newcastle; and the latter, Madame de Gisors, exhausts Mr. Pitt's eloquence in defence of the Archbishop of Paris. Monsieur de Nivernois lives in a small circle of dependent admirers, and Madame de Rochfort is high-priestess for a small salary of credit.
The Duchess of Choiseul, the only young one of these heroines, is not very pretty, but has fine eyes, and is a little model in waxwork, which not being allowed to speak for some time as incapable, has a hesitation and modesty, the latter of which the Court has not cured, and the former of which is atoned for by the most interesting sound of voice, and forgotten in the most elegant turn and propriety of expression. Oh! it is the gentlest, amiable, civil little creature that ever came out of a fairy egg! so just in its phrases and thoughts, so attentive and good-natured! Everybody loves it but its husband, who prefers his own sister the Duchesse de Granmont, an Amazonian, fierce, haughty dame, who loves and hates arbitrarily, and is detested. Madame de Choiseul, passionately fond of her husband, was the martyr of this union, but at last submitted with a good grace; has gained a little credit with him, and is still believed to idolize him. But I doubt it—she takes too much pains to profess it.
I cannot finish my list without adding a much more common character—but more complete in its kind than any of the foregoing, the Marechale de Luxembourg. She has been very handsome, very abandoned, and very mischievous. Her beauty is gone, her lovers are gone, and she thinks the devil is coming. This dejection has softened her into being rather agreeable, for she has wit and good-breeding; but you would swear, by the restlessness of her person and the horrors she cannot conceal, that she had signed the compact, and expected to be called upon in a week for the performance.
I could add many pictures, but none so remarkable. In those I send you there is not a feature bestowed gratis or exaggerated. For the beauties, of which there are a few considerable, as Mesdames de Brionne, de Monaco, et d'Egmont, they have not yet lost their characters, nor got any.
You must not attribute my intimacy with Paris to curiosity alone. An accident unlocked the doors for me. That passe-par-tout called the fashion has made them fly open—and what do you think was that fashion?—I myself. Yes, like Queen Eleanor in the ballad, I sunk at Charing Cross, and have risen in the Fauxbourg St. Germain. A plaisanterie on Rousseau, whose arrival here in his way to you brought me acquainted with many anecdotes conformable to the idea I had conceived of him, got about, was liked much more than it deserved, spread like wild-fire, and made me the subject of conversation. Rousseau's devotees were offended. Madame de Boufflers, with a tone of sentiment, and the accents of lamenting humanity, abused me heartily, and then complained to myself with the utmost softness. I acted contrition, but had liked to have spoiled all, by growing dreadfully tired of a second lecture from the Prince of Conti, who took up the ball, and made himself the hero of a history wherein he had nothing to do. I listened, did not understand half he said (nor he either), forgot the rest, said Yes when I should have said No, yawned when I should have smiled, and was very penitent when I should have rejoiced at my pardon. Madame de Boufflers was more distressed, for he owned twenty times more than I had said: she frowned, and made him signs; but she had wound up his clack, and there was no stopping it. The moment she grew angry, the lord of the house grew charmed, and it has been my fault if I am not at the head of a numerous sect; but, when I left a triumphant party in England, I did not come here to be at the head of a fashion. However, I have been sent for about like an African prince, or a learned canary-bird, and was, in particular, carried by force to the Princess of Talmond, the Queen's cousin, who lives in a charitable apartment in the Luxembourg, and was sitting on a small bed hung with saints and Sobieskis, in a corner of one of those vast chambers, by two blinking tapers. I stumbled over a cat and a footstool in my journey to her presence. She could not find a syllable to say to me, and the visit ended with her begging a lap-dog. Thank the Lord! though this is the first month, it is the last week of my reign; and I shall resign my crown with great satisfaction to a bouillie of chestnuts, which is just invented, and whose annals will be illustrated by so many indigestions, that Paris will not want anything else these three weeks. I will enclose the fatal letter after I have finished this enormous one; to which I will only add, that nothing has interrupted my Sevigne researches but the frost. The Abbe de Malesherbes has given me full power to ransack Livry. I did not tell you, that by great accident, when I thought on nothing less, I stumbled on an original picture of the Comte de Grammont. Adieu! You are generally in London in March; I shall be there by the end of it.
[Footnote 1: The Princess of Talmond was born in Poland, and said to be allied to the Queen, Marie Leczinska, with whom she came to France, and there married a prince of the house of Bouillon.]
[Footnote 2: The letter from the King of Prussia to Rousseau.—WALPOLE.]
[Footnote 3: Gray, in reference to this letter, writes thus to Dr. Wharton, on the 5th of March:—"Mr. Walpole writes me now and then a long and lively letter from Paris, to which place he went the last summer, with the gout upon him; sometimes in his limbs; often in his stomach and head. He has got somehow well (not by means of the climate, one would think) goes to all public places, sees all the best company, and is very much in fashion. He says he sunk, like Queen Eleanor, at Charing Cross, and has risen again at Paris. He returns again in April; but his health is certainly in a deplorable state."—Works by Mitford, vol. iv. p. 79.]
SITUATION OF AFFAIRS IN ENGLAND—CARDINAL YORK—DEATH OF STANILAUS LECZINSKI, EX-KING OF POLAND.
TO SIR HORACE MANN.
PARIS, Feb. 29, 1766.
I have received your letters very regularly, and though I have not sent you nearly so many, yet I have not been wanting to our correspondence, when I have had anything particular to say, or knew what to say. The Duke of Richmond has been gone to England this fortnight; he had a great deal of business, besides engagements here; and if he has failed writing, at least I believe he received yours. Mr. Conway, I suppose, has received them too, but not to my knowledge; for I have received but one from him this age. He has had something else to do than to think of Pretenders, and pretenders to pretensions. It has been a question (and a question scarcely decided yet) not only whether he and his friends should remain Ministers, but whether we should not draw the sword on our colonies, and provoke them and the manufacturers at home to rebellion. The goodness of Providence, or Fortune by its permission, has interposed, and I hope prevented blood; though George Grenville and the Duke of Bedford, who so mercifully checked our victories, in compassion to France, grew heroes the moment there was an opportunity of conquering our own brethren. It was actually moved by them and their banditti to send troops to America. The stout Earl of Bute, who is never afraid when not personally in danger, joined his troops to his ancient friends, late foes, and now new allies. Yet this second race of Spaniards, so fond of gold and thirsting after American blood, were routed by 274; their whole force amounting but to 134. The Earl, astonished at this defeat, had recourse to that kind of policy which Machiavel recommends in his chapter of back-stairs. Caesar himself disavowed his Ministers, and declared he had not been for the repeal, and that his servants had used his name without his permission. A paper was produced to his eyes, which proved this denial an equivocation. The Ministers, instead of tossing their places into the middle of the closet, as I should have done, had the courage and virtue to stand firm, and save both Europe and America from destruction.
At that instant, who do you think presented himself as Lord Bute's guardian angel? only one of his bitterest enemies: a milk-white angel [Duke of York], white even to his eyes and eyelashes, very purblind, and whose tongue runs like a fiddlestick. You have seen this divinity, and have prayed to it for a Riband. Well, this god of love became the god of politics, and contrived meetings between Bute, Grenville, and Bedford; but, what happens to highwaymen after a robbery, happened to them before; they quarrelled about the division of the plunder, before they had made the capture—and thus, when the last letters came away, the repeal was likely to pass in both houses, and tyranny once more despairs.
This is the quintessence of the present situation in England. To how many North Britons, No. 45, will that wretched Scot furnish matter? But let us talk of your Cardinal Duke of York: so his folly has left his brother in a worse situation than he took him up! York seems a title fated to sit on silly heads—or don't let us talk of him; he is not worth it.
[Footnote 1: Cardinal York was the younger brother of Charles Edward. He lived in Italy; and, after the death of his brother, assumed the title of King of England as Henry IX. After the confiscation of the greater part of the Papal revenues by Napoleon, his chief means of livelihood was a pension of L4,000 a year allowed him by George IV. out of his private purse.]
I am so sorry for the death of Lady Hillsborough, as I suppose Mr. Skreene is glad of his consort's departure. She was a common creature, bestowed on the public by Lord Sandwich. Lady Hillsborough had sense and merit, and is a great loss to her family. By letters hither, we hear miserable accounts of poor Sir James Macdonald; pray let him know that I have written to him, and how much I am concerned for his situation.
This Court is plunged into another deep mourning for the death of old Stanislaus, who fell into the fire; it caught his night-gown and burnt him terribly before he got assistance. His subjects are in despair, for he was a model of goodness and humanity; uniting or rather creating, generosity from economy. The Poles had not the sense to re-elect him, after his virtues were proved, they who had chosen him before they knew him. I am told such was the old man's affection for his country, and persuasion that he ought to do all the good he could, that he would have gone to Poland if they had offered him the crown. He has left six hundred thousand livres, and a rente viagere of forty thousand crowns to the Queen, saved from the sale of his Polish estates, from his pension of two millions, and from his own liberality. His buildings, his employment of the poor, his magnificence, and his economy, were constant topics of admiration. Not only the court-tables were regularly and nobly served, but he treated, and defrayed his old enemy's grand-daughter, the Princess Christina, on her journey hither to see her sister the Dauphiness. When mesdames his grand-daughters made him an unexpected visit, he was so disturbed for fear it should derange his finances, which he thought were not in advance, that he shut himself up for an hour with his treasurer, to find resources; was charmed to know he should not run in debt, and entertained them magnificently. His end was calm and gay, like his life, though he suffered terribly, and he said so extraordinary a life could not finish in a common way. To a lady who had set her ruffle on fire, and scorched her arm about the same time, he said, "Madame, nous brulons du meme feu." The poor Queen had sent him the very night-gown that occasioned his death: he wrote to her, "C'etoit pour me tenir chaud, mais il m'a tenu trop chaud."
[Footnote 1: Stanislaus Leczinski was the father of the queen of Louis XV. On the conclusion of peace between France and the Empire it was arranged that the Duke of Lorraine should exchange that duchy for Tuscany, and that Lorraine should be allotted to Stanislaus, with a reversion to his daughter and to France after his death.]
Yesterday we had the funeral oration on the Dauphin; and are soon to have one on Stanislaus. It is a noble subject; but if I had leisure, I would compose a grand funeral oration on the number of princes dead within these six months. What fine pictures, contrasts, and comparisons they would furnish! The Duke of Parma and the King of Denmark reigning virtuously with absolute power! The Emperor at the head of Europe, and encompassed with mimic Roman eagles, tied to the apron-strings, of a bigoted and jealous virago. The Dauphin cultivating virtues under the shade of so bright a crown, and shining only at the moment that he was snatched from the prospect of empire. The old Pretender wasting away in obscurity and misfortune, after surviving the Duke of Cumberland, who had given the last blow to the hopes of his family; and Stanislaus perishing by an accident,—he who had swam over the billows raised by Peter the Great and Charles XII., and reigning, while his successor and second of his name was reigning on his throne. It is not taking from the funereal part to add, that when so many good princes die, the Czarina is still living!
The public again thinks itself on the eve of a war, by the recall of Stahremberg, the Imperial Minister. It seems at least to destroy the expectation of a match between the youngest Archduchess and the Dauphin, which it was thought Stahremberg remained here to bring about. I like your Great Duke for feeling the loss of his Minister. It is seldom that a young sovereign misses a governor before he tastes the fruits of his own incapacity.
We have got more letters from England, where the Ministers are still triumphant. They had a majority of 108 on the day that it was voted to bring in a bill to repeal the Stamp Act. George Grenville's ignorance and blunders were displayed to his face and to the whole world; he was hissed through the Court of Requests, where Mr. Conway was huzza'd. It went still farther for Mr. Pitt, whom the mob accompanied home with "Io Pitts!" This is new for an opposition to be so unpopular. Adieu!
SINGULAR RIOT IN MADRID—CHANGES IN THE FRENCH MINISTRY—INSURRECTIONS IN THE PROVINCES.
TO THE HON. H.S. CONWAY.
PARIS, April 8, 1766.
I sent you a few lines by the post yesterday with the first accounts of the insurrections at Madrid. I have since seen Stahremberg, the imperial minister, who has had a courier from thence; and if Lord Rochford has not sent one, you will not be sorry to know more particulars. The mob disarmed the Invalids; stopped all coaches, to prevent Squillaci's flight; and meeting the Duke de Medina Celi, forced him and the Duke d'Arcos to carry their demands to the King. His most frightened Majesty granted them directly; on which his highness the people despatched a monk with their demands in writing, couched in four articles: the diminution of the gabel on bread and oil; the revocation of the ordonnance on hats and cloaks; the banishment of Squillaci; and the abolition of some other tax, I don't know what. The King signed all; yet was still forced to appear in a balcony, and promise to observe what he had granted. Squillaci was sent with an escort to Carthagena, to embark for Naples, and the first commissioner of the treasury appointed to succeed him; which does not look much like observation of the conditions. Some say Ensenada is recalled, and that Grimaldi is in no good odour with the people. If the latter and Squillaci are dismissed, we get rid of two enemies.