Letters of Horace Walpole
Horace Walpole

Part 3 out of 5

he is forced to bend, will the Parliament stop there?

[Footnote 1: "_A new one appointed._" This is a mistake of Walpole's. A
new Parliament was not, nor indeed could be, appointed; but Maupeou
created six new Sovereign Courts at Arras, Blois, Chalons sur Marne,
Clermont, Lyon, and Poitiers, at which "justice should be done at the
sovereign's expense" (Lacretelle, iv. 264).]

In the mean time our most serious war is between two Operas. Mr. Hobart,
Lord Buckingham's brother, is manager of the Haymarket. Last year he
affronted Guadagni, by preferring the Zamperina, his own mistress, to
the singing hero's sister. The Duchess of Northumberland, Lady
Harrington, and some other great ladies, espoused the brother, and
without a license erected an Opera for him at Madame Cornelys's. This is
a singular dame, and you must be acquainted with her. She sung here
formerly, by the name of the Pompeiati. Of late years she has been the
Heidegger of the age, and presided over our diversions. Her taste and
invention in pleasures and decorations are singular. She took Carlisle
House in Soho Square, enlarged it, and established assemblies and balls
by subscription. At first they scandalised, but soon drew in both
righteous and ungodly. She went on building, and made her house a fairy
palace for balls, concerts, and masquerades. Her Opera, which she called
_Harmonic Meetings_, was splendid and charming. Mr. Hobart began to
starve, and the managers of the theatres were alarmed. To avoid the act,
she pretended to take no money, and had the assurance to advertise that
the subscription was to provide coals for the poor, for she has
vehemently courted the mob, and succeeded in gaining their princely
favour. She then declared her Masquerades were for the benefit of
commerce. I concluded she would open another sort of house next for the
interests of the Foundling Hospital, and I was not quite mistaken, for
they say one of her maids, gained by Mr. Hobart, affirms that she could
not undergo the fatigue of managing such a house. At last Mr. Hobart
informed against her, and the Bench of Justices, less soothable by music
than Orpheus's beasts, have pronounced against her. Her Opera is
quashed, and Guadagni, who governed so haughtily at Vienna, that, to
pique some man of quality there, he named a minister to Venice, is not
only fined, but was threatened to be sent to Bridewell, which chilled
the blood of all the Caesars and Alexanders he had ever represented; nor
could any promises of his lady-patronesses rehabilitate his courage--so
for once an Act of Parliament goes for something.

You have got three new companions;[1] General Montagu, a West Indian
Mr. Paine, and Mr. Lynch, your brother at Turin.

[Footnote 1: As Knights of the Bath.--WALPOLE.]

There is the devil to pay in Denmark. The Queen[1] has got the
ascendant, has turned out favourites and Ministers, and literally wears
the breeches, actual buckskin. There is a physician, who is said to rule
both their Majesties, and I suppose is sold to France, for that is the
predominant interest now at Copenhagen. The Czarina has whispered her
disapprobation, and if she has a talon left, when she has done with the
Ottomans, may chance to scratch the little King.

[Footnote 1: The Queen was Caroline Matilda, a sister of George III.,
and was accused of a criminal intimacy with Count Struenzee, the Prime
Minister. Struenzee, "after a trial with only a slight semblance of the
forms of justice" (to quote the words of Lord Stanhope), was convicted
and executed; and the Queen was at first imprisoned in the Castle of
Cronenburg, but after a time was released, and allowed to retire to
Zell, Hanover, where she died in 1774.]

For eight months to come I should think we shall have little to talk of,
you and I, but distant wars and distant majesties. For my part, I reckon
the volume quite shut in which I took any interest. The succeeding world
is young, new, and half unknown to me. Tranquillity comprehends every
wish I have left, and I think I should not even ask what news there is,
but for fear of seeming wedded to old stories--the rock of old men; and
yet I should prefer that failing to the solicitude about a world one
belongs to no more! Adieu!



ARLINGTON STREET, _April_ 26, 1771.

You may wonder that I have been so silent, when I had announced a war
between the House of Commons and the City--nay, when hostilities were
actually commenced; but many a campaign languishes that has set out very
flippantly. My letters depend on events, and I am like the man in the
weather-house who only comes forth on a storm. The wards in the City
have complimented the prisoners,[1] and some towns; but the train has
not spread much. Wilkes is your only gun-powder that makes an explosion.
He and his associates are more incensed at each other than against the
Ministry, and have saved the latter much trouble. The Select Committees
have been silent and were forgotten, but there is a talk now of their
making some report before the session closes.

[Footnote 1: The prisoners were Crosby, the Lord Mayor, and Oliver, one
of the aldermen, both members of Parliament. The selection of the Tower
for their imprisonment was greatly remarked upon, because hitherto that
had never been so used except for persons accused of high treason; while
their offence was but a denial of the right of the House of Commons to
arrest a liveryman within the City, and the entertaining a charge of
assault against the messenger who had endeavoured to arrest him. These
riots, which for the moment appeared likely to become formidable, arose
out of the practice of reporting the parliamentary debates, a practice
contrary to the Standing Orders of Parliament, passed as far back as the
reign of Elizabeth, but the violation of which had lately begun to be

The serious war is at last absolutely blown over. Spain has sent us word
she is disarming. So are we. Who would have expected that a courtesan at
Paris would have prevented a general conflagration? Madame du Barri has
compensated for Madame Helen, and is _optima pacis causa_. I will not
swear that the torch she snatched from the hands of Spain may not light
up a civil war in France. The Princes of the Blood[1] are forbidden the
Court, twelve dukes and peers, of the most complaisant, are banished, or
going to be banished; and even the captains of the guard. In short, the
King, his mistress, and the Chancellor, have almost left themselves
alone at Versailles. But as the most serious events in France have
always a ray of ridicule mixed with them, some are to be exiled _to_
Paris, and some to St. Germain. How we should laugh at anybody being
banished to Soho Square and Hammersmith? The Chancellor desired to see
the Prince of Conti; the latter replied, "Qu'il lui donnoit rendezvous a
la Greve."[2]

[Footnote 1: The "Princes of the Blood" in France were those who, though
of Royal descent, were not children of a king--such, for instance, as
the Dukes of Orleans and Bourbon; and they were reckoned of a rank so
inferior to the princes of the Royal Family, that, as Marie Antoinette
on one occasion told the Duke of Orleans, in a well-deserved reproof for
his factious insolence, Princes of the Blood had never pretended to the
honour of supping with the King and herself. (See the Editor's "Life of
Marie Antoinette," c. 10). Their offence, in this instance, was having
protested against the holding and the proceedings of a _Lit de Justice_,
which had been held on April 15th, about three months after the
banishment of all the members of Parliament (Lacretelle, c. 13).]

[Footnote 2: La Greve was the place of execution in Paris.

Who has e'er been at Paris must needs know the Greve,
The fatal retreat of th' unfortunate brave;
Where honour and justice most oddly contribute
To ease hero's pains by a halter and gibbet (PRIOR).]

If we laugh at the French, they stare at us. Our enormous luxury and
expense astonishes them. I carried their Ambassador, and a Comte de
Levi, the other morning to see the new winter Ranelagh [The Pantheon] in
Oxford Road, which is almost finished. It amazed me myself. Imagine
Balbec in all its glory! The pillars are of artificial _giallo antico_.
The ceilings, even of the passages, are of the most beautiful stuccos in
the best taste of grotesque. The ceilings of the ball-rooms and the
panels painted like Raphael's _loggias_ in the Vatican. A dome like the
pantheon, glazed. It is to cost fifty thousand pounds. Monsieur de
Guisnes said to me, "Ce n'est qu'a Londres qu'on peut faire tout cela."
It is not quite a proof of the same taste, that two views of Verona, by
Canaletti, have been sold by auction for five hundred and fifty guineas;
and, what is worse, it is come out that they are copies by Marlow, a
disciple of Scott. Both master and scholar are indeed better painters
than the Venetian; but the purchasers did not mean to be so well

The papers will have told you that the wheel of fortune has again
brought up Lord Holdernesse, who is made governor to the Prince of
Wales. The Duchess of Queensberry, a much older veteran, is still
figuring in the world, not only by giving frequent balls, but really by
her beauty. Reflect, that she was a goddess in Prior's days![1] I could
not help adding these lines on her--you know his end:

Kitty, at Heart's desire,
Obtained the chariot for a day,
And set the world on fire.

This was some fifty-six years ago, or more. I gave her this stanza:

To many a Kitty, Love his car
Will for a day engage,
But Prior's Kitty, ever fair,
Obtained it for an age!

And she is old enough to be pleased with the compliment.

[Footnote 1: Prior died in 1721.]

My brother [Sir Edward Walpole] has lost his son; and it is no
misfortune, though he was but three-and-thirty, and had very good parts;
for he was sunk into such a habit of drinking and gaming, that the first
ruined his constitution, and the latter would have ruined his father.

Shall I send away this short scroll, or reserve it to the end of the
session? No, it is already somewhat obsolete: it shall go, and another
short letter shall be the other half of it--so, good night!



PARIS, _July_ 30, 1771.

I do not know where you are, nor where this will find you, nor when it
will set out to seek you, as I am not certain by whom I shall send it.
It is of little consequence, as I have nothing material to tell you, but
what you probably may have heard.

The distress here is incredible, especially at Court. The King's
tradesmen are ruined, his servants starving, and even angels and
archangels cannot get their pensions and salaries, but sing "Woe! woe!
woe!" instead of Hosannahs. Compiegne is abandoned; Villars Coterets[1]
and Chantilly crowded, and Chanteloup still more in fashion, whither
everybody goes that pleases; though, when they ask leave, the answer is,
"Je ne le defends ni le permets." This is the first time that ever the
will of a King of France was interpreted against his inclination. Yet,
after annihilating his Parliament, and ruining public credit, he tamely
submits to be affronted by his own servants. Madame de Beauveau, and two
or three high-spirited dames, defy this Czar of Gaul. Yet they and their
cabal are as inconsistent on the other hand. They make epigrams, sing
vaudevilles,[2] against the mistress, hand about libels against the
Chancellor [Maupeou], and have no more effect than a sky-rocket; but in
three months will die to go to Court, and to be invited to sup with
Madame du Barri. The only real struggle is between the Chancellor
[Maupeou] and the Duc d'Aiguillon. The first is false, bold, determined,
and not subject to little qualms. The other is less known, communicates
himself to nobody, is suspected of deep policy and deep designs, but
seems to intend to set out under a mask of very smooth varnish; for he
has just obtained the payment of all his bitter enemy La Chalotais'
pensions and arrears. He has the advantage, too, of being but
moderately detested in comparison of his rival, and, what he values
more, the interest of the mistress. The Comptroller-General[3] serves
both, by acting mischief more sensibly felt; for he ruins everybody but
those who purchase a respite from his mistress. He dispenses bankruptcy
by retail, and will fall, because he cannot even by these means be
useful enough. They are striking off nine millions from _la caisse
militaire_, five from the marine, and one from the _affaires
etrangeres_: yet all this will not extricate them. You never saw a great
nation in so disgraceful a position. Their next prospect is not better:
it rests on an _imbecille_ [Louis XVI.], both in mind and body.

[Footnote 1: Villars Coterets was the country residence of the Duc
d'Orleans; Chantilly that of the Prince de Conde; and Chanteloup that of
the Duc de Choiseul: and the mere fact of their being in disgrace at
Court was sufficient to make them popular with the people.]

[Footnote 2: The following specimen of these vaudevilles was given by
Madame du Deffand to Walpole:--

"L'avez-vous vue, ma Du Barry,
Elle a ravi mon ame;
Pour elle j'ai perdu l'esprit,
Des Francais j'ai le blame:
Charmants enfans de la Gourdon,
Est-elle chez vous maintenant?
Je suis le Roi,
Soulagez mon martyre;
Elle est a moi,
Je suis son pauvre Sire.
L'avez-vous vue," &c.

"Je sais qu'autrefois les laquais
On fete ses jeunes attraits;
Que les cochers,
Les perruquiers,
L'aimaient, l'aimaient d'amour extreme,
Mais pas autant que je l'aime.
L'avez-vous vue," &c.]

[Footnote 3: The Comptroller-General was the Abbe Terrai, notoriously as
corrupt as he was incompetent. One of his measures, reducing the
interest on the Debt by one-half, was tantamount to an act of
bankruptcy; but the national levity comforted itself by jests, and one
evening, when the pit at the theatre was crowded to suffocation, one of
the sufferers carried the company with him by shouting out a suggestion
to send for the Abbe Terrai to reduce them all to one-half their size.]



Paris, _August_ 5, 1771.

It is a great satisfaction to me to find by your letter of the 30th,
that you have had no return of your gout. I have been assured here, that
the best remedy is to cut one's nails in hot water. It is, I fear, as
certain as any other remedy! It would at least be so here, if their
bodies were of a piece with their understandings; or if both were as
curable as they are the contrary. Your prophecy, I doubt, is not better
founded than the prescription. I may be lame; but I shall never be a
duck, nor deal in the garbage of the Alley.

I envy your _Strawberry tide_, and need not say how much I wish I was
there to receive you. Methinks, I should be as glad of a little grass,
as a seaman after a long voyage. Yet English gardening gains ground here
prodigiously--not much at a time, indeed--I have literally seen one,
that is exactly like a tailor's paper of patterns. There is a Monsieur
Boutin, who has tacked a piece of what he calls an English garden to a
set of stone terraces, with steps of turf. There are three or four very
high hills, almost as high as, and exactly in the shape of, a tansy
pudding. You squeeze between these and a river, that is conducted at
obtuse angles in a stone channel, and supplied by a pump; and when
walnuts come in I suppose it will be navigable. In a corner enclosed by
a chalk wall are the samples I mentioned; there is a strip of grass,
another of corn, and a third _en friche_, exactly in the order of beds
in a nursery. They have translated Mr. Whately's book,[1] and the Lord
knows what barbarism is going to be laid at our door. This new
_Anglomanie_ will literally be _mad English_.

[Footnote 1: Mr. Whately, the Secretary to the Treasury, had published
an essay on Gardening.]

New _arrets_, new retrenchments, new misery, stalk forth every day. The
Parliament of Besancon is dissolved; so are the _grenadiers de France_.
The King's tradesmen are all bankrupt; no pensions are paid, and
everybody is reforming their suppers and equipages. Despotism makes
converts faster than ever Christianity did. Louis _Quinze_ is the true
_rex Christianissimus_, and has ten times more success than his
dragooning great-grandfather. Adieu, my dear Sir! Yours most faithfully.

_Friday 9th._

... It is very singular that I have not half the satisfaction in going
into churches and convents that I used to have. The consciousness that
the vision is dispelled, the want of fervour so obvious in the
religious, the solitude that one knows proceeds from contempt, not from
contemplation, make those places appear like abandoned theatres destined
to destruction. The monks trot about as if they had not long to stay
there; and what used to be holy gloom is now but dirt and darkness.
There is no more deception than in a tragedy acted by candle-snuffers.
One is sorry to think that an empire of common sense would not be very
picturesque; for, as there is nothing but taste that can compensate for
the imagination of madness, I doubt there will never be twenty men of
taste for twenty thousand madmen. The world will no more see Athens,
Rome, and the Medici again, than a succession of five good emperors,
like Nerva, Trajan, Adrian, and the two Antonines.

_August_ 13.

Mr. Edmonson has called on me; and, as he sets out to-morrow, I can
safely trust my letter to him. I have, I own, been much shocked at
reading Gray's[1] death in the papers. 'Tis an hour that makes one
forget any subject of complaint, especially towards one with whom I
lived in friendship from thirteen years old. As self lies so rooted in
self, no doubt the nearness of our ages made the stroke recoil to my own
breast; and having so little expected his death, it is plain how little
I expect my own. Yet to you, who of all men living are the most
forgiving, I need not excuse the concern I feel. I fear most men ought
to apologise for their want of feeling, instead of palliating that
sensation when they have it. I thought that what I had seen of the world
had hardened my heart; but I find that it had formed my language, not
extinguished my tenderness. In short, I am really shocked--nay, I am
hurt at my own weakness, as I perceive that when I love anybody, it is
for my life; and I have had too much reason not to wish that such a
disposition may very seldom be put to the trial. You, at least, are the
only person to whom I would venture to make such a confession.

[Footnote 1: Gray died of gout in the stomach on July 30th. He was only

Adieu! my dear Sir! Let me know when I arrive, which will be about the
last day of the month, when I am likely to see you. I have much to say
to you. Of being here I am most heartily tired, and nothing but this
dear old woman should keep me here an hour--I am weary of them to
death--but that is not new! Yours ever.



ARLINGTON STREET, _Jan._ 28, 1772.

It is long indeed, dear Sir, since we corresponded. I should not have
been silent if I had anything worth telling you in your way; but I grow
such an antiquity myself, that I think I am less fond of what remains of
our predecessors.

I thank you for Bannerman's proposal; I mean, for taking the trouble to
send it, for I am not at all disposed to subscribe. I thank you more for
the note on King Edward; I mean, too, for your friendship in thinking of
me. Of Dean Milles I cannot trouble myself to think any more. His piece
is at Strawberry: perhaps I may look at it for the sake of your note.
The bad weather keeps me in town, and a good deal at home; which I find
very comfortable, literally practising what so many persons pretend they
intend, being quiet and enjoying my fire-side in my elderly days.

Mr. Mason has shown me the relics of poor Mr. Gray. I am sadly
disappointed at finding them so very inconsiderable. He always
persisted, when I inquired about his writings, that he had nothing by
him. I own I doubted. I am grieved he was so very near exact--I speak
of my own satisfaction; as to his genius, what he published during his
life will establish his fame as long as our language lasts, and there is
a man of genius left. There is a silly fellow, I don't know who, that
has published a volume of Letters on the English Nation, with characters
of our modern authors. He has talked such nonsense on Mr. Gray, that I
have no patience with the compliments he has paid me. He must have an
excellent taste! and gives me a woful opinion of my own trifles, when he
likes them, and cannot see the beauties of a poet that ought to be
ranked in the first line.

I am more humbled by any applause in the present age, than by hosts of
such critics as Dean Milles. Is not Garrick reckoned a tolerable actor?
His Cymon, his prologues and epilogues, and forty such pieces of trash,
are below mediocrity, and yet delight the mob in the boxes as well as in
the footman's gallery. I do not mention the things written in his
praise; because he writes most of them himself. But you know any one
popular merit can confer all merit. Two women talking of Wilkes, one
said he squinted--t'other replied, "Squints!--well, if he does, it is
not more than a man should squint." For my part, I can see how extremely
well Garrick acts, without thinking him six feet high.[1]

[Footnote 1: He is quoting Churchill's "Rosciad"--

When the pure genuine flame, by nature taught,
Springs into sense, and every action's thought;
Before such merit all objections fly,
Pritchard's genteel, and Garrick six feet high--

the great actor being a short man.]

It is said Shakespeare was a bad actor; why do not his divine plays make
our wise judges conclude that he was a good one? They have not a proof
of the contrary, as they have in Garrick's works--but what is it to you
or me what he is? We may see him act with pleasure, and nothing obliges
us to read his writings.



ARLINGTON STREET, _April_ 9, 1772.

It is uncommon for _me_ to send _you_ news of the Pretender. He has been
married in Paris by proxy, to a Princess of Stolberg. All that I can
learn of her is, that she is niece to a Princess of Salm, whom I knew
there, without knowing any more of her. The new Pretendress is said to
be but sixteen, and a Lutheran: I doubt the latter; if the former is
true, I suppose they mean to carry on the breed in the way it began, by
a spurious child. A Fitz-Pretender is an excellent continuation of the
patriarchal line. Mr. Chute says, when the Royal Family are prevented
from marrying,[1] it is a right time for the Stuarts to marry. This
event seems to explain the Pretender's disappearance last autumn; and
though they sent him back from Paris, they may not dislike the
propagation of thorns in our side.

[Footnote 1: In a previous letter Walpole mentions the enactment of the
Royal Marriage Act by a very narrow majority, after more than one
violent debate. It had been insisted on by the King, who was highly
indignant at his brothers, the Dukes of Gloucester and Cumberland,
having married two subjects. Singularly enough they were both widows,
Lady Waldegrave and Mrs. Horton. And this Act made the consent of the
sovereign indispensable to the marriage of any member of the Royal
Family except the descendants of princesses married to foreign princes.]

I hear the credit of the French Chancellor declines. He had strongly
taken up the clergy; and Soeur Louise,[1] the King's Carmelite daughter,
was the knot of the intrigue. The new Parliament has dared to
remonstrate against a declaration obtained by the Chancellor for setting
aside an _arret_ of 1762, occasioned by the excommunication of Parma.
The Spanish and Neapolitan Ministers interposed, and pronounced the
declaration an infringement of the family compact: the _arret_ of 1762
has been confirmed to satisfy them, and the Pope's authority, and
everything that comes from Rome, except what regards _the Penitential_,
(I do not know what that means,) restrained. This is supported by
d'Aiguillon and all the other Ministers, who are labouring the
reconciliation of the Princes of the Blood, that the Chancellor may not
have the honour of reconciling them. Perhaps the Princess of Stolberg
sprung out of my Sister Louise's cell. The King has demanded twelve
millions of the clergy: they consent to give ten. We shall see whether
Madame Louise, on her knees, or Madame du Barri will fight the better
fight. I should think the King's knees were more of an age for praying,
than for fighting.

[Footnote 1: The Soeur Louise was the youngest daughter of Louis XV.;
and, very different from her sisters, who were ill-tempered, political
intriguers. She, on the contrary, was deeply religious, and had, some
years before, taken the vows of the Carmelite order; and had fixed her
residence at the Convent of St. Denis, where she was more than once
visited by Marie Antoinette.]

The House of Commons is embarked on the ocean of Indian affairs, and
will probably make a long session. I went thither the other day to hear
Charles Fox, contrary to a resolution I had made of never setting my
foot there again. It is strange how disuse makes one awkward: I felt a
palpitation, as if I were going to speak there myself. The object
answered: Fox's abilities are amazing at so very early a period,
especially under the circumstances of such a dissolute life. He was just
arrived from Newmarket, had sat up drinking all night, and had not been
in bed. How such talents make one laugh at Tully's rules for an orator,
and his indefatigable application. His laboured orations are puerile in
comparison with this boy's manly reason. We beat Rome in eloquence and
extravagance; and Spain in avarice and cruelty; and, like both, we shall
only serve to terrify schoolboys, and for lessons of morality! "Here
stood St. Stephen's Chapel; here young Catiline spoke; here was Lord
Clive's diamond-house; this is Leadenhall Street, and this broken column
was part of the palace of a company of merchants[1] who were sovereigns
of Bengal! They starved millions in India by monopolies and plunder, and
almost raised a famine at home by the luxury occasioned by their
opulence, and by that opulence raising the price of everything, till
the poor could not purchase bread!" Conquest, usurpation, wealth,
luxury, famine--one knows how little farther the genealogy has to go. If
you like it better in Scripture phrase, here it is: Lord Chatham begot
the East India Company; the East India Company begot Lord Clive; Lord
Clive begot the Maccaronis, and they begot poverty; all the race are
still living; just as Clodius was born before the death of Julius
Caesar. There is nothing more like than two ages that are very like;
which is all that Rousseau means by saying, "give him an account of any
great metropolis, and he will foretell its fate." Adieu!

[Footnote 1: "_A company of merchants._" "A mighty prince held
domination over India; his name was Koompanee Jehan. Although this
monarch had innumerable magnificent palaces at Delhi and Agra, at
Benares, Boggleywallah, and Ahmednuggar, his common residence was in the
beautiful island of Ingleez, in the midst of the capital of which, the
famous city of Lundoon, Koompanee Jehan had a superb castle. It was
called the Hall of Lead, and stood at the foot of the mountain of Corn,
close by the verdure-covered banks of the silvery Tameez, where the
cypresses wave, and zendewans, or nightingales, love to sing"
(Thackeray, "Life of Sir C. Napier," iv. p. 158).]



ARLINGTON STREET, _Jan._ 8, 1773.

In return to your very kind inquiries, dear Sir, I can let you know,
that I am quite free from pain, and walk a little about my room, even
without a stick: nay, have been four times to take the air in the Park.
Indeed, after fourteen weeks this is not saying much; but it is a worse
reflection, that when one is subject to the gout and far from young,
one's worst account will probably be better than that after the next
fit. I neither flatter myself on one hand, nor am impatient on the
other--for will either do one any good? one must bear one's lot whatever
it be.

I rejoice Mr. Gulston has justice,[1] though he had no bowels. How
Gertrude More escaped him I do not guess. It will be wrong to rob you of
her, after she has come to you through so many hazards--nor would I hear
of it either, if you have a mind to keep her, or have not given up all
thoughts of a collection since you have been visited by a Visigoth.

[Footnote 1: Mr. Gulston now fully remunerated Mr. Cole in a valuable
present of books.--WALPOLE.]

I am much more impatient to see Mr. Gray's print, than Mr.
What-d'ye-call-him's [Masters's] answer to my "Historic Doubts."[1] He
may have made himself very angry; but I doubt whether he will make me at
all so. I love antiquities; but I scarce ever knew an antiquary who knew
how to write upon them. Their understandings seem as much in ruins as
the things they describe. For the Antiquarian Society, I shall leave
them in peace with Whittington and his Cat. As my contempt for them has
not, however, made me disgusted with what they do not understand,
antiquities, I have published two numbers of "Miscellanies," and they
are very welcome to mumble them with their toothless gums. I want to
send you these--not their gums, but my pieces, and a "Grammont,"[2] of
which I have printed only a hundred copies, and which will be extremely
scarce, as twenty-five copies are gone to France. Tell me how I shall
convey them safely.

[Footnote 1: Mr. Masters's pamphlet, printed at the expense of the
Antiquarian Society in the second volume of the

[Footnote 2: He had just published a small edition of Grammont's
Memoirs, "Augmentee de Notes et eclaircissemens necessaires, par M.
Horace Walpole," and had dedicated it to Mme. du Deffand.]

Another thing you must tell me, if you can, is, if you know anything
ancient of the Freemasons. Governor Pownall,[1] a Whittingtonian, has a
mind they should have been a corporation erected by the popes. As you
see what a good creature I am, and return good for evil, I am engaged to
pick up what I can for him, to support this system, in which I believe
no more than in the pope: and the work is to appear in a volume of the
Society's pieces. I am very willing to oblige him, and turn my cheek,
that they may smite that, also. Lord help them! I am sorry they are such
numskulls, that they almost make me think myself something; but there
are great authors enough to bring me to my senses again. Posterity, I
fear, will class me with the writers of this age, or forget me with
them, not rank me with any names that deserve remembrance. If I cannot
survive the Milles's, the What-d'ye-call-him's [Masters's], and the
compilers of catalogues of Topography, it would comfort me very little
to confute them. I should be as little proud of success as if I had
carried a contest for churchwarden.

[Footnote 1: Thomas Pownall, Esq., the antiquary, and a constant
contributor to the "Archaeologia." Having been governor of South
Carolina and other American colonies, he was always distinguished from
his brother John, who was likewise an antiquary, by the title of

Not being able to return to Strawberry Hill, where all my books and
papers are, and my printer lying fallow, I want some short bills to
print. Have you anything you wish printed? I can either print a few to
amuse ourselves, or, if very curious, and not too dry, could make a
third number of "Miscellaneous Antiquities."

I am not in any eagerness to see Mr. What-d'ye-call-him's pamphlet
against me; therefore pray give yourself no trouble to get it for me.
The specimens I have seen of his writing take off all edge from
curiosity. A print of Mr. Gray will be a real present. Would it not be
dreadful to be commended by an age that had not taste enough to admire
his "Odes"? Is not it too great a compliment to me to be abused, too? I
am ashamed. Indeed our antiquaries ought to like me. I am but too much
on a par with them. Does not Mr. Henshaw come to London? Is he a
professor, or only a lover of engraving? If the former, and he were to
settle in town, I would willingly lend him heads to copy. Adieu!



STRAWBERRY HILL, _July_ 10, 1774.

The month is come round, and I have, besides, a letter of yours to
answer; and yet if I were not as regular as a husband or a merchant in
paying my just dues, I think I should not perform the function, for I
certainly have no natural call to it at present. Nothing in yours
requires a response, and I have nothing new to tell you. Yet, if one
once breaks in upon punctuality, adieu to it! I will not give out, after
a perseverance of three-and-thirty years; and so far I will not resemble
a husband.

The whole blood royal of France is recovered from the small-pox. Both
Choiseul and Broglie are recalled, and I have some idea that even the
old Parliament will be so. The King is adored, and a most beautiful
compliment has been paid to him: somebody wrote under the statue of
Henri Quatre, _Resurrexit_.[1]

[Footnote 1: "_Resurrexit._" A courtly picture-dealer, eager to make a
market of the new sovereign's popularity, devised even a neater
compliment to him, issuing a picture of the three sovereigns--Louis
XII., Henri IV., and the young king--with an explanation that 4 and 12
made 16.]

Lord Holland is at last dead, and Lady Holland is at the point of death.
His sons would still be in good circumstances, if they were not _his_
sons; but he had so totally spoiled the two eldest, that they would
think themselves bigots if they were to have common sense. The
prevailing style is not to reform, though Lord Lyttelton [the bad Lord]
pretends to have set the example. Gaming, for the last month, has
exceeded its own outdoings, though the town is very empty. It will be
quite so to-morrow, for Newmarket begins, or rather the youth adjourn
thither. After that they will have two or three months of repose; but if
they are not severely blooded and blistered, there will be no
alteration. Their pleasures are no more entertaining to others, than
delightful to themselves; one is tired of asking every day, who has won
or lost? and even the portentous sums they lose, cease to make
impression. One of them has committed a murder, and intends to repeat
it. He betted L1,500 that a man could live twelve hours under water;
hired a desperate fellow, sunk him in a ship, by way of experiment, and
both ship and man have not appeared since. Another man and ship are to
be tried for their lives, instead of Mr. Blake, the assassin.

Christina, Duchess of Kingston, is arrived, in a great fright, I
believe, for the Duke's nephews are going to prove her first marriage,
and hope to set the Will aside. It is a pity her friendship with the
Pope had not begun earlier; he might have given her a dispensation. If
she loses her cause, the best thing he can do will be to give her the

I am sorry all Europe will not furnish me with another paragraph. Africa
is, indeed, coming into fashion. There is just returned a Mr. Bruce,[1]
who has lived three years in the Court of Abyssinia, and breakfasted
every morning with the Maids of Honour on live oxen. Otaheite and Mr.
Banks are quite forgotten; but Mr. Blake, I suppose, will order a live
sheep for supper at Almack's, and ask whom he shall help to a piece of
the shoulder. Oh, yes; we shall have negro butchers, and French cooks
will be laid aside. My Lady Townshend [Harrison], after the Rebellion,
said, everybody was so bloodthirsty, that she did not dare to dine
abroad, for fear of meeting with a rebel-pie--now one shall be asked to
come and eat a bit of raw mutton. In truth, I do think we are ripe for
any extravagance. I am not wise enough to wish the world reasonable--I
only desire to have follies that are amusing, and am sorry Cervantes
laughed chivalry out of fashion. Adieu!

[Footnote 1: When Bruce's "Travels" were first published, his account of
the strange incidents which had occurred to him was very generally
disbelieved and ridiculed; "Baron Munchausen" was even written in
derision of them; but the discoveries of subsequent travellers have
confirmed his narrative in almost every respect.]



STRAWBERRY HILL, _Oct._ 6, 1774.

It would be unlike my attention and punctuality, to see so large an
event as an irregular dissolution of Parliament, without taking any
notice of it to you. It happened last Saturday, six months before its
natural death, and without the design being known but the Tuesday
before, and that by very few persons. The chief motive is supposed to be
the ugly state of North America,[1] and the effects that a cross winter
might have on the next elections. Whatever were the causes, the first
consequences, as you may guess, were such a ferment in London as is
seldom seen at this dead season of the year. Couriers, despatches,
post-chaises, post-horses, hurrying every way! Sixty messengers passed
through one single turnpike on Friday. The whole island is by this time
in equal agitation; but less wine and money will be shed than have been
at any such period for these fifty years.

[Footnote 1: "_America_"--the discontents in that country were caused by
Mr. Charles Townshend's policy, who, before his death, had revived Mr.
Grenville's plan of imposing taxes on the Colonies, and by the
perseverance in that policy of Lord North, who succeeded him at the
Exchequer, and who had also been First Lord of the Treasury since the
resignation of the Duke of Grafton.]

We have a new famous Bill,[1] devised by the late Mr. Grenville, that
has its first operation now; and what changes it may occasion, nobody
can yet foresee. The first symptoms are not favourable to the Court;
the great towns are casting off submission, and declaring for popular
members. London, Westminster, Middlesex, seem to have no monarch but
Wilkes, who is at the same time pushing for the Mayoralty of London,
with hitherto a majority on the poll. It is strange how this man, like a
phoenix, always revives from his embers! America, I doubt, is still more
unpromising. There are whispers of their having assembled an armed
force, and of earnest supplications arrived for succours of men and
ships. A civil war is no trifle; and how we are to suppress or pursue in
such a vast region, with a handful of men, I am not an Alexander to
guess; and for the fleet, can we put it upon casters and wheel it from
Hudson's Bay to Florida? But I am an ignorant soul, and neither pretend
to knowledge nor foreknowledge. All I perceive already is, that our
Parliaments are subjected to America and India, and must be influenced
by their politics; yet I do not believe our senators are more universal
than formerly....

[Footnote 1: Mr. Grenville's Act had been passed in 1770; but there had
been no General Election since till this year. It altered the course of
proceeding for the trial of election petitions, substituting for the
whole House a Select Committee of fifteen members; but after a time it
was found that it had not secured any greater purity of decision, but
that the votes of the Committee were influenced by considerations of the
interest of the dominant party as entirely as they had been in the days
of Sir R. Walpole. And eventually, in the present reign, Mr. D'Israeli
induced the House to surrender altogether its privilege of judging of
elections, and to submit the investigation of election petitions to the
only tribunal sufficiently above suspicion to command and retain the
confidence of the nation, namely, the Judges of the High Court of Law.
(See the Editor's "Constitutional History of England, 1760-1860," pp.

In the midst of this combustion, we are in perils by land and water. It
has rained for this month without intermission; there is sea between me
and Richmond, and Sunday was se'nnight I was hurried down to Isleworth
in the ferry-boat by the violence of the current, and had great
difficulty to get to shore. Our roads are so infested by highwaymen,
that it is dangerous stirring out almost by day. Lady Hertford was
attacked on Hounslow Heath at three in the afternoon. Dr. Eliot was shot
at three days ago, without having resisted; and the day before
yesterday we were near losing our Prime Minster, Lord North; the robbers
shot at the postillion, and wounded the latter. In short, all the
freebooters, that are not in India, have taken to the highway. The
Ladies of the Bedchamber dare not go the Queen at Kew in an evening. The
lane between me and the Thames is the only safe road I know at present,
for it is up to the middle of the horses in water. Next week I shall not
venture to London even at noon, for the Middlesex election is to be at
Brentford, where the two demagogues, Wilkes and Townshend, oppose each
other; and at Richmond there is no crossing the river. How strange all
this must appear to you Florentines; but you may turn to your
Machiavelli and Guicciardini, and have some idea of it. I am the
quietest man at present in the whole island; not but I might take some
part, if I would. I was in my garden yesterday, seeing my servants lop
some trees; my brewer walked in and pressed me to go to Guildhall for
the nomination of members for the county. I replied, calmly, "Sir, when
I would go no more to my own election, you may be very sure I will go to
that of nobody else." My old tune is,

Suave mari magno turbantibus aequora ventis, &c.



I am just come to town, and find your letter, with the notification of
Lord Cowper's marriage; I recollect that I ought to be sorry for it, as
you will probably lose an old friend. The approaching death of the Pope
will be an event of no consequence. That old mummery is near its
conclusion, at least as a political object. The history of the latter
Popes will be no more read than that of the last Constantinopolitan
Emperors. Wilkes is a more conspicuous personage in modern story than
the Pontifex Maximus of Rome. The poll for Lord Mayor ended last night;
he and his late Mayor had above 1,900 votes, and their antagonists not
1,500. It is strange that the more he is opposed, the more he succeeds!

I don't know whether Sir W. Duncan's marriage proved Platonic or not;
but I cannot believe that a lady of great birth, and greater pride,
quarrels with her family, to marry a Scotch physician for Platonic love,
which she might enjoy without marriage. I remember an admirable
_bon-mot_ of George Selwyn; who said, "How often Lady Mary will repeat,
with Macbeth, 'Wake, Duncan, with this knocking--would thou couldst!"



STRAWBERRY HILL, _Oct._ 22, 1774.

Though I have been writing two letters, of four sides each, one of which
I enclose, I must answer your two last, if my fingers will move; and
talk to you on the contents of the enclosed.

If the Jesuits have precipitated the Pope's death,[1] as seems more than
probable, they have acted more by the spirit of their order, than by its
good sense. Great crimes may raise a growing cause, but seldom retard
the fall of a sinking one. This I take to be almost an infallible maxim.
Great crimes, too, provoke more than they terrify; and there is no
poisoning all that are provoked, and all that are terrified; who
alternately provoke and terrify each other, till common danger produces
common security. The Bourbon monarchs will be both angry and frightened,
the Cardinals frightened. It will be the interest of both not to revive
an order that bullies with arsenic in its sleeve. The poisoned host will
destroy the Jesuits, as well as the Pope: and perhaps the Church of Rome
will fall by a wafer, as it rose by it; for such an edifice will tumble
when once the crack has begun.

[Footnote 1: Pope Benedict XIV. had died in September; but there was not
any suspicion that his death had not been entirely natural.]

Our elections are almost over. Wilkes has taken possession of Middlesex
without an enemy appearing against him; and, being as puissant a monarch
as Henry the Eighth, and as little scrupulous, should, like him, date
his acts _From our Palace of Bridewell, in the tenth year of our reign_.
He has, however, met with a heroine to stem the tide of his conquests;
who, though not of Arc, nor a _pucelle_, is a true _Joan_ in spirit,
style, and manners. This is her Grace of Northumberland [Lady Elizabeth
Seymour], who has carried the mob of Westminster from him; sitting daily
in the midst of Covent Garden; and will elect her son [Earl Percy] and
Lord Thomas Clinton,[1] against Wilkes's two candidates, Lord Mahon[2]
and Lord Mountmorris. She puts me in mind of what Charles the Second
said of a foolish preacher, who was very popular in his parish: "I
suppose his nonsense suits their nonsense."

[Footnote 1: Second son of Henry, Duke of Newcastle.--WALPOLE.]

[Footnote 2: Only son of Earl Stanhope.--WALPOLE.]

Let me sweeten my letter by making you smile. A Quaker has been at
Versailles; and wanted to see the Comtes de Provence and D'Artois dine
in public, but would not submit to pull off his hat. The Princes were
told of it; and not only admitted him with his beaver on, but made him
sit down and dine with them. Was it not very sensible and good-humoured?
You and I know one who would not have been so gracious: I do not mean my
nephew Lord Cholmondeley.[1] Adieu! I am tired to death.

[Footnote 1: He means the Duke of Gloucester.--WALPOLE.]

P.S.--I have seen the Duchess of Beaufort; who sings your praises quite
in a tune I like. Her manner is much unpinioned to what it was, though
her person remains as stately as ever; and powder is vastly preferable
to those brown hairs, of whose preservation she was so fond. I am not so
struck with the beauty of Lady Mary[1] as I was three years ago. Your
nephew, Sir Horace, I see, by the papers, is come into Parliament: I am
glad of it. Is not he yet arrived at Florence?

[Footnote 1: Lady Mary Somerset, youngest daughter of Charles Noel, Duke
of Beaufort. She was afterwards married to the Duke of



STRAWBERRY HILL, _Nov._ 7, 1774.

I have written such tomes to Mr. Conway,[1] Madam, and so nothing new to
write, that I might as well, methinks, begin and end like the lady to
her husband; "Je vous ecris parceque je n'ai rien a faire: je finis
parceque je n'ai rien a vous dire." Yes, I have two complaints to make,
one of your ladyship, the other of myself. You tell me nothing of Lady
Harriet [Stanhope]: have you no tongue, or the French no eyes? or are
her eyes employed in nothing but seeing? What a vulgar employment for a
fine woman's eyes after she is risen from her toilet? I declare I will
ask no more questions--what is it to me, whether she is admired or not?
I should know how charming she is, though all Europe were blind. I hope
I am not to be told by any barbarous nation upon earth what beauty and
grace are!

[Footnote 1: Mr. Conway and Lady Aylesbury were now at Paris

For myself, I am guilty of the gout in my elbow; the left--witness my
handwriting. Whether I caught cold by the deluge in the night, or
whether the bootikins, like the water of Styx, can only preserve the
parts they surround, I doubt they have saved me but three weeks, for so
long my reckoning has been out. However, as I feel nothing in my feet, I
flatter myself that this Pindaric transition will not be a regular ode,
but a fragment, the more valuable for being imperfect.

Now for my Gazette.--Marriages--Nothing done. Intrigues--More in the
political than civil way. Births--Under par since Lady Berkeley left off
breeding. Gaming--Low water. Deaths--Lord Morton, Lord Wentworth,
Duchess Douglas. Election stock--More buyers than sellers.
Promotions--Mr. Wilkes as high as he can go.--_Apropos_, he was told the
Lord Chancellor intended to signify to him, that the King did not
approve the City's choice: he replied, "Then I shall signify to his
lordship, that I am at least as fit to be Lord Mayor as he is to be Lord
Chancellor." This being more Gospel than everything Mr. Wilkes says, the
formal approbation was given.

Mr. Burke has succeeded in Bristol, and Sir James Peachey will miscarry
in Sussex. But what care you, Madam, about our Parliament? You will see
the _rentree_ of the old one, with songs and epigrams into the bargain.
We do not shift our Parliaments with so much gaiety. Money in one hand,
and abuse in t'other--those are all the arts we know. _Wit and a
gamut_[1] I don't believe ever signified a Parliament, whatever the
glossaries may say; for they never produce pleasantry and harmony.
Perhaps you may not taste this Saxon pun, but I know it will make the
Antiquarian Society die with laughing.

[Footnote 1: Walpole is punning on the old Saxon name of the National
Council, Witangemot.]

Expectation hangs on America. The result of the general assembly is
expected in four or five days. If one may believe the papers, which one
should not believe, the other side of the waterists are not _doux comme
des moutons_, and yet we do intend to eat them. I was in town on Monday;
the Duchess of Beaufort graced our loo, and made it as rantipole as a
Quaker's meeting. _Loois Quinze_,[1] I believe, is arrived by this time,
but I fear without _quinze louis_.

[Footnote 1: This was a cant name given to a lady [Lady Powis], who was
very fond of loo, and who had lost much money at that game.]

Your herb-snuff and the four glasses are lying in my warehouse, but I
can hear of no ship going to Paris. You are now at Fontainbleau, but not
thinking of Francis I., the Queen of Sweden, and Monaldelschi. It is
terrible that one cannot go to Courts that are gone! You have supped
with the Chevalier de Boufflers: did he act everything in the world and
sing everything in the world? Has Madame de Cambis sung to you "_Sans
depit, sans legerete_?"[1] Has Lord Cholmondeley delivered my pacquet? I
hear I have hopes of Madame d'Olonne. Gout or no gout, I shall be little
in town till after Christmas. My elbow makes me bless myself that I am
not in Paris. Old age is no such uncomfortable thing, if one gives
oneself up to it with a good grace, and don't drag it about

To midnight dances and the public show.

[Footnote 1: The first words of a favourite French air.--WALPOLE.]

If one stays quietly in one's own house in the country, and cares for
nothing but oneself, scolds one's servants, condemns everything that is
new, and recollects how charming a thousand things were formerly that
were very disagreeable, one gets over the winters very well, and the
summers get over themselves.



STRAWBERRY HILL, _Nov._ 24, 1774.

... A great event happened two days ago--a political and moral event;
the sudden death of that second Kouli Khan, Lord Clive.[1] There was
certainly illness in the case; the world thinks more than illness. His
constitution was exceedingly broken and disordered, and grown subject to
violent pains and convulsions. He came unexpectedly to town last Monday,
and they say, ill. On Tuesday his physician gave him a dose of laudanum,
which had not the desired effect. On the rest, there are two stories;
one, that the physician repeated the dose; the other, that he doubled it
himself, contrary to advice. In short, he has terminated at fifty a life
of so much glory, reproach, art, wealth, and ostentation! He had just
named ten members for the new Parliament.

[Footnote 1: Lord Clive had committed suicide in his house in Berkeley
Square. As he was passing through his library his niece, who was writing
a letter, asked him to mend a pen for her. He did it, and, passing on
into the next room, cut his throat with the same knife he had just used.
It is remarkable that, when little more than a youth, he had once tried
to destroy himself. In a fit, apparently of constitutional melancholy,
he had put a pistol to his head, but it did not go off. He pulled the
trigger more than once; always with the same result. Anxious to see
whether there was any defect in the weapon or the loading, he aimed at
the door of the room, and the pistol went off, the bullet going through
the door; and from that day he conceived himself reserved by Providence
for great things, though in his most sanguine confidence he could never
have anticipated such glory as he was destined to win.]

Next Tuesday that Parliament is to meet--and a deep game it has to play!
few Parliaments a greater. The world is in amaze here that no account is
arrived from America of the result of their General Congress--if any is
come it is very secret; and _that_ has no favourable aspect. The
combination and spirit there seem to be universal, and is very alarming.
I am the humble servant of events, and you know never meddle with
prophecy. It would be difficult to descry good omens, be the issue what
it will.

The old French Parliament is restored with great _eclat_.[1] Monsieur de
Maurepas, author of the revolution, was received one night at the Opera
with boundless shouts of applause. It is even said that the mob
intended, when the King should go to hold the _lit de justice_,[2] to
draw his coach. How singular it would be if Wilkes's case should be
copied for a King of France! Do you think Rousseau was in the right,
when he said that he could tell what would be the manners of any capital
city from certain given lights? I don't know what he may do on
Constantinople and Pekin--but Paris and London! I don't believe Voltaire
likes these changes. I have seen nothing of his writing for many months;
not even on the poisoning Jesuits. For our part, I repeat it, we shall
contribute nothing to the _Histoire des Moeurs_, not for want of
materials, but for want of writers. We have comedies without novelty,
gross satires without stings, metaphysical eloquence, and antiquarians
that discover nothing.

Boeotum in crasso jurares aere natos!

[Footnote 1: In 1770 the Chancellor, Maupeou, had abolished the
Parliament, as has been mentioned in a former note. Their conduct ever
since the death of Richelieu had been factious and corrupt. But, though
the Sovereign Courts, which Maupeou had established in their stead, had
worked well, their extinction had been unpopular in Paris; and, on the
accession of Louis XVI., the new Prime Minister, Maurepas, proposed
their re-establishment, and the Queen, most unfortunately, was persuaded
by the Duc de Choiseul to exert her influence in support of the measure.
Turgot, the great Finance Minister--indeed, the greatest statesman that
France ever produced--resisted it with powerful arguments, but Louis
yielded to the influence of his consort. The Parliaments were
re-established, and soon verified all the predictions of Turgot by
conduct more factious and violent than ever. (See the Editor's "France
under the Bourbons," iii. 413.)]

[Footnote 2: A _Lit de Justice_ was an extraordinary meeting of the
Parliament, presided over by the sovereign in person, and one in which
no opposition, or even discussion, was permitted; but any edict which
had been issued was at once registered.]

Don't tell me I am grown old and peevish and supercilious--name the
geniuses of 1774, and I submit. The next Augustan age will dawn on the
other side of the Atlantic. There will, perhaps, be a Thucydides at
Boston, a Xenophon at New York, and, in time, a Virgil at Mexico, and a
Newton at Peru. At last, some curious traveller from Lima will visit
England and give a description of the ruins of St. Paul's, like the
editions of Balbec and Palmyra; but am I not prophesying, contrary to my
consummate prudence, and casting horoscopes of empires like Rousseau?
Yes; well, I will go and dream of my visions.


... The Parliament opened just now--they say the speech talks of the
_rebellion_ of the Province of Massachusetts; but if _they-say_ tells a
lie, I wash my hands of it. As your gazetteer, I am obliged to send you
all news, true or false. I have believed and unbelieved everything I
have heard since I came to town. Lord Clive has died every death in the
parish register; at present it is most fashionable to believe he cut his
throat. That he is dead, is certain; so is Lord Holland--and so is not
the Bishop of Worcester [Johnson]; however, to show you that I am at
least as well informed as greater personages, the bishopric was on
Saturday given to Lord North's brother--so for once the Irishman was in
the right, and a pigeon, at least a dove, can be in two places at once.



ARLINGTON STREET, _Jan._ 15, 1775.

You have made me very happy by saying your journey to Naples is laid
aside. Perhaps it made too great an impression on me; but you must
reflect, that all my life I have satisfied myself with your being
perfect, instead of trying to be so myself. I don't ask you to return,
though I wish it: in truth, there is nothing to invite you. I don't want
you to come and breathe fire and sword against the Bostonians,[1] like
that second Duke of Alva,[2] the inflexible Lord George Germaine....

[Footnote 1: The open resistance to the new taxation of the American
Colonies began at Boston, the capital of Massachusetts, where, on the
arrival of the first tea-ship, a body of citizens, disguised as Red
Indians, boarded the ship and threw the tea into the sea.]

[Footnote 2: The first Duke of Alva was the first Governor of the
Netherlands appointed by Philip II.; and it was his bloodthirsty and
intolerable cruelty that caused the revolt of the Netherlands, and cost
Spain those rich provinces.]

An account is come of the Bostonians having voted an army of sixteen
thousand men, who are to be called _minutemen_, as they are to be ready
at a minute's warning. Two directors or commissioners, I don't know what
they are called, are appointed. There has been too a kind of mutiny in
the Fifth Regiment. A soldier was found drunk on his post. Gage, in his
time of _danger_, thought rigour necessary, and sent the fellow to a
court-martial. They ordered two hundred lashes. The General ordered them
to improve their sentence. Next day it was published in the _Boston
Gazette_. He called them before him, and required them on oath to abjure
the communication: three officers refused. Poor Gage is to be scapegoat,
not for this, but for what was a reason against employing him,
incapacity. I wonder at the precedent! Howe is talked of for his
successor.--Well, I have done with _you_!--Now I shall go gossip with
Lady Aylesbury.

You must know, Madam, that near Bath is erected a new Parnassus,
composed of three laurels, a myrtle-tree, a weeping-willow, and a view
of the Avon, which has been new christened Helicon. Ten years ago there
lived a Madam Riggs, an old rough humourist who passed for a wit; her
daughter, who passed for nothing, married to a Captain Miller, full of
good-natured officiousness. These good folks were friends of Miss Rich,
who carried me to dine with them at Bath-Easton, now Pindus. They caught
a little of what was then called taste, built and planted, and begot
children, till the whole caravan were forced to go abroad to retrieve.
Alas! Mrs. Miller is returned a beauty, a genius, a Sappho, a tenth
Muse, as romantic as Mademoiselle Scuderi, and as sophisticated as Mrs.
Vesey. The Captain's fingers are loaded with cameos, his tongue runs
over with _virtu_, and that both may contribute to the improvement of
their own country, they have introduced _bouts-rimes_ as a new
discovery. They hold a Parnassus fair every Thursday, give out rhymes
and themes, and all the flux of quality at Bath contend for the prizes.
A Roman vase dressed with pink ribbons and myrtles receives the
poetry,[1] which is drawn out every festival; six judges of these
Olympic games retire and select the brightest compositions, which the
respective successful acknowledge, kneel to Mrs. Calliope Miller, kiss
her fair hand, and are crowned by it with myrtle, with--I don't know
what. You may think this is fiction, or exaggeration. Be dumb,
unbelievers! The collection is printed, published.--Yes, on my faith,
there are _bouts-rimes_ on a buttered muffin, made by her Grace the
Duchess of Northumberland; receipts to make them by Corydon the
venerable, alias George Pitt; others very pretty, by Lord Palmerston;
some by Lord Carlisle: many by Mrs. Miller herself, that have no fault
but wanting metre; an Immorality promised to her without end or measure.
In short, since folly, which never ripens to madness but in this hot
climate, ran distracted, there never was anything so entertaining or so
dull--for you cannot read so long as I have been telling.

[Footnote 1: Four volumes of this poetry were published under the title
of "Poetical Amusements at a villa near Bath." The following lines are a
fair sample of the _bouts-rimes_.

The pen which I now take and brandish
Has long lain useless in my standish.
Know, every maid, from her own patten,
To her who shines in glossy sattin,
That could they now prepare an oglio
From best receipt of book in folio,
Ever so fine, for all their puffing,
I should prefer a butter'd muffin;
A muffin Jove himself might feast on,
If eat with Miller at Batheaston.

The following are the concluding lines of a poem on Beauty, by Lord

In vain the stealing hand of Time
May pluck the blossoms of their prime;
Envy may talk of bloom decay'd,
How lilies droop and roses fade;
But Constancy's unalter'd truth,
Regardful of the vows of youth--
Affection that recalls the past,
And bids the pleasing influence last,
Shall still preserve the lover's flame
In every scene of life the same;
And still with fond endearments blend
The wife, the mistress, and the friend!

"Lady Miller's collection of verses by fashionable people, which were
put into her vase at Bath-Easton, in competition for honorary prizes,
being mentioned, Dr. Johnson held them very cheap: '_Bouts-rimes_,' said
he, 'is a mere conceit, and an old conceit; I wonder how people were
persuaded to write in that manner for this lady.' I named a gentleman of
his acquaintance who wrote for the vase. JOHNSON--'He was a blockhead
for his pains!' BOSWELL--'The Duchess of Northumberland wrote.'--'Sir,
the Duchess of Northumberland may do what she pleases; nobody will say
anything to a lady of her high rank: but I should be apt to throw ...
verses in his face." (Boswell, vol. v. p. 227.)]


TO DR. GEM.[1]

[Footnote 1: Dr. Gem was an English physician who had been for some time
settled in Paris. He was uncle to Canning's friend and colleague, Mr.

ARLINGTON STREET, _April_ 4, 1776.

It is but fair, when one quits one's party, to give notice to those one
abandons--at least, modern patriots, who often imbibe their principles
of honour at Newmarket, use that civility. You and I, dear Sir, have
often agreed in our political notions; and you, I fear, will die without
changing your opinion. For my part, I must confess I am totally altered;
and, instead of being a warm partisan of liberty, now admire nothing but
despotism. You will naturally ask, what place I have gotten, or what
bribe I have taken? Those are the criterions of political changes in
England--but, as my conversion is of foreign extraction, I shall not be
the richer for it. In one word, it is the _relation du lit de justice_
that has operated the miracle. When two ministers are found so humane,
so virtuous, so excellent, as to study nothing but the welfare and
deliverance of the people; when a king listens to such excellent men;
and when a parliament, from the basest, most interested motives,
interposes to intercept the blessing, must I not change my opinions, and
admire arbitrary power? or can I retain my sentiments, without varying
the object?

Yes, Sir, I am shocked at the conduct of the Parliament--one would think
it was an English one! I am scandalised at the speeches of the
_Avocat-general_,[1] who sets up the odious interests of the nobility
and clergy against the cries and groans of the poor; and who employs his
wicked eloquence to tempt the good young monarch, by personal views, to
sacrifice the mass of his subjects to the privileges of the few--But why
do I call it eloquence? The fumes of interest had so clouded his
rhetoric, that he falls into a downright Iricism.--He tells the King,
that the intended tax on the proprietors of land will affect the
property not only of the rich, but of the poor. I should be glad to know
what is the property of the poor? Have the poor landed estates? Are
those who have landed estates the poor? Are the poor that will suffer by
the tax, the wretched labourers who are dragged from their famishing
families to work on the roads?--But _it is_ wicked eloquence when it
finds a reason, or gives a reason for continuing the abuse. The Advocate
tells the King, those abuses _presque consacres par l'anciennete_;
indeed, he says all that can be said for nobility, it is _consacree par
l'anciennete_; and thus the length of the pedigree of abuses renders
them respectable!

[Footnote 1: The _Avocat-General_ was M. de Seguier; and, under his
guidance, the Parliament had passed the monstrous resolution that "the
_people_ in France was liable to the tax of _la taille_, and to _corvee_
at discretion" (_etait tailleable et corveable a volonte_), and that
their "liability was an article of the Constitution which it was not in
the power of even the King himself to change" ("France under the
Bourbons," iii. 422).]

His arguments are as contemptible when he tries to dazzle the King by
the great names of Henri Quatre and Sully,[1] of Louis XIV. and Colbert,
two couple whom nothing but a mercenary orator would have classed
together. Nor, were all four equally venerable, would it prove anything.
Even good kings and good ministers, if such have been, may have erred;
nay, may have done the best they could. They would not have been good,
if they wished their errors should be preserved, the longer they had

[Footnote 1: Sully and Colbert were the two great Finance Ministers of
Henry IV. and Louis XIV.]

In short, Sir, I think this resistance of the Parliament to the adorable
reformation planned by Messrs. de Turgot and Malesherbes[1] is more
phlegmatically scandalous than the wildest tyranny of despotism. I
forget what the nation was that refused liberty when it was offered.
This opposition to so noble a work is worse. A whole people may refuse
its own happiness; but these profligate magistrates resist happiness for
others, for millions, for posterity!--Nay, do they not half vindicate
Maupeou, who crushed them? And you, dear Sir, will you now chide my
apostasy? Have I not cleared myself to your eyes? I do not see a shadow
of sound logic in all Monsieur Seguier's speeches, but in his proposing
that the soldiers should work on the roads, and that passengers should
contribute to their fabric; though, as France is not so luxuriously mad
as England, I do not believe passengers could support the expense of
their roads. That argument, therefore, is like another that the Avocat
proposes to the King, and which, he modestly owns, he believes would be

[Footnote 1: Malesherbes was the Chancellor, and in 1792 he was accepted
by Louis XVI. as his counsel on his trial--a duty which he performed
with an ability which drew on him the implacable resentment of
Robespierre and the Jacobins, and which led to his execution in 1794.]

I beg your pardon, Sir, for giving you this long trouble; but I could
not help venting myself, when shocked to find such renegade conduct in a
Parliament that I was rejoiced had been restored. Poor human kind! is it
always to breed serpents from its own bowels? In one country, it chooses
its representatives, and they sell it and themselves; in others, it
exalts despots; in another, it resists the despot when he consults the
good of his people! Can we wonder mankind is wretched, when men are such
beings? Parliaments run wild with loyalty, when America is to be
enslaved or butchered. They rebel, when their country is to be set free!
I am not surprised at the idea of the devil being always at our elbows.
They who invented him, no doubt could not conceive how men could be so
atrocious to one another, without the intervention of a fiend. Don't you
think, if he had never been heard of before, that he would have been
invented on the late partition of Poland! Adieu, dear Sir. Yours most



STRAWBERRY HILL, _June_ 20, 1776.

I was very glad to receive your letter, not only because always most
glad to hear of you, but because I wished to write to you, and had
absolutely nothing to say till I had something to answer. I have lain
but two nights in town since I saw you; have been, else, constantly
here, very much employed, though doing, hearing, knowing exactly
nothing. I have had a Gothic architect [Mr. Essex] from Cambridge to
design me a gallery, which will end in a mouse, that is, in an hexagon
closet of seven feet diameter. I have been making a Beauty Room, which
was effected by buying two dozen of small copies of Sir Peter Lely, and
hanging them up; and I have been making hay, which is not made, because
I put it off for three days, as I chose it should adorn the landscape
when I was to have company; and so the rain is come, and has drowned it.
However, as I can even turn calculator when it is to comfort me for not
minding my interest, I have discovered that it is five to one better for
me that my hay should be spoiled than not; for, as the cows will eat it
if it is damaged, which horses will not, and as I have five cows and but
one horse, is not it plain that the worse my hay is the better? Do not
you with your refining head go, and, out of excessive friendship, find
out something to destroy my system. I had rather be a philosopher than
a rich man; and yet have so little philosophy, that I had much rather be
content than be in the right.

Mr. Beauclerk and Lady Di have been here four or five days--so I had
both content and exercise for my philosophy. I wish Lady Ailesbury was
as fortunate! The Pembrokes, Churchills, Le Texier, as you will have
heard, and the Garricks have been with us. Perhaps, if alone, I might
have come to you; but you are all too healthy and harmonious. I can
neither walk nor sing; nor, indeed, am fit for anything but to amuse
myself in a sedentary trifling way. What I have most certainly not been
doing, is writing anything: a truth I say to you, but do not desire you
to repeat. I deign to satisfy scarce anybody else. Whoever reported that
I was writing anything, must have been so totally unfounded, that they
either blundered by guessing without reason, or knew they lied--and that
could not be with any kind intention; though saying I am going to do
what I am not going to do, is wretched enough. Whatever is said of me
without truth, anybody is welcome to believe that pleases.

In fact, though I have scarce a settled purpose about anything, I think
I shall never write any more. I have written a great deal too much,
unless I had written better, and I know I should now only write still
worse. One's talent, whatever it is, does not improve at near
sixty--yet, if I liked it, I dare to say a good reason would not stop my
inclination;--but I am grown most indolent in that respect, and most
absolutely indifferent to every purpose of vanity. Yet without vanity I
am become still prouder and more contemptuous. I have a contempt for my
countrymen that makes me despise their approbation. The applause of
slaves and of the foolish mad is below ambition. Mine is the haughtiness
of an ancient Briton, that cannot write what would please this age, and
would not, if he could.

Whatever happens in America, this country is undone. I desire to be
reckoned of the last age, and to be thought to have lived to be
superannuated, preserving my senses only for myself and for the few I
value. I cannot aspire to be traduced like Algernon Sydney, and content
myself with sacrificing to him amongst my lares. Unalterable in my
principles, careless about most things below essentials, indulging
myself in trifles by system, annihilating myself by choice, but dreading
folly at an unseemly age, I contrive to pass my time agreeably enough,
yet see its termination approach without anxiety. This is a true picture
of my mind; and it must be true, because drawn for you, whom I would not
deceive, and could not, if I would. Your question on my being writing
drew it forth, though with more seriousness than the report
deserved--yet talking to one's dearest friend is neither wrong nor out
of season. Nay, you are my best apology. I have always contented myself
with your being perfect, or, if your modesty demands a mitigated term, I
will say, unexceptionable. It is comical, to be sure, to have always
been more solicitous about the virtue of one's friend than about one's
own; yet, I repeat it, you are my apology--though I never was so
unreasonable as to make you answerable for my faults in return; I take
them wholly to myself. But enough of this. When I know my own mind, for
hitherto I have settled no plan for my summer, I will come to you.



STRAWBERRY HILL, _Dec._ 1, 1776.

I don't know who the Englishwoman is of whom you give so ridiculous a
description; but it will suit thousands. I distrust my age continually,
and impute to it half the contempt I feel for my countrymen and women.
If I think the other half well-founded, it is by considering what must
be said hereafter of the present age. What is to impress a great idea of
us on posterity? In truth, what do our contemporaries of all other
countries think of us? They stare at and condemn our politics and
follies; and if they retain any respect for us, I doubt it is for the
sense we have had. I do know, indeed, one man who still worships us, but
his adoration is testified so very absurdly, as not to do us much
credit. It is a Monsieur de Marchais, first Valet-de-Chambre to the
King of France. He has the _Anglomanie_ so strong, that he has not only
read more English than French books, but if any valuable work appears in
his own language, he waits to peruse it till it is translated into
English; and to be sure our translations of French are admirable things!

To do the rest of the French justice, I mean such as like us, they adopt
only our egregious follies, and in particular the flower of them,
horse-racing![1] _Le Roi Pepin_, a racer, is the horse in fashion. I
suppose the next shameful practice of ours they naturalize will be the
personal scurrilities in the newspapers, especially on young and
handsome women, in which we certainly are originals! Voltaire, who first
brought us into fashion in France, is stark mad at his own success. Out
of envy to writers of his own nation, he cried up Shakspeare; and now is
distracted at the just encomiums bestowed on that first genius of the
world in the new translation. He sent to the French Academy an
invective that bears all the marks of passionate dotage. Mrs. Montagu
happened to be present when it was read. Suard, one of their writers,
said to her, "Je crois, Madame, que vous etes un peu fache de ce que
vous venez d'entendre." She replied, "Moi, Monsieur! point du tout! Je
ne suis pas amie de Monsieur Voltaire." I shall go to town the day after
to-morrow, and will add a postscript, if I hear any news.

[Footnote 1: "A rage for adopting English fashions (Anglomanie, as it
was called) began to prevail; and, among the different modes in which it
was exhibited, it is especially noticed that tea was introduced, and
began to share with coffee the privilege of affording sober refreshment
to those who aspired in their different ways to give the tone to French
society. A less innocent novelty was a passion for horse-racing, in
which the Comte d'Artois and the Duc de Chartres set the example of
indulging, establishing a racecourse in the Bois de Boulogne. The Count
had but little difficulty in persuading the Queen to attend it, and she
soon showed so decided a fancy for the sport, and became so regular a
visitor of it, that a small stand was built for her, which in subsequent
years provoked unfavourable comments, when the Prince obtained her leave
to give luncheon to some of their racing friends, who were not in every
instance of a character entitled to be brought into a royal presence"
(the Editor's "Life of Marie Antoinette," c. II).]

_Dec. 3rd._

I am come late, have seen nobody, and must send away my letter.



STRAWBERRY HILL, _June_ 19, 1777.

I thank you for your notices, dear Sir, and shall remember that on
Prince William. I did see the _Monthly Review_, but hope one is not
guilty of the death of every man who does not make one the dupe of a
forgery. I believe M'Pherson's success with "Ossian"[1] was more the
ruin of Chatterton[2] than I. Two years passed between my doubting the
authenticity of Rowley's poems and his death. I never knew he had been
in London till some time after he had undone and poisoned himself there.
The poems he sent me were transcripts in his own hand, and even in that
circumstance he told a lie: he said he had them from the very person at
Bristol to whom he had given them. If any man was to tell you that
monkish rhymes had been dug up at Herculaneum, which was destroyed
several centuries before there was any such poetry, should you believe
it? Just the reverse is the case of Rowley's pretended poems. They have
all the elegance of Waller and Prior, and more than Lord Surrey--but I
have no objection to anybody believing what he pleases. I think poor
Chatterton was an astonishing genius--but I cannot think that Rowley
foresaw metres that were invented long after he was dead, or that our
language was more refined at Bristol in the reign of Henry V. than it
was at Court under Henry VIII. One of the chaplains of the Bishop of
Exeter has found a line of Rowley in "Hudibras"--the monk might foresee
that too! The prematurity of Chatterton's genius is, however, full as
wonderful, as that such a prodigy as Rowley should never have been heard
of till the eighteenth century. The youth and industry of the former are
miracles, too, yet still more credible. There is not a symptom in the
poems, but the old words, that savours of Rowley's age--change the old
words for modern, and the whole construction is of yesterday.

[Footnote 1: Macpherson was a Scotch literary man, who in 1760 published
"Fingal" in six books, which he declared he had translated from a poem
by Ossian, son of Fingal, a Gaelic prince of the third century. For a
moment the work was accepted as genuine in some quarters, especially by
some of the Edinburgh divines. But Dr. Johnson denounced it as an
imposture from the first. He pointed out that Macpherson had never
produced the manuscripts from which he professed to have translated it
when challenged to do so. He maintained also that the so-called poem had
no merits; that "it was a mere unconnected rhapsody, a tiresome
repetition of the same images;" and his opinion soon became so generally
adopted, that Macpherson wrote him a furious letter of abuse, even
threatening him with personal violence; to which Johnson replied "that
he would not be deterred from exposing what he thought a cheat by the
menaces of a ruffian"--a reply which seems to have silenced Mr.
Macpherson (Boswell's "Life of Johnson," i. 375, ii. 310).]

[Footnote 2: Chatterton's is a melancholy story. In 1768, when a boy of
only sixteen, he published a volume of ballads which he described as the
work of Rowley, a priest of Bristol in the fifteenth century, and which
he affirmed he had found in an old chest in the crypt of the Church of
St. Mary Redcliffe at Bristol, of which his father was sexton. They gave
proofs of so rich and precocious a genius, that if he had published them
as his own works, he would "have found himself famous" in a moment, as
Byron did forty years afterwards. But people resented the attempt to
impose on them, Walpole being among the first to point out the proofs of
their modern composition; and consequently the admiration which his
genius might have excited was turned into general condemnation of his
imposture, and in despair he poisoned himself in 1770, when he was only
eighteen years old.]



ARLINGTON STREET, _Oct._ 26, 1777.

It is past my usual period of writing to you; which would not have
happened but from an uncommon, and indeed, considering the moment, an
extraordinary dearth of matter. I could have done nothing but describe
suspense, and every newspaper told you that. Still we know nothing
certain of the state of affairs in America; the very existence where, of
the Howes, is a mystery. The General is said to have beaten Washington,
Clinton to have repulsed three attacks, and Burgoyne[1] to be beaten.
The second alone is credited. Impatience is very high, and uneasiness
increases with every day. There is no sanguine face anywhere, but many
alarmed ones. The pains taken, by circulating false reports, to keep up
some confidence, only increase the dissatisfaction by disappointing.
Some advantage gained may put off clamour for some months: but I think,
the longer it is suspended, the more terrible it will be; and how the
war should end but in ruin, I am not wise enough to conjecture. France
suspends the blow, to make it more inevitable. She has suffered us to
undo ourselves: will she allow us time to recover? We have begged her
indulgence in the first: will she grant the second prayer?...

[Footnote 1: In June and July General Burgoyne, a man of some literary
as well as military celebrity, achieved some trifling successes over the
colonial army, alternating, however, with some defeats. He took
Ticonderoga, but one of his divisions was defeated with heavy loss at
Bennington--a disaster which, Lord Stanhope says, exercised a fatal
influence over the rest of the campaign; and finally, a week before this
letter was written, he and all his army were so hemmed in at Saratoga,
that they were compelled to lay down their arms--a disgrace which was
the turning-point of the war, and which is compared by Lord Stanhope to
the capitulation of his own ancestor at Brihuega in the war of the
Spanish Succession. The surrender of Saratoga was the event which
determined the French and Spaniards to recognise the independence of the
colonies, and consequently to unite with them in the war against

You have heard of the inundation at Petersburg. That ill wind produced
luck to somebody. As the Empress had not distressed objects enough among
her own people to gratify her humanity, she turned the torrent of her
bounty towards that unhappy relict the Duchess of Kingston, and ordered
her Admiralty to take particular care of the marvellous yacht that bore
Messalina and her fortune. Pray mind that I bestow the latter Empress's
name on the Duchess, only because she married a second husband in the
lifetime of the first. Amongst other benevolences, the Czarina lent her
Grace a courier to despatch to England--I suppose to acquaint Lord
Bristol that he is not a widower. That courier brought a letter from a
friend to Dr. Hunter, with the following anecdote. Her Imperial Majesty
proposed to her brother of China to lay waste a large district that
separates their two empires, lest it should, as it has been on the point
of doing, produce war between them; the two empires being at the two
extremities of the world, not being distance enough to keep the peace.
The ill-bred Tartar sent no answer to so humane a project. On the
contrary, he dispersed a letter to the Russian people, in which he tells
them that a woman--he might have said the Minerva of the French
_literati_--had proposed to him to extirpate all the inhabitants of a
certain region belonging to him, but that he knew better what to do with
his own country: however, he could but wonder that the people of all the
Russias should still submit to be governed by a creature that had
assassinated her husband.--Oh! if she had pulled the Ottoman by the nose
in the midst of Constantinople, as she intended to do, this savage would
have been more civilised. I doubt the same rude monarch is still on the
throne, who would not suffer Prince Czernichew to enter his territories,
when sent to notify her Majesty's _hereditary_ succession to her
husband; but bade him be told, he would not receive an ambassador from a
murderess. Is it not shocking that the law of nations, and the law of
politeness, should not yet have abrogated the laws of justice and
good-sense in a nation reckoned so civilised as the Chinese? What an age
do we live in, if there is still a country where the Crown does not take
away all defects! Good night!



STRAWBERRY HILL, _May_ 31, 1778.

I am forced to look at the dates I keep of my letters, to see what
events I have or have not told you; for at this crisis something happens
every day; though nothing very striking since the death of Lord Chatham,
with which I closed my last. No?--yes, but there has. All England, which
had abandoned him, found out, the moment his eyes were closed, that
nothing but Lord Chatham could have preserved them. How lucky for him
that the experiment cannot be made! Grief is fond, and grief is
generous. The Parliament will bury him; the City begs the honour of
being his grave; and the important question is not yet decided, whether
he is to lie at Westminster or in St. Paul's; on which it was well said,
that it would be "robbing Peter to pay Paul." An annuity of four
thousand pounds is settled on the title of Chatham, and twenty thousand
pounds allotted to pay his debts. The Opposition and the Administration
disputed zeal; and neither care a straw about him. He is already as much
forgotten as John of Gaunt.

General Burgoyne has succeeded and been the topic, and for two days
engrossed the attention of the House of Commons; and probably will be
heard of no more. He was even forgotten for three hours while he was on
the tapis, by a violent quarrel between Temple Luttrell (a brother of
the Duchess of Cumberland) and Lord George Germaine; but the public has
taken affection for neither them nor the General: being much more
disposed at present to hate than to love--except the dead. It will be
well if the ill-humour, which increases, does not break out into overt

I know not what to say of war. The Toulon squadron was certainly blown
back. That of Brest is supposed to be destined to invade some part of
this country or Ireland; or rather, it is probable, will attempt our
fleet. In my own opinion, there is no great alacrity in France--I mean,
in the Court of France--for war; and, as we have had time for great
preparations, their eagerness will not increase. We shall suffer as much
as they can desire by the loss of America, without their risk, and in a
few years shall be able to give them no umbrage; especially as our
frenzy is still so strong, that, if France left us at quiet, I am
persuaded we should totally exhaust ourselves in pursuing the vision of
reconquest. Spain continues to disclaim hostility as you told me. If the
report is true of revolts in Mexico, they would be as good as a bond
under his Catholic Majesty's hand.

We shall at least not doze, as we are used to do, in summer. The
Parliament is to have only short adjournments; and our senators, instead
of retiring to horse-races (_their_ plough), are all turned soldiers,
and disciplining militia. Camps everywhere, and the ladies in the
uniform of their husbands! In short, if the dose is not too strong, a
little adversity would not be quite unseasonable.--A little! you will
cry; why what do you call the loss of America? Oh! my dear sir, do you
think a capital as enormous as London has its nerves affected by what
happens beyond the Atlantic? What has become of all your reading? There
is nothing so unnatural as the feelings of a million of persons who live
together in one city. They have not one conception like those in
villages and in the country. They presume or despond from quite
different motives. They have both more sense and less, than those who
are not in contact with a multitude. Wisdom forms empires, but folly
dissolves them; and a great capital, which dictates to the rest of the
community, is always the last to perceive the decays of the whole,
because it takes its own greatness for health.

Lord Holdernesse is dead; not quite so considerable a personage as he
once expected to be, though Nature never intended him for anything that
he was. The Chancellor, another child of Fortune, quits the Seals; and
they are, or are to be, given to the Attorney-General, Thurlow, whom
nobody will reproach with want of abilities.

As the Parliament will rise on Tuesday, you will not expect my letters
so frequently as of late, especially if hostilities do not commence. In
fact, our newspapers tell you everything faster than I can: still I
write, because you have more faith in my intelligence; yet all its merit
consists in my not telling you fables. I hear no more than everybody
does, but I send you only what is sterling; or, at least, give you
reports for no more than they are worth. I believe Sir John Dick is much
more punctual, and hears more; but, till you displace me, I shall
execute my office of being your gazetteer.



STRAWBERRY HILL, _June_ 3, 1778.

I will not dispute with you, dear Sir, on patriots and politics. One
point is past controversy, that the Ministers have ruined this country;
and if the Church of England is satisfied with being reconciled to the
Church of Rome, and thinks it a compensation for the loss of America and
all credit in Europe, she is as silly an old woman as any granny in an
almshouse. France is very glad we have grown such fools, and soon saw
that the Presbyterian Dr. Franklin[1] had more sense than our Ministers
together. She has got over all her prejudices, has expelled the Jesuits,
and made the Protestant Swiss, Necker,[2] her Comptroller-general. It is
a little woful, that we are relapsing into the nonsense the rest of
Europe is shaking off! and it is more deplorable, as we know by repeated
experience, that this country has always been disgraced by Tory
administrations. The rubric is the only gainer by them in a few martyrs.

[Footnote 1: Dr. Franklin, as a man of science, may almost be called the
father of electrical science. He was the discoverer of the electrical
character of lightning, a discovery which he followed up by the
invention of iron conductors for the protection of buildings, &c., from
lightning. He was also a very zealous politician, and one of the leaders
of the American colonists in their resistance to the taxation imposed
first by Mr. Grenville and afterwards by Mr. C. Townshend. He resided
for several years in England as agent for the State of Pennsylvania, and
in that character, in the year 1765, was examined before the Committee
of the House of Commons on the Stamp Act of Mr. Grenville. After the
civil war broke out he was elected a member of the American Congress,
and was sent as an envoy to France to negotiate a treaty with that
country. As early as 1758 he was elected a member of the Royal Society
in England, and received the honorary degree of D.C.L. from the
University of Oxford.]

[Footnote 2: Necker was originally a banker, in which business he made a
large fortune; but after a time he turned his attention to politics. He
began by opposing the financial and constitutional schemes of the great
Turgot, and shortly after the dismissal of that Minister he himself was
admitted into the Ministry as a sort of Secretary to the Treasury, his
religion, as a Protestant, being a bar to his receiving the title of
"Comptroller-General," though, in fact, he had the entire management of
the finance of the kingdom, which, by artful misrepresentation of his
measures and suppression of such important facts, that he had contracted
loans to the amount of twenty millions of money, he represented as far
more flourishing than in reality it was. At the end of two or three
years he resigned his office in discontent at his services not receiving
the rewards to which he considered himself entitled. But in 1788 he was
again placed in office, on this occasion as Comptroller-General, and,
practically, Prime Minister, a post for which he was utterly unfit; for
he had not one qualification for a statesman, was a prey to the most
overweening vanity, and his sole principles of action were a thirst for
popularity and a belief in "the dominion of reason and the abstract
virtues of mankind." Under the influence of these notions he frittered
away the authority and dignity of the King; and, as Napoleon afterwards
truly told his grandson, was, in truth, the chief cause of all the
horrors of the Revolution.]

I do not know yet what is settled about the spot of Lord Chatham's
interment. I am not more an enthusiast to his memory than you. I knew
his faults and his defects--yet one fact cannot only not be
controverted, but I doubt more remarkable every day--I mean, that under
him we attained not only our highest elevation, but the most solid
authority in Europe. When the names of Marlborough and Chatham are still
pronounced with awe in France, our little cavils make a puny sound.
Nations that are beaten cannot be mistaken.

I have been looking out for your friend a set of my heads of Painters,
and I find I want six or seven. I think I have some odd ones in town; if
I have not, I will have deficiencies supplied from the plates, though I
fear they will not be good, as so many have been taken off. I should be
very ungrateful for all your kindnesses, if I neglected any opportunity
of obliging you, dear Sir. Indeed, our old and unalterable friendship is
creditable to us both, and very uncommon between two persons who differ
so much in their opinions relative to Church and State. I believe the
reason is, that we are both sincere, and never meant to take advantage
of our principles; which I allow is too common on both sides, and I own,
too, fairly more common on my side of the question than on yours. There
is a reason, too, for that; the honours and emoluments are in the gift
of the Crown; the nation has no separate treasury to reward its friends.

If Mr. Tyrwhitt has opened his eyes to Chatterton's forgeries,[1] there
is an instance of conviction against strong prejudice! I have drawn up
an account of my transaction with that marvellous young man; you shall
see it one day or other, but I do not intend to print it. I have taken a
thorough dislike to being an author; and if it would not look like
begging you to compliment me, by contradicting me, I would tell you,
what I am most seriously convinced of, that I find what small share of
parts I had, grown dulled--and when I perceive it myself, I may well
believe that others would not be less sharp-sighted. It is very natural;
mine were spirits rather than parts; and as time has abated the one, it
must surely destroy their resemblance to the other: pray don't say a
syllable in reply on this head, or I shall have done exactly what I said
I would not do. Besides, as you have always been too partial to me, I am
on my guard, and when I will not expose myself to my enemies, I must not
listen to the prejudices of my friends; and as nobody is more partial
to me than you, there is nobody I must trust less in that respect. Yours
most sincerely.

[Footnote 1: Mr. Tyrrhwitt, a critic of great eminence, especially as
the editor of "Chaucer," had at first believed the poems published by
Chatterton to be the genuine works of Rowley, but was afterwards
convinced, as Dr. Johnson also was, by the inspection of the manuscripts
which the poor youth called the "originals," that they were quite



STRAWBERRY HILL, _July 7_, 1778.

You tell me in yours of the 23rd of last month, which I received to-day,
that my letters are necessary to your tranquillity. That is sufficient
to make me write, though I have nothing very positive to tell you. I did
not mention Admiral Keppel's skirmish with and capture of two frigates
of the Brest squadron; not because I thought it trifling, but concluding
that it would produce immediate declaration of war; and, for the fact
itself, I knew both our papers and the French would anticipate me.
Indeed, Sir John Dick has talked to me so much of his frequency and
punctuality with you, that I might have concluded he would not neglect
so public an event; not that I trust to anybody else for sending you

No Declaration has followed on either side. I, who know nothing but what
everybody knows, am disposed to hope that both nations are grown
rational; that is, humane enough to dislike carnage. Both kings are
pacific by nature, and the voice of Europe now prefers legislators to
_heroes_, which is but a name for destroyers of their species.

It is true, we are threatened with invasion.[1] You ask me why I seem to
apprehend less than formerly? For many reasons. In the first place, I am
above thirty years older. Can one fear anything in the dregs of life as
at the beginning? Experience, too, has taught me that nothing happens in
proportion to our conceptions. I have learnt, too, exceedingly to
undervalue human policy. Chance and folly counteract most of its wisdom.
From the "Memoires de Noailles"[2] I have learnt, that, between the
years 1740 and 1750, when I,--ay, and my Lord Chesterfield too,--had
such gloomy thoughts, France was trembling with dread of us. These are
general reasons. My particular ones are, that, if France meditated a
considerable blow, she has neglected her opportunity. Last year, we had
neither army nor a manned fleet at home. Now, we have a larger and
better army than ever we had in the island, and a strong fleet. Within
these three days, our West India and Mediterranean fleets, for which we
have been in great pain, are arrived, and bring not only above two
millions, but such a host of sailors as will supply the deficiencies in
our unequipped men-of-war. The country is covered with camps; General
Conway, who has been to one of them, speaks with astonishment of the
fineness of the men, of the regiments, of their discipline and
manoeuvring. In short, the French Court has taught all our young
nobility to be soldiers. The Duke of Grafton, who was the most indolent
of ministers, is the most indefatigable of officers. For my part, I am
almost afraid that there will be a larger military spirit amongst our
men of quality than is wholesome for our constitution: France will have
done us hurt enough, if she has turned us into generals instead of

[Footnote 1: The design of invading England, first conceived by Philip
II. of Spain and the Duke of Parma, had been entertained also by Louis
XIV.; and after Walpole's death ostentatious preparations for such an
expedition were made in 1805 by Napoleon. But some years afterwards
Napoleon told Metternich, the Austrian Prime Minister, that he had never
really designed to undertake the enterprise, being convinced of the
impossibility of succeeding in it, and that the sole object of his
preparations and of the camp at Boulogne had been to throw Austria off
her guard.]

[Footnote 2: The Duc de Noailles had been the French Commander-in-chief
at the battle of Dettingen in 1743.]

I can conceive another reason why France should not choose to venture an
invasion. It is certain that at least five American provinces wish for
peace with us. Nor can I think that thirteen English provinces would be
pleased at seeing England invaded. Any considerable blow received by us,
would turn their new allies into haughty protectors. Should we accept a
bad peace, America would find her treaty with them a very bad one: in
short, I have treated you with speculations instead of facts. I know but
one of the latter sort. The King's army has evacuated Philadelphia, from
having eaten up the country, and has returned to New York. Thus it is
more compact, and has less to defend.

General Howe is returned, richer in money than laurels. I do not know,
indeed, that his wealth is great.

Fanaticism in a nation is no novelty; but you must know, that, though
the effects were so solid, the late appearance of enthusiasm about Lord
Chatham was nothing but a general affectation of enthusiasm. It was a
contention of hypocrisy between the Opposition and the Court, which did
not last even to his burial. Not three of the Court attended it, and not
a dozen of the Minority of any note. He himself said, between his fall
in the House of Lords and his death, that, when he came to himself, not
one of his old acquaintance of the Court but Lord Despencer so much as
asked how he did. Do you imagine people are struck with the death of a
man, who were not struck with the sudden appearance of his death? We do
not counterfeit so easily on a surprise, as coolly; and, when we are
cool on surprise, we do not grow agitated on reflection.

The last account I heard from Germany was hostile. Four days ago both
the Imperial and Prussian Ministers[1] expected news of a battle. O, ye
fathers of your people, do you thus dispose of your children? How many
thousand lives does a King save, who signs a peace! It was said in jest
of our Charles II., that he was the real _father_ of his people, so many
of them did he beget himself. But tell me, ye divines, which is the most
virtuous man, he who begets twenty bastards, or he who sacrifices a
hundred thousand lives? What a contradiction is human nature! The Romans
rewarded the man who got three children, and laid waste the world. When
will the world know that peace and propagation are the two most
delightful things in it? As his Majesty of France has found out the
latter, I hope he will not forget the former.

[Footnote 1: Towards the close of 1777 Maximilian, the Elector of
Bavaria, died, and the Emperor Joseph claimed many of his fiefs as
having escheated to him. Frederic the Great, who was still jealous of
Austria, endeavoured to form a league to aid the new Elector in his
resistance to Joseph's demands, and even invaded Bohemia with an army of
eighty thousand men; but the Austrian army was equally strong. No action
of any importance took place; and in the spring of 1779 the treaty of
Teschen was concluded between the Empire, Prussia, and Bavaria, by which
a small portion of the district claimed by Joseph was ceded to Austria.]



STRAWBERRY HILL, _July_ 8, 1778.

I have had some conversation with a ministerial person, on the subject
of pacification with France; and he dropped a hint, that as we should
not have much of a good peace, the Opposition would make great clamour
on it. I said a few words on the duty of Ministers to do what they
thought right, be the consequence what it would. But as honest men do
not want such lectures, and dishonest will not let them weigh, I waived
that theme, to dwell on what is more likely to be persuasive, and which
I am firmly persuaded is no less true than the former maxim; and that
was, that the Ministers are _still_ so strong, that if they could get a
peace that would save the nation, though not a brilliant or glorious
one, the nation in general would be pleased with it, and the clamours of
the Opposition be insignificant.

I added, what I think true, too, that no time is to be lost in treating;
not only for preventing a blow, but from the consequences the first
misfortune would have. The nation is not yet alienated from the Court,
but it is growing so; is grown so enough, for any calamity to have
violent effects. Any internal disturbance would advance the hostile
designs of France. An insurrection from distress would be a double
invitation to invasion; and, I am sure, much more to be dreaded, even
personally, by the Ministers, than the ill-humours of Opposition for
even an inglorious peace. To do the Opposition justice, it is not
composed of incendiaries. Parliamentary speeches raise no tumults: but
tumults would be a dreadful thorough bass to speeches. The Ministers do
not know the strength they have left (supposing they apply it in time),
if they are afraid of making any peace. They were too sanguine in making
war; I hope they will not be too timid of making peace.

What do you think of an idea of mine of offering France a neutrality?
that is, to allow her to assist both us and the Americans. I know she
would assist only them: but were it not better to connive at her
assisting them, without attacking us, than her doing both? A treaty with
her would perhaps be followed by one with America. We are sacrificing
all the essentials we _can_ recover, for a few words; and risking the
independence of this country, for the nominal supremacy over America.
France seems to leave us time for treating. She mad no scruple of
begging peace of us in '63, that she might lie by and recover her
advantages. Was not that a wise precedent? Does not she _now_ show that
it was? Is not policy the honour of nations? I mean, not morally, but
has Europe left itself any other honour? And since it has really left
itself no honour, and as little morality, does not the morality of a
nation consist in its preserving itself in as much happiness as it can?
The invasion of Portugal by Spain in the last war, and the partition of
Poland,[1] have abrogated the law of nations. Kings have left no ties
between one another. Their duty to their people is still allowed. He is
a good King that preserves his people; and if temporising answers that
end, is it not justifiable? You, who are as moral as wise, answer my
questions. Grotius[2] is obsolete. Dr. Joseph and Dr. Frederic, with
four hundred thousand commentators, are reading new lectures--and I
should say, thank God, to one another, if the four hundred thousand
commentators were not in worse danger than they. Louis XVI. is grown a
casuist compared to those partitioners. Well, let us simple individuals
keep our honesty, and bless our stars that we have not armies at our
command, lest we should divide kingdoms that are at our _bienseance_!
What a dreadful thing it is for such a wicked little imp as man to have
absolute power! But I have travelled into Germany, when I meant to talk
to you only of England; and it is too late to recall my text. Good

[Footnote 1: A partition of Poland had been proposed by the Great
Elector of Brandenburgh as early as the middle of the seventeenth
century, his idea being that he, the Emperor, and the King of Sweden
should divide the whole country between them. At that time, however, the
mutual jealousies of the three princes prevented the scheme from being
carried out. But in 1770 the idea was revived by Frederic the Great, who
sent his brother Henry to discuss it with the Czarina. She eagerly
embraced it; and the new Emperor Joseph had so blind an admiration for
Frederic, that it was not hard to induce him to become a confederate in
the scheme of plunder. And the three allies had less difficulty than
might have been expected in arranging the details. In extent of
territory Austria was the principal gainer, her share being of
sufficient importance to receive a new name as the kingdom of Galicia;
the share of Prussia being West Prussia and Pomerania, with the
exception of Dantzic and the fortress of Thorn; while Russia took Polish
Livonia and the rich provinces to the east of the Dwina. But the
spoilers were not long contented with their acquisitions. In 1791
intrigues among the Polish nobles, probably fomented by the Czarina
herself, gave her a pretence for interfering in their affairs; and the
result was a second partition, which gave the long-coveted port of
Dantzic and a long district on the shore of the Baltic to Prussia, and
such extensive provinces adjoining Russia to Catharine, that all that
was left to the Polish sovereign was a small territory with a population
that hardly amounted to four millions of subjects. The partition excited
great indignation all over Europe, but in 1772 England was sufficiently
occupied with the troubles beginning to arise in America, and France was
still too completely under the profligate and imbecile rule of Louis XV.
and Mme. du Barri, and too much weakened by her disasters in the Seven
Years' War, for any manly counsels or indication of justice and humanity
to be expected from that country.]

[Footnote 2: Grotius (a Latinised form of Groot) was an eminent
statesman and jurist of Holland at the beginning of the seventeenth
century. He was a voluminous author; his most celebrated works being a
treatise, "De jure belli et pacis," and another on the "Truth of the
Christian Religion."]




STRAWBERRY HILL, _Oct._ 8, 1778.

As you are so earnest for news, I am concerned when I have not a
paragraph to send you. It looks as if distance augmented your
apprehensions; for, I assure you, at home we have lost almost all
curiosity. Though the two fleets have been so long at sea, and though,
before their last _sortie_, one heard nothing but _What news of the
fleets?_ of late there has been scarcely any inquiry; and so the French
one is returned to Brest, and ours is coming home. Admiral Keppel is
very unlucky in having missed them, for they had not above twenty-five
ships. Letters from Paris say that their camps, too, are to break up at
the end of this month: but we do not intend to be the dupes of that
_finesse_, if it is one, but shall remain on our guard. One must hope
that winter will produce some negotiation; and that, peace. Indeed, as
war is not declared, I conclude there is always some treating on the
anvil; and, should it end well, at least this age will have made a step
towards humanity, in omitting the ceremonial of proclamation, which
seems to make it easier to cease being at war. But I am rather making
out a proxy for a letter than sending you news. But, you see, even
armies of hundred thousands in Germany can execute as little as we; and
you must remember what the Grand Conde, or the great Prince of Orange--I
forget which--said, that unmarried girls imagine husbands are always on
duty, unmilitary men that soldiers are always fighting. One of the Duke
of Marlborough's Generals dining with the Lord Mayor, an Alderman who


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