Letters of Horace Walpole
Horace Walpole

Part 5 out of 5

have been in high spirits on the prospect of a campaign in Holland; but
the Dutch, without pity for the gazetteers of Europe, are said to have
submitted to the Emperor's terms: however, the intelligence-merchants
may trust that _he_ will not starve them long!

Your neighbour, the Queen of Sardinia, it seems, is dead: but, if there
was anything to say about her, you must tell it to me, not I to you;
for, till she died, I scarce knew she had been alive.

Our Parliament is put off till after Christmas; so, I have no more
resource from domestic politics than from foreign wars. For my own
particular, I desire neither. I live here in tranquillity and idleness,
can content myself with trifles, and think the world is much the happier
when it has nothing to talk of. Most people ask, "Is there any
news?"--How can one want to know one does not know what? when anything
has happened, one hears it.

There is one subject on which I wish I had occasion to write; I think it
long since I heard how you go on: I flatter myself, as I have no letter
from you or your nephew, prosperously. I should prefer a letter from
him, that you may not have the trouble; and I shall make this the
shorter, as a precedent for his not thinking more than a line necessary.
The post does not insist on a certain quantity; it is content with being
paid for whatever it carries--nay, is a little unreasonable, as it
doubles its price for a cover that contains nothing but a direction: and
now it is the fashion to curtail the direction as much as possible.
Formerly, a direction was an academy of compliments: "To the most noble
and my singularly respected friend," &c., &c.--and then, "Haste! haste,
for your life, haste!" Now, we have banished even the monosyllable _To_!
Henry Conway,[1] Lord Hertford's son, who is very indolent, and has much
humour, introduced that abridgment. Writing to a Mr. Tighe at the
Temple, he directed his letter only thus: "T. Ti., Temple"[2]--and it
was delivered! Dr. Bentley was mightily flattered on receiving a letter
superscribed "To Dr. Bentley in England." Times are altered; postmen are
now satisfied with a hint. One modern retrenchment is a blessing; one is
not obliged to study for an ingenious conclusion, as if writing an
epigram--oh! no; nor to send compliments that never were delivered. I
had a relation who always finished his letters with "his love to all
that was near and dear to us," though he did not care a straw for me or
any of his family. It was said of old Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough,
that she never put dots over her _i's_, to save ink: how she would have
enjoyed modern economy in that article! She would have died worth a
thousand farthings more than she did--nay, she would have known exactly
how many; as Sir Robert Brown[3] did, who calculated what he had saved
by never having an orange or lemon on his sideboard. I am surprised
that no economist has retrenched second courses, which always consist of
the dearest articles, though seldom touched, as the hungry at least dine
on the first. Mrs. Leneve,[4] one summer at Houghton, counted thirty-six
turkey-pouts[5] that had been served up without being meddled with.

[Footnote 1: Second son of Francis Seymour Conway, first Earl of

[Footnote 2: This address was surpassed towards the end of the reign, by
a letter which arrived in London addressed to "Srumfredafi, England;"
and was correctly interpreted at the Post Office as being designed for
Sir Humphrey Davy.]

[Footnote 3: A noted miser, who raised a great fortune as a merchant at
Venice, though his whole wealth, when he went thither, consisted in one
of those vast wigs (a second-hand one, given to him) which were worn in
the reign of Queen Anne, and which he sold for five guineas. He returned
to England, very rich, in the reign of George II., with his wife and
three daughters, who would have been great fortunes. The eldest, about
eighteen, fell into a consumption, and, being ordered to ride, her
father drew a map of the by-lanes about London, which he made the
footman carry in his pocket and observe, that she might ride without
paying a turnpike. When the poor girl was past recovery, Sir Robert sent
for an undertaker, to cheapen her funeral, as she was not dead, and
there was a possibility of her living. He went farther; he called his
other daughters, and bade them curtsy to the undertaker, and promise to
be his friends; and so they proved, for both died consumptive in two

[Footnote 4: A lady who lived with Sir Robert Walpole, to take care of
his youngest daughter, Lady Maria, after her mother's death. After Sir
Robert's death, and Lady Mary's marriage with Mr. Churchill, she lived
with Mr. H. Walpole to her death.--WALPOLE.]

[Footnote 5: As the sons of rajahs in India are called Rajah Pouts, and
as turkeys came from the East, quaere if they were not called
Turkey-pouts, as an Eastern diminutive?--WALPOLE.]


I had written thus far yesterday. This minute I receive your nephew's of
Sept. 20th; it is not such an one by any means as I had wished for. He
tells me you have had a return of your disorder--indeed, he consoles me
with your recovery; but I cannot in a moment shake off the impression of
a sudden alarm, though the cause was ceased, nor can a second agitation
calm a first on such shattered nerves as mine. My fright is over, but I
am not composed. I cannot begin a new letter, and therefore send what I
had written. I will only add, what you may be sure I feel, ardent wishes
for your perfect health, and grateful thanks to your nephew for his
attention--he is rather your son; but indeed he is Gal.'s son, and that
is the same thing. How I love him for his attendance on you! and how
very kind he is in giving me accounts of you! I hope he will continue,
and I ask it still more for your sake than for my own, that you may not
think of writing yourself. If he says but these words, "My uncle has had
no return of his complaint," I shall be satisfied--satisfied!--I shall
be quite happy! Indeed, indeed, I ask no more.



BERKELEY SQUARE, _Oct._ 30, 1785.

I am a contradiction, yet very naturally so; I wish you not to write
yourself, and yet am delighted when I receive a letter in your own hand:
however, I don't desire it should be of four pages, like this last of
the 11th. When I have had the gout, I have always written by proxy. You
will make me ashamed, if you don't use the precedent. Your account of
yourself is quite to my satisfaction. I approve, too, of your not dining
with your company. Since I must be old and have the gout, I have long
turned those disadvantages to my own account, and plead them to the
utmost when they will save me from doing anything I dislike. I am so
lame, or have such a sudden pain, when I do not care to do what is
proposed to me! Nobody can tell how rapidly the gout may be come, or be
gone again; and then it is so pleasant to have had the benefit, and
none of the anguish!

I did send you a line last week in the cover of a letter to Lady
Craven,[1] which I knew would sufficiently tell your quickness how much
I shall be obliged to you for any attentions to her. I thought her at
Paris, and was surprised to hear of her at Florence. She has, I fear,
been _infinitamente_ indiscreet; but what is that to you or me? She is
very pretty, has parts, and is good-natured to the greatest degree; has
not a grain of malice or mischief (almost always the associates, in
women, of tender hearts), and never has been an enemy but to herself.
For that ridiculous woman Madame Piozzi,[2] and t'other more impertinent
one, of whom I never heard before, they are like the absurd English
dames with whom we used to divert ourselves when I was at Florence. As
to your little knot of poets, I do not hold the cocks higher than the
hens; nor would I advise them to repatriate. We have at present here a
most incomparable set, not exactly known by their names, but who, till
the dead of summer, kept the town in a roar, and, I suppose, will revive
by the meeting of Parliament. They have poured forth a torrent of odes,
epigrams, and part of an imaginary epic poem, called the "Rolliad,"[3]
with a commentary and notes, that is as good as the "Dispensary"[4] and
"Dunciad," with more ease. These poems are all anti-ministerial, and
the authors very young men, and little known or heard of before. I would
send them, but you would want too many keys: and indeed I want some
myself; for, as there are continually allusions to Parliamentary
speeches and events, they are often obscure to me till I get them
explained; and besides, I do not know several of the satirised heroes
even by sight: however, the poetry and wit make amends, for they are

[Footnote 1: Lady Craven, _nee_ Berkeley, had given abundant cause for
scandal during her husband's life, which did not abate when, a month
after his death, she married the Margrave of Anspach.]

[Footnote 2: Mme. Piozzi, the Mrs. Thrale of Boswell's "Life of
Johnson." Mr. Thrale was a brewer, the founder of the great firm now
known as Barclay and Perkins. She was many years younger than he; and,
after his death, she married Signor Piozzi, a professional musician of
eminence. Johnson, who had been an habitual guest of her husband and her
at their villa at Streatham, set the fashion of condemning this second
marriage as a disgraceful _mesalliance_; but it is not very easy to see
in what respect it was so. In social position she had certainly had the
advantage over Mr. Thrale, being the daughter of a Carnarvonshire
baronet of ancient family. But a first-rate musician was surely the
equal of a brewer. After Johnson's death she published a volume of her
reminiscences of him, which may be allowed to have been worthy neither
of him nor of her, and which was ridiculed by Peter Pindar in "A Town
Eclogue," in which the rivals Bozzy and Piozzi, on Virgil's
principle--_Alternis dicetis, amant alterna Camaenae_--relate in turn
anecdotes of Johnson's way of life, his witty sayings, &c., &c. Sir John
Hawkins, as judge of the contest, gives neither a prize; tells the lady,
"Sam's Life, dear ma'am, will only _damn your own_;" calls the gentleman
"a chattering magpie;" and--

Then to their pens and paper rush'd the twain,
To kill the mangled RAMBLER o'er again.]

[Footnote 3: In 1785 the wits of Brooks's, being much disappointed at
the result of the political conflict of 1784, gave some vent to their
spleen in verse. For their subject they selected an imaginary epic, of
which they gave fictitious extracts, and for their hero they took the
Member for Devonshire, John Rolle, invoking him--

Illustrious Rolle! oh may thy honoured name
Roll down distinguished on the rolls of fame.

It is a little odd that they abstained from similar puns on Pitt and
_pit_; but their indignation was chiefly directed at his youth as
ill-suited to his powers--

A sight to make surrounding nations stare,
A kingdom trusted to a schoolboy's care.

The chief contributors were Burke's friend, Dr. Lawrence; Sheridan's
brother-in-law, Tickell; General Fitzpatrick, Mr. G. Ellis, Lord G.
Townshend, and General Burgoyne.]

[Footnote 4: "The Dispensary" was a poem by a physician named Garth, to
advocate the cause of the physicians in a quarrel between them and the
apothecaries about the price to be charged for medicines. Johnson, in
his "Lives of the Poets," allows it the credit of smooth and free
versification, but denies it that of elegance. "No passage falls below
mediocrity, and few rise above it." It may be doubted whether Byron
himself could have risen high "above it" on subjects so unpoetical as
pills and black-doses.]

News I have none, wet or dry, to send you: politics are stagnated, and
pleasure is not come to town. You may be sure I am glad that Caesar is
baffled; I neither honour nor esteem him. If he is preferring his nephew
to his brother, it is using the latter as ill as the rest of the world.

Mrs. Damer is again set out for the Continent to-day, to avoid the
winter, which is already begun severely; we have had snow twice. Till
last year, I never knew snow in October since I can remember; which is
no short time. Mrs. Damer has taken with her her cousin Miss Campbell,
daughter of poor Lady William, whom you knew, and who died last year.
Miss Campbell has always lived with Lady Aylesbury, and is a very great
favourite and a very sensible girl. I believe they will proceed to
Italy, but it is not certain. If they come to Florence, the Grand Duke
should beg Mrs. Damer to give him something of her statuary; and it
would be a greater curiosity than anything in his Chamber of Painters.
She has executed several marvels since you saw her; and has lately
carved two colossal heads for the bridge at Henley, which is the most
beautiful one in the world, next to the Ponte di Trinita, and was
principally designed by her father, General Conway. Lady Spencer
draws--incorrectly indeed, but has great expression. Italy probably will
stimulate her, and improve her attention. You see we blossom in ruin!
Poetry, painting, statuary, architecture, music, linger here,

on this sea-encircled coast (GRAY),

as if they knew not whither to retreat farther for shelter, and would
not trust to the despotic patronage of the Attilas, Alarics, Amalasuntas
of the North! They leave such heroic scourges to be decorated by the
Voltaires and D'Alemberts of the Gauls, or wait till by the improvement
of balloons they may be transported to some of those millions of worlds
that Herschel[1] is discovering every day; for this new Columbus has
thrown open the great gates of astronomy, and neither Spanish
inquisitors nor English Nabobs will be able to torture and ransack the
new regions and their inhabitants. Adieu!

[Footnote 1: Herschel, having constructed the largest telescope that at
that time had ever been seen, in 1781 had given proof of its value by
the discovery of the _Georgium sidus_.]



[Footnote 1: Miss H. More was a remarkable woman. She was the daughter
of the village schoolmaster of Stapleton, near Bristol. But though she
had no higher education than he could give her, she soon began to show a
considerable literary talent. Her first compositions were dramas, one of
which, "Percy," Garrick accepted for the stage, where for a season it
had fair success. But she soon quitted that line for works of morality,
intended to promote the religious improvement of society in her day. The
most celebrated of them was "Coelebs in Search of a Wife." But some of
the tales which she published in "The Cheap Repository," a series of
stories for the common people, had a greater sale. One, "The Shepherd of
Salisbury Plain," was so popular that it is said that a million copies
of it were sold. Her talents led to her acquaintance being cultivated by
such men as Johnson, Reynolds, Burke, and Bishop Porteus; and her
exercise of them was so profitable, that though she gave large sums in
charity, she left a fortune of L30,000.]

STRAWBERRY HILL, _Oct._ 14, 1787.

My dear Madam,--I am shocked for human nature at the repeated
malevolence of this woman! [Mrs. Yearsley.] The rank soil of riches we
are accustomed to see overrun with seeds and thistles; but who could
expect that the kindest seeds sown on poverty and dire misfortunes
should meet with nothing but a rock at bottom? Catherine de' Medici,
suckled by hopes and transplanted to a throne, seems more excusable.
Thank heaven, Madam, for giving you so excellent a heart; ay, and so
good a head. You are not only benevolence itself, but, with fifty times
the genius of a Yearsley, you are void of vanity. How strange, that
vanity should expel gratitude! Does not the wretched woman owe her fame
to you, as well as her affluence? I can testify your labours for both.
Dame Yearsley reminds me of the Troubadours, those vagrants whom I used
to admire till I knew their history; and who used to pour out trumpery
verses, and flatter or abuse accordingly as they were housed and
clothed, or dismissed to the next parish. Yet you did not set this
person in the stocks, after procuring an annuity for her! I beg your
pardon for renewing so disgusting a subject, and will never mention it
again. You have better amusement; you love good works, a temper superior
to revenge.

I have again seen our poor friend in Clarges Street [Mrs. Vesey]: her
faculties decay rapidly, and of course she suffers less. She has not an
acquaintance in town; and yet told me the town was very full, and that
she had had a good deal of company. Her health is re-established, and we
must now be content that her mind is not restless. My pity now feels
most for Mrs. Hancock, whose patience is inexhaustible, though not

Mrs. Piozzi, I hear, has two volumes of Dr. Johnson's Letters ready for
publication. Bruce is printing his travels, which I suppose will prove
that his narratives were fabulous, as he will scarce repeat them by the
press. These, and two more volumes of Mr. Gibbon's "History," are all
the literary news I know. France seems sunk indeed in all respects. What
stuff are their theatrical goods, their "Richards," "Ninas," and
"Tarares"! But when their "Figaro"[1] could run threescore nights, how
despicable must their taste be grown! I rejoice that their political
intrigues are not more creditable. I do not dislike the French from the
vulgar antipathy between neighbouring nations, but for their insolent
and unfounded airs of superiority. In arms, we have almost always
outshone them: and till they have excelled Newton, and come near to
Shakspeare, pre-eminence in genius must remain with us. I think they are
most entitled to triumph over the Italians; as, with the most meagre and
inharmonious of all languages, the French have made more of that poverty
in tragedy and eloquence, than the Italians have done with the language
the most capable of both. But I did not mean to send you a dissertation.
I hope it will not be long before you remove to Hampton.--Yet why should
I wish that? You will only be geographically nearer to London till
February. Cannot you, now and then, sleep at the Adelphi on a visit to
poor Vesey and your friends, and let one know if you do?

[Footnote 1: "Le Mariage de Figaro" was a play by a man who assumed the
name of Beaumarchais (as Poquelin had taken the name of Moliere and
Arouet that of Voltaire); and the histories of both the author and the
play are curious. The author's real name was Caron, and he had been bred
a watchmaker. But he was ambitious; he gave up his trade, and bought a
place about the Court, which was among those which conferred gentility,
and which enabled him afterwards on one occasion to boast that he could
establish a better claim to the rank of noble than most of that body,
since he could produce a stamped receipt for it. He married two rich
widows. He next obtained the place of music-master on the harp to the
daughters of Louis XV., and conducted some of their concerts. He became
involved in a law-suit, which he conducted in person against some of the
most renowned advocates of the day, and gained great applause for the
talent he had exhibited in his pleadings. He crossed over to England,
where he made acquaintance with Wilkes and the agents of some of the
North American colonies, and became a volunteer agent for them himself
at the beginning of the American war, expending, according to his own
statement, 150,000 francs in the purchase of arms and stores, which he
sent out, when the President of Congress contented himself with thanking
him for his liberality, but refused to pay his bill. He resolved to try
his skill as a dramatist. His earlier plays were not particularly
successful, but in 1781 he produced "The Marriage of Figaro," a sort of
sequel to one of its predecessors, "The Barber of Seville." During the
progress of its composition he had shown some of the scenes to his
critical friends, who had pronounced it witty, and prophesied its
success. But it had also become known that it contained sarcasms on some
of the exclusive privileges of the nobles, and the officer who had
charge of such matters in consequence refused to license it for
performance, as a dangerous satire on the institutions of the country.
He had by this time made friends enough to form a party to remonstrate
against the hardship of the Censor's decision; till the King determined
to judge for himself, and caused Mme. Campau to read it to himself and
the Queen, when he fully agreed with the Censor, and expressed a
positive determination not to permit its performance. Unluckily he was
never firm in his resolutions; and Beaumarchais having secured the
patronage of Louis's brother, the Comte d'Artois, and Mme. de Polignac,
felt confident of carrying his point at last. His royal and noble
patrons arranged parties for private readings of the play. He then
declared, untruly, that he had altered all the passages which had been
deemed offensive, and Louis was weak enough to believe him without
further examination, and to sanction a private performance of it at the
country house of the Comte de Vandreuel. After this it was impossible to
exclude it from the theatre in Paris; and in April, 1784, it was acted
before an audience whom the long-continued contest had brought in
unprecedented numbers to hear it. If it had not been for the opposition
which had been made to it, it probably would never have attracted any
particular attention; for, though it was lively, and what managers call
a fair "acting play," it had no remarkable merit as a composition, and
depended for its attraction more on some of its surprises and
discoveries than on its wit. But its performance and the reception it
met with were regarded by a large political party as a triumph over the
Ministry; and French historical writers, to whatever party they belong,
agree in declaring that it had given a death-blow to many of the oldest
institutions of the country, and that Beaumarchais proved at once the
herald and the pioneer of the approaching Revolution. (See the Editor's
"Life of Marie Antoinette," c. 19.)]



Strawberry Hill, _July_ 12, 1788.

Won't you repent having opened the correspondence, my dear Madam, when
you find my letters come so thick upon you? In this instance, however, I
am only to blame in part, for being too ready to take advice, for the
sole reason for which advice ever is taken,--because it fell in with my

You said in your last that you feared you took up time of mine to the
prejudice of the public; implying, I imagine, that I might employ it in
composing. Waving both your compliment and my own vanity, I will speak
very seriously to you on that subject, and with exact truth. My simple
writings have had better fortune than they had any reason to expect; and
I fairly believe, in a great degree, because gentlemen-writers, who do
not write for interest, are treated with some civility if they do not
write absolute nonsense. I think so, because I have not unfrequently
known much better works than mine much more neglected, if the name,
fortune, and situation of the authors were below mine. I wrote early
from youth, spirits, and vanity; and from both the last when the first
no longer existed. I now shudder when I reflect on my own boldness; and
with mortification, when I compare my own writings with those of any
great authors. This is so true, that I question whether it would be
possible for me to summon up courage to publish anything I have written,
if I could recall time past, and should yet think as I think at present.
So much for what is over and out of my power. As to writing now, I have
totally forsworn the profession, for two solid reasons. One I have
already told you; and it is, that I know my own writings are trifling
and of no depth. The other is, that, light and futile as they were, I am
sensible they are better than I could compose now. I am aware of the
decay of the middling parts I had, and others may be still more sensible
of it. How do I know but I am superannuated? nobody will be so coarse as
to tell me so; but if I published dotage, all the world would tell me
so. And who but runs that risk who is an author after seventy? What
happened to the greatest author of this age, and who certainly retained
a very considerable portion of his abilities for ten years after my
age?[1] Voltaire, at eighty-four, I think, went to Paris to receive the
incense, in person, of his countrymen, and to be witness of their
admiration of a tragedy he had written, at that Methusalem age. Incense
he did receive till it choked him; and, at the exhibition of his play,
he was actually crowned with laurel in the box where he sat. But what
became of his poor play? It died as soon as he did--was buried with him;
and no mortal, I dare to say, has ever read a line of it since, it was
so bad.

[Footnote 1: Voltaire had for several years been in disgrace at Court,
and had been living in Switzerland; but in 1778 he returned to Paris to
superintend the performance of a new tragedy, "Irene." He was, however,
greatly mortified at the refusal of Marie Antoinette to allow him to be
presented to her, and was but partly comforted by the enthusiasm of the
audience at the theatre, who crowned him on the stage after the
performance. Mme. du Deffand, who, in a letter to Walpole a few days
before, had said that if the tragedy did not succeed it would kill him,
says in a subsequent letter that its success had been very
moderate--that the enthusiasm of the audience had been for Voltaire
himself; and at all events her prophecy was fulfilled, for he died a few
weeks afterwards.]

As I am neither by a thousandth part so great, nor a quarter so little,
I will herewith send you a fragment that an accidental _rencontre_ set
me upon writing, and which I find so flat, that I would not finish it.
Don't believe that I am either begging praise by the stale artifice of
hoping to be contradicted; or that I think there is any occasion to make
you discover my caducity. No; but the fragment contains a
curiosity--English verses written by a French Prince[1] of the Blood,
and which at first I had a mind to add to my "Royal and Noble Authors;"
but as he was not a royal author of ours, and as I could not please
myself with an account of him, I shall revert to my old resolution of
not exposing my pen's grey hairs.

[Footnote 1: He was the Duc d'Orleans, who was taken prisoner by Henry
V. at Agincourt, and was detained in England for twenty-five years. The
verses are published in "Walpole's Works," i. 564.]

Of one passage I must take notice; it is a little indirect sneer at our
crowd of authoresses. My choosing to send this to _you_, is a proof that
I think you an author, that is, a classic. But, in truth, I am
nauseated by the Madams Piozzi, &c., and the host of novel-writers in
petticoats, who think they imitate what is inimitable, "Evelina" and
"Cecilia."[1] Your candour, I know, will not agree with me, when I tell
you I am not at all charmed with Miss Seward[2] and Mr. Hayley[3] piping
to one another: but _you_ I exhort, and would encourage to write; and
flatter myself you will never be royally gagged and promoted to fold
muslins, as has been lately wittily said on Miss Burney, in the List of
five hundred living authors. _Your_ writings promote virtues; and their
increasing editions prove their worth and utility. If you question my
sincerity, can you doubt my admiring you, when you have gratified _my_
self-love so amply in your "Bas Bleu"? Still, as much as I love your
writings, I respect yet more your heart and your goodness. You are so
good that I believe you would go to heaven, even though there were no
Sunday, and only six _working_ days in the week. Adieu, my best Madam!

[Footnote 1: "Evelina" and "Cecilia" are novels by Miss Burney,
afterwards Mme. d'Arblay. The former was extravagantly praised by
Johnson and the Literary Club, and is probably a favourable specimen of
the style of the conversation of the day.]

[Footnote 2: Miss Seward was the authoress of that most ingenious riddle
on the letter _H_, and also of some volumes of poetry.]

[Footnote 3: Mr. Hayley was the author of several works in prose and
verse; in the latter, of a poem called "The Triumphs of Temper," and
entitled to the name, according to Byron, since "at least they triumphed
over his" ("English Bards and Scotch Reviewers").]



BERKELEY SQUARE, _Feb._ 12, 1789.

I now do believe that the King is coming to _him_self: not in the
language of the courtiers, to his senses--but from their proof, viz.,
that he is returned to his _what! what! what!_ which he used to prefix
to every sentence, and which is coming to his nonsense. I am
corroborated in this opinion by his having said much more sensible
things in his lunacy than he did when he was reckoned sane, which I do
not believe he has been for some years.

Well! now, how will this new change of scene operate? I fancy if any one
could win access to him, who would tell him the truth, he would be as
little pleased with his Queen, and his or her Pitt, as they will take
care he shall be with his sons. Would he admire the degradation of his
family in the person of all the Princes? or with the tripartite division
of Royalty between the Queen, the Prince, and Mr. Pitt, which I call a
_Trinity in disunity_? Will he be charmed with the Queen's admission to
power, which he never imparted to her? Will he like the discovery of his
vast private hoard? Will he be quite satisfied with the codicil to his
Will,[1] which she surreptitiously obtained from him in his frenzy _in
the first agony of her grief_? How will he digest that discovery of his
treasure, which will not diffuse great compassion when he shall next ask
a payment of his pretended debts? Before his madness he was indisposed
towards Pitt; will he be better pleased with him for his new dictatorial

[Footnote 1: "_His will._" This refers to a scandal propagated by some
of the opposition newspapers, for which there was not the slightest

Turn to the next page--to Ireland. They have chosen for themselves, it
is believed, a Regent without restrictions,[1] in scorn of the
Parliament of England, and in order further to assert their
independence. Will they recede? especially when their courtiers have
flown in the face of our domineering Minister? I do not think they will.
They may receive the King again on his recovery; but they have united
interests with the Prince, and act in league with him, that he may
pledge himself to them more deeply in future at least; they will
never again acknowledge any superiority in our Parliament, but rather
act in contradistinction.

[Footnote 1: "_Regent without restrictions._" The King, in the autumn of
1788, having fallen into a state of temporary derangement, Pitt proposed
that the Parliament should appoint the Prince of Wales Regent, with some
temporary limitations in the exercise of the power. Fox and his
followers contended that the Prince, being of full age, was as
absolutely entitled to the Regency as his right, as he would have been
to the Crown in the event of his father's death; and Grattan, who had a
paramount influence over the Irish Parliament, adopting Fox's view,
carried an address to the Prince, entreating him to take upon himself
the Regency as his right--a view which, of course, was incompatible with
any power of limiting his authority. Fortunately, before this address
could be acted upon, the King recovered. The matter unfortunately caused
great divisions in the Royal Family, to which Walpole alludes in the
latter part of the letter; the Queen considering (not without grounds)
that the Prince had shown unfilial eagerness to grasp at power; and
indeed he had already made it known that he had intended to dismiss Pitt
and to appoint Fox Prime Minister.]

[Illustration: Hand-written Letter]

_Feb. 22nd._

The person who was to have brought you this was prevented leaving town,
and therefore I did not finish my letter; but I believe I shall have
another opportunity of sending, and therefore I will make it ready.

Much has happened this last week. The Prince is Regent of Ireland
without limitations--a great point for his character; for Europe will
now see that it was a faction which fettered him here, and not his
unpopularity, for then would not he have been as much distasted in
Ireland? Indeed, their own Attorney-General made way for him by opposing
on the most injudicious of all pleas, that it would be necessary before
he could be Regent there, to set the _Great Seal of England_ to the act!
How could the fool imagine, that when that phantom had been invented
here, it would not be equally easy for the Irish to invent a parallel
phantom of their own? But though this compliment is most grateful to the
Prince at present, he will probably find hereafter that he has in effect
lost Ireland, who meant more to emancipate themselves from this country
than to compliment the Prince or contradict the English ministerial

What will be the consequence of that rapid turn in Ireland, even
immediately, who can tell? for the King is called recovered, and the
English Regency is suspended, with fresh and grievous insults to the
Prince, who with the Duke of York are violently hindered by the Queen
from even seeing their father, though she and their sisters play at
cards with him in an evening; and that the Chancellor was with him for
an hour and three quarters on the 19th.

Under colour of what new phantom her Majesty, the Chancellor,[1] and
Pitt will assume the Government, we shall know in two or three days; for
I do not suppose they will produce the King instantly, at the risk of
oversetting his head again, though they seem half as mad as he, and
capable of any violent act to maintain themselves. And so much the
better: I do not wish them temperate; and it looks as if people never
were so in minorities and incapacities of their kings. The Prince set
out as indiscreetly as Pitt.

[Footnote 1: The Chancellor was Lord Thurlow, an able but unprincipled
man. Johnson expressed a high opinion of him as an arguer "who brought
his mind to bear upon yours." But Fox declared his very face "proved him
an impostor, since no man could be as wise as he looked."]

Of the event I am very glad; it saves the Prince and the Opposition from
the rashness of changing the Administration on so precarious and
shackled a tenure, and it saves them too from the expense of
re-elections. If the King recovers, they are but where they were, but
with the advantage of having the Prince and Duke of York rooted in
aversion to the Ministers, and most unlikely to be governed by the
Queen. If the King relapses, the Opposition stock will rise; though in
the mean time I do not doubt but the nation will grow drunk with the
loyalty of rejoicing, for kings grow popular by whatever way they lose
their heads. Still, whatever eccentricity he attempts, it will be
imputed to his deranged understanding. And, however even Lord
Hawkesbury[1] may meditate the darkest mischiefs under the new fund of
pity and loyalty, he will _not_ be for extending the prerogative, which
must devolve (on any accident to the King) on the Prince, Duke of York,
or some of the Princes, who will all be linked in a common cause with
their brothers, who have been so grossly affronted; and Prince William,
the third, particularly so by the last cause of hindering his peerage
while abroad. The King's recovery before the Regency Act was passed will
be another great advantage to the Prince; his hands would have been so
shackled, that he could not have found places for half the expectants,
who will now impute their disappointments to the King's amendment, and
not to the Prince.

[Footnote 1: Lord Hawkesbury was afterwards promoted to the Earldom of
Liverpool, and was the father of the sagacious, prudent, but resolute
minister under whose administration the French Revolutionary War was
brought to a conclusion by the final overthrow of Napoleon.]

_Monday, 24th._

The King has seen the Prince [of Wales], and received him kindly, but
the Queen was present. Iron Pluto (as Burke called the Chancellor) wept
again when with the King; but what is much more remarkable, his Majesty
has not asked for Pitt, and did abuse him constantly during his frenzy.
The Chancellor certainly did not put him in mind of Pitt, whom he
detests; so there is a pretty portion of hatred to be quaffed amongst
them! and swallowed, if they can; yet _aurum potabile_ will make it sit
on their stomachs.



[Footnote 1: The lady to whom this letter is addressed was the elder of
two sisters who in 1787 came to reside with their father in Walpole's
neighbourhood. Both the sisters, according to his description of them,
were very accomplished and sufficiently good-looking. He gradually
became so enthusiastic in his regard for her, that he proposed to marry
her, old as he was, in order that he might have an excuse for leaving
her all his fortune; and he wrote the "Reminiscences of the Courts of
George I. and II.," which are among his published works, for the
amusement of the two sisters.]

STRAWBERRY HILL, _June_ 30, 1789.

Were there any such thing as sympathy at the distance of two hundred
miles, you would have been in a mightier panic than I was; for, on
Saturday se'nnight, going to open the glass case in the Tribune, my foot
caught in the carpet, and I fell with my whole weight (_si_ weight _y
a_) against the corner of the marble altar, on my side, and bruised the
muscles so badly, that for two days I could not move without screaming.
I am convinced I should have broken a rib, but that I fell on the cavity
whence two of my ribs were removed, that are gone to Yorkshire. I am
much better both of my bruise and of my lameness, and shall be ready to
dance at my own wedding when my wives return. And now to answer your

If you grow tired of the "Arabian Nights," you have no more taste than
Bishop Atterbury,[1] who huffed Pope for sending him them (or the
"Persian Tales"), and fancied he liked Virgil better, who had no more
imagination than Dr. Akenside. Read "Sinbad the Sailor's Voyages," and
you will be sick of Aeneas's. What woful invention were the nasty
poultry that dunged on his dinner, and ships on fire turned into
Nereids! A barn metamorphosed into a cascade in a pantomime is full as
sublime an effort of genius. I do not know whether the "Arabian Nights"
are of Oriental origin or not: I should think not, because I never saw
any other Oriental composition that was not bombast without genius, and
figurative without nature; like an Indian screen, where you see little
men on the foreground, and larger men hunting tigers above in the air,
which they take for perspective. I do not think the Sultaness's
narratives very natural or very probable, but there is a wildness in
them that captivates. However, if you could wade through two octavos of
Dame Piozzi's _though's_ and _so's_ and _I trow's_, and cannot listen to
seven volumes of Scheherezade's narrations, I will sue for a divorce _in
foro Parnassi_, and Boccalini shall be my proctor. The cause will be a
counterpart to the sentence of the Lacedaemonian, who was condemned for
breach of the peace, by saying in three words what he might have said in

[Footnote 1: Atterbury (Pope's "mitred Rochester") was Bishop of
Rochester in the reigns of Anne and George I. He was so violent in his
Jacobitism, that on the death of Queen Anne he offered to head a
procession to proclaim James III. as king at Charing Cross. Afterwards
Sir R. Walpole had evidence of his maintaining a treasonable
correspondence with the Court of St. Germains, sufficient to have
ensured his conviction, but, being always of a merciful disposition, and
naturally unwilling to bring a Bishop to the block, he contented himself
with passing a Bill of Pains and Penalties to deprive him of his
bishopric and banish him for life.]

You are not the first Eurydice[1] that has sent her husband to the
devil, as you have kindly proposed to me; but I will not undertake the
jaunt, for if old Nicholas Pluto should enjoin me not to look back to
you, I should certainly forget the prohibition like my predecessor.
Besides, I am a little too close to take a voyage twice which I am so
soon to repeat; and should be laughed at by the good folks on the other
side of the water, if I proposed coming back for a twinkling only. No; I
choose as long as I can

Still with my fav'rite Berrys to remain.

So, you was not quite satisfied, though you ought to have been
transported, with King's College Chapel, because it has no aisles, like
every common cathedral. I suppose you would object to a bird of
paradise, because it has no legs, but shoots to heaven in a trail, and
does not rest on earth. Criticism and comparison spoil many tastes. You
should admire all bold and unique essays that resemble nothing else; the
"Botanic Garden,"[2] the "Arabian Nights," and King's Chapel are above
all rules: and how preferable is what no one can imitate, to all that is
imitated even from the best models! Your partiality to the pageantry of
popery I do approve, and I doubt whether the world would not be a loser
(in its visionary enjoyments) by the extinction of that religion, as it
was by the decay of chivalry and the proscription of the heathen
deities. Reason has no invention; and as plain sense will never be the
legislator of human affairs, it is fortunate when taste happens to be

[Footnote 1: The story of Eurydice's death and the descent of Orpheus,
her husband, to hell for her recovery, with which Virgil closes the
fourth Georgic, is among the most exquisite passages in all Latin
poetry. Pope made it the subject of his Ode on St. Cecilia's Day; but if
Pluto and Proserpine really relented at the doggerel that the English
poet puts into the mouth of the half-divine minstrel, they cannot
deserve the title of _illacrymabiles_ which Horace gives them. Some of
the pedantic scientists (to borrow a new word) have discovered in this
tale of true love an allegory about the alternations of Day and Night,
Sun and Moon, and what not, for which they deserve the anathema of every
scholar and lover of true poetry.]

[Footnote 2: "The Botanic Garden," a poem by Dr. Darwin; chiefly
remembered for Mr. Gladstone's favourite "Upas-tree," a plant which has
not, and never had, any existence except in the fancy of some traveller,
who hoaxed the too-scientific poet with the story, which, years
afterwards, hoaxed the orator also.]



STRAWBERRY HILL, _Wednesday night, July_ 15, 1789.

I write a few lines only to confirm the truth of much of what you will
read in the papers from Paris. Worse may already be come, or is expected
every hour.

Mr. Mackenzie and Lady Betty called on me before dinner, after the post
was gone out; and he showed me a letter from Dutens, who said two
couriers arrived yesterday from the Duke of Dorset and the Duchess of
Devonshire, the latter of whom was leaving Paris directly. Necker had
been dismissed, and was thought to be set out for Geneva.[1] Breteuil,
who was at his country-house, had been sent for to succeed him. Paris
was in an uproar; and, after the couriers had left it, firing of cannon
was heard for four hours together. That must have been from the Bastile,
as probably the _tiers etat_ were not so provided. It is shocking to
imagine what may have happened in such a thronged city! One of the
couriers was stopped twice or thrice, as supposed to pass from the King;
but redeemed himself by pretending to be despatched by the _tiers etat_.
Madame de Calonne[2] told Dutens, that the newly encamped troops desert
by hundreds.

[Footnote 1: The Baron de Breteuil had been the Controller of the
Household, and was appointed Necker's successor; but his Ministry did
not last above a fortnight, as the King found himself compelled to
restore Necker.]

[Footnote 2: Mme. de Calonne's husband had been Prime Minister for some
years, having succeeded Necker in 1780.]

Here seems the egg to be hatched, and imagination runs away with the
idea. I may fancy I shall hear of the King and Queen leaving Versailles,
like Charles the First, and then skips imagination six-and-forty years
lower, and figures their fugitive Majesties taking refuge in this
country. I have besides another idea. If the Bastile conquers, still is
it impossible, considering the general spirit in the country, and the
numerous fortified places in France, but some may be seized by the
_dissidents_, and whole provinces be torn from the Crown? On the other
hand, if the King prevails, what heavy despotism will the _etats_, by
their want of temper and moderation, have drawn on their country! They
might have obtained many capital points, and removed great oppression.
No French monarch will ever summon _etats_ again, if this moment has
been thrown away.

Though I have stocked myself with such a set of visions for the event
either way, I do not pretend to foresee what will happen. Penetration
argues from reasonable probabilities; but chance and folly are apt to
contradict calculation, and hitherto they seem to have full scope for
action. One hears of no genius on either side, nor do symptoms of any
appear. There will perhaps: such times and tempests bring forth, at
least bring out, great men. I do not take the Duke of Orleans[1] or
Mirabeau[2] to be built _du bois dont on les fait_; no, nor Monsieur
Necker. He may be a great traitor, if he made the confusion designedly:
but it is a woful evasion, if the promised financier slips into a black
politician! I adore liberty, but I would bestow it as honestly as I
could; and a civil war, besides being a game of chance, is paying a very
dear price for it.

[Footnote 1: The Duke of Orleans, the infamous Egalite, fomented the
Revolution in the hope that it might lead to the deposition of the King,
and to his own election to the throne, as in England, a century before,
the Prince of Orange had succeeded James II. He voted for the death of
his cousin and king, and was, in just retribution, sent to the
guillotine by Robespierre at the end of the same year.]

[Footnote 2: Mirabeau was the most celebrated of all the earlier leaders
of the Revolution. At the time of this letter he had connected himself
closely with the Duc d'Orleans, in whose pay, in fact, he was, as his
profligacy and extravagance had long before dissipated all the property
which had fallen to his share as a younger son. Afterwards, on
discovering the cowardice and baseness of the Duke, he broke with him,
and exerted himself in the cause of the King, whom, indeed, he had
originally desired to support, if his advances had not been, with
incredible folly, rejected by Necker. But he had no time to repair the
mischief he had done, even if it had been in his power, which it
probably would not have been, since he died, after a short illness, in
April, 1791.]

For us, we are in most danger of a deluge; though I wonder we so
frequently complain of long rains. The saying about St. Swithin is a
proof of how often they recur; for proverbial sentences are the children
of experience, not of prophecy. Good night! In a few days I shall send
you a beautiful little poem from the Strawberry press.



STRAWBERRY HILL, _Wednesday night, July_ 1, 1790.

It is certainly not from having anything to tell you, that I reply so
soon, but as the most agreeable thing I can do in my confinement. The
gout came into my heel the night before last, perhaps from the deluge
and damp. I increased it yesterday by limping about the house with a
party I had to breakfast. To-day I am lying on the settee, unable to
walk alone, or even to put on a slipper. However, as I am much easier
this evening, I trust it will go off.

I do not love disputes, and shall not argue with you about Bruce; but,
if you like him, you shall not choose an author for me. It is the most
absurd, obscure, and tiresome book I know. I shall admire if you have a
clear conception about most of the persons and matters in his work; but,
in fact, I do not believe you have. Pray, can you distinguish between
his _cock_ and _hen_ Heghes, and between all Yasouses and Ozoros? and do
you firmly believe that an old man and his son were sent for and put to
death, because the King had run into a thorn-bush, and was forced to
leave his clothes behind him! Is it your faith, that one of their
Abyssinian Majesties pleaded not being able to contribute towards
sending for a new Abuna, because he had spent all his money at Venice in
looking-glasses? And do you really think that Peter Paez was a
Jack-of-all-trades, and built palaces and convents without assistance,
and furnished them with his own hands? You, who are a little apt to
contest most assertions, must have strangely let out your credulity! I
could put forty questions to you as wonderful; and, for my part, could
as soon credit ----.

I am tired of railing at French barbarity and folly. They are more
puerile now serious, than when in the long paroxysm of gay levity.
Legislators, a senate, to neglect laws, in order to annihilate coats of
arms and liveries! to pull down a King, and set up an Emperor! They are
hastening to establish the tribunal of the praetorian guards; for the
sovereignty, it seems, is not to be hereditary. One view of their Fete
of the 14th,[1] I suppose, is to draw money to Paris; and the
consequence will be, that the deputies will return to the provinces
drunk with independence and self-importance, and will commit fifty times
more excesses, massacres, and devastations, than last year. George
Selwyn says, that _Monsieur_, the King's brother, is the only man of
rank from whom they cannot take a title.

[Footnote 1: The grand federation in the Champ de Mars, on the
anniversary of the taking of the Bastile.]

How franticly have the French acted, and how rationally the Americans!
But Franklin and Washington were great men. None have appeared yet in
France; and Necker has only returned to make a wretched figure! He is
become as insignificant as his King; his name is never mentioned, but
now and then as disapproving something that is done. Why then does he
stay? Does he wait to strike some great stroke, when everything is
demolished? His glory, which consisted in being Minister though a
Protestant, is vanished by the destruction of Popery; the honour of
which, I suppose, he will scarce assume to himself. I have vented my
budget, and now good night! I feel almost as if I could walk up to bed.



BERKELEY SQUARE, _June_ 8, 1791.

Your No. 34, that was interrupted, and of which the last date was of May
24th, I received on the 6th, and if I could find fault, it would be in
the length; for I do not approve of your writing so much in hot weather,
for, be it known to you ladies, that from the first of the month, June
is not more June at Florence. My hay is crumbling away; and I have
ordered it to be cut, as a sure way of bringing rain. I have a selfish
reason, too, for remonstrating against long letters. I feel the season
advancing, when mine will be piteous short; for what can I tell you from
Twickenham in the next three or four months? Scandal from Richmond and
Hampton Court, or robberies at my own door? The latter, indeed, are
blown already. I went to Strawberry on Saturday, to avoid the Birthday
[4th June] crowd and squibs and crackers. At six I drove to Lord
Strafford's, where his goods are to be sold by auction; his sister, Lady
Anne [Conolly], intending to pull down the house and rebuild it. I
returned a quarter before seven; and in the interim between my Gothic
gate and Ashe's Nursery, a gentleman and gentlewoman, in a one-horse
chair and in the broad face of the sun, had been robbed by a single
highwayman, _sans_ mask. Ashe's mother and sister stood and saw it; but
having no notion of a robbery at such an hour in the high-road, and
before their men had left work, concluded it was an acquaintance of the
robber's. I suppose Lady Cecilia Johnstone will not descend from her
bedchamber to the drawing-room without life-guard men.

The Duke of Bedford eclipsed the whole birthday by his clothes,
equipage, and servants: six of the latter walked on the side of the
coach to keep off the crowd--or to tempt it; for their liveries were
worth an argosie. The Prince [of Wales] was gorgeous too: the latter is
to give Madame d'Albany[1] a dinner. She has been introduced to Mrs.
Fitzherbert.[2] You know I used to call Mrs. Cosway's concerts Charon's
boat: now, methinks, London is so. I am glad Mrs. C. [osway] is with
you; she is pleasing--but surely it is odd to drop a child and her
husband and country all in a breath!

[Footnote 1: Mme. d'Albany was the widow of Prince Charles Edward, who
had died in 1788 in Italy. She was presented at Court, and was
graciously received by the Queen. She was generally believed to be
married to the great Italian tragic poet, Alfieri. Since her husband's
death she had been living in Paris, but had now fled to England for

[Footnote 2: Mrs. Fitzherbert, the Roman Catholic lady whom the Prince
of Wales had married.]

I am glad you are dis_franchised_ of the exiles. We have several, I am
told, here; but I strictly confine myself to those I knew formerly at
Paris, and who all are quartered on Richmond-green. I went to them on
Sunday evening, but found them gone to Lord Fitzwilliam's, the next
house to Madame de Boufflers', to hear his organ; whither I followed
them, and returned with them. The Comtesse Emilie played on her harp;
then we all united at loto. I went home at twelve, unrobbed; and Lord
Fitzwilliam, who asked much after you both, was to set out the next
morning for Dublin, though intending to stay there but four days, and be
back in three weeks.

I am sorry you did not hear all Monsieur de Lally Tollendal's[1]
Tragedy, of which I have had a good account. I like his tribute to his
father's memory. Of French politics you must be tired; and so am I.
Nothing appears to me to promise their chaos duration; consequently I
expect more chaos, the sediment of which is commonly despotism. Poland
ought to make the French blush; but that, they are not apt to do on any

[Footnote 1: M. de Lally Tollendal was the son of that unfortunate Count
Lally, so iniquitously condemned for his conduct in the government of
India, as is mentioned in a former note.]

The Duke of St. Albans has cut down all the brave old trees at Hanworth,
and consequently reduced his park to what it issued
from--Hounslow-heath: nay, he has hired a meadow next to mine, for the
benefit of embarkation; and there lie all the good old corpses of oaks,
ashes, and chestnuts, directly before _your_ windows, and blocking up
one of my views of the river! but so impetuous is the rage for building,
that his Grace's timber will, I trust, not annoy us long. There will
soon be one street from London to Brentford; ay, and from London to
every village ten miles round! Lord Camden has just let ground at
Kentish Town for building fourteen hundred houses--nor do I wonder;
London is, I am certain, much fuller than ever I saw it. I have twice
this spring been going to stop my coach in Piccadilly, to inquire what
was the matter, thinking there was a mob--not at all; it was only
passengers. Nor is there any complaint of depopulation from the country:
Bath shoots out into new crescents, circuses, and squares every year:
Birmingham, Manchester, Hull, and Liverpool would serve any King in
Europe for a capital, and would make the Empress of Russia's mouth
water. Of the war with Catherine Slay-Czar I hear not a breath, and
thence conjecture it is dozing into peace.

Mr. Dundas[1] has kissed hands for Secretary of State; and Bishop
Barrington, of Salisbury, is transferred to Durham, which he affected
not to desire, having large estates by his wife in the south--but from
the triple mitre downwards, it is almost always true, what I said some
years ago, that "_nolo episcopari_ is Latin for _I lie_." Tell it not in
Gath that I say so; for I am to dine to-morrow at the Bishop of London's
at Fulham, with Hannah _Bonner_, my _imprimee_.[2] This morning I went
with Lysons the Reverend to see Dulwich College, founded in 1619 by
Alleyn, a player, which I had never seen in my many days. We were
received by a smart divine, _tres bien poudre_, and with black satin
breeches--but they are giving new wings and red satin breeches to the
good old hostel too, and destroying a gallery with a very rich ceiling;
and nothing will remain of ancient but the front, and an hundred mouldy
portraits, among apostles, sibyls, and Kings of England. On Sunday I
shall settle at Strawberry; and then woe betide you on post-days! I
cannot make news without straw. The Johnstones are going to Bath, for
the healths of both; so Richmond will be my only staple. Adieu, all

[Footnote 1: Mr. Dundas, President of the Board of Control, subsequently
raised to the peerage as Lord Melville. In Pitt's second administration
he became First Lord of the Admiralty, but in 1805 was impeached by the
House of Commons on a charge of malversation while Treasurer of the Navy
in Pitt's first Ministry. Of that he was acquitted; but it was proved
that some of the subordinate officers of the department had misapplied
large sums of the public money, which they could not have done if he had
not been grossly negligent of his duties as head of the department, and
he was consequently removed from the Privy Council.]

[Footnote 2: Miss Hannah More is meant; but I do not know what peculiar
cruelty of temper or practice entitled her to the name of Mary's
persecuting and pitiless Bishop.]



BERKELEY SQUARE, _Tuesday, Aug._ 23, 1791.

I am come to town to meet Mr. Conway and Lady Aylesbury; and, as I have
no letter from you yet to answer, I will tell you how agreeably I have
passed the last three days; though they might have been improved had you
shared them, as I wished, and as I _sometimes_ do wish. On Saturday
evening I was at the Duke of Queensberry's (at Richmond, _s'entend_)
with a small company: and there were Sir William Hamilton and Mrs.
Harte[1]; who, on the 3rd of next month, previous to their departure, is
to be made Madame l'Envoyee a Naples, the Neapolitan Queen having
promised to receive her in that quality. Here she cannot be presented,
where only such over-virtuous wives as the Duchess of Kingston and Mrs.
Hastings[2]--who could go with a husband in each hand--are admitted. Why
the Margravine of Anspach, with the same pretensions, was not, I do not
understand; perhaps she did not attempt it. But I forget to retract, and
make _amende honorable_ to Mrs. Harte. I had only heard of her
attitudes; and those, in dumb show, I have not yet seen. Oh! but she
sings admirably; has a very fine, strong voice; is an excellent buffa,
and an astonishing tragedian. She sung Nina in the highest perfection;
and there her attitudes were a whole theatre of grace and various

[Footnote 1: Mrs. Harte, the celebrated Lady Hamilton, with whom Nelson
was so intimately acquainted, though old Lord St. Vincent always
maintained that it had never been more than a purely Platonic
attachment. Her previous life, however, had been notoriously such as
rendered her inadmissible at our Court, though that of Naples was less

[Footnote 2: Mrs. Hastings, the wife of the great Governor-General, had
previously been married to Baron Imhoff, a German miniature painter; but
she had obtained a divorce from him, and, as the Baron returned to
Germany with an amount of riches that he could hardly have earned by
skill in his profession, the scandalous tongues of some of Hastings's
enemies imputed to him that he had, in fact, bought her of her husband.]

The next evening I was again at Queensberry House, where the Comtesse
Emilie de Boufflers played on her harp, and the Princesse di
Castelcigala, the Neapolitan minister's wife, danced one of her country
dances, with castanets, very prettily, with her husband. Madame du Barry
was there too, and I had a good deal of frank conversation with her
about Monsieur de Choiseul; having been at Paris at the end of his reign
and the beginning of hers, and of which I knew so much by my intimacy
with the Duchesse de Choiseul.

On Monday was the boat-race [at Richmond]. I was in the great room at
the Castle, with the Duke of Clarence, Lady Di., Lord Robert Spencer,
and the House of Bouverie, to see the boats start from the bridge to
Thistleworth, and back to a tent erected on Lord Dysart's meadow, just
before Lady Di.'s windows; whither we went to see them arrive, and where
we had breakfast. For the second heat, I sat in my coach on the bridge;
and did not stay for the third. The day had been coined on purpose, with
my favourite south-east wind. The scene, both up the river and down, was
what only Richmond upon earth can exhibit. The crowds on those green
velvet meadows and on the shores, the yachts, barges, pleasure and small
boats, and the windows and gardens lined with spectators, were so
delightful, that when I came home from that vivid show, I thought
Strawberry looked as dull and solitary as a hermitage. At night there
was a ball at the Castle, and illuminations, with the Duke's cypher, &c.
in coloured lamps, as were the houses of his Royal Highness's tradesmen.
I went again in the evening to the French ladies on the Green, where
there was a bonfire; but, you may believe, not to the ball.

Well! but you, who have had a fever with _fetes_, had rather hear the
history of the new _soi-disante_ Margravine. She has been in England
with her foolish Prince, and not only notified their marriage to the
Earl [of Berkeley] her brother, who did not receive it propitiously, but
his Highness informed his Lordship by a letter, that they have an usage
in his country of taking a wife with the left hand; that he had espoused
his Lordship's sister in that manner; and intends, as soon as she shall
be a widow, to marry her with his right hand also. The Earl replied,
that he knew she was married to an English peer [Lord Craven], a most
respectable man, and can know nothing of her marrying any other man; and
so they are gone to Lisbon. Adieu!



STRAWBERRY HILL, _Tuesday evening, eight o'clock, Oct._ 15, 1793.

Though I do not know when it will have its whole lading, I must begin my
letter this very moment, to tell you what I have just heard. I called on
the Princesse d'Hennin, who has been in town a week. I found her quite
alone, and I thought she did not answer quite clearly about her two
knights: the Prince de Poix has taken a lodging in town, and she talks
of letting her house here, if she can. In short, I thought she had a
little of an Ariadne-air--but this was not what I was in such a hurry to
tell you. She showed me several pieces of letters, I think from the
Duchesse de Bouillon: one says, the poor Duchesse de Biron is again
arrested[1] and at the Jacobins, and with her "une jeune etourdie, qui
ne fait que chanter toute la journee;" and who, think you, may that
be?--only our pretty little wicked Duchesse de Fleury! by her singing
and not sobbing, I suppose she was weary of her _Tircis_, and is glad to
be rid of him. This new blow, I fear, will overset Madame de Biron
again. The rage at Paris seems to increase daily or hourly; they either
despair, or are now avowed banditti. I tremble so much for the great and
most suffering victim of all, the Queen,[2] that one cannot feel so much
for many, as several perhaps deserve: but her tortures have been of far
longer duration than any martyrs, and more various; and her courage and
patience equal to her woes!

[Footnote 1: The Duchess, with scores of other noble ladies, was put to
death in the course of these two horrible years, 1793-94.]

[Footnote 2: Marie Antoinette was put to death the very next day. And I
cannot more fitly close the allusions to the Revolution so frequent in
the letters of the past four years than by Burke's description of this
pure and noble Queen in her youth: "It is now sixteen or seventeen years
since I saw the Queen of France, then the Dauphiness of Versailles; and
surely never lighted on this orb, which she hardly seemed to touch, a
more delightful vision. I saw her, just above the horizon, glittering
like the morning star, full of life and splendour and joy. Oh! what a
revolution! and what a heart must I have to contemplate without emotion
that elevation and that fall! Little did I dream, when she added titles
of veneration to those of enthusiastic, distant, respectful love, that
she should ever be obliged to carry the sharp antidote against disgrace
concealed in that bosom; little did I dream that I should have lived to
see such disasters fallen upon her in a nation of gallant men and
cavaliers. I thought ten thousand swords must have leaped from their
scabbards to avenge even a look that threatened her with insult"
("Reflections on the French Revolution ").]

My poor old friend, the Duchesse de la Valiere, past ninety and
stone-deaf, has a guard set upon her, but in her own house; her
daughter, the Duchesse de Chatillon, mother of the Duchesse de la
Tremouille, is arrested; and thus the last, with her attachment to the
Queen, must be miserable indeed!--but one would think I feel for nothing
but Duchesses: the crisis has crowded them together into my letter, and
into a prison;--and to be a prisoner among cannibals is pitiable indeed!

_Thursday morning, 17th, past ten._

I this moment receive the very comfortable twin-letter. I am so
conjugal, and so much in earnest upon the article of recovery, that I
cannot think of _a pretty thing_ to say to very pretty Mrs. Stanhope;
nor do I know what would be a pretty thing in these days. I might come
out with some old-fashioned compliment, that would have been very

In good Queen Bess's golden day, when I was a dame of honour.

Let Mrs. Stanhope imagine that I have said all she deserves: I certainly
think it, and will ratify it, when I have learnt the language of the
nineteenth century; but I really am so ancient, that as Pythagoras
imagined he had been Panthoides Euphorbus[1] in the Trojan war, I am
not sure that I did not ride upon a pillion behind a Gentleman-Usher,
when her Majesty Elizabeth went into procession to St. Paul's on the
defeat of the Armada! Adieu! the postman puts an end to my idle
speculations--but, Scarborough for ever! with three huzzas!

[Footnote 1: "_Euphorbus._" This is an allusion to the doctrine of
metempsychosis taught by the ancient philosopher Pythagoras of Samos,
according to which when a man died his soul remained in the shades below
suffering any punishment which the man had deserved, till after a
certain lapse of time all the taint of the former existence had been
worn away, when the soul returned to earth to animate some other body.
The passage referred to here by Walpole occurs in Ovid's
"Metamorphoses," xvi. 160, where Pythagoras is expounding his theory,
which is also explained to Aeneas by Anchises in the shades below
(Aeneid, vi. 745). But the two poets differ in more points than one.
According to Anchises, one thousand years are required between the two
existences; according to Pythagoras, not above four hundred or five
hundred. According to Anchises, before the soul revives in another body
it must have forgotten all that happened to it in the body of its former
owner. As Dryden translates Virgil--

Whole droves of minds are by the driving God
Compell'd to drink the deep Lethaean flood,
In large forgetful draughts to steep the cares
Of their past labours, and their irksome years;
That unremembering of its former pain
The soul may suffer mortal flesh again.

(Aeneid, vi. 1020).

Pythagoras, on the other hand, professes a distinct recollection of who
he was and what he suffered in his former life. He remembers that in the
time of the Trojan war (at the outside not five hundred years before his
time) he was a Trojan--Euphorbus, the son of Panthous--and that in the
war he was killed by Menelaus; and his memory is so accurate, that not
long before he had recognised the very shield which he had borne in the
conflict hanging up as a trophy in the temple of Juno at Argos.]



STRAWBERRY HILL, _July_ 2, 1795.

I will write a word to you, though scarce time to write one, to thank
you for your great kindness about the soldier, who shall get a
substitute if he can. As you are, or have been in town, your daughter
will have told you in what a bustle I am, preparing--not to resist, but
to receive an invasion of royalties to-morrow; and cannot even escape
them like Admiral Cornwallis, though seeming to make a semblance; for I
am to wear a sword, and have appointed two aides-de-camp, my nephews,
George and Horace Churchill. If I _fall_, as ten to one but I do, to be
sure it will be a superb tumble, at the feet of a Queen and eight
daughters of Kings; for, besides the six Princesses, I am to have the
Duchess of York and the Princess of Orange! Woe is me, at seventy-eight,
and with scarce a hand and foot to my back! Adieu! Yours, &c.



_July_ 7, 1795.

I am not dead of fatigue with my Royal visitors, as I expected to be,
though I was on my poor lame feet three whole hours. Your daughter [Mrs.
Damer], who kindly assisted me in doing the honours, will tell you the
particulars, and how prosperously I succeeded. The Queen was uncommonly
condescending and gracious, and deigned to drink my health when I
presented her with the last glass, and to thank me for all my
attentions.[1] Indeed my memory _de la vieille cour_ was but once in
default. As I had been assured that her Majesty would be attended by her
Chamberlain, yet was not, I had no glove ready when I received her at
the step of her coach: yet she honoured me with her hand to lead her up
stairs; nor did I recollect my omission when I led her down again.
Still, though gloveless, I did not squeeze the royal hand, as
Vice-chamberlain Smith[2] did to Queen Mary.

[Footnote 1: There cannot be a more fitting conclusion than this letter
recording the greatest honour conferred on the writer and his Strawberry
by the visit of the Queen of the realm and her condescending proposal of
his health at his own table.]

[Footnote 2: "_Vice-Chamberlain Smith._" An allusion to a gossiping
story of King William's time, that when Queen Mary came back to England
she asked one of her ladies what a squeeze of the hand was supposed to
intimate; and when the reply was, "Love," "Then," said Her Majesty, "my
Vice-Chancellor must be in love with me; for he always squeezes my

You will have stared, as I did, at the Elector of Hanover deserting his
ally the King of Great Britain, and making peace with the monsters. But
Mr. Fawkener, whom I saw at my sister's [Churchill's] on Sunday, laughs
at the article in the newspapers, and says it is not an unknown practice
for stock-jobbers to hire an emissary at the rate of five hundred
pounds, and dispatch to Franckfort, whence he brings forged attestations
of some marvellous political event, and spreads it on 'Change, which
produces such a fluctuation in the stocks as amply overpays the expense
of his mission.

This was all I learnt in the single night I was in town. I have not read
the new French constitution, which seems longer than probably its reign
will be. The five sovereigns will, I suppose, be the first guillotined.
Adieu! Yours ever.



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