Selected English Letters (XV - XIX Centuries)

Part 4 out of 7

add this to the other little things the counsellor already knew of his
plausible neighbour.

And now, my dear mother, I found sufficient to reconcile me to all
my follies; for here I spent three whole days. The counsellor had
two sweet girls to his daughters, who played enchantingly on the
harpsichord; and yet it was but a melancholy pleasure I felt the first
time I heard them: for that being the first time also that either of
them had touched the instrument since their mother's death, I saw
the tears in silence trickle down their father's cheeks. I every day
endeavoured to go away, but every day was pressed and obliged to stay.
On my going, the counsellor offered me his purse, with a horse and
servant to convey me home; but the latter I declined, and only took a
guinea to bear my necessary expenses on the road.


_In Scotland_

Edinburgh, 26 _Sept._ 1753


How many good excuses (and you know I was ever good at an excuse)
might I call up to vindicate my past shameful silence! I might tell
how I wrote a long letter on my first coming hither, and seem vastly
angry at my not receiving an answer; I might allege that business
(with business you know I was always pestered) had never given me
time to finger a pen--but I suppress those and twenty more equally
plausible, and as easily invented, since they might be attended with
a slight inconvenience of being known to be lies. Let me then speak
truth. An hereditary indolence (I have it from the mother's side) has
hitherto prevented my writing to you, and still prevents my writing
at least twenty-five letters more, due to my friends in Ireland. No
turnspit dog gets up into his wheel with more reluctance than I sit
down to write; yet no dog ever loved the roast meat he turns better
than I do him I now address. Yet what shall I say now I'm entered?
Shall I tire you with a description of this unfruitful country;
where I must lead you over their hills all brown with heath, or their
valleys scarce able to feed a rabbit? Man alone seems to be the only
creature who has arrived to the natural size in this poor soil. Every
part of the country presents the same dismal landscape. No grove, nor
brook, lend their music to cheer the stranger, or make the inhabitants
forget their poverty. Yet with all these disadvantages, enough to
call him down to humility, the Scotchman is one of the proudest things
alive. The poor have pride ever ready to relieve them. If mankind
should happen to despise them, they are masters of their own
admiration; and _that_ they can plentifully bestow upon themselves.

From their pride and poverty, as I take it, results one advantage this
country enjoys; namely, the gentlemen here are much better bred than
amongst us. No such characters here as our fox-hunters; and they have
expressed great surprise when I informed them that some men in Ireland
of one thousand pounds a-year spend their whole lives in running after
a hare, and drinking to be drunk; and truly, if such a being, equipped
in his hunting dress, came among a circle of Scotch gentry, they would
behold him with the same astonishment that a countryman would King
George on horseback.

The men here have generally high cheek-bones, and are lean and
swarthy, fond of action, dancing in particular. Though now I mention
dancing, let me say something of their balls, which are very frequent
here. When a stranger enters the dancing-hall, he sees one end of
the room taken up with the ladies, who sit dismally in a group by
themselves; on the other end stand their pensive partners that are to
be; but no more intercourse between the sexes than there is between
two countries at war. The ladies indeed may ogle, and the gentlemen
sigh; but an embargo is laid on any closer commerce. At length, to
interrupt hostilities, the lady directress, or intendant, or what you
will, pitches on a gentleman and lady to walk a minuet; which they
perform with a formality that approaches to despondence. After five
or six couple have thus walked the gauntlet, all stand up to country
dances; each gentleman furnished with a partner from the aforesaid
lady directress; so they dance much and say nothing, and thus
concludes our assembly. I told a Scotch gentleman that such profound
silence resembled the ancient procession of the Roman matrons in
honour of Ceres; and the Scotch gentleman told me (and, faith, I
believe he was right) that I was a very great pedant for my pains.

Now I am come to the ladies; and to show that I love Scotland, and
everything that belongs to so charming a country, I insist on it, and
will give him leave to break my head that denies it--that the Scotch
ladies are ten thousand times handsomer and finer than the Irish. To
be sure, now, I see your sisters Betty and Peggy vastly surprised at
my partiality, but tell them flatly, I don't value them, or their fine
skins, or eyes, or good sense, or--, a potato; for I say it, and will
maintain it, and as a convincing proof (I'm in a very great passion)
of what I assert, the Scotch ladies say it themselves. But to be less
serious; where will you find a language so pretty become a pretty
mouth as the broad Scotch? and the women here speak it in its highest
purity; for instance, teach one of their young ladies to pronounce
'Whoar wull I gong?' with a becoming wideness of mouth, and I'll lay
my life they will wound every hearer.

We have no such character here as a coquet, but alas! how many envious
prudes! Some days ago I walked into my Lord Kilcoubry's (don't be
surprised, my lord is but a glover), when the Duchess of Hamilton
(that fair who sacrificed her beauty to ambition, and her inward peace
to a title and gilt equipage) passed by in her chariot; her battered
husband, or more properly the guardian of her charms, sat by her side.
Straight envy began, in the shape of no less than three ladies who sat
with me, to find faults in her faultless form.--'For my part,' says
the first, 'I think what I always thought, that the Duchess has too
much red in her complexion.' 'Madam, I'm of your opinion,' says the
second; 'I think her face has a palish cast too much on the delicate
order.' 'And let me tell you,' adds the third lady, whose mouth was
puckered up to the size of an issue, 'that the Duchess has fine lips,
but she wants a mouth.'--At this every lady drew up her lips as if
going to pronounce the letter P.

But how ill, my Bob, does it become me to ridicule women with whom
I have scarce any correspondence! There are, 'tis certain, handsome
women here; and 'tis as certain there are handsome men to keep them
company. An ugly and a poor man is society for himself; and such
society the world lets me enjoy in great abundance. Fortune has given
you circumstances, and nature a person to look charming in the eyes of
the fair world. Nor do I envy my dear Bob such blessings, while I may
sit down and laugh at the world and at myself, the most ridiculous
object in it. But I begin to grow splenetic, and perhaps the fit may
continue till I receive an answer to this. I know you can't send news
from Ballymahon, but such as it is, send it all; everything you write
will be agreeable and entertaining to me.

Has George Conway put up a sign yet; or John Finecly left off drinking
drams; or Tom Allen got a new wig? But I leave to your own choice what
to write. While Oliver Goldsmith lives, know you have a friend.

PS.--Give my sincere respects (not compliments, do you mind) to your
agreeable family, and give my service to my mother, if you see her;
for, as you express it in Ireland, I have a sneaking kindness for her

Direct to me,--Student in Physic, in Edinburgh.


_In Holland_,

Leyden, _April_ or _May, 1754_.


I suppose by this time I am accused of either neglect or ingratitude,
and my silence imputed to my usual slowness of writing. But believe
me, Sir, when I say, that till now I had not an opportunity of sitting
down with that ease of mind which writing required. You may see by the
top of the letter that I am at Leyden; but of my journey hither you
must be informed. Some time after the receipt of your last, I embarked
for Bordeaux, on board a Scotch ship called the _St. Andrews_, Capt.
John Wall, master. The ship made a tolerable appearance, and as
another inducement, I was let to know that six agreeable passengers
were to be my company. Well, we were but two days at sea when a storm
drove us into a city of England called Newcastle-upon-Tyne. We all
went ashore to refresh us after the fatigue of our voyage. Seven men
and I were one day on shore, and on the following evening as we were
all very merry, the room door bursts open, enters a sergeant and
twelve grenadiers with their bayonets screwed, and puts us all under
the King's arrest. It seems my company were Scotchmen in the French
service, and had been in Scotland to enlist soldiers for the French
army. I endeavoured all I could to prove my innocence; however, I
remained in prison with the rest a fortnight, and with difficulty got
off even then. Dear Sir, keep this all a secret, or at least say it
was for debt; for if it were once known at the University, I should
hardly get a degree. But hear how Providence interposed in my favour;
the ship was gone on to Bordeaux before I got from prison, and was
wrecked at the mouth of the Garonne, and every one of the crew were
drowned. It happened the last great storm. There was a ship at that
time ready for Holland. I embarked, and in nine days, thank my God, I
arrived safe at Rotterdam; whence I travelled by land to Leyden; and
whence I now write.

You may expect some account of this country, and though I am not well
qualified for such an undertaking, yet shall I endeavour to satisfy
some part of your expectations. Nothing surprised me more than the
books every day published, descriptive of the manners of this country.
Any young man who takes it into his head to publish his travels,
visits the countries he intends to describe; passes through them with
as much inattention as his _valet de chambre_; and consequently not
having a fund himself to fill a volume, he applies to those who wrote
before him, and gives us the manners of a country, not as he must have
seen them, but such as they might have been fifty years before. The
modern Dutchman is quite a different creature from him of former
times; he in everything imitates a Frenchman but in his easy
disengaged air, which is the result of keeping polite company.
The Dutchman is vastly ceremonious, and is perhaps exactly what a
Frenchman might have been in the reign of Louis XIV. Such are the
better-bred. But the downright Hollander is one of the oddest figures
in nature. Upon a head of lank hair he wears a half-cocked narrow hat
laced with black ribbon: no coat, but seven waistcoats, and nine pairs
of breeches; so that his hips reach almost up to his armpits. This
well-clothed vegetable is now fit to see company, or make love. But
what a pleasing creature is the object of his appetite? Why, she
wears a large fur cap with a deal of Flanders lace: for every pair of
breeches he carries, she puts on two petticoats.

A Dutch lady burns nothing about her phlegmatic admirer but his
tobacco. You must know, Sir, every woman carries in her hand a
stove with coals in it, which, when she sits, she snugs under her
petticoats; and at this chimney dozing Strephon lights his pipe. I
take it that this continual smoking is what gives the man the ruddy
healthful complexion he generally wears, by draining his superfluous
moisture, while the woman, deprived of this amusement, overflows with
such viscidities as tint the complexion, and give that paleness of
visage which low fenny grounds and moist air conspire to cause. A
Dutch woman and Scotch will well bear an opposition.

The one is pale and fat, the other lean and ruddy: the one walks as if
she were straddling after a go-cart, and the other takes too masculine
a stride. I shall not endeavour to deprive either country of its share
of beauty; but must say, that of all objects on this earth, an English
farmer's daughter is most charming. Every woman there is a complete
beauty, while the higher class of women want many of the requisites to
make them even tolerable. Their pleasures here are very dull, though
very various. You may smoke, you may doze; you may go to the
Italian comedy, as good an amusement as either of the former. This
entertainment always brings in Harlequin, who is generally a magician,
and in consequence of his diabolical art performs a thousand tricks on
the rest of the persons of the drama, who are all fools. I have seen
the pit in a roar of laughter at this humour, when with his sword he
touches the glass from which another was drinking. 'Twas not his face
they laughed at, for that was masked. They must have seen something
vastly queer in the wooden sword, that neither I, nor you, Sir, were
you there, could see.

In winter, when their canals are frozen, every house is forsaken, and
all people are on the ice; sleds, drawn by horses, and skating, are at
that time the reigning amusements. They have boats here that slide
on the ice, and are driven by the winds. When they spread all their
sails, they go more than a mile and a half a minute, and their motion
is so rapid the eye can scarcely accompany them. Their ordinary manner
of travelling is very cheap and very convenient: they sail in covered
boats drawn by horses; and in these you are sure to meet people of all
nations. Here the Dutch slumber, the French chatter, and the English
play at cards. Any man who likes company may have them to his taste.
For my part I generally detached myself from all society, and was
wholly taken up in observing the face of the country. Nothing can
equal its beauty; wherever I turn my eye, fine houses, elegant
gardens, statues, grottos, vistas, presented themselves; but when you
enter their towns you are charmed beyond description. No misery is to
be seen here; every one is usefully employed.

Scotland and this country bear the highest contrast. There hills and
rocks intercept every prospect; here 'tis all a continued plain. There
you might see a well-dressed duchess issuing from a dirty close; and
here a dirty Dutchman inhabiting a palace. The Scotch may be compared
to a tulip planted in dung; but I never see a Dutchman in his own
house, but I think of a magnificent Egyptian temple dedicated to an
ox. Physic is by no means here taught so well as in Edinburgh; and
in all Leyden there are but four British students, owing to all
necessaries being so extremely dear, and the professors so very lazy
(the chemical professor excepted), that we don't much care to come
hither. I am not certain how long my stay here may be; however, I
expect to have the happiness of seeing you at Kilmore, if I can, next

Direct to me, if I am honoured with a letter from you, to Madam
Diallion's at Leyden.

Thou best of men, may Heaven guard and preserve you, and those you


_Family matters_


... Imagine to yourself a pale, melancholy visage, with two great
wrinkles between the eyebrows, with an eye disgustingly severe, and a
big wig; and you may have a perfect picture of my present appearance.
On the other hand, I conceive you as perfectly sleek and healthy,
passing many a happy day among your own children, or those who knew
you a child.

Since I knew what it was to be a man, this is a pleasure I have not
known. I have passed my days among a parcel of cool, designing beings,
and have contracted all their suspicious manner in my own behaviour. I
should actually be as unfit for the society of my friends at home, as
I detest that which I am obliged to partake of here. I can now neither
partake of the pleasure of a revel, nor contribute to raise its
jollity. I can neither laugh nor drink; have contracted a hesitating,
disagreeable manner of speaking, and a visage that looks ill-nature
itself; in short, I have thought myself into a settled melancholy, and
an utter disgust of all that life brings with it. Whence this romantic
turn that all our family are possessed with? Whence this love for
every place and every country but that in which we reside--for every
occupation but our own? this desire of fortune, and yet this eagerness
to dissipate? I perceive, my dear sir, that I am at intervals
for indulging this splenetic manner, and following my own taste,
regardless of yours.

The reasons you have given me for breeding up your son as a scholar
are judicious and convincing; I should, however, be glad to know for
what particular profession he is designed. If he be assiduous and
divested of strong passions (for passions in youth always lead to
pleasure), he may do very well in your college; for it must be owned
that the industrious poor have good encouragement there, perhaps
better than in any other in Europe. But if he has ambition, strong
passions, and an exquisite sensibility of contempt, do not send him
there, unless you have no other trade for him except your own. It is
impossible to conceive how much may be done by a proper education
at home. A boy, for instance, who understands perfectly well Latin,
French, Arithmetic, and the principles of the Civil Law, and can
write a fine hand, has an education that may qualify him for any
undertaking; and these parts of learning should be better inculcated,
let him be designed for whatever calling he will.

Above all things let him never touch a romance or novel; these paint
beauty in colours more charming than nature, and describe happiness
that man never tastes. How delusive, how destructive are those
pictures of consummate bliss! They teach the youthful mind to sigh
after beauty and happiness that never existed; to despise the little
good which fortune has mixed in our cup, by expecting more than she
ever gave; and, in general, take the word of a man who has seen
the world and who has studied human nature more by experience than
precept; take my word for it, that books teach us very little of the
world. The greatest merit in a state of poverty would only serve to
make the possessor ridiculous--may distress, but cannot relieve him.
Frugality, and even avarice, in the lower orders of mankind, are
true ambition. These afford the only ladder for the poor to rise to
preferment. Teach then, my dear sir, to your son thrift and economy.
Let his poor wandering uncle's example be placed before his eyes. I
had learned from books to be disinterested and generous, before I
was taught from experience the necessity of being prudent. I had
contracted the habits and notions of a philosopher, while I was
exposing myself to the insidious approaches of cunning: and often by
being, even with my narrow finances, charitable to excess, I forgot
the rules of justice, and placed myself in the very situation of the
wretch who thanked me for my bounty. When I am in the remotest part of
the world, tell him this, and perhaps he may improve from my example.
But I find myself again falling into my gloomy habits of thinking.

My mother, I am informed, is almost blind; even though I had the
utmost inclination to return home, under such circumstances I could
not, for to behold her in distress without a capacity of relieving her
from it, would add much too to my splenetic habit. Your last letter
was much too short; it should have answered some queries I had made
in my former. Just sit down as I do, and write forward until you have
filled all your paper. It requires no thought, at least from the ease
with which my own sentiments rise when they are addressed to you. For,
believe me, my head has no share in all I write; my heart dictates the
whole. Pray give my love to Bob Bryanton, and entreat him from me not
to drink. My dear sir, give me some account about poor Jenny. Yet her
husband loves her: if so, she cannot be unhappy.

I know not whether I should tell you--yet why should I conceal those
trifles, or indeed anything from you? There is a book of mine will be
published in a few days: the life of a very extraordinary man; no less
than the great Voltaire. You know already by the title that it is no
more than a catch-penny. However, I spent but four weeks on the whole
performance, for which I received twenty pounds. When published, I
shall take some method of conveying it to you, unless you may think
it dear of the postage, which may amount to four or five shillings.
However, I fear you will not find an equivalent of amusement.

Your last letter, I repeat it, was too short; you should have given me
your opinion of the design of the heroi-comical poem which I sent you.
You remember I intended to introduce the hero of the poem as lying in
a paltry ale-house. You may take the following specimen of the manner,
which I flatter myself is quite original. The room in which he lies
may be described somewhat this way:

The window, patched with paper, lent a ray
That feebly show'd the state in which he lay;
The sandy floor that grits beneath the tread,
The humid wall with paltry pictures spread;
The game of goose was there exposed to view,
And the twelve rules the royal martyr drew;
The Seasons, framed with listing, found a place,
And Prussia's monarch show'd his lamp-black face.
The morn was cold: he views with keen desire
A rusty grate, unconscious of a fire;
An unpaid reckoning on the frieze was scored,
And five crack'd teacups dress'd the chimney board.

And now imagine after his soliloquy, the landlord to make his
appearance in order to dun him for the reckoning:

Not with that face, so servile and so gay,
That welcomes every stranger that can pay:
With sulky eye he smoked the patient man,
Then pull'd his breeches tight, and thus began, &c.

All this is taken, you see, from nature. It is a good remark of
Montaigne's, that the wisest men often have friends with whom they
do not care how much they play the fool. Take my present follies
as instances of regard. Poetry is a much easier and more agreeable
species of composition than prose; and, could a man live by it, it
were not unpleasant employment to be a poet. I am resolved to leave no
space, though I should fill it up only by telling you, what you very
well know already, I mean that I am

Your most affectionate friend and brother.




_Escapade of Puss_

21 Aug. 1780.

The following occurrence ought not to be passed over in silence, in
a place where so few notable ones are to be met with. Last Wednesday
night, while we were at supper, between the hours of eight and nine, I
heard an unusual noise in the back parlour, as if one of the hares was
entangled, and endeavouring to disengage herself. I was just going to
rise from table, when it ceased. In about five minutes, a voice on the
outside of the parlour door inquired if one of my hares had got
away. I immediately rushed into the next room, and found that my
poor favourite Puss had made her escape. She had gnawed in sunder the
strings of a lattice work, with which I thought I had sufficiently
secured the window, and which I preferred to any other sort of blind,
because it admitted plenty of air. From thence I hastened to the
kitchen, where I saw the redoubtable Thomas Freeman, who told me,
that having seen her, just after she had dropped into the street, he
attempted to cover her with his hat, but she screamed out, and leaped
directly over his head. I then desired him to pursue as fast as
possible, and added Richard Coleman to the chase, as being nimbler,
and carrying less weight than Thomas; not expecting to see her again,
but desirous to learn, if possible, what became of her. In something
less than an hour, Richard returned, almost breathless, with the
following account. That soon after he began to run, he left Tom
behind him, and came in sight of a most numerous hunt of men, women,
children, and dogs; that he did his best to keep back the dogs, and
presently outstripped the crowd, so that the race was at last disputed
between himself and Puss;--she ran right through the town, and down
the lane that leads to Dropshort; a little before she came to the
house, he got the start and turned her; she pushed for the town
again, and soon after she entered it, sought shelter in Mr. Wagstaff's
tanyard, adjoining to old Mr. Drake's. Sturges's harvest men were
at supper, and saw her from the opposite side of the way. There she
encountered the tanpits full of water; and while she was struggling
out of one pit, and plunging into another, and almost drowned, one of
the men drew her out by the ears, and secured her. She was then well
washed in a bucket to get the lime out of her coat, and brought home
in a sack at ten o'clock.

This frolic cost us four shillings, but you may believe we did not
grudge a farthing of it. The poor creature received only a little hurt
in one of her claws, and in one of her ears, and is now almost as well
as ever.

I do not call this an answer to your letter, but such as it is I send
it, presuming upon that interest which I know you take in my minutest
concerns, which I cannot express better than in the words of Terence a
little varied--_Nihil mei a te alienum putas._


_A laugh that hurts nobody_

_18 Nov. 1782._


... I little thought when I was writing the history of John Gilpin,
that he would appear in print--I intended to laugh, and to make two
or three others laugh, of whom you were one. But now all the world
laughs, at least if they have the same relish for a tale ridiculous in
itself, and quaintly told, as we have.--Well--they do not always laugh
so innocently, or at so small an expense--for in a world like this,
abounding with subjects for satire, and with satirical wits to mark
them, a laugh that hurts nobody has at least the grace of novelty to
recommend it. Swift's darling motto was, _Vive la bagatelle_--a good
wish for a philosopher of his complexion, the greater part of whose
wisdom, whencesoever it came, most certainly came not from above. _La
bagatelle_ has no enemy in me, though it has neither so warm a friend,
nor so able a one, as it had in him. If I trifle, and merely trifle,
it is because I am reduced to it by necessity--a melancholy, that
nothing else so effectually disperses, engages me sometimes in the
arduous task of being merry by force. And, strange as it may seem,
the most ludicrous lines I ever wrote have been written in the saddest
mood, and, but for that saddest mood, perhaps had never been written
at all. To say truth, it would be but a shocking vagary, should
the mariners on board a ship buffeted by a terrible storm, employ
themselves in fiddling and dancing; yet sometimes much such a part act


_Village politicians_

_26 Jan. 1783._


It is reported among persons of the best intelligence at Olney--the
barber, the schoolmaster, and the drummer of a corps quartered at
this place,--that the belligerent powers are at last reconciled, the
articles of the treaty adjusted, and that peace is at the door. I saw
this morning, at nine o'clock, a group of about twelve figures very
closely engaged in a conference, as I suppose, upon the same subject.
The scene of consultation was a blacksmith's shed, very comfortably
screened from the wind, and directly opposed to the morning sun. Some
held their hands behind them, some had them folded across their bosom,
and others had thrust them into their breeches pockets. Every man's
posture bespoke a pacific turn of mind; but the distance being too
great for their words to reach me, nothing transpired. I am willing,
however, to hope that the secret will not be a secret long, and that
you and I, equally interested in the event, though not, perhaps,
equally well-informed, shall soon have an opportunity to rejoice in
the completion of it. The powers of Europe have clashed with each
other to a fine purpose; that the Americans, at length declared
independent, may keep themselves so, if they can; and that what the
parties, who have thought proper to dispute upon that point, have
wrested from each other in the course of the conflict, may be, in the
issue of it, restored to the proper owner. Nations may be guilty of
a conduct that would render an individual infamous for ever; and
yet carry their heads high, talk of their glory, and despise their
neighbours. Your opinions and mine, I mean our political ones, are
not exactly of a piece, yet I cannot think otherwise upon this subject
than I have always done. England, more, perhaps, through the fault of
her generals, than her councils, has in some instances acted with a
spirit of cruel animosity she was never chargeable with till now. But
this is the worst that can be said. On the other hand, the Americans,
who, if they had contented themselves with a struggle for lawful
liberty, would have deserved applause, seem to me to have incurred
the guilt of parricide, by renouncing their parent, by making her ruin
their favourite object, and by associating themselves with her worst
enemy, for the accomplishment of their purpose. France, and of course
Spain, have acted a treacherous, a thievish part. They have stolen
America from England, and whether they are able to possess themselves
of that jewel or not hereafter, it was doubtless what they intended.
Holland appears to me in a meaner light than any of them. They
quarrelled with a friend for an enemy's sake. The French led them
by the nose, and the English have threshed them for suffering it.
My views of the contest being, and having been always such, I have
consequently brighter hopes for England than her situation some time
since seemed to justify. She is the only injured party. America may,
perhaps, call her the aggressor; but if she were so, America has
not only repelled the injury, but done a greater. As to the rest, if
perfidy, treachery, avarice, and ambition can prove their cause to
have been a rotten one, those proofs are found upon them. I think,
therefore, that whatever scourge may be prepared for England, on some
future day, her ruin is not yet to be expected. Acknowledge, now, that
I am worthy of a place under the shed I described, and that I should
make no small figure among the _quidnuncs_ of Olney....


_Village justice_

17 _Nov_. 1783.


... The country around us is much alarmed with apprehensions of fire.
Two have happened since that of Olney. One at Hitchin, where the
damage is said to amount to eleven thousand pounds, and another, at
a place not far from Hitchin, of which I have not learnt the name.
Letters have been dropped at Bedford, threatening to burn the town;
and the inhabitants have been so intimidated, as to have placed a
guard in many parts of it, several nights past. Some madman or some
devil has broke loose, who it is to be hoped will pay dear for these
effusions of his malignity. Since our conflagration here, we have sent
two women and a boy to the justice, for depredation; Sue Riviss, for
stealing a piece of beef, which, in her excuse, she said she intended
to take care of. This lady, whom you will remember, escaped for want
of evidence; not that evidence was indeed wanting, but our men of
Gotham judged it unnecessary to send it. With her went the woman I
mentioned before, who, it seems, has made some sort of profession,
but upon this occasion allowed herself a latitude of conduct rather
inconsistent with it, having filled her apron with wearing apparel,
which she likewise intended to take care of. She would have gone to
the county gaol, had Billy Raban, the baker's son, who prosecuted,
insisted on it, but he good-naturedly, though I think weakly,
interposed in her favour, and begged her off. The young gentleman who
accompanied these fair ones is the junior son of Molly Boswell. He
had stolen some iron-work, the property of Griggs, the butcher. Being
convicted, he was ordered to be whipt, which operation he underwent
at the cart's tail, from the stone-house to the high arch, and back
again. He seemed to show great fortitude, but it was all an imposition
upon the public. The beadle, who performed, had filled his left hand
with red ochre, through which, after every stroke, he drew the lash
of his whip, leaving the appearance of a wound upon the skin, but in
reality not hurting him at all. This being perceived by Mr. Constable
Hinschcomb, who followed the beadle, he applied his cane, without any
such management or precaution, to the shoulders of the too merciful
executioner. The scene immediately became more interesting. The beadle
could by no means be prevailed upon to strike hard, which provoked the
constable to still harder; and this double flogging continued, till a
lass of Silverend, pitying the pitiful beadle thus suffering under the
hands of the pitiless constable, joined the procession, and placing
herself immediately behind the latter, seized him by his capillary
club, and pulling him backwards by the same, slapt his face with a
most Amazonian fury. This concatenation of events has taken up more of
my paper than I intended it should, but I could not forbear to inform
you how the beadle thrashed the thief, the constable the beadle,
and the lady the constable, and how the thief was the only one who
suffered nothing. Mr. Teedon has been here, and is gone again. He came
to thank me for an old pair of breeches. In answer to our inquiries
after his health, he replied that he had a slow fever, which made
him take all possible care not to inflame his blood. I admitted
his prudence, but in his particular instance could not very clearly
discern the need of it. Pump water will not heat him much; and, to
speak a little in his own style, more inebriating fluids are to him,
I fancy, not very attainable. He brought us news, the truth of which,
however, I do not vouch for, that the town of Bedford was actually on
fire yesterday, and the flames not extinguished when the bearer of the
tidings left it.

Swift observes, when he is giving his reasons why the preacher is
elevated always above his hearers, that let the crowd be as great as
it will below, there is always room enough overhead. If the French
philosophers can carry their art of flying to the perfection they
desire, the observation may be reversed, the crowd will be overhead,
and they will have most room who stay below. I can assure you,
however, upon my own experience, that this way of travelling is
very delightful. I dreamt, a night or two since, that I drove myself
through the upper regions in a balloon and pair, with the greatest
ease and security. Having finished the tour I intended, I made a short
turn, and, with one flourish of my whip, descended; my horses prancing
and curvetting with an infinite share of spirit, but without the least
danger, either to me or my vehicle. The time, we may suppose, is at
hand, and seems to be prognosticated by my dream, when these airy
excursions will be universal, when judges will fly the circuit,
and bishops their visitations; and when the tour of Europe will be
performed with much greater speed, and with equal advantage, by all
who travel merely for the sake of having it to say that they have made

I beg that you will accept for yourself and yours our unfeigned love,
and remember me affectionately to Mr. Bacon, when you see him.


_A candidate's visit_

29 _March_, 1784.


It being his majesty's pleasure that I should yet have another
opportunity to write before he dissolves the parliament, I avail
myself of it with all possible alacrity. I thank you for your last,
which was not the less welcome for coming, like an extraordinary
gazette, at a time when it was not expected.

As when the sea is uncommonly agitated, the water finds its way into
creeks and holes of rocks, which in its calmer state it never reaches,
in like manner the effect of these turbulent times is felt even at
Orchard-side, where in general we live as undisturbed by the political
element, as shrimps or cockles that have been accidentally deposited
in some hollow beyond the water mark, by the usual dashing of the
waves. We were sitting yesterday after dinner, the two ladies and
myself, very composedly, and without the least apprehension of any
such intrusion in our snug parlour, one lady knitting, the other
netting, and the gentleman winding worsted, when to our unspeakable
surprise a mob appeared before the window; a smart rap was heard at
the door, the boys halloo'd, and the maid announced Mr. Grenville.
Puss was unfortunately let out of her box, so that the candidate, with
all his good friends at his heels, was refused admittance at the grand
entry, and referred to the back door, as the only possible way of
approach. Candidates are creatures not very susceptible of affronts,
and would rather, I suppose, climb in at a window, than be absolutely
excluded. In a minute, the yard, the kitchen, and the parlour, were
filled. Mr. Grenville, advancing toward me, shook me by the hand with
a degree of cordiality that was extremely seducing. As soon as he and
as many more as could find chairs, were seated, he began to open the
intent of his visit. I told him I had no vote, for which he readily
gave me credit. I assured him I had no influence, which he was not
equally inclined to believe, and the less, no doubt, because Mr.
Ashburner, the draper, addressing himself to me at this moment,
informed me that I had a great deal. Supposing that I could not be
possessed of such a treasure without knowing it, I ventured to confirm
my first assertion, by saying, that if I had any I was utterly at a
loss to imagine where it could be, or wherein it consisted. Thus ended
the conference. Mr. Grenville squeezed me by the hand again, kissed
the ladies, and withdrew. He kissed likewise the maid in the kitchen,
and seemed upon the whole a most loving, kissing, kind-hearted
gentlemen. He has a pair of very good eyes in his head, which not
being sufficient as it should seem for the many nice and difficult
purposes of a senator, he has a third also, which he wore suspended by
a riband from his buttonhole. The boys halloo'd, the dogs barked,
Puss scampered, the hero, with his long train of obsequious followers,
withdrew. We made ourselves very merry with the adventure, and in a
short time settled into our former tranquillity, never probably to be
thus interrupted more. I thought myself, however, happy in being able
to affirm truly that I had not that influence for which he sued;
and which, had I been possessed of it, with my present views of the
dispute between the Crown and the Commons, I must have refused him,
for he is on the side of the former. It is comfortable to be of
no consequence in a world where one cannot exercise any without
disobliging somebody. The town, however, seems to be much at his
service, and if he be equally successful throughout the country, he
will undoubtedly gain his election. Mr. Ashburner perhaps was a little
mortified, because it was evident that I owed the honour of this visit
to his misrepresentation of my importance. But had he thought proper
to assure Mr. Grenville that I had three heads, I should not I suppose
have been bound to produce them....


_An acquaintance reopened_

Olney, 9 _Nov_. 1785.


Whose last most affectionate letter has run in my head ever since I
received it, and which I now sit down to answer two days sooner than
the post will serve me; I thank you for it, and with a warmth for
which I am sure you will give me credit, though I do not spend
many words in describing it. I do not seek _new_ friends, not being
altogether sure that I should find them, but have unspeakable
pleasure in being still beloved by an old one. I hope that now our
correspondence has suffered its last interruption, and that we shall
go down together to the grave, chatting and chirping as merrily as
such a scene of things as this will permit.

I am happy that my poems have pleased you. My volume has afforded me
no such pleasure at any time, either while I was writing it, or since
its publication, as I have derived from yours and my uncle's opinion
of it. I make certain allowances for partiality, and for that peculiar
quickness of taste, with which you both relish what you like, and
after all drawbacks upon those accounts duly made, find myself rich in
the measure of your approbation that still remains. But above all,
I honour _John Gilpin_, since it was he who first encouraged you to
write. I made him on purpose to laugh at, and he served his purpose
well; but I am now in debt to him for a more valuable acquisition
than all the laughter in the world amounts to, the recovery of my
intercourse with you, which is to me inestimable. My benevolent and
generous Cousin, when I was once asked if I wanted anything, and given
delicately to understand that the inquirer was ready to supply all
my occasions, I thankfully and civilly, but positively, declined the
favour. I neither suffer, nor have suffered, any such inconveniences
as I had not much rather endure than come under obligations of that
sort to a person comparatively with yourself a stranger to me. But to
you I answer otherwise. I know you thoroughly, and the liberality of
your disposition, and have that consummate confidence in the
sincerity of your wish to serve me, that delivers me from all awkward
constraint, and from all fear of trespassing by acceptance. To you,
therefore, I reply, yes. Whensoever, and whatsoever, and in what
manner-soever you please; and add moreover, that my affection for the
giver is such as will increase to me tenfold the satisfaction that I
shall have in receiving. It is necessary, however, that I should let
you a little into the state of my finances, that you may not suppose
them more narrowly circumscribed than they are. Since Mrs. Unwin and
I have lived at Olney, we have had but one purse, although during the
whole of that time, till lately, her income was nearly double mine.
Her revenues indeed are now in some measure reduced, and do not much
exceed my own; the worst consequence of this is, that we are forced to
deny ourselves some things which hitherto we have been better able to
afford, but they are such things as neither life, nor the well-being
of life, depend upon. My own income has been better than it is,
but when it was best, it would not have enabled me to live as my
connexions demanded that I should, had it not been combined with a
better than itself, at least at this end of the kingdom. Of this I had
full proof during three months that I spent in lodgings at Huntingdon,
in which time by the help of good management, and a clear notion of
economical matters, I contrived to spend the income of a twelvemonth.
Now, my beloved Cousin, you are in possession of the whole case as it
stands. Strain no points to your own inconvenience or hurt, for there
is no need of it, but indulge yourself in communicating (no matter
what) that you can spare without missing it, since by so doing you
will be sure to add to the comforts of my life one of the sweetest
that I can enjoy--a token and proof of your affection.

I cannot believe but that I should know you, notwithstanding all that
time may have done: there is not a feature of your face, could I meet
it upon the road, by itself, that I should not instantly recollect.
I should say that is my Cousin's nose, or those are her lips and her
chin, and no woman upon earth can claim them but herself. As for me, I
am a very smart youth of my years; I am not indeed grown grey so much
as I am grown bald. No matter: there was more hair in the world than
ever had the honour to belong to me; accordingly having found just
enough to curl a little at my ears, and to intermix with a little
of my own that still hangs behind, I appear, if you see me in an
afternoon, to have a very decent head-dress, not easily distinguished
from my natural growth, which being worn with a small bag, and a black
riband about my neck, continues to me the charms of my youth, even on
the verge of age. Away with the fear of writing too often!

PS. That the view I give you of myself may be complete, I add the two
following items--That I am in debt to nobody, and that I grow fat.


_The kindliness of thanks_

30 _Nov_. 1785.

My dearest cousin,

Your kindness reduces me to a necessity (a pleasant one, indeed), of
writing all my letters in the same terms: always thanks, thanks at
the beginning, and thanks at the end. It is however, I say, a pleasant
employment when those thanks are indeed the language of the heart: and
I can truly add, that there is no person on earth whom I thank with
so much affection as yourself. You insisted that I should give you my
genuine opinion of the wine. By the way, it arrived without the least
damage or fracture, and I finished the first bottle of it this very
day. It is excellent, and though the wine which I had been used to
drink was not bad, far preferable to that. The bottles will be in town
on Saturday. I am enamoured of the desk and its contents before I see
them. They will be most entirely welcome. A few years since I made
Mrs. Unwin a present of a snuff-box--a silver one; the purchase was
made in London by a friend; it is of a size and form that make it
more fit for masculine than feminine use. She therefore with pleasure
accepts the box which you have sent--I should say with the greatest
pleasure. And I, discarding the leathern trunk that I have used so
long, shall succeed to the possession of hers. She says, Tell Lady
Hesketh that I truly love and honour her. Now, my Cousin, you may
depend upon it, as a most certain truth, that these words from her
lips are not an empty sound. I never in my life heard her profess a
regard for any one that she felt not. She is not addicted to the use
of such language upon ordinary occasions; but when she speaks it,
speaks from the heart. She has baited me this many a day, even as a
bear is baited, to send for Dr. Kerr. But, as I hinted to you upon
a former occasion, I am as mulish as most men are, and have hitherto
most ungallantly refused; but what is to be done now?--If it were
uncivil not to comply with the solicitations of one lady, to be
unmoved by the solicitations of two would prove me to be a bear
indeed. I will, therefore, summon him to consideration of said
stomach, and its ailments, without delay, and you shall know the
result.--I have read Goldsmith's _Traveller_ and his _Deserted
Village_, and am highly pleased with them both, as well for the manner
in which they are executed, as for their tendency, and the lessons
that they inculcate.

Mrs. Unwin said to me a few nights since, after supper, 'I have two
fine fowls in feeding, and just fit for use; I wonder whether I should
send them to Lady Hesketh?' I replied, Yes, by all means! and I will
tell you a story that will at once convince you of the propriety of
doing so. My brother was curate on a time to Mr. Fawkes, of Orpington,
in Kent: it was when I lived in the Temple. One morning, as I was
reading by the fireside, I heard a prodigious lumbering at the door. I
opened it, and beheld a most rural figure, with very dirty boots, and
a great coat as dirty. Supposing that my great fame as a barrister had
drawn upon me a client from some remote region, I desired him to walk
in. He did so, and introduced himself to my acquaintance by telling me
that he was the farmer with whom my brother lodged at Orpington.
After this preliminary information he unbuttoned his great coat, and I
observed a quantity of long feathers projected from an inside pocket.
He thrust in his hand, and with great difficulty extricated a great
fat capon. He then proceeded to lighten the other side of him, by
dragging out just such another, and begged my acceptance of both.
I sent them to a tavern, where they were dressed, and I with two or
three friends, whom I invited to the feast, found them incomparably
better than any fowls we had ever tasted from the London co-ops. Now,
said I to Mrs. Unwin, it is likely that the fowls at Olney may be as
good as the fowls at Orpington, therefore send them; for it is not
possible to make so good a use of them in any other way ... Adieu, my
faithful, kind, and consolatory friend!


_Arrival of the desk_

7 _Dec_. 1785.

My dear cousin,

At this time last night I was writing to you, and now I am writing to
you again ... My dear, you say not a word about the desk in your last,
which I received this morning. I infer from your silence that you
supposed it either at Olney or on its way thither, and that you
expected nothing so much as that my next would inform you of its safe
arrival;--therefore, where can it possibly be? I am not absolutely in
despair about it, for the reasons that I mentioned last night; but to
say the truth, I stand tottering upon the verge of it. I write, and
have written these many years, upon a book of maps, which I now begin
to find too low and too flat, though till I expected a better desk,
I found no fault with _them_. See and observe how true it is, that
by increasing the number of our conveniences, we multiply our wants
exactly in the same proportion! neither can I at all doubt that if you
were to tell me that all the men in London of any fashion at all, wore
black velvet shoes with white roses, and should also tell me that you
would send me such, I should dance with impatience till they arrived.
Not because I care one farthing of what materials my shoes are made,
but because any shoes of your sending would interest me from head to

_Thursday Evening_.

Oh that this letter had wings, that it might fly to tell you that my
desk, the most elegant, the compactest, the most commodious desk in
the world, and of all the desks that ever were or ever shall be,
the desk that I love the most, is safe arrived. Nay, my dear, it was
actually at Sherrington, when the wagoner's wife (for the man himself
was not at home) croaked out her abominable _No_! yet she examined the
bill of lading, but either did it so carelessly, or as poor Dick Madan
used to say, with such an _ignorant eye_, that my name escaped her. My
precious Cousin, you have bestowed too much upon me. I have nothing
to render you in return, but the affectionate feelings of a heart most
truly sensible of your kindness. How pleasant it is to write upon such
a green bank! I am sorry that I have so nearly reached the end of
my paper. I have now however only room to say that Mrs. Unwin is
delighted with her box, and bids me do more than thank you for
it. What can I do more at this distance but say that she loves you
heartily, and that so do I? The pocket-book is also the completest
that I ever saw, and the watch-chain the most brilliant.

Adieu for a little while. Now for Homer.

N.B.--I generally write the day before the post sets out, which is
the thing that puzzles you. I do it that I may secure time for the
purpose, and may not be hurried. On this very day twenty-two years ago
I left London.


_Anticipations of a visit_

Olney, 9 _Feb_. 1786.


I have been impatient to tell you that I am impatient to see you
again. Mrs. Unwin partakes with me in all my feelings upon this
subject, and longs also to see you. I should have told you so by the
last post, but have been so completely occupied by this tormenting
specimen, that it was impossible to do it. I sent the General a letter
on Monday that should distress and alarm him; I sent him another
yesterday, that will, I hope, quiet him again. Johnson has apologized
very civilly for the multitude of his friend's strictures; and his
friend has promised to confine himself in future to a comparison of
me with the original, so that, I doubt not, we shall jog on merrily
together. And now, my dear, let me tell you once more, that your
kindness in promising us a visit has charmed us both! I shall see you
again. I shall hear your voice. We shall take walks together. I will
show you my prospects, the hovel, the alcove, the Ouse and its banks,
everything that I have described. I anticipate the pleasure of those
days not very far distant, and feel a part of it at this moment. Talk
not of an inn! Mention it not for your life! We have never had so many
visitors, but we could easily accommodate them all, though we have
received Unwin, and his wife, and his sister, and his son all at once.
My dear, I will not let you come till the end of May, or beginning
of June, because before that time my greenhouse will not be ready to
receive us, and it is the only pleasant room belonging to us. When
the plants go out, we go in. I line it with mats, and spread the floor
with mats; and there you shall sit with a bed of mignonette at your
side, and a hedge of honeysuckles, roses, and jasmine; and I will make
you a bouquet of myrtle every day. Sooner than the time I mention the
country will not be in complete beauty.

And I will tell you what you shall find at your first entrance.
Imprimis, as soon as you have entered the vestibule, if you cast a
look on either side of you, you shall see on the right hand a box of
my making. It is the box in which have been lodged all my hares, and
in which lodges Puss at present; but he, poor fellow, is worn out with
age, and promises to die before you can see him. On the right
hand stands a cupboard, the work of the same author; it was once a
dove-cage, but I transformed it. Opposite to you stands a table,
which I also made; but a merciless servant having scrubbed it until it
became paralytic, it serves no purpose now but of ornament; and all
my clean shoes stand under it. On the left hand, at the farther end
of this superb vestibule, you will find the door of the parlour,
into which I will conduct you, and where I will introduce you to Mrs.
Unwin, unless we should meet her before, and where we will be as happy
as the day is long. Order yourself, my Cousin, to the Swan at Newport,
and there you shall find me ready to conduct you to Olney.

My dear, I have told Homer what you say about casks and urns, and have
asked him whether he is sure that it is a cask in which Jupiter keeps
his wine. He swears that it is a cask, and that it will never be
anything better than a cask to eternity. So if the god is content with
it, we must even wonder at his taste, and be so too.

Adieu! my dearest, dearest Cousin.


_Commissions and thanks_

The Lodge, 24 _Dec_. 1786.

You must by no means, my dearest Coz, pursue the plan that has
suggested itself to you on the supposed loss of your letter. In
the first place I choose that my Sundays, like the Sundays of other
people, shall be distinguished by something that shall make me look
forward to them with agreeable expectation, and for that reason desire
that they may always bring me a letter from you. In the next place,
if I know when to _expect_ a letter, I know likewise when to _inquire
after_ a letter, if it happens not to come; a circumstance of some
importance, considering how excessively careless they are at the Swan,
where letters are sometimes overlooked, and do not arrive at their
destination, if no inquiry be made, till some days have passed since
their arrival at Olney. It has happened frequently to me to receive
a letter long after all the rest have been delivered, and the Padre
assured me that Mr. Throckmorton has sent notes three several times to
Mrs. Marriot, complaining of this neglect. For these reasons, my dear,
thou must write still on Saturdays, and as often on other days as thou

The screens came safe, and one of them is at this moment interposed
between me and the fire, much to the comfort of my peepers. The
other of them being fitted up with a screw that was useless, I have
consigned it to proper hands, that it may be made as serviceable
as its brother. They are very neat, and I account them a great
acquisition. Our carpenter assures me that the lameness of the chairs
was not owing to any injury received in their journey, but that the
maker never properly finished them. They were not high when they came,
and in order to reduce them to a level, we have lowered them an inch.
Thou knowest, child, that the short foot could not be lengthened, for
which reason we shortened the long ones. The box containing the plate
and the brooms reached us yesterday, and nothing had suffered the
least damage by the way. Everything is smart, everything is elegant,
and we admire them all. The short candlesticks are short enough. I am
now writing with those upon the table; Mrs. U. is reading opposite,
and they suit us both exactly. With the money that you have in hand,
you may purchase, my dear, at your most convenient time, a tea-urn;
that which we have at present having never been handsome, and being
now old and patched. A parson once, as he walked across the parlour,
pushed it down with his belly, and it never perfectly recovered
itself. We want likewise a tea-waiter, meaning, if you please, such
a one as you may remember to have seen at the Hall, a wooden one.
To which you may add, from the same fund, three or four yards of
yard-wide muslin, wherewithal to make neckcloths for my worship. If
after all these disbursements anything should be left at the bottom
of the purse, we shall be obliged to you if you will expend it in the
purchase of silk pocket-handkerchiefs. There, my precious--I think I
have charged thee with commissions in plenty.

You neither must nor shall deny us the pleasure of sending to you
such small matters as we do. As to the partridges, you may recollect
possibly, when I remind you of it, that I never eat them; they refuse
to pass my stomach; and Mrs. Unwin rejoiced in receiving them only
because she could pack them away to you--therefore never lay us under
any embargoes of this kind, for I tell you beforehand, that we are
both incorrigible. My beloved Cousin, the first thing that I open my
eyes upon in a morning, is it not the bed in which you have laid me?
Did you not, in our old dismal parlour at Olney, give me the tea on
which I breakfast?--the chocolate that I drank at noon, and the table
at which I dine?--the everything, in short, that I possess in the
shape of convenience, is it not all from you? and is it possible,
think you, that we should either of us overlook an opportunity of
making such a tiny acknowledgement of your kindness? Assure yourself
that never, while my name is Giles Gingerbread, will I dishonour my
glorious ancestry, and my illustrious appellation, by so unworthy a
conduct. I love you at my heart, and so does Mrs. U., and we must say
thank you, and send you a peppercorn when we can. So thank you, my
dear, for the brawn and the chine, and for all the good things that
you announce, and at present I will, for your sake, say no more of


_His mother's portrait_

Weston, 27 _Feb._ 1790.


Whom I thought withered, and fallen from the stalk, but whom I still
find alive: nothing could give me greater pleasure than to know it,
and to hear it from yourself. I loved you dearly when you were a
child, and love you not a jot the less for having ceased to be so.
Every creature that bears any affinity to my mother is dear to me, and
you, the daughter of her brother, are but one remove distant from her:
I love you, therefore, and love you much, both for her sake, and for
your own. The world could not have furnished you with a present so
acceptable to me, as the picture which you have so kindly sent me. I
received it the night before last, and viewed it with a trepidation of
nerves and spirits somewhat akin to what I should have felt, had the
dear original presented herself to my embraces. I kissed it, and hung
it where it is the last object that I see at night, and, of course,
the first on which I open my eyes in the morning. She died when I
completed my sixth year; yet I remember her well, and am an ocular
witness of the great fidelity of the copy. I remember, too, a
multitude of the maternal tendernesses which I received from her, and
which have endeared her memory to me beyond expression. There is in
me, I believe, more of the Donne than of the Cowper; and though I love
all of both names, and have a thousand reasons to love those of my own
name, yet I feel the bond of nature draw me vehemently to your side.
I was thought in the days of my childhood much to resemble my mother;
and in my natural temper, of which at the age of fifty-eight I must
be supposed to be a competent judge, can trace both her, and my late
uncle, your father. Somewhat of his irritability; and a little,
I would hope, both of his and of her--I know not what to call it,
without seeming to praise myself, which is not my intention, but
speaking to _you_, I will even speak out, and say _good nature_. Add
to all this, I deal much in poetry, as did our venerable ancestor, the
Dean of St. Paul's, and I think I shall have proved myself a Donne at
all points. The truth is, that whatever I am, I love you all.




_First impressions of London_


You'll expect some short account of my journey to this great city. To
tell you the truth, I made very few remarks as I rolled along, for my
mind was occupied with many thoughts, and my eyes often filled with
tears, when I reflected on all the dear friends I left behind; yet
the prospects could not fail to attract the attention of the most
indifferent: country seats sprinkled round on every side, some in the
modern taste, some in the style of old De Coverley Hall, all smiling
on the neat but humble cottage; every village as neat and compact as
a bee-hive, resounding with the busy hum of industry; and inns like

What a contrast to our poor country, where you'll scarce find a
cottage ornamented with a chimney! But what pleased me most of all
was the progress of agriculture, my favourite study, and my favourite
pursuit, if Providence had blessed me with a few paternal acres.

A description of London and its natives would fill a volume. The
buildings are very fine: it may be called the sink of vice: but its
hospitals and charitable institutions, whose turrets pierce the skies
like so many electrical conductors, avert the wrath of Heaven. The
inhabitants may be divided into two classes, the _undoers_ and the
_undone_; generally so, I say, for I am persuaded there are many men
of honesty and women of virtue in every street. An Englishman is
cold and distant at first; he is very cautious even in forming an
acquaintance; he must know you well before he enters into friendship
with you; but if he does, he is not the first to dissolve that sacred
bond: in short, a real Englishman is one that performs more than he
promises; in company he is rather silent, extremely prudent in his
expressions, even in politics, his favourite topic. The women are not
quite so reserved; they consult their glasses to the best advantage;
and as nature is very liberal in her gifts to their persons, and even
minds, it is not easy for a young man to escape their glances, or to
shut his ears to their softly flowing accents.

As to the state of learning in this city, you know I have not been
long enough in it to form a proper judgement of that subject. I don't
think, however, there is as much respect paid to a man of letters on
this side of the water as you imagine. I don't find that genius, the
'rath primrose, which forsaken dies', is patronized by any of the
nobility, so that writers of the first talents are left to the
capricious patronage of the public. Notwithstanding discouragement,
literature is cultivated in a high degree. Poetry raises her
enchanting voice to Heaven. History arrests the wings of Time in his
flight to the gulf of oblivion. Philosophy, the queen of arts, and the
daughter of Heaven, is daily extending her intellectual empire. Fancy
sports on airy wing like a meteor on the bosom of a summer cloud; and
even Metaphysics spins her cobwebs, and catches some flies.

The House of Commons not unfrequently exhibits explosions of eloquence
that rise superior to those of Greece and Rome, even in their
proudest days. Yet, after all, a man will make more by the figures of
arithmetic than the figures of rhetoric, unless he can get into the
trade wind, and then he may sail secure over Pactolean sands. As to
the stage, it is sunk, in my opinion, into the lowest degree; I
mean with regard to the trash that is exhibited on it; but I don't
attribute this to the taste of the audience, for when Shakespeare
warbles his 'native woodnotes', the boxes, pit, and gallery, are
crowded--and the gods are true to every word, if properly winged to
the heart.

Soon after my arrival in town I visited Westminster Abbey: the
moment I entered I felt a kind of awe pervade my mind which I cannot
describe; the very silence seemed sacred. Henry VII's chapel is a very
fine piece of Gothic architecture, particularly the roof; but I am
told that it is exceeded by a chapel in the University of Cambridge.
Mrs. Nightingale's monument has not been praised beyond its merit. The
attitude and expression of the husband in endeavouring to shield his
wife from the dart of death, is natural and affecting. But I always
thought that the image of death would be much better represented with
an extinguished torch inverted, than with a dart. Some would imagine
that all these monuments were so many monuments of folly;--I don't
think so; what useful lessons of morality and sound philosophy do
they not exhibit! When the high-born beauty surveys her face in the
polished Parian, though dumb the marble, yet it tells her that it was
placed to guard the remains of as fine a form, and as fair a face as
her own. They show besides how anxious we are to extend our loves and
friendships beyond the grave, and to snatch as much as we can from
oblivion--such is our natural love of immortality; but it is here
that letters obtain the noblest triumphs; it is here that the swarthy
daughters of Cadmus may hang their trophies on high; for when all
the pride of the chisel and the pomp of heraldry yield to the silent
touches of time, a single line, a half-worn-out inscription, remain
faithful to their trust. Blest be the man that first introduced these
strangers into our islands, and may they never want protection or
merit! I have not the least doubt that the finest poem in the
English language, I mean Milton's _Il Penseroso_, was composed in the
long-resounding aisle of a mouldering cloister or ivy'd abbey. Yet
after all do you know that I would rather sleep in the southern corner
of a little country churchyard, than in the tomb of the Capulets. I
should like, however, that my dust should mingle with kindred dust.
The good old expression 'family burying-ground' has something pleasing
in it, at least to me.


_A friend's infirmities_

Gregories, 16 _Sept_. 1769.


I am most exceedingly obliged to your friendship and partiality,
which attributed a silence very blameable on our parts to a favourable
cause: let me add in some measure to its true cause, a great deal of
occupation of various sorts, and some of them disagreeable enough.

As to any reports concerning your conduct and behaviour, you may be
very sure they could have no kind of influence here; for none of us
are of such a make as to trust to any one's report for the character
of a person whom we ourselves know. Until very lately, I had never
heard anything of your proceedings from others; and when I did, it was
much less than I had known from yourself, that you had been upon ill
terms with the artists and virtuosi in Rome, without much mention of
cause or consequence. If you have improved these unfortunate quarrels
to your advancement in your art, you have turned a very disagreeable
circumstance to a very capital advantage. However you may have
succeeded in this uncommon attempt, permit me to suggest to you, with
that friendly liberty which you have always had the goodness to bear
from me, that you cannot possibly have always the same success, either
with regard to your fortune or your reputation. Depend upon it, that
you will find the same competitions, the same jealousies, the same
arts and cabals, the emulations of interest and of fame, and the same
agitations and passions here that you have experienced in Italy; and
if they have the same effect on your temper, they will have just the
same effects upon your interest; and be your merit what it will, you
will never be employed to paint a picture. It will be the same at
London as at Rome, and the same in Paris as in London, for the world
is pretty nearly alike in all its parts; nay, though it would perhaps
be a little inconvenient to me, I had a thousand times rather you
should fix your residence in Rome than here, as I should not then have
the mortification of seeing with my own eyes a genius of the first
rank lost to the world, himself, and his friends; as I certainly must,
if you do not assume a manner of acting and thinking here, totally
different from what your letters from Rome have described to me.

That you have had just subjects of indignation always, and of anger
often, I do no ways doubt; who can live in the world without some
trial of his patience? But believe me, my dear Barry, that the arms
with which the ill dispositions of the world are to be combated, and
the qualities by which it is to be reconciled to us, and we reconciled
to it, are moderation, gentleness, a little indulgence to others, and
a great deal of mistrust of ourselves; which are not qualities of a
mean spirit, as some may possibly think them; but virtues of a
great and noble kind, and such as dignify our nature as much as they
contribute to our repose and fortune; for nothing can be so unworthy
of a well-composed soul, as to pass away life in bickerings and
litigations, in snarling and scuffling with every one about us.

Again and again, my dear Barry, we must be at peace with our species;
if not for their sakes yet very much for our own. Think what my
feelings must be, from my unfeigned regard, and from my wishes
that your talents might be of use, when I see what the inevitable
consequences must be, of your persevering in what has hitherto been
your course, ever since I knew you, and which you will permit me to
trace out for you beforehand.

You will come here; you will observe what the artists are doing;
and you will sometimes speak a disapprobation in plain words, and
sometimes by a no less expressive silence. By degrees you will produce
some of your own works. They will be variously criticized; you
will defend them; you will abuse those that have attacked you;
expostulations, discussions, letters, possibly challenges, will go
forward; you will shun your brethren, they will shun you. In the
meantime, gentlemen will avoid your friendship, for fear of being
engaged in your quarrels; you will fall into distresses which will
only aggravate your disposition for further quarrels; you will be
obliged for maintenance to do anything for anybody; your very talents
will depart for want of hope and encouragement; and you will go out of
the world fretted, disappointed, and ruined.

Nothing but my real regard for you could induce me to set these
considerations in this light before you. Remember, we are born
to serve and to adorn our country, and not to contend with our
fellow-citizens, and that in particular your business is to paint and
not to dispute....

If you think this a proper time to leave Rome (a matter which I
leave entirely to yourself), I am quite of opinion you ought to go
to Venice. Further, I think it right to see Florence and Bologna; and
that you cannot do better than to take that route to Venice. In short,
do everything that may contribute to your improvement, and I shall
rejoice to see you what Providence intended you, a very great man.
This you were, in your _ideas_, before you quitted this; you best know
how far you have studied, that is, practised the mechanic; despised
nothing till you had tried it; practised dissections with your own
hands, painted from nature as well as from the statues, and portrait
as well as history, and this frequently. If you have done all this,
as I trust you have, you want nothing but a little prudence, to fulfil
all our wishes. This, let me tell you, is no small matter; for it is
impossible for you to find any persons anywhere more truly interested
for you; to these dispositions attribute everything which may be a
little harsh in this letter. We are, thank God, all well, and all most
truly and sincerely yours. I seldom write so long a letter. Take this
as a sort of proof how much I am, dear Barry, Your faithful friend.


_An old stag at bay_

Beaconsfield, 30 _Oct_. 1795.

My dear Lord,

I am perfectly sensible of the very flattering honour you have done
me in turning any part of your attention towards a dejected old man,
buried in the anticipated grave of a feeble old age, forgetting and
forgotten in an obscure and melancholy retreat.

In this retreat I have nothing relative to this world to do but to
study all the tranquillity that in the state of my mind I am capable
of. To that end I find it but too necessary to call to my aid an
oblivion of most of the circumstances pleasant and unpleasant of my
life; to think as little, and indeed to know as little as I can of
everything that is doing about me; and, above all, to divert my mind
from all presagings and prognostications of what I must (if I let my
speculations loose) consider as of absolute necessity to happen after
my death, and possibly even before it. Your address to the public
which you have been so good as to send to me, obliges me to break in
upon that plan, and to look a little on what is behind, and very much
on what is before me. It creates in my mind a variety of thoughts, and
all of them unpleasant.

It is true, my Lord, what you say, that through our public life,
we have generally sailed on somewhat different tacks. We have so
undoubtedly, and we should do so still, if I had continued longer
to keep the sea. In that difference you rightly observe that I have
always done justice to your skill and ability as a navigator, and to
your good intentions towards the safety of the cargo and of the ship's
company. I cannot say now that we are on different tacks. There would
be no propriety in the metaphor. I can sail no longer. My vessel
cannot be said to be even in port. She is wholly condemned and broken
up. To have an idea of that vessel you must call to mind what you have
often seen on the Kentish road. Those planks of tough and hardy oak
that used for years to brave the buffets of the Bay of Biscay, are
now turned with their warped grain and empty trunnion holes into very
wretched pales for the enclosure of a wretched farmyard.

The style of your pamphlet, and the eloquence and power of composition
you display in it, are such as do great honour to your talents; and
in conveying any other sentiments would give me very great pleasure.
Perhaps I do not very perfectly comprehend your purpose, and the drift
of your arguments. If I do not--pray do not attribute my mistake to
want of candour, but to want of sagacity. I confess your address to
the public, together with other accompanying circumstances, has filled
me with a degree of grief and dismay which I cannot find words to
express. If the plan of politics there recommended, pray excuse my
freedom, should be adopted by the King's Councils and by the good
people of this kingdom (as so recommended undoubtedly it will)
nothing can be the consequence but utter and irretrievable ruin to the
Ministry, to the Crown, to the succession, to the importance, to the
independence, to the very existence of this country.

This is my feeble perhaps, but clear, positive, decided, long and
maturely reflected, and frequently declared opinion, from which all
the events which have lately come to pass, so far from turning me,
have tended to confirm beyond the power of alteration, even by your
eloquence and authority. I find, my dear Lord, that you think some
persons who are not satisfied with the securities of a Jacobin peace,
to be persons of intemperate minds. I may be, and I fear I am with you
in that description: but pray, my Lord, recollect that very few of
the causes which make men intemperate, can operate upon me. Sanguine
hopes, vehement desires, inordinate ambition, implacable animosity,
party attachments, or party interests; all these with me have no
existence. For myself or for a family (alas! I have none), I have
nothing to hope or to fear in this world. I am attached by principle,
inclination, and gratitude to the King, and to the present Ministry.

Perhaps you may think that my animosity to Opposition is the cause of
my dissent on seeing the politics of Mr. Fox (which while I was in the
world I combated by every instrument which God had put into my hands,
and in every situation in which I had taken part), so completely
adopted in your Lordship's book: but it was with pain I broke with
that great man for ever in that cause--and I assure you, it is not
without pain that I differ with your Lordship on the same principles.
But it is of no concern. I am far below the region of those great and
tempestuous passions. I feel nothing of the intemperance of mind. It
is rather sorrow and dejection than anger.

Once more my best thanks for your very polite attention, and do me the
favour to believe me with the most perfect sentiments of respect
and regard, my dear Lord, Your Lordship's most obedient and humble


_His last letter[1]_

Bath, 23 _May_, 1797.

My dear Mrs. Leadbeater,

I feel as I ought to do your constant hereditary kindness to me and
mine. What you have heard of my illness is far from exaggerated. I am,
thank God, alive, and that is all. Hastening to my dissolution, I have
to bless Providence that I do not suffer a great deal of pain.... Mrs.
Burke has a tolerable share of health--in every respect except much
use of her limbs. She remembers your mother's most good-natured
attentions, as I am sure I do with much gratitude. I have ever been
an admirer of your talents and virtues, and shall ever wish
most cordially for everything which can tend to your credit and
satisfaction. I therefore congratulate you very heartily on the
birth of your son; and pray remember me to the representative of your
family, who I hope still keeps up the school of which I have so tender
a remembrance; though after so long an absence, and so many unpleasant
events of every kind that have distracted my thoughts, I hardly dare
ask for any one, not knowing whether they are living or dead, lest I
should be the means of awakening unpleasant recollections. Believe me
to be, with the most respectful and affectionate regards, my dear Mrs.

Your faithful friend, and very humble servant.

PS. Pray remember me to Mr. Leadbeater. I have been at Bath these four
months to no purpose, and am therefore to be removed to my own
house at Beaconsfield to-morrow, to be nearer to a habitation more
permanent, humbly and fearfully hoping that my better part may find a
better mansion.

[Footnote 1: Cp. p. 281.]




_His daily life_

Lausanne, 27 _Dec._ 1783.

... In speaking of the happiness which I enjoy, you will agree with me
in giving the preference to a sincere and sensible friend; and though
you cannot discern the full extent of his merit, you will easily
believe that Deyverdun is the man. Perhaps two persons so perfectly
fitted to live together were never formed by nature and education.
We have both read and seen a great variety of objects; the lights
and shades of our different characters are happily blended, and
a friendship of thirty years has taught us to enjoy our mutual
advantages, and to support our unavoidable imperfections. In love and
marriage, some harsh sounds will sometimes interrupt the harmony,
and in the course of time, like our neighbours, we must expect some
disagreeable moments; but confidence and freedom are the two pillars
of our union, and I am much mistaken, if the building be not solid and

In this season I rise (not at four in the morning) but a little before
eight; at nine I am called from my study to breakfast, which I always
perform alone, in the English style; and, with the aid of Caplin,
I perceive no difference between Lausanne and Bentinck Street. Our
mornings are usually passed in separate studies; we never approach
each other's door without a previous message, or thrice knocking; and
my apartment is already sacred and formidable to strangers. I dress at
half-past one, and at two (an early hour, to which I am not perfectly
reconciled) we sit down to dinner.... After dinner, and the departure
of our company, one, two, or three friends, we read together some
amusing book, or play at chess, or retire to our rooms, or make
visits, or go to the coffee-house. Between six and seven the
assemblies begin, and I am oppressed only with their number and
variety. Whist, at shillings or half-crowns, is the game I generally
play, and I play three rubbers with pleasure. Between nine and ten we
withdraw to our bread and cheese, and friendly converse, which sends
us to bed at eleven; but these sober hours are too often interrupted
by private or numerous suppers, which I have not the courage to
resist, though I practise a laudable abstinence at the best furnished
tables. Such is the skeleton of my life....


_A great work_

Lausanne, 20 _Jan._ 1787.

... As long as I do not inform you of my death, you have good grounds
to believe me alive and well. You have a general, and will soon have a
more particular idea of my system and arrangement here. One day glides
away after another in tranquil uniformity. Every object must have
sides and moments less luminous than others; but, upon the whole, the
life and the place which I have chosen are most happily adapted to my
character and circumstances: and I can now repeat, at the end of three
years, what I soon and sincerely affirmed, that never in a single
instant have I repented of my scheme of retirement to Lausanne.... And
though I truly rejoice in my approaching visit to England, Mr. Pitt,
were he your friend and mine, would not find it an easy task to
prevent my return....

I am building a great book, which, besides the three stories already
exposed to the public eye, will have three stories more before we
reach the roof and battlements. You too have built or altered a great
Gothic castle with baronial battlements. Did you finish it within the
time you intended? As that time drew near, did you not find a thousand
nameless and unexpected works that must be performed; each of them
calling for a portion of time and labour? and had you not despised,
nobly despised, the minute diligence of finishing, fitting up, and
furnishing the apartments, you would have discovered a new train of
indispensable business. Such, at least, has been my case. A long while
ago when I contemplated the distant prospect of my work, I gave you
and myself some hopes of landing in England last autumn; but, alas!
when autumn grew near, hills began to rise on hills, Alps on Alps, and
I found my journey far more tedious and toilsome than I had imagined.
When I look back on the length of the undertaking, and the variety
of materials, I cannot accuse, or suffer myself to be accused of
idleness; yet it appeared that unless I doubled my diligence, another
year, and perhaps more, would elapse before I could embark with my
complete manuscript. Under these circumstances I took, and am still
executing, a bold and meritorious resolution. The mornings in winter,
and in a country of early dinners, are very concise; to them, my usual
period of study, I now frequently add the evenings, renounce cards
and society, refuse the most agreeable evenings, or perhaps make my
appearance at a late supper. By this extraordinary industry, which I
never practised before, and to which I hope never to be again reduced,
I see the last part of my _History_ growing apace under my hands; all
my materials are collected and arranged; I can exactly compute, by
the square foot, or the square page, all that remains to be done; and
after concluding text and notes, after a general review of my time
and my ground, I now can decisively ascertain the final period of the
_Decline and Fall_, and can boldly promise that I will dine with you
at Sheffield Place in the month of August, or perhaps of July, in the
present year; within less than a twelvemonth of the term which I had
loosely and originally fixed; and perhaps it would not be easy to
find a work of that size and importance in which the workman has
so tolerably kept his word with himself and the public. But in this
situation, oppressed with this particular object, and stealing every
hour from my amusement, to the fatigue of the pen, and the eyes, you
will conceive, or you might conceive, how little stomach I have for
the epistolary style; and that instead of idle, though friendly,
correspondence, I think it far more agreeable to employ my time in
the effectual measures that may hasten and exhilarate our personal




_An excited Unknown_

Chessington, 5 _July_, 1778.


Don't you think there must be some wager depending among the little
curled imps who hover over us mortals, of how much flummery goes to
turn the head of an authoress? Your last communication very near did
my business; for, meeting Mr. Crisp ere I had composed myself, I 'tipt
him such a touch of the heroics' as he has not seen since the time
when I was so much celebrated for dancing _Nancy Dawson_. I absolutely
longed to treat him with one of Captain Mirvan's frolics, and to fling
his wig out of the window. I restrained myself, however, from the
apprehension that they would imagine I had a universal spite to that
harmless piece of goods, which I have already been known to treat with
no little indignity. He would fain have discovered the reason of my
skittishness; but as I could not tell it him, I was obliged to assure
him it would be lost time to inquire further into my flights, since
'true no meaning puzzles more than wit', and therefore, begging the
favour of him to 'set me down an _ass_', I suddenly retreated.

My dear, dear Dr. Johnson! what a charming man you are! Mrs.
Cholmondeley, too, I am not merely prepared but determined to admire;
for really she has shown so much penetration and sound sense of late,
that I think she will bring about a union between Wit and Judgement,
though their separation has been so long, and though their meetings
have been so few.

But, Mrs. Thrale! she--she is the goddess of my idolatry! What an
_eloge_ is hers!--an _eloge_ that not only delights at first, but
proves more and more flattering every time it is considered!

I often think, when I am counting my laurels, what a pity it would
have been had I popped off in my last illness, without knowing what a
person of consequence I was!--and I sometimes think that, were I now
to have a relapse, I could never go off with so much _eclat_! I am
now at the summit of a high hill; my prospects on one side are bright,
glowing, and invitingly beautiful; but when I turn round, I perceive,
on the other side, sundry caverns, gulfs, pits, and precipices, that,
to look at, make my head giddy and my heart sick. I see about me,
indeed, many hills of far greater height and sublimity; but I have
not the strength to attempt climbing them; if I move, it must
be downwards. I have already, I fear, reached the pinnacle of my
abilities, and therefore to stand still will be my best policy.

But there is nothing under heaven so difficult to do. Creatures who
are formed for motion _must_ move, however great their inducements to
forbear. The wisest course I could take, would be to bid an eternal
adieu to writing; then would the cry be, 'Tis pity she does not go
on!--she might do something better by and by', &c, &c. _Evelina_, as
a first and a youthful publication, has been received with the utmost
favour and lenity; but would a future attempt be treated with the same
mercy?--no, my dear Susy, quite the contrary; there would not, indeed,
be the same plea to save it; it would no longer be a young lady's
_first_ appearance in public; those who have met with less indulgence
would all peck at any second work; and even those who most encouraged
the first offspring might prove enemies to the second, by receiving
it with expectations which it could not answer: and so, between either
the friends or the foes of the eldest, the second would stand an
equally bad chance, and a million of flaws which were overlooked in
the former would be ridiculed as villainous and intolerable blunders
in the latter.

But, though my eyes ache as I strain them to look forward, the
temptations before me are almost irresistible; and what you have
transcribed from Mrs. Thrale may, perhaps, prove my destruction.

So you wish to have some of the sayings of the folks here about _the
book_? I am sure I owe you all the communications I can possibly give
you; but I have nothing new to offer, for the same strain prevails
here as in town; and no one will be so obliging to me as to put in a
little abuse: so that I fear you will be satiated with the sameness
of people's remarks. Yet, what can I do? if they _will_ be so
disagreeable and tiresome as to be all of one mind, how is it to
be helped? I can only advise you to follow my example, which is, to
accommodate my philosophy to their insipidity; and in this I have so
wonderfully succeeded, that I hear their commendations not merely with
patience but even with a degree of pleasure! Such, my dear Susy, is
the effect of true philosophy.

You desire Kitty Cooke's remarks in particular. I have none to give
you, for none can I get. To the serious part she indeed listens, and
seems to think it may possibly be very fine; but she is quite lost
when the Branghtons and Madame Duval are mentioned;--she hears their
speeches very composedly, and as words of course; but when she hears
them followed by loud bursts of laughter from Hetty, Mr. Crisp, Mrs.
Gast, and Mr. Burney, she stares with the gravest amazement, and looks
so aghast, and so distressed to know where the joke can be, that I
never dare trust myself to look at her for more than an instant. Were
she to speak her thoughts, I am sure she would ask why such common
things, that pass every day, should be printed? And all the derision
with which the party in general treat the Branghtons, I can see she
feels herself, with a plentiful addition of astonishment, for the

By the way, not a human being here has the most remote suspicion of
the fact; I could not be more secure, were I literally unknown to
them. And there is no end to the ridiculous speeches perpetually made
to me, by all of them in turn, though quite by accident.

'An't you sorry this sweet book is done?' said Mrs. Gast.

A silly little laugh was the answer.

'Ah,' said Patty, ''tis the sweetest book!--don't you think so, Miss

N.B.--Answer as above.

'Pray, Miss Fan,' says Mrs. Hamilton, 'who wrote it?'

'Really I never heard.'

'Cute enough that, Miss Sukey!'

I desired Hetty to miss the verses; for I can't sit them: and I
have been obliged to hide the first volume ever since, for fear of
a discovery. But I don't know how it will end; for Mrs. Gast has
declared she shall buy it, to take it to Burford with her.


_Mrs. Thrale and Dr. Johnson_

Streatham, _March_ 1779.

The kindness and honours I meet with from this charming family are
greater than I can mention; sweet Mrs. Thrale hardly suffers me to
leave her a moment; and Dr. Johnson is another Daddy Crisp to me, for
he has a partial goodness to your Fannikin, that has made him sink the
comparative shortness of our acquaintance, and treat and think of me
as one who had long laid claim to him.

If you knew these two you would love them, or I don't know you so well
as I think I do. Dr. Johnson has more fun, and comical humour, and
love of nonsense about him, than almost anybody I ever saw: I mean
when with those he likes; for otherwise, he can be as severe and
as bitter as report relates him. Mrs. Thrale has all that gaiety of
disposition and lightness of heart, which commonly belong to fifteen.
We are, therefore, merry enough, and I am frequently seized with the
same tittering and ridiculous fits as those with which I have so often
amazed and amused poor Kitty Cooke.

One thing let me not omit of this charming woman, which I believe will
weigh with you in her favour; her political doctrine is so exactly
like yours, that it is never started but I exclaim, 'Dear ma'am, if my
Daddy Crisp was here, I believe between you, you would croak me mad!'
And this sympathy of horrible foresight not a little contributes to
incline her to believe the other parts of speech with which I regale
her concerning you. She wishes very much to know you, and I am sure
you would hit it off comfortably; but I told her what a vile taste you
had for shunning all new acquaintance, and shirking almost all your
old ones. That I may never be among the latter, heartily hopes my dear
daddy's ever affectionate and obliged, F.B.


_A royal commission_

Kew, _April_ 1789.


I have her Majesty's commands to inquire--whether you have any of a
certain breed of poultry?

N.B.--_What_ breed I do not remember.

And to say she has just received a small group of the same herself.

N.B.--The quantity I have forgotten.

And to add, she is assured they are something very rare and scarce,
and extraordinary and curious.

N.B.--By _whom_ she was assured I have not heard.

And to subjoin, that you must send word if you have any of the same

N.B.--How you are to find that out, I cannot tell.

And to mention, as a corollary, that, if you have none of them, and
should like to have some, she has a cock and a hen she can spare, and
will appropriate them to Mr. Lock and my dearest Fredy.

This conclusive stroke so pleased and exhilarated me, that forthwith
I said you would both be enchanted, and so forgot all the preceding

And I said, moreover, that I knew you would rear them, and cheer them,
and fondle them like your children.

So now--pray write a very _fair answer_ fairly, in fair hand, and to
fair purpose.

My Susanna is just now come--so all is fair with my dearest Mr. and
Mrs. Lock's F.B.




_The only survivors_

Trowbridge, 1st of 12th month, 1816.


Yes, indeed, I do well remember you! Not Leadbeater then, but a pretty
demure lass, standing a timid auditor while her own verses were read
by a kind friend, but a keen judge. And I have in my memory your
father's person and countenance, and you may be sure that my vanity
retained the compliment which he paid me in the moment when he
permitted his judgement to slip behind his good humour and desire of
giving pleasure. Yes, I remember all who were present, and, of
all, are not you and I the only survivors? It was the day--was it
not?--when I introduced my wife to my friend. And now both are gone!
and your father, and Richard Burke, who was present (yet again I must
ask,--was he not?)--and Mrs. Burke! All departed, and so, by and by,
they will speak of us. But, in the meantime, it was good of you to
write, oh, very, very good!

But are you not your father's own daughter? Do you not flatter after
his manner? How do you know the mischief that you may do in the mind
of a vain man, who is but too susceptible of praise, even while he is
conscious of so much to be placed against it? I am glad that you like
my verses: it would have mortified me much if you had not, for you can
judge as well as write.... Yours are really very admirable things; and
the morality is as pure as the literary merit is conspicuous. I am not
sure that I have read all that you have given us; but what I have read
has really that rare and almost undefinable quality, genius; that
is to say, it seizes on the mind and commands attention, and on the
heart, and compels its feelings.

How could you imagine that I could be otherwise than
pleased--delighted rather--with your letter? And let me not omit the
fact that I reply the instant I am at liberty, for I was enrobing
myself for church. You are a child of simplicity, I know, and do not
love robing; but you are a pupil of liberality, and look upon such
things with a large mind, smiling in charity. Well! I was putting on
the great black gown when my servant--(you see I can be pompous, to
write of gowns and servants with such familiarity)--when he brought me
a letter first directed, the words yet legible, to 'George Crabbe,
at Belvoir Castle', and then by Lord Mendip to the 'Reverend' at
Trowbridge; and at Trowbridge I hope again to receive these welcome
evidences of your remembrance, directed in all their simplicity, and
written, I trust, in all sincerity....

There was a Suffolk family of Alexanders, one of whom you probably
mean; and as he knew very little of me, I see no reason why he should
not give me a good character ... If it means, as it generally does,
that I paid my debts, and was guilty of no glaring world-defying
immorality--why yes!--I was so far a good character....

But your motive for writing to me was your desire of knowing whether
my men and women were really existing creatures, or beings of my own
imagination? Nay, Mary Leadbeater, yours was a better motive; you
thought that you should give pleasure by writing, and--yet you will
think me very vain--you felt some pleasure yourself in renewing the
acquaintance that commenced under such auspices! Am I not right?
My heart tells me that I am, and hopes that you will confirm it.
Be assured that I feel a very cordial esteem for the friend of my
friend,--the virtuous, the worthy character whom I am addressing.

Yes, I will tell you readily about my creatures, whom I endeavoured to
paint as nearly as I could, and dared; for in some cases I dared not.
This you will readily admit; besides, charity bade me be cautious.
Thus far you are correct; there is not one of whom I had not in my
mind the original; but I was obliged in some cases to take them from
their real situations, in one or two instances to change even the sex,
and in many the circumstances. The nearest to real life was the proud
ostentatious man in _The Borough_, who disguises an ordinary mind by
doing great things; but the others approach to reality at greater or
less distances. Indeed, I do not know that I could paint merely
from my own fancy, and there is no cause why we should. Is there not
diversity sufficient in society? And who can go, even but a little,
into the assemblies of our fellow-wanderers from the way of perfect
rectitude, and not find characters so varied and so pointed that he
need not call upon his imagination?

Will _you_ not write again? 'Write _to_ thee, or _for_ the public',
wilt thou not ask? _To_ me and _for_ as many as love and can discern
the union of strength and simplicity, purity and good sense. _Our_
feeling and _our_ hearts is the language you can adopt. Alas, _I_
cannot with propriety use it--_our_ I too could once say; but I am
alone now; and since my removing into a busy town among the multitude,
the loneliness is but more apparent and more melancholy. But this
is only at certain times; and then I have, though at considerable
distances, six female friends, unknown to each other, but all dear,
very dear, to me. With men I do not much associate; not as deserting,
and much less disliking, the male part of society, but as being unfit
for it; not hardy nor grave, not knowing enough, nor sufficiently
acquainted with the every-day concerns of men. But my beloved
creatures have minds with which I can better assimilate ... Think of
you I must; and of me, I must entreat that you would not be unmindful.

[Footnote 1: Cp. letter, p. 283.]



Trowbridge, 7 _Sept._ 1818.

A description of your village society would be very gratifying to
me--how the manners differ from those in larger societies, or in
those under different circumstances. I have observed an extraordinary
difference in village manners in England, especially between those
places otherwise nearly alike, when there was and when there was not
a leading man, or a squire's family, or a manufactory near, or a
populous, vitiated town, all these, and many other circumstances have
great influence. _Your_ quiet village, with such influencing minds,
I am disposed to think highly of. No one, perhaps, very rich--none
miserably poor. No girls, from six years to sixteen, sent to a
factory, where men, women, and children of all ages are continually
with them breathing contagion. Not all, however: we are not so
evil--there is a resisting power, and it is strong; but the thing
itself, the congregation of so many minds, and the intercourse it
occasions, will have its powerful and visible effect. But these you
have not; yet, as you mention your schools of both kinds, you must
be more populous and perhaps not so happy as I was giving myself to

The world has not spoiled you, Mary, I do believe: now it has me. I
have been absorbed in its mighty vortex, and gone into the midst of
its greatness, and joined in its festivities and frivolities, and been
intimate with its children. You may like me very well, my kind friend,
while the purifying water, and your more effectual imagination, is
between us; but come you to England, or let me be in Ireland, and
place us where mind becomes acquainted with mind--and then! Ah, Mary
Leadbeater! you would have done with your friendship with me! Child of
simplicity and virtue, how can you let yourself be so deceived? Am
I not a great fat rector, living upon a mighty income, while my poor
curate starves with six hungry children upon the scraps that fall from
the luxurious table? Do I not visit that horrible London, and enter
into its abominable dissipations? Am not I this day going to dine on
venison and drink claret? Have I not been at election dinners, and
joined the Babel-confusion of a town hall? Child of simplicity! am I
fit to be a friend to you, and to the peaceful, mild, pure, and gentle
people about you? One thing is true--I wish I had the qualification.
But I am of the world, Mary....

I return all your good wishes, think of you, and with much regard,
more than, indeed, belongs to _a man of the world_! Still, let me
be permitted to address thee.--O my dear Mrs. Leadbeater, this is
so humble that I am afraid it is vain. Well! write soon, then, and
believe me to be

Most sincerely and affectionately yours.




_Friends 'from eternity'_

Felpham, 21 _Sept._ 1800.

Sunday morning.


We are safe arrived at our cottage, which is more beautiful than I
thought it, and more convenient. It is a perfect model for cottages,
and I think for palaces of magnificence, only enlarging not altering
its proportions, and adding ornaments and not principles. Nothing
can be more grand than its simplicity and usefulness. Simple without
intricacy, it seems to be the spontaneous expression of humanity,
congenial to the wants of man. No other formed house can ever please
me so well, nor shall I ever be persuaded, I believe, that it can be
improved either in beauty or use.

Mr. Hayley received us with his usual brotherly affection. I have
begun to work. Felpham is a sweet place for study, because it is


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