10 MARCH 1906, Page 21


OF Mr. Hutton's Burford Papers it may be said that the part -would have been greater than the whole. There are certain chapters of the book which we could easily have spared. The account of Raphael Mengs, for instance, is out of place, and is written without insight or authority. Nor can we find an adequate excuse for the reprinting of an essay on Sterne, which adds nothing to our knowledge, and which merely expresses a familiar opinion. But when Mr. Hutton discourse,s of the Cotswolds, and of old houses, and of half- forgotten coteries he is always worth reading ; and the best part of his book has a geographical unity which marks it off from the common collections of newspaper articles to which the publishers accustom us.

In a -sense, the most valuable of these Burford Papers is the admirable sketch of Samuel Crisp, drawn in a series of letters addressed to his sister. With " Daddy " Crisp Madame D'Arblay's Diaries made us intimate long ago, and an honest, kindly, fussy old gentleman he was. He had himself put his finger in the inkpot, and his play Virginius had been produced under the best auspices. But when he encountered 'Fanny Burney he had renounced the practice of letters, and preferred no doubt to be known as an amiable man of the world. One thing is certain : he gave the best of advice to the author of Evelina, who, had she followed it, would never have spoiled the simplicity of her early style by a pompous imitation of Dr. Johnson. It was " Daddy " Crisp who implored her not to brook the intrusion of others. "If you suffer any one to interfere," said he, " 'tis ten to one 'tis the worse for it—it won't be all of a piece." And though he himself was always ready to restrain her from enterprises which he feared would fail, he showed no desire to prune her style or to embellish her periods. And when she wrote her play, The Witlings, which might have been badly received at Drury Lane, he had the courage to dissuade her from producing it, and he had his way without losing her friendship.

The letters which Mr. Hutton reprints are homely enough, and yet they contain hints of the great world. There are few which have not their reference to the Burneys ; and

Fannikin," as her friends called her, soon became as close a friend of Crisp's sister as of Crisp himself. But it is not for the glimpses which they afford of the cultured life of Streatham that we like these letters. We value them because they are simple, trivial, and familiar. The old man writes to his old sister about the plain things of life,—her health, her invest- ments, the disastrous effect of the war upon prices, the wine which was waiting for her in his cellar. Thus he gives us an accidental picture of his times and his surroundings which is the more vivid because it is entirely without design. In 1780, for instance, "houses were become such a drug that they fetched nothing"; and all on account of the American War. A magnificent house in Upper Brook Street, which six years before had cost 25,300, was to be had for no more than -22,500! And coals were so dear that all but the very rich were -compelled to do without them. "Coals," says Crisp, "have been -very lately 25 a Chaldron in London ; now 24, and we have but very few left. Dreadful." And it was in May, too ! It is not surprising, therefore, that at this time of dearth Crisp was astonished at the ease wherewith Fanny Burney turned her brains to profit. "You see how triumphantly she goes on," he writes. "If she can coin gold at such a Rate, as to

sit by a warm Fire, and in 3 or 4 months gain 2250 by scribbling the Inventions of her own Brain—only putting down in black and white whatever comes into her head, with- out labour drawing singly from her own Fountain, she need not want money." It is perhaps a light fashion of estimating

• Burford Papers: being Letters of Samuel Crisp to his Sister at Burford ; and other Studies of a Century (1745-1845). By W. H. Hutton. B.D. London: - A. Constable and Co. Us. 65. net.1

the difficulties of literary composition, but with coal at 25 a chaldron 2250 was an acceptable sum.

Thus Crisp grew infirm, like his sister, who found the distance between Burford and Chessington so great that she could not visit him nor drink the port which he was sure would restore her to health. But not even infirmity damped his spirits. "I don't at all like your account of yourself," he wrote in

October, 1781." You want Jumbling about Seriously, I do firmly believe, if you will come up hither early in the Spring (and surely You must be disabled with a Vengeance if you cannot bear being carried into, and in, a Post Chaise) the Journey, Change of Air, &c., will be of infinite service to You; for Physic, to old, crazy Frames, like ours, is all my eye and Betty Martin." Incidentally, it is odd to find this piece of slang in so old a letter, and the curious will note with interest that Crisp described it as a "sea phrase" which he Lad got from Jem Burney. But Crisp's gaiety did not avail him much longer. In April, 1783, be died ; he was buried at Chessington ; and Dr. Burney, the friend of many years, celebrated his virtues in a set of verses which did not flatter him a whit too highly.

The greatest interest perhaps attaches to these old letters. But the best pages of Mr. Hutton's writing are those in which he describes Shenstone, Richard Graves, and their friends. Few more amiable and highly accomplished coteries than that of which Shenstone and Graves were the leaders are known to our annals. A friendship begun at Oxford was strengthened by common tastes and pursuits. The friends wrote verses and designed gardens. If their gardens were composed on a plan which to-day seems fantastic, it must yet be admitted that they were poetical in design and bold in effect. And their verses, too often written for an occasion, were deftly turned and were inspired by the best models. Shenstone is still familiar to the readers of anthologies, though his Schoolmistress is more often praised than read. But Richard Graves, who has still greater claims upon our memory, is known only to a few. His verses, to be sure, jingle to the tune of the time. They are too often experiments in a worn-out form. But his prose is as fresh as a spring morning. There is no better romance in English of the open road than The Spiritual Quixote. It is composed in accord with the great tradition. It comes from Cervantes through Henry Fielding, and it possesses the real qualities of authentic literature. It is humorous, it is wise, it is pic- turesque. The old clergyman, its author, takes you on foot through the England of the eighteenth century, and reveals to you the life of the highway and the eccentricities of scholars and countrymen. That the book is so little known is one of the accidents of literature, and no one who reads it will doubt the author's admirable gifts of heart and brain. And our chief debt of gratitude is due to Mr. Hutton for having sketched, even summarily, this writer of sound English and sound sense, who runs the risk of being forgotten. Nor can we do better than close our article with Mr. Hutton's eloquent tribute to the author of The Spiritual Quixote. "If we may not call him a poet," thus he writes, "he has real claim to rank among English men of letters. He was a scholar in the old classics, and could make good 'versions' of them. He loved good things, and he knew how, in his quiet way, to express the pleasure they gave him—the busy chatter of people in the streets, the sweet sounds of springtime in the country lanes, the smile in the eyes of a pretty maid, the ripe sight of a field in summer, the laughter in the hearts of old friends as they sit together over the fire." That is the true spirit of Richard Graves, who, could he hear it, would accept in perfect simplicity of heart the wise flattery of Mr. Hutton.