HORACE WALPOLE'S CORRESPONDENCE, EDITED By LORD DOVER.
THESE Charming volumes are a most substantial addition to the stock of pleasant writing in the English language. They have been locked up in a sealed and corded trunk since Mr.WsseoLE s death; and now only see the light when, by the writer's calcula- tions, they may contribute to the information and amusement of the reader, without injuring or hurting any of the individuals who are spokeu of. All who relish genuine wit, pleasant gossip, and the true kind of secret histosy—namely, that which never gets into either histories or newspapers—relish the letters of HORACE WALPOLE : the volumes addressed to GEORGE MONTAGUE, Gene- ral CONWAY, and others, are the chiefest ornaments of this most agreeable branch of literature. The present Letters are not in- ferior to any that have preceded them : there is some difference in their character, but none in their power of amusing. The differ- ence arises from the fact of Sir HORACE MANN being long resi- dent at Florence in the capacity of British Minister. For him, far removed from the scene of the letter-writer, he enters more co- piously and fully into the history of mere matters of common fame, which might have been familiar to a correspondent in England, but were to Sir HORACE AISSTN, and are to posterity, more especially interesting on that very account. These Letters commence soon after Mr. WALPOLE'S return from his travels in Italy,—that journey in which he was accom- panied by GRAY until their quarrel ; during which he resided up- wards of year at Florence, in the then Mr. MANN'S house. He was then young; and the earlier letters, though they possess all
the character Mr. WALPOLE'S later writings, have not the same fineness of point, the same concentration of force,—certainly not at least in the same profusion : they, however, rapidly im- prove, and by the time we come to 1741, the epoch of Sir ROBERT . WALPOLE'S resignation, and all the confusion and change which followed, become equal to any thing he ever wrote. These letters embrace that period, and run on for twenty years after it : and are particularly valuable as almost the only records of the time which enable the historical reader to form any exact notion of the intrigues of that perplexed period. These political communica- tions were naturally interesting to Mr. MANN, whose place, which - he greatly valued, depended upon them. This, of course, called forth the interest of' both parties : for Mr. MANN was one of those men for whom HORACE WALPOLE took up an affectionate friend- ship, such as he entertained for Mr. CONWAY (with whom he offered to divide his fortune), and such as is now almost if not entirely un- known in this scrambling age. The position of Mr. MANN, indeed, brings forward all HORACE WALPor.E's character. His warm feelings of affection and interest are excited by the danger in which the various Ministerial changes, and other public events of Europe, involved both the safety and the place of his correspon- dent. Next, the residence of Mr. MANN in the centre of the arts and antiquities of Italy, develops all WALPOLE'S dilettante tastes, and creates a thousand little topics of communication, which in any other hands must have been dull, but in his are touched with a peculiar charm. It has been said that Mr. MANN'S distance made all domestic gossip precious ; and this called forth Mr.WALPotis admirable talent at story-telling and anecdote-painting. These volumes are rich in this head : sayings and doings—that is, good things and clever stories—abound in the greatest pos- sible ptofitsion. The sentence of Gosnsmisin's epitaph, "Nihil tetigit, quod non ornavit," never applied to any one so happily as to WALPOLE : the vulgarest or coarsest story acquires corusca- tions of the highest brilliancy under his polishing hands; the commonest anecdotes get half-a-dozen associations of humour when turned over in his mind; a mere brute story, communicated to him, is like the piebe of beef thrown into the Valley of Diamonds, it is immediately stuck full of gems. They who have forgot how Lord ORFORD adorned the news of the day or the mere scandal of high life, will find their memory brilliantly lighted up by a peru- sal of these volumes. We will give them a foretaste, by gleaning a few—a very few—of the things that have caused us a momentary pause as we devoured the pages : gluttony even, such as we con- fess to for such books as these, now and then pauses when it meets with a morsel of more than a common flavour on the palate.
The great pleasure of most of the things we meet with here, is that they are historical while they are humorous ; they call up the most interesting and even venerable recollections, at the same time that they are communicated with all the freshness of daily life.
The first anecdote we come to is of the Dutchess of BucKtivo- sisss, the supposed natural daughter of JAMES the Second, but, as her mother Lady DORCHESTER used to tell to her unwilling ear, really of a Colonel GRAHAM. This woman, in the reign of GEORGE the Second. used to give herself all the airs of royalty ; and such was the ticklish nature of the times and wretched
conduct- of the early Hanoverians, that it was the 'more valued for being ex-royalty: The .anecdote, .moreover, lets as somewhat into the relative conditions of the nobility, and those who in other days contributed to their pleasures. We had grandees in those days: the House of Lords was something, and their ministers of pleasure knew the vast gulf between men of talents and men of birth.
The Dutchess of Buckingham, who is more mad with pride than any mercer's wife. in Bedlam, came the other night to the Opera, en princesse, literally in robes, red velvet and ermine. I must tell vou a story of her : last week she sent for Cori,* to pay him for her Opera-ticket; he was not at home, but went in an hour afterwards. She said, " Did he treat her like a tradeswornan? She would teach him respect to women of her birth ; said he was in league with Mr. Sheffield f to abuse her, and bade him come the next morning at nine." He came, and she made him wait till eight at night, only sending him an omelet and a bottle of wine, awl said, " As it was Friday, and le a Catholic, she sup- posed he did not eat meat." At last site received him in all the form of a prioress giving audience to an ambassador. " Now," she said, "she had punished him."
The following is the beginning of a letter in which WALPOLE answers a passage in one of Mr. HORACE MANN'S letters to his brother.
London, January 7, 1741.-2. O.S.
I must answer for your 'brother a paragraph that he showed me in one of your
letters. 211r. W.'s letters are fall of wit ; don't they adore hint in England? Not at all—and I don't wonder at them; fur if I have any wit in my letters, which I do not at all take for granted, it is ten to one that I have time out of my letters. A thousand people can write that cannot talk ; and hesides, you
so, know (or I conclude so from the little one hears stirring), that numbers Of the English have wit, who don't care to produce it. Then, as to adoring; you now see only my letters, and you may be sure I take care not to write you word of any of my bad qualities, which other people must see in the gross ; and that may be a great hindrance to their adoration. Oh ! there are a thousand other reasons I could give you, why I am not the least in fashion. I came over in an ill season : it is a million to one that nobody thinks a declining old Minister's son has wit. At any time, men in opposition have always most ; but now, it would be absurd for a courtier to have even common sense. There is not a Mr. Sturt, or a Mr. Stewart, whose names begin but with the first letters of Stan- hope, that has not a better chance than I for being liked. I can assure you, even those of the same party would be fools, not to pretend to think me one. Sir Robert has showed no partiality for me; and do you think they would com- mend where he does not? even supposing they had no envy, which, by the way, I ant far from saying they have not. Then, my dear child, I am the coolest man of my party, and if I am ever warm, it is by contagion ; and where vio- lence passes for parts, what will indifference be called ? But how could you think of such a question ? I don't want money, consequently no old women pay me or my wit ; I have a very flimsy constitution, consequently the young women won't taste my wit, and it is a long while before wit makes its own way in the world ; especially, as I never prove it, by assuring people that I have it by me. Indeed, if I were disposed to brag, I could quote two or three half-pay officers, and an old aunt or two, who laugh prodigiously at every thing I say; but till they are allowed judges, I will not brag of such authorities.
ff you have a mind to know who is adored and has wit, there is old Churchill has as much God-d—n-ye wit as ever—except that he has lost two teeth. There are half-a-dozen Scotelimen who vote against the Court, and are cried up by the Opposition for wit, to keep then steady. They are forced to cry up their parts, for it would be too barefaced to commend their honesty. Then Mr. Nugent has had a great deal of wit till within this week ; but he is so busy and so witty, that even his own party grow tired of him. His plump wife, who talks of nothing else, says he entertained her all the way on the road with repeating his speeches.
The following gossip includes a specimen of Sir ROBERT WAL- POLE'S tart style of observation. They who have imagined that Sir ROBERT was thrown into despair by his loss of power, and went to sentimentalize and mope at Houghton, as has been said, have been greatly mistaken. These letters give a true and par- ticular account of his goings on after his resignation: we see a great deal of sarcastic wit, high health, buoyant spirits, and much curious knowledge in men, but no despair. His age alone and infirmities prevented his return to office. But for the gossip.
Lady Sundon is dead, and Lady M— disappointed : she, who is full as politic as my Lord Hervey, had made herself an absolute servant to Lady Sun- don, but I don't hear that she has left her even her old clothes. Lord Sundon is in great grief : I am surprised, for she has had fits of madness ever since her ambition met such a check by the death of the Queen. She had great power with her, though the Queen pretended to despise her ; but had unluckily told her, or fallen into her power, by some secret. I was saying to Lady Pomfret, " To be sure she is dead very rich! " she replied, with some warmth, " She never took money." When I came home, I mentioned this to Sir R. "No," said he, "but she took jewels; Lord Pomfret's place of Master of the Horse to the Queen was bought of her for a pair of diamond earrings, of fourteen hundred pounds value." One day that she wore them at a visit at old Marlboro's, as soon as she was gone, the Dutchess said to Lady Mary Wortley, " How can that woman have the impudence to go about in that bribe ?" "Madam," said Lady Mary, "how would you have people know where wine is to be sold, unless there is a sign hung out!' Sir R. told me, that in the enthusiasm of her vanity, Lady Sundon had proposed to him to unite with her, and govern the kingdom together : he bowed, begged her patronage, but said he thought nobody fit to govern the kingdom, but the King and Queen.—Another day. Friday morning.
Mr. WALPOLE'S taste was not infallible; in modern things, at least. He thus mentions GARRICK, who had just then (May 26, 1742) appeared above the horizon : the latter part of the paragraph is quoted in honour of the great female names of the drama.
But all the run is now after Garrick, a wine-merchant, who is turned player, at Goodman's Melds. He plays all parts, and is a very good mimic. His act- ing I have seen, and may say to you, who will not tell it again here, I see nothing wonderful in it ; but it is heresy to say so: the Duke of Argyll says, he is supe- rior to Betterton. Now I talk of players, tell Mr. Chute, that his friend Bracegirdle breakfasted with me this morning. As she went out, and wanted her clogs, she turned to me, and said, " I remember at the playhouse, they used to call Mrs. Oldfield's chair ! Mrs. Barry's clogs ! and Mrs. Bracegirdie's pattens ! "
We quote the following extract as a good specimen of the true WALPOLE narrative. The mixture of fact and fun is quite * Angelo Maria Cori, prompter to the Opera.
f Mr. Sheffield, natural son of the late Duke of Bucks, with whom she was at law.
Horatian : no one can mix up satire and life and news so ad- mirably.
I am writing to you up to the ears in packing : Lord Wilmington has lent this house tq Sandys, and he has given us instant warning ; we are moving as
fast as possible to Siberia,—Sir Robert has a house there, within a few miles of the Duke of Courland; in‘hort, child, we are all going to Norfolk, till we can get a house ready in town : all the furniture is taken down, and lying about in confusion. I look like St. John in the Isle of Patmos, writing revelations, and prophesying" Wo ! wo ! wo ! the kingdom of desolation is at hand !" Indeed, 4 have prettier animals about me than he ever dreamt of: here is the dear Pata- pan, and a little Vandyke cat, with black whiskers and boots ; you would swear at was of a very ancient family, in the West of England, famous for their loyalty.
I told you I was going to the masquerade at Runelagh Gardens last week : it WO miserable; there were but an hundred men, six women, and two shep- herdesses. The King liked it ; and that he might not be known, they had dressed him a box with red damask ! Lady Pomfret and her daughters were there. all dressed alike, that they might not be known. My Lady-laid to Lady Bel Finch, who was dressed like a nun, and, for coolness, had cut off the nose of her mask, " Madam, you are the first nun that ever I saw without a nose!" As I came home last night, they told me there was a tire in Downing Street ; when I came to Whitehall, I could not get to the end of the street in in cha- riot for the crowd : when I got out, the first thing I heard was a man enjoying himself: " Well ! if it lasts two hours longer, Sit, Robert Walpole's house will be burnt to the ground !" it was a very comfortable hearing ! but I found the fire was on the opposite side of the way, and at a good distance. I stood in the crowd an hour to hear their discourse : one man was relating at how many fires he had happened to be present, and did not think himself at all unlucky in pass- ing by just at this. What diverted me most was a servant-maid, who was working, and carrying pails of water, with the strength of half-a-dozen troopers, and swearing the mob out of her way—the soft creature's name was Plains! When I arrived at our door, I found the house full of goods, beds, women, and children, and three Scotch Members of Parliament, who lodge in the row, and who had Sent in a saddle, a flitch of bacon, and a bottle of ink. There was no wind, and the house was saved, with the loss of only its garret, and the fur- niture.
In a similar and equally pleasant vein, is the following descrip- tion of the pains of the country. 'WALPOLE'S distaste for what is .called nature, was curiously violent : he was made for and by society, and could only live in the best—to be had, or else that which lie could always have in town—his own. • Newmarket, October 3, 1743. I am writing to you in an inn, on the road to London. What a paradise should I have thought this, when I was in the Italian inns ! in a wide barn with four ample windows, which had nothing more like glass than shutters and iron bars ! no tester to the bed, and the saddles and portmanteaus heaped on me to keep off the cold. What a paradise did I think the inn at Dover when I came back, and what magnificence were twopenny prints, saltsellers, and boxes to hold the knives: but the sununum bonvan was small.beer and the newspaper. " I bless'd my stars, and called it luxury ! "
Who was the Neapolitan Ambassadress, that could not live at Paris, because there was no macaroni? Now am I relapsed into all the dissatisfied repine.. ment of a true English grumbling voluptuary. I could find in my heart to write a Craftsman against the Government, because I am not quite so much at my ease as on my own sofa. I could persuade myself that it is my Lord Car- teret's fault, that I am only sitting in a common arm-chair, when I would be lolling in a peche-naortel. How dismal, how solitary, how scrub does this town look ; and yet it has actually a street of houses better than Parma or Modena. Nay, the houses of the people of fashion, who conic hither for the laces, are palaces to what houses in London itself were fifteen years ago. People do begin to live again now, and I suppose in a term we shall revert to York Houses, Clarendon Houses, &c. But from that grandeur, all the nobility bad contracted themselves to live in coops of a dining-room, a dark back room, with one eye in a corner, and a closet. Think what London would be, if the chief houses were in it, as in the cities in other countries, and not dispersed like great rarity- plums in a vast pudding of country. Well! it is a tolerable place as it is! Were I a physician, I would prescribe nothing but recipe eceaxv drachm. Londin. Would you know why I like London so much? Why, if the world must consist of so many fools as it dues, I choose to take them in the gross, and not made into separate pills, as they are prepared in the country. Besides, there is no being alone but in a metropolis : the worst place in the world to find soli- tude is the country : questions grow there, and that unpleasant Christian com- modity, neighbours. Oh ! they are all good Samaritans, and do so pour balms and nostrums upon one, if one has but the toothache, or a journey to take, that they break one's head—a journey to take—ay ! they talk over the miles to you, and tell you you will be late in. My Lord Lovel says, John always goes two hours in the dark in the morning, to avoid being one hour in the dark in the evening. I was pressed to set out to-day before seven : I did before nine; and here am I arrived at a quarter past five, for the rest of the night. I am more convinced every day that there is not only no knowledge of the world out of a great city, but no decency, no practicable society--I had almost said, not a vir- tue. I will only instance in modesty, which all old .Englishmen are persuaded cannot exist within the atmosphere of Middlesex. Lady Mary has a remarkable taste and knowledge of music, and can sing—I don't say like your sister, but I am sure she would be ready to die if obliged to sing before three people or before one with whom she is not intimate. The other day there came to see her a Norfolk heiress ; the young gentlewoman had not been three hours in the house, and that for the first time of her life, before she notified her talent for singing, and invited herself up stairs, to Lady Mary's harpsichord ; where, with a voice like thunder, and with as little harmony, she sang to nine or ten people for an hour. " Was ever nymph like Rossymonde ? "—no, d'honneur. We told her, she had a very strong voice. "Lord, Sir ! any master says it is nothing to what it was." My dear child, she brags abominably ; if it had been a thousandth degree louder, you must have heard it at Florence.
In a volume of WALPOLE'S Letters before published, there occurs some striking letters on the Rebellion of 1745 ; but there does not anywhere exist so complete a mirror of London, the Aristo- -cracy, the Ministry, and the Court, during this disgraceful period ...for England, as in this series of Letters. Here we trace all the .effects of the first rumours, with the fright here and the apathy there, the gross incapacity in the Cabinet, the cowardice and treachery in the field, the folly and ignorance of the Court: the middle ranks had not much to care for, and they cared for no- thing : certainly no period of time ever exhibited what is called a great nation in such a crisis of imbecility : and then, when all was over, when the failure had only just been permitted to fail, the butchery and appetite for blood that raged! WALPOLE, how- ever, repented when the danger was over; but we are ashamed of even his delight in the anecdotes of HAWLEY'S brutality and cruelty during the contest. He quite comes to himself at the trial of KILMARNOCK and the other Scotch Lords. Some account of the execution is communicated in his former letters; but thelively and picturesque narrative we find in the second volume of this work, both of the trial and execution, exceeds all the other de- seriptions that have been given of these scenes. The following letter embraces only the execution.
Windsor, August 21st, 1746.
You will perceive by my date that lam got into a new scene, and that I am re- tired hither like an old summer-dowager ; only that I have no toad-eater to take the air with me in the back part of my lozenge-coach, and to be scolded. I have taken a small house here within the Castle, and propose spending the greatest part of every week here till the Parliament meets : but my jaunts to town will prevent ray news from being quite provincial and marvellous. Then I promise you I will go to no races nor assemblies, nor make comments upon couples that come in chaises to the White Hart.
I came from town (for take notice, I put this place upon myself for the country) the day after the execution of therebel Lords : I was not at it, but had two persons come to me directly who were at the next house to the scaffold; and I saw another who was upon it, so that you may depend upon my ac- counts.
Just before they came out of the Tower, Lord Balmerino drank a Doper to King James's health. As the clock struck ten, they came forth on font, Lord Kilmarnock all in black, his hair unpowdered 'in a bag, supported by Fors- ter, the great Presbyterian, and by Mr. Home, a young clergyman, his hiencl.
Lord Balmerino followed, alone, in a blue coat turned up with red, his :label-
lious regimentals, a flannel waistcoat, and his shroud beneath ; their hearses. following. They were conducted to a house near the scaffold; the room fvir-. wards had benches for spectators ; in the second Lord Kilmarnock was put, and in the third backwards Lord Balmerino; all three chambers hung with' black. Here they parted ! Balmerino embraced the other, amt. said, " My Lord, I wish I could suffer for both !" He had scarce left him, before he de- sired again to see him, and then asked him, " My Lord Kilmarnock, do you know any thing of the resolution taken in our army, the day before the battle of Culloden, to put the English prisoners to death?" He replied, " My Lord, I was not present ; but since I came hither, I have had all the reason- in the world to believe that there was such order taken ; and I hear the Duke has the pocket-book with the order." Balmerino answered, " lkwas a lie raised to ex- cuse their barbarity to us." Take notice, that the Duke's charging this on Lord Kilmarnock (certainly on misinformation) decided this unhappy men's fate ! The most now pretended is, that it would have come to Lord Kilmar- nock's turn to have given the word for the slaughter, as Lieutenant-General, with the patent for which he was immediately drawn into the rebellion, after having been staggered by Isis wife, her mother, his own poverty, and the defeat of Cope. lie remained an hour and a half in the house, and shed tears. At last he came to the scaffold, certainly much terrified, but with a resolution that pre- vented his behaving in the least meanly or unlike a gentleman. He took no no- tice of the crowd, only to desire that the baize might be lifted op from the rails, that the mob might see the spectacle. He stood and prayed some time with Forster, who wept over him, exhorted, and encouraged him. He delivered a long speech to the Sheriff, and with a noble manliness stuck to the recantation he had made at his trial ; declaring he wished that all who embarked in the same cause might meet the same fate. He then took off iris bag, coat, and waistcoat with great composure, and after some trouble put on a napkin-cap, and then several times tried the block ; the executioner, who was in white with a white apron, out of tenderness concealing the axe behind himself. At last the Earl knelt down, with a visible unwillingness to depart, and after five minutes dropped his handkerchief, the signal, and his head was cut off at once, only hanging by a bit of skin, and was received in a scarlet cloth by four of the un- dertaker's men kneeling, who wrapped it up and put it into the coffin with the body ; orders having been given riot to expose the heads, as used to be the custom.
The scaffold was immediately new-strewed with saw-dust, the block new- covered, the executioner new dressed, and a new axe brought. Then came old Balmerino, treading with the air of a general. As soon as he mounted the scaffold, he read the inscription on his coffin, as he did again afterwards,: he then surveyed the spectators, who were in amazing numbers, even upon masts of ships in the river ; and pulling out his spectacles read a treasonable speech, which he delivered to the Sheriff, and said, the young Pretender was so sweet a Prince, that flesh and blood could not resist following him ; and Icing down.to try the block, he said, " If I had a thousand lives, I would lay them all down here in the same cause." He said, if he had nut taken the sacrament the day before, he would have knocked down Williamson, the Lieutenant of the Tower, for his ill usage of him. He took the axe and felt it, and asked the headsman, how many blows he had given Lord Kilmarnock; and gave him three guineas. Two clergymen, who attended him, coming up, he said, "No, gentlemen, I believe you have already done me all the service you can." Then he went to the corner of the scaffold, and called very loud for the Warder, to give him his perriwig, which he took off, and put on a night-cap of Scotch plaid, and then. pulled off his coat and waistcoat and lay down ; but being told he was on the wrong side, vaulted round, and immediately gave the sign by tossing up his arm,. as if he were giving the signal for battle. He received three blows, but the first certainly took away all sensation. He was not a quarter of an hour on the scaffold ; Lord Kilmarnock above half a one. Balmerino certainly died with the intrepidity of a hero, but with time insensibility of one too. As he walked from his prison to execution, seeing every window and top of house filled with spectators, he cried out, "Look, look, how they are all piled up like rotten oranges !" My Lady Townshentl, who fell in love with Lord Kilmarnock at his trial,
will go nowhere to dinner, for fear of meeting with a rebel-pie ; she says, every- body is so bloody-minded, that they eat rebels ! The Prince of Wale's, whose intercession saved Lord Cromartie, says he did it in return for old Sir W. Gor- don, Lady Cromartic's father, coming down out of his death-bed, to vote against my other in the Chippenham election. If his Royal Highness bad not coun- tenanced inveteracy like that of Sir Gordon, he would have no occasion to exert his gratitude now in favour of rebels. His brother has plucked a very useful feather out of the cap of the Ministry, by forbidding any application for posts in the army to be made to anybody but himself : a resolution, I dare say, he will keep as strictly and minutely as he does the discipline and dress of the army. Adieu! P. S. I have just received yours of August 9th. You hail not then heard of the second great battle of Placentia, which has already occasioned new instruc- tions, or in effect, a recall being sent after Lord Sandwich.
If we conclude our extracts here, it is with reference not to any want of tempting morsels in the volumes before us, but in fact to the want of the space which the numerous passages we have marked as excellent would require for their exhibition.
These volumes are indispensable in every library in the king dom; and a mere reading of them is a great privilege.