CONCLUDING SERIES OF WALPOLE'S LETTERS TO SIR HORACE MANN.
THE period over which this series of the Walpolian epistles extends is from 1760 to 1785, but the two volumes now published only come down to 1776. The first letter opens with the accession of GEORGE the Third ; respecting whose conduct and promise WALPOLE is enraptured, though he soon changes his key. The public events of the succeeding epistles refer to the short reign of the favourite Lord BUTE, and the miserable party or family intrigues by which his reign was accompanied and followed—to the Wu.xes and Liberty contests—to the public and Parliamentary events of the period, especially to the beginnings of the American War ; whose certain mischiefs and probable results WALPOLE saw from the first, as he had glimpses of the French Revolution. In other matters his prophecies are ludicrously absurd. The private topics of the letters are first and foremost the writer himself—his health, his feelings, his friendships and enmities, with Strawberry Hill and the articles of vertu he was putting into it, many of which were procured or presented by Sir HORACE MANN. The fortunes and characters of his acquaintance are next in importance, and first in interest to the reader ; for some of his stories are striking in their circumstances, or remarkable in their scandal; and he sketches directly or notices incidentally a good many individuals whom merit or accident has embalmed for posterity. Courtly incidents or gossip, private parties, opera notices, with here and there a remark on art or letters, and plenty of witty sayings or good things, form a third class of matter, sometimes public, sometimes private, and sometimes difficult to say which. With the exception of a few letters of mere compliment, the two volumes are pleasant and attractive to those who have some knowledge of the age and take an interest in the subject matter. And who does not ? For the Letters to Sir Horace Mann are the quintessence of a newspaper, and a newspaper of a peculiar kind, such a one as we have not and never had. The journalist WALroLE (for, though the imputation would have shocked the Whig aristocrat, his design was that of the old manuscript "newswriters "—to keep his friend MANN up to the spirit of the day)— the journalist WALPOLE did not produce a scandalous Sunday paper, though he dealt a good deal in scandal, and it is to be apprehended was not restrained by principle from circulating what he wished to believe. Nor was his a political newspaper, as we are now in the habit of considering politics ; for WALPOLE had no political philosophy ; and, while professing the most elevated regard for the public weal, be was constantly dropping down to petty, personal, or private motives : yet, in the general, abstract, right-of-man school of VOLTAIRE, he sometimes throws out a pointed paragraph difficult to be excelled in justness of thought and felicity of expression. If WALPOLE had a genius at all, it was the genius of a penny-a-liner, elevated by education, fortune, and position, and expanded by a knowledge of the world and of books ; but instinctively revelling in an " awful event" or a " melancholy incident," a " sight " of any kind, and above all in a tale of scandal; all which, to do him justice, he was unrivalled in telling : the circumstances that gave character, life, and interest to the story, are preserved as by our best reporters, but in far better style ; whilst all their prolixity, minuteness, frivolity, and vulgarity are discarded. Yet was not the journalist WALPOLE a mere newsmonger. And his sheet had these great advantages—he was mostly terse, often elegant, always genteel, and always readable. At this point of time, the matter does not always repay the perusal; but there is nothing which obviously says upon its face—" to be skipped by the general reader."
These letters seem to us more subdued than many of WALPOLE'S composition. Without any loss of ease or finish, there appears to be less obvious labour for effect ; and though some of the graver epistles may have been the result of care in the selection of the thoughts and in the choice of the expressions, the labour is shown in the number of the images, and the closeness with which they are packed together. They seem too good for spontaneous outpourings. It is impossible to conceive that so many and such various ideas could have been brought together, as in his letter on the death of his old friend CHUTE, by the mere wellings out of grief: yet some of the thoughts are very natural, and could only have arisen from experience of their truth ; such as these
" Old friends are the great blessings of one's latter years. Half a word conveys one's meaning. They have memory of the same events, and have the same mode of thinking. • • • have young relations that may grow upon tne, for my nature is affectionate, but can they grow old friends? My age forbids that. Still less can they grow companions. Is it friendship to explain half one says ? One must relate the history of one's memory and ideas; and what is that to the young but Old stories ?" But what Jonesox says of POPE'S letters may be applied to all the epistolary correspondence of writers—" It is not easy to distinguish affectation from habit : he that has once studiously formed
a style rarely writes afterwards with complete ease.""' It may be added, that long habits of composition give the power of condensation to a writer when his mind is strongly impressed with his subject.
A feature in the letters is their connecting us with the persons of a past generation, who were yet our contemporaries either by i themselves or their descendants. One of the earliest topics s the account of GEORGE the Third's wedding ; which in due time gave birth to princes who have passed or are now passing from the scene of life. At first the journalist was sarcastic, and neatly, on
THE ROYAL BRIDE.
An extraordinary Privy Council of all the members in and near town was summoned by the King's own messengers, not by those of the Council, to meet on the most urgent and important business. To sanctify or to reject the pacification, was concluded. Not at all—to declare a Queen. Urgent business enough, I believe; I do not see how it was important. The handkerchief has been tossed a vast way ; it is to a Charlotte, Princess of Mecklenburg. Lord Harcourt is to be at her father's court—if he can find it—on the 1st of August, and the coronation of both their Majesties is fixed for the 22d of September.
THE ARRIVAL AND THE WEDDING.
She arrived at St. James's a quarter after three on Tuesday the 8th. When she first saw the palace she turned pale : the Datchess of Hamilton smiled. "My dear Dutchess," said the Princess, "you may laugh; you have been mar
ried twice ; but it is no joke to me." Is this a bad proof of her sense On the journey they wanted her to curl her toupet. "No, indeed," said she; "I think it looks as well as those of the ladies who have been sent for me : if the King would have me wear a periwig, I will ; otherwise I shall let myself alone." The Duke of York gave her his hand at the garden-gate : her lips trembled, but she jumped out with spirit. In the garden the King met her : she would have fallen at his feet : he prevented and embraced her, and led her into the apartments, where she was received by the Princess of Wales and Lady Augusta: these three Princesses only dined with the King. At ten the procession went to chapel, preceded by unmarried daughters of Peers, and Peeresses in plenty. The new Princess was led by the Duke of York and Prince William; the Archbishop married them : the King talked to her the whole time with great good humour; and the Duke of Cumberland gave her away. She is not tall, nor a beauty ; pale' and very thin ; but looks sensible, and is genteel. Her hair is darkish and fine; her forehead low; her nose very well, except the nostrils spreading too wide ; her mouth has the same fault, but her teeth are good. She talks a good deal, and French tolerably ; possesses herself, is frank, but with great respect to the King. After the ceremony, the whole company came into the drawing-room for about ten minutes, but nobody was presented that night. The Queen was in white and silver; an endless mantle of violetcoloured velvet, lined with ermine, and attempted to be fastened on her shoulder by a bunch of large pearls, dragged itself and almost the rest of her clothes half-way down her waist. On her head was a beautiful little tiara of diamonds, a diamond necklace, and a stomacher of diamonds, worth three score thousand
pounds, which she is to wear at the coronation too. •
As supper was not ready, the Queen sat down' song, and played on the harpsichord to the Royal Family, who all supped with her in private. They talked of the different German dialects : the King asked if the Hanoverian was not pure: "Oh, no, Sir," said the Queen, "it is the worst of all." She will not be unpopular. The Duke of Cumberland told the King that himself and Lady Augusta were sleepy. The Queen was very averse to leave the company ; and at last articled that nobody should accompany her but the Princess of Wales and her own two German women, and that nobody should be admitted afterwards but the King. They did not retire till between two and three.
A TRAIT OF PULTENEY LORD BATH.
Lord Bath's extravagant avarice and unfeelingness on his son's death rather increases. Lord Pulteney left a kind of will, saying he had nothing to give, but made it his request to his father to give his post-chaise and one hundred pounds to his cousin Colman ; the same sum and his pictures to another cousin; and recommended the Lakes, his other cousins, to him. Lord Bath mat Colman and Lockman word they might get their hundred pounds as they could; and for the chaise and pictures they might buy them if they pleased, for they would be sold for his son's debts: and he expressed great anger at the last article, saying that he did not know what business it was of his son to recommend heirs to him.
WALPOLE ON amities.
This hero is as bad a fellow as ever hero was; abominable in private life, dull in Parliament, bat, they say, very entertaining in a room, and certainly no bad writer, besides having had the honour of contributing a great deal to Lord Bute's fall. Wilkes fought Lord Talbot in the autumn, whom he had abused; and lately in Calais when the Prince de Croy, the Governor, asked him how far the liberty of the press extended in England, replied, I cannot tell, but I am trying to know.
The Whig aristocrat peeps out in the following well-bred contemptuous notices of GARRICK ; which WALPOLE might not have liked the player to have known. "We are sending you another couple, the famous Garrick and his once famous wife. He will make you laugh as a mimic; and as he knows we are great friends, will affect great partiality to me: but be a little upon your guard, remember he is an actor.
"If the honours I have told you Mr. Garrick has received in France do not obtain him a chair in a Florentine conversazione, I think you must threaten them with the thunder of the Vatican, which you see we have at command; but to be serious, I would not have you get into a squabble about him ; he is not worth that."
This is a neat characteristic of RicuAnnson " There is Madame de Beaumont who has lately written a very pretty novel, called Lettres du Marquis du Roselle.' It is imitated, too, from an English standard, and in my opinion a most woful one; I mean the works of Richardson, who wrote those deplorably tedious lamentations, Clarissa and Sir Charles Grandison, which are pictures of high life as conceived by a bookseller, and romances as they would be spiritualized by a Methodist teacher."
The name, family, and event, which WALPOLE so contemptu. ously dismisses in the following extract, has since acquired an interest front its connexion with another Lord BYRON, and its fancied influence upon his fate.
THE BYRON DUEL.
We are likely to have another solemn puppet-show, the trial of a Pees. Lord Byron has killed a Mr. Chaworth in a duel at a tavern. 1, who should like the trial of a Laud or a Strafford, as a wholesome spectacle now and then, am not interested about an obscure Lord, whose birth alone procures his being treated like an overgrown criminal. This quarrel was about game ; and the very topic should send it to the Quarter-sessions. •
For some time I had nothing to tell you ; but the trial of Lord Byron, a solemn scene for a worthless man, but whose former faults had given handle to
ill-nature to represent him as guilty of an event which truly it bad been very difficult for him to avoid. He escaped with life; and recovered some portion of honour, if that can comfort him after the publicity made of his character, and the misfortune of killing an amiable man, but one not blameless in the late
AN EARLY APPEARANCE OF COLONEL BARRE.
The hero of the day was the famous Colonel Barre—a man, or I am mistaken, whose fame will not stop here. He spoke with infinite wit and humour, and with that first of merits to me, novelty : his manner is original. He spoke too with extreme bitterness ; which is almost new again, so civil have Parliaments been of late. He commended the present Secretaries of State, but foresaw it possible that, if one of them should die, his successor might be the most dissolute and abandoned sad dog in the kingdom. There sat Sandwich under the gallery, while the whole House applied the picture to him ! not a word was offered in his defence. You will ask if he was thunderstruck 2—yes, say those who were near him. Yet so well did he recover the blow, that at three in the morning he commenced an intrigue with a coffee-girl, who attends in the Speaker's chambers.
BARRE AND WILKES IN PRIVATE.
Colonel Barrd arrived last night, but had sent a refusal before him to England of the place of Irish Vice-Treasurer. I dined where he did today, and thought he was not quite so determined as he had imagined. I never was in a room with him before. His style is vulgar : hut that did not surprise me. Wilkes is here too ; in the same tone, and oith less parts. One likes to see men that posterity will wish to have seen : bate that curiosity, and they are commonly not just the men you would wish to see much. Wilkes's day is over; Barre's, I think, to come.
FOREIGN FEAR OF PITT.
On every occasion I beg you to be as haughty as may Ise: you no longer represent the King, but Mr. Pitt ; and pray keep up all the dignity of his crown. It will be your own fault if you don't huff yourself into a red riband. This is my serious advice ; as well as my temper. You know I love to have the majesty of the people of England dictate to all Europe. Nothing would have diverted me more than to have been at Paris at this moment. Their panic at Mr. Pitt's name is not to he described. Whenever they were impertinent, I used to drop, as by chance, that he would be Minister in a few days; and it never failed to occasion a dead silence.
A FEW "GOOD Timms."
We have an instance in our family of real dignity of mind, and I set it down as the most honourable alliance in the pedigree. The Dowager Lady Walpole, you know, was a French staymaker's daughter. When Ambassadress in France, the Queen expressed surprise at her speaking so good French. Lady Walpole said, she was a French woman. " Francaise !' replied the Queen : " Vous Francaise, Madame! et de quelle famine ?" " D'aucune, Madame," answered my aunt. Don't you think that nueune sounded greater than Montmorency would have done? One must have a great sate' to he of the aucune
family; which is not necessary to be a Howard. •
Some truth there was, I am assured by a person just returned from France, in the Prince of Conti's story. M. de Sartine, Lieutenant de Police, went with his officers to the Temple to search for libel.: the Prince immediately stripped stark, and showed he had not a rag of paper about him. He told M. de Sartine, that, knowing him for a man of honour, he would dispense with his stripping : he believed the other gentlemen were also men of honour ; but not being acquainted with them, and having heard of officers of justice, who, being sent to houses of obnoxious persons to search for libels, had contrived to find libels which they had brought with them on purpose, he insisted on their stripping to the skin likewise, and when they had done so he bade them go and search wherever they pleased. For my part, I did not expect so much
cleverness from his Highness. * Lady Gertrude Hotham, (Lord Chesterfield's sister,) one of the few whom perhaps you remember, is dead : she set her ruffle and thence the rest of her dress on fire, and died of it in ten days. She had wit, like all her brothers, but for many years had been a Methodist. About two years ago, as the Earl was ill, she went with her Primate, Lady Huntingdon, to try to tempt him to one of their seminaries in Wales, hoping to get at his soul by a cranny in his health. They extolled the prospects, and then there were such charming mountains! " Hold, ladies, said he ; I don't love mountains : when your Ladyships' faith has removed the mountains, I will go thither with all my heart !"
A POLITICAL MAXIM: TEXT, WILKES.
I was not mistaken in announcing to you the approaching expulsion of Wilkes. It passed on Friday night, or rather at three on Saturday morning, by a majority of 219 against 137, after four days of such fatigue and long sittings as never were known together. His behaviour, in every respect but confidence, was so poor, that it confirmed what I have long thought, that he would lose himself sooner in the House of Commons than Ire can be crushed anywhere else. He has so little quickness or talent for public speaking, that he would not be heard with patience. Now he has all the éclat that sufferings, boldness, or his writings can give him : not that I think the latter have other merit than being calculated for the mob and the moment. He stands again for Middlesex, to he again expelled; yet nobody dares oppose him ; and he is as sure of recommending his successor. Still there are people so wild and blind as not to see that every triumph against him is followed by mortification and disgrace. In this country every violence turns back upon its authors. My father, who governed for the longest time, and Mr. Pelham, who enjoyed the quietest administration, always leaned to lenient measures. They who think themselves wiser have not met with equal success. As worthless a fellow as Wilkes is, the rigours exercised towards him have raised a spirit that will require still wiser heads to allay. Men have again turned seriously to the study of those controversies that agitated this country an hundred years ago; and instead of dipping in Roman and Greek histories for flowers to decorate the speeches of false patriotism, principles are revived that have taken deeper root; and I hope we may not see quarrels of a graver complexion than the dirty squabbles for places and profit. Persecution for politics has just the same issue as for religion ; it spreads the oppressed doctrine ; and though I think Wilkes as bad a man as if he were a saint, he will every day get diteiples who will profit by his martyrdom. Thank God that he has not turned Methodist !
ROADS AND POLICE IN 1774.
In the midst of this combustion, we are in perils by land and water. It has rained for this month without intermission : there is a sea between me and Richmond ; and Sunday was seunight I was hurried down to Isleworth in the ferry-boat by the violence of the current, and had great difficulty to get to shore. Our roads are so infested by highwaymen, that it is dangerous stirring out almost by day. Lady Hertford was attacked on Hounslow Heath at three in the afternoon. Dr. Eliot was shot at three days ago, without having resisted ; and the day before yesterday, we were near losing our Prime Minister, Lord North : the robbers shot at the postilion, and wounded the latter. In abort, all the freebooters that are not in India have taken to the highway. The Ladies of the Bedchamber dare not go to the Queen at Kew in au evening. The lane between me and the Thames is the only safe road I know at present, for it is up to the middle of the horses iii water.
It is curious to read such complaints as the following about the size of London, when London was bounded by Oxford Street on the North and the streets and squares of Bond Street on the West.
" London increases every day.: I believe there will soon be no other town left in England, for migrations increase as fast as buildings. All the Scotch and Irish that don't come to London go to America. If you ever return, as I devoutly wish, you will find a larger city than Florence, of which you never saw a street ; without including half the adjacent villages, which the town has surrounded or joined. Perhaps it will be at last like Palmyra, in the midst
of a vast desert. * • • I remember when my father went out of place, and was to return visits, which Ministers are excused from doing, he could not guess where he was, finding himself in so many new streets and squares. This was thirty years ago. They have been building ever since, and one would think bad Imported two or three capitals. London could put Florence into its fob-pocket : but as they build so slightly, if they did not rebuild, it would be just the reverse of Rome, a vast circumference of city surrounding= area of ruins. As its present progress is chiefly North, and Southwark marches South, the metropolis promisee to be as broad as long. Rows of houses shoot out every way like a polypus; and, so great is the rage of building everywhere, that, if I stay here a fortnight without going to town, I look about to see if no new house is built since I went last."
The letters do not exhibit WALPOLE in the loftiest light—one of the
" Qui Curios simulant, et Bacchanalia vivunt."
He rails against the mistresses of monarchs, panegyrizes the French noblesse for refusing to present Madame Do BARIti:, quotes an anecdote of the King of France's eldest daughter, who spiritedly ordered the Duc DE LA VAUGUION out of the room for suggesting that she should receive the Battafi ; and then writes to the British representative at Florence in the following strain, recommendatory of a common courtesan. The " Rena " had been a wine-merchant's wife at Florence, and in keeping with several persons—among others, Lord MARCH. She is the woman that worthy was so anxious to avoid a brawl with, in the Selwyn Correspondence.
" I must now desire a favour of you. The Contessa Rena is returned to Florence, and we hear has even been received at Court ; yet she is not satisfied without the countenance del Signor Ministro d'Inghilterra. As an Austrian Court has not been squeamish, I think you need not be so : nay, I don't suspect you. Besides, as our representative, you may plead the precedent of her Grace of Kingston. But, without a joke, it will oblige me and two of my friends if you will take notice of her and show her civilities. She is a good-humoured inoffensive creature; I knew her myself; she has been at Strawberry, and lain there ; en tout bien, et honneur, s'entend ; and it will oblige the above persons extremely if she writes word that Monad .3fenn has distinguished her at my request."