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shall hear from me at my return. I got the box for Miss Rice ; lady Hinchinbrook is dead.
To GEORGE MONTAGU, Esq.
Houghton, March 25, 1761. HERE I am at Houghton !! and alone! in this spot, where (except two hours last month) I have not been in sixteen years ! Think, what a crowd of reflections ! No, Gray, and forty church-yards, could not furnish so many ; nay, I know one must feel them with greater indifference than I possess, to have patience to put them into verse. Here I am, probably for the last time of my life, though not for the last time: every clock that strikes tells me I am an hour nearer to yonder church-that church, into which I have not yet had courage to enter, where lies that mother on whom I doated, and who doated on me! There are the two rival mistresses of Houghton, neither of whom ever wished to enjoy it! There, too, lies he, who founded its greatness, to contribute to whose fall Europe was embroiled; there he sleeps in quiet and dignity, while his friend and his foe, rather his false ally and real enemy, Newcastle and Bath, are exhausting the dregs of their pitiful lives in squabbles and pamphlets.
The surprise the pictures? gave me is again renewed; accustomed for many years to see nothing but wretched daubs and varnished copies at auctions, I look at these as enchantment. My own description of them seems poor ; but shall I tell you truly, the majesty of Italian ideas almost sinks before the warm nature of Flemish colouring. Alas! don't I grow old ? My young imagination was fired with Guido's ideas; must they be plump and prominent as Abishag to warm me now? Doth great youth feel with poetic limbs, as well as see with poetic eyes ? In one respect, I am very young, I cannot satiate myself with looking: an incident contributed to make me feel this more strongly. A party arrived, just as I did, to see the house, a man and three women in riding dresses, and they rode post through the apartments. I could not hurry before them fast enough; they were not so long in seeing for the first time, as I could have been in one room, to examine what I knew by heart. I remember formerly being often diverted with this kind of seers; they come, ask what such a room is called, in which sir Robert lay, write it down, admire a lobster or a cabbage in a marketpiece, dispute whether the last room was green or purple, and then hurry to the inn for fear the fish should be over-dressed. How different my sensations ! not a picture here but recalls a history; not one, but I remember in Downing-street or Chelsea, where queens and crowds admired them, though seeing them as little as these travellers !
1 The magnificent seat erected by sir Robert Walpole, whose prayer, recorded on the foundation stone-viz: “ that after its master, to a mature old age, had long enjoyed it in perfection, his latest descendants may safely possess it to the end of time,” was not destined to be fulfilled. [Ed.]
? This magnificent collection of pictures was sold to the Empress of Russia, and some curious particulars on the subjects of the sale will be found in Beloe's Anecdotes of Literature, &c. A series of engravings was likewise made from them, which was published in 1788, under the title of “ The Houghton Gallery: a collection of prints, from the best pictures in the possession of the earl of Orford.” (Ed.]
When I had drank tea, I strolled into the garden; they told me it was now called the pleasure-ground. What a dissonant idea of pleasure ! those groves, those allées, where I have passed so many charming moments, are now stripped up or overgrown - many fond paths I could not unravel, though with a very exact clew in my memory: I met two gamekeepers, and a thousand hares! In the days when all my soul was tuned to pleasure and vivacity (and you will think, perhaps, it is far from being out of tune yet), I hated Houghton and its solitude; yet I loved this garden, as now, with many regrets, I love Houghton; Houghton, I know not what to call it, a monument of grandeur or ruin! How I have wished this evening for lord Bute! how I could preach to him! For myself, I do not want to be preached to; I have long considered how every Balbec must wait for the chance of a Mr. Wood. The servants wanted to lay me in the great apartment—what, to make me pass my night as I have done my evening! It were like proposing to Margaret Roperi to be a duchess in the court that cut off her father's head, and imagining it would please her. I have chosen to sit in my father's little dressing-room, and am now by his scrutoire, where, in the height of his fortune, he used to receive the accounts of his farmers, and deceive himself, or us, with the thoughts of his economy. How wise a man at once, and how weak! For what has he built Houghton? for his grandson to annihilate, or for his son to mourn over. If lord Burleigh could rise and view his representative driving the Hatfield stage, he would feel as I feel now. Poor little Strawberry! at least it will not be stripped to pieces by a descendant! You will find all these fine meditations dictated by pride, not by philosophy. Pray consider through how many mediums philosophy must pass, before it is purified
3 Margaret Roper, wife of William Roper, esq., and the eldest and favourite daughter of the great sir Thomas More; she bought the head of her ill-fated parent, when it was about to be thrown into the Thames, after having been affixed to London Bridge; and on being questioned by the
how often must it weep, how often burn!"
My mind was extremely prepared for all this gloom by parting with Mr. Conway yesterday morning ; moral reflections or common places are the livery one likes to wear, when one has just had a real misfortune. He is going to Germany : I was glad to dress myself up in transitory Houghton, in lieu of very sensible concern. To-morrow I shall be distracted with thoughts, at least images, of very different complexion. I go to Lynn, and am to be elected on Friday. I shall return hither on Saturday, again alone, to expect Burleighides on Sunday, whom I left at Newmarket. I must once in my life see him on his grandfather's throne.
Epping, Monday night, thirty first. - No, I have not seen him ; he loitered on the road, and I was kept at Lynn till yesterday morning. It is plain I never knew for how many trades I was formed, when at this time of day I can begin electioneering, and succeed in my new vocation. Think of me, the subject of a mob, who was scarce ever before in a mob, addressing them in the town-hall, riding at the head of two thousand people through
privy council about her conduct, she boldly replied, that she had done so that “it might not become food for fishes.” She survived her father nine years, and died, aged 36, in 1544, and was buried at St. Dunstan's church, Canterbury; the box containing her father's head, being placed on her coffin. (Ed.]
such a town as Lynn, dining with above two hundred of them amid bumpers, huzzas, songs, and tobacco, and finishing with country dancing at a ball and sixpenny whisk! I have borne it all cheerfully; nay, have sat hours in conversation, the thing upon earth that I hate ; have been to hear misses play on the harpsichord, and to see an alderman's copies of Rubens and Carlo Marat. Yet to do the folks justice, they are sensible, and reasonable, and civilized; their very language is polished since I lived among them. I attribute this to their more frequent intercourse with the world and the capital, by the help of good roads and post-chaises, which, if they have abridged the king's dominions, have at least tamed his subjects. Well, how comfortable it will be to-morrow, to see my parroquet, to play at loo, and not be obliged to talk seriously! The Heraclitus of the beginning of this letter will be overjoyed on finishing it to sign himself your old friend,
P.S. I forgot to tell you that my ancient aunt Hammond came over to Lynn to see me; not from any affection, but curiosity. The first thing she said to me, though we have not met these sixteen years, was, "Child, you have done a thing to-day that your father never did in all his life; you sat as they carried you, he always stood the whole time." “ Madam," said I, or when I am placed in a chair, I conclude I am to sit in it; besides, as I cannot imitate my father in great things, I am not at all ambitious of mimicking him in little ones.” I am sure she proposes to tell her remarks to my uncle Horace's ghost, the instant they meet.
To The Hon. H. S. CONWAY.
Arlington-street, April 10, 1761. IF Prince Ferdinand had studied how to please me, I don't know any method he could have lighted upon so likely to gain my heart, as being beaten out of the field before you joined him.
i Prince Ferdinand, after having caused a field of battle to be marked out near Homburg, was compelled by the want of subsistence in a place already exhausted both by friends and foes, to forego the advantages of a battle in so
I delight in a hero that is driven so far that nobody can follow him. He is as well at Paderborn, as where I have long wished the king of Prussia, the other world. You may frown if you please at my imprudence, you who are gone with all the dispo. sition in the world to be well with your commander ; the peace is in a manner made, and the anger of generals will not be worth sixpence these ten years. We peaceable folks are now to govern the world, and you warriors must in your turn tremble at our subjects, the mob, as we have done before your hussars and court-martials.
I am glad you had so pleasant a passage. My lord Lyttelton would say, that lady M **** C****, like Venus, smiled over the waves, et mare præstabat eunti. In truth, when she could tame me, she must have had little trouble with the ocean. Tell me how many burgomasters she has subdued, or how many would have fallen in love with her if they had not fallen asleep? Come, has she saved two-pence by her charms ? Have they abated a farthing of their impositions for her being handsomer than any thing in the seven provinces? Does she know how political her journey is thought? Nay, my lady Ailesbury, you are not out of the scrape; you are both reckoned des marechales de Guebriant, going to fetch, and consequently
young queen. There are more jealousies about your voyage, than the duke of Newcastle would feel if Dr. Shaw had prescribed a little ipecacuanha to my lord Bute.
I am sorry I must adjourn my mirth, to give lady Ailesbury a pang: poor sir Harry Bellendine+ is dead; he made a great dinner at Almac's for the house of Drummond, drank very hard, caught a violent fever, and died in a very few days. Perhaps you will have heard this before; I shall wish so; I do not like, even innocently, to be the cause of sorrow.
favourable a situation, and to retreat. The rear was covered by the hereditary prince, who, being attacked by a superior number of the enemy, his men were broken and dispersed, about 3,000 of them taken prisoners, and he himself only escaped through the intrepidity of two of his officers. (Ed.]
2 From Harwich to Helvoetsluys. [Or.]
3 The marechale de Guebriant was sent to the king of Poland with the character of ambassadress by Louis XIII. to accompany the princess Marie de Gonzague, who had been married by proxy to the king of Poland at Paris. [Or.] 4 Uncle to the countess of Ailesbury. [Or.]