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THE HON. HORACE WALPOLE TO THE
REV. W. COLE.
Strawberry Hill, March 28, 1779. I HAVE been much amused with new travels through Spain, by a Mr. Swinburne,—at least with the account of the Alhambra, of the minor parts of which there are two beautiful prints. The Moors were the most polished, and had most taste of any people in the Gothic ages, and I hate the knave Ferdinand and his bigoted queen for destroying them. These new travels are simple, and do tell one a little more than late voyages, by whose accounts one would think there was nothing in Spain but Muleteers and Fandangos. In truth, there does not seem to be much worth seeing but prospects, and those, unless I were a bird, I would never visit, when the accommodations are so wretched.
Mr. Cumberland has given the town a masque, called Calypso, which is a prodigy of dulness. Would you believe that such a sentimental writer would be so gross as to make Cantharides one of the ingredients of the love potion for enamouring Telemachus? If you think I exaggerate, here are the lines :
To these the hot Hispanian fly
Shall bid his languid pulse beat high. Proteus and Antiope are Minerva's missioners for securing the prince's virtue, and, in recompense, they are married and crowned king and queen.
I have bought, at Hudson's sale, a fine design for a chimney piece, by Holbein for Henry VIIIth. If I had a room left, I would erect it. It is certainly not so Gothic as that in my Holbein room, but there is a great deal of taste for that bastard style.
I do intend, under Mr. Essex's inspection, to begin my offices next spring. It is late in my day, I confess, to return to brick and mortar, but I shall be glad to perfect my plan, or the next possessor will marry my castle to a Doric stable. There is a perspective through two or three rooms in the Alhambra, that might easily be improved into the Gothic, though there seems but small affinity between them, and they might be finished within with Dutch tiles and painting, or bits of ordinary marble, as there must be gilding.– Mosaic seems to have been their chief ornament for walls, ceilings, and floors. Fancy must sport in the furniture, and mottoes might be very gallant, and would be very Arabesque. I would have a mixture of colours, but with strict atten. tion to harmony and taste; and some one should predominate, as supposing it to be the favourite colour of the lady who was sovereign of the knight's affections who built the house. Carpets are classically Mahometan, and fountains,—but, alas ! our climate, till last summer, was never romantic! Were I not so old, I would at least build a Moorish novel—for you see my head runs on Granada, and by taking the most picturesque parts of the Mahometan and Catholic religions, and with the mixture of African and Spanish names, one might make something very agreeable,—at least, I will not give the hint to Mr. Cumberland.--Adieu.
THE HON. HORACE WALPOLE TO THE
REV. W. COLE.
Berkeley Square, Feb. 5, 1780. I HAVE been turning over the new second volume of the Biographia, and find the additions very poor and lean performances. The lives, entirely new, are partial and flattering, being contribu. tions of the friends of those whose lives are re. corded. This publication, made at a time when I have lived to see several of my contemporaries deposited in this national temple of Fame, has made me smile, and made me reflect that many preceding authors, who have been installed there with much respect, may have been as trifling personages as those we have known, and now behold consecrated to memory. Three or four have struck me particularly, as Dr. Birch, who was a worthy good natured soul, full of industry and activity, and running about, like a young setting dog, in quest of any thing new or old, and with no parts, taste, or judgment. Then there is Dr. Blackwell, the most impertinent literary coxcomb upon earth. But the editor has been so just, as to insert a merited satire on his Court of Augustus. The third is Dr. Browne, that mountebank, who for a little time made as much noise by his “ Estimate,” as ever quack did by a nostrum. I do not know whether I ever told you how much I was struck the only time I ever saw him.
You know one object of the anathemas of his Estimate was the Italian opera: yet did I
find him, one evening in Passion week, accompanying some of the Italian singers at a concert at Lady Carlisle's. A clergyman, no doubt, is not obliged to be on his knees the whole week before Easter, and music and a concert are harmless amusements; but when Cato or Calvin are out of character, reformation becomes ridiculous. But poor Dr. Browne was mad, and therefore might be in earnest, whether he played the fool or the reformer,
You recollect, perhaps, the threat of Dr. Kippis to me, which is to be executed on my father, for my calling the first edition of the Biographia the Vindicatio Britannica. But observe how truth emerges at last!
In this new volume, he confesses that the article of Lord Arlington, which I had specified as one of the most censurable, is the one most deserving that censure, and that the character of Lord Arlington is palliated beyond all truth or reason. Words stronger than inine : yet mine deserved to draw vengeance on my father! So a Presbyterian divine inverts divine judgment, and visits the sins of the children on the parents !
Cardinal Beaton's character, softened in the first edition, gentle Dr. Kippis pronounces detestable. Yet was I to blame for hinting at such defects in that work ! and yet my words are quoted to show that Lord Orrery's poetry was ridiculously bad. In like manner, Mr. D. Cumberland, who assumes the whole honour of publishing his grandfather's Lucan, and does not deign to mention its being published at Strawberry Hill (though, by the way, I believe it will be oftener purchased for having been printed there than for wearing Mr. Cumberland's name to the dedication), and yet he quotes me for having praised his ancestor in one of my publications. These little instances of pride and spleen divert me, and then make me sadly reflect on human weaknesses. I am very apt myself to like what flatters my opinions or passions, and to reject scornfully what thwarts them, even in the same persons. The longer one lives, the more one discovers one's own ugliness in the features of others. Yours ever,
P.S.-I remember two other instances where my impartiality, or at least my sincerity, have exposed me to double censure. Many, perhaps you, have condemned my severity on Charles I. Yet the late Mr. Hollis wrote against me in the newspapers, for condemving the republicans for the destruction of ancient monuments. Some blamed me for undervaluing the Flemish and Dutch painters in my preface to the Odes Walpolianæ. Barry, the painter, because I laughed at his extravagances, says, in his rejection of that school, “But I leave them to be admired by the Hon, H. W. and such judges.” Would not one think I had been their champion ?