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forest; to Bentley, in exile for debt; to Cole, in the Fens of Cambridgeshire ; to Mason, in his Yorkshire parsonage; to blind Madame du Deffand, in the gilded saloons of Paris; and to Lady Ossory, seeking solitude, after her divorce, in the woods of Ampthill. . . . He lived throughout a long life in the best society and in the best clubs. His letters are absolute jests and story-books, and the exact standard of easy, engaging writing. ... He has the art to interest us in very little matters, and to enliven subjects seemingly the most barren.' Walpole himself tells us that his letters are to be looked upon in their proper character of newspapers,' and that if they possess any excellence in point of style, it must be imputed to his careful study of the correspondence of Madame de Sévigné and his friend Gray. 'I generally write in a hurry,' he informs one of his many correspondents, and say anything that comes into my head. .. I cannot compose letters like Pliny and Pope.' Elsewhere he says to Montagu, Mine is a life of letter-writing. Correspondence, in short, was his favourite pursuit.
Letter to Miss Berry.
HORACE WALPOLE TO Miss BERRY.
BERKELEY SQUARE, May 26, 1791. I AM rich in letters from you. I received that by Lord Elgin's courier first, as you expected, and its elder the next day. You tell me mine entertains you ; tant mieux. It is my wish, but my wonder ; for I live so little in the world, that I do not know the present generation by sight ; for, though I pass by them in the streets, the hats with valences, the folds above the chin of the ladies, and the dirty shirts and shaggy hair of the young men, who have levelled nobility almost as much as the nobility in France have, have confounded all individuality. Besides, if I did go to public places and assemblies, which my going to roost earlier prevents, the bats and owls do not begin to fly abroad till far in the night, when they begin to see and be seen. However, one of the empresses of fashion, the Duchess of Gordon, uses fifteen or sixteen hours of her four-and-twenty. I heard her journal of last Monday. She first went to Handel's music in the Abbey; she then clambered over the benches, and went to Hastings' trial in the Hall ; after dinner, to the play ; then to Lady Lucan's assembly ; after that to Ranelagh, and returned to Mrs. Hobart's faro-table ; gave a ball herself in the evening of that morning, into which she must have got a good way; and set out for Scotland the next day. Hercules could not have achieved a quarter of her labours in the same space of time. ... The rest of my letter must be literary, for we have no news. (Then follow strictures on Boswell's Life of Dr. Johnson, Burke's Character of Rousseau, etc.) . . . When you return, I shall lend you three volumes in quarto of another work, with which you will be delighted. They are State letters in the reigns of Henry VIII., Mary, Elizabeth, and James ; being the correspondence of the Talbot and Howard Recent Letter-Writers. 61 families, given by a Duke of Norfolk to the Heralds' Office, where they have lain for a century neglected, buried under dust and unknown, till discovered by a Mr. Lodge, a genealogist, who, to gratify his passion, procured to be made a pursuivant. Oh! how curious they are ! Henry seizes an alderman who refused to contribute to a benevolence ; sends him to the army on the borders; orders him to be exposed in the front line; and if that does not do, to be treated with the utmost rigour of military discipline. His daughter Bess is not less a Tudor. The mean, unworthy treatment of the Queen of Scots is striking ; but the most amusing passage is one in a private letter, as it paints the awe of children for their parents a little differently from modern habitudes. Mr. Talbot, second son of the Earl of Shrewsbury, was a member of the House of Commons, and was married. He writes to the Earl, his father, and tells him that a young woman of a very good character has been recommended to him for chambermaid to his wife, and if his Lordship does not disapprove of it, he will hire her. There are many letters of news that are very entertaining too; but it is nine o'clock, and I must go to Lady Cecilia's.
As other distinguished letter-writers I may mention Oliver Goldsmith, Laurence Sterne, David Hume, Benjamin Franklin, David Garrick, Edward Gibbon, Robert Burns,--and,
own times, Henry Kirke White, Lord Byron, George Crabbe, Charles Lamb, Robert Southey, Sydney Smith, and Lord Jeffrey; while the gentler sex is well represented by Mrs. Godwin (Mary Wolstoncroft),
Hannah More, Mrs. Tonna (Charlotte Elizabeth' Browne), Jane and Anna-Maria Porter, Mrs. Maclean (‘L. E. L.'), Felicia Hemans, Mrs. Fletcher (better known as Miss Jewsbury), Lady Eastlake (Elizabeth Rigby), Miss Mitford, Mrs. Bray, Miss Pardoe, and Lady Duff-Gordon.
The great charm of Lady Duff-Gordon's Letters from Egypt, consists in their faithful reflection of her daily thoughts. I regret,' she says, 'that so many of my letters have been lost; but I can't replace them. I tried, but it felt like committing a forgery.' Easy, pleasing, graphic, and unaffected in her style, she says nothing she does not feel, and only what is passing through her mind at the moment. A less ingenuous writer once said :*The freedom I shall use of thinking aloud or talking upon paper may indeed prove me a fool, but it will prove me one of the best sort of fools,—the honest ones.' Lady Duff-Gordon's letters have been contrasted with those of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu. We can hardly imagine, however, that any honest critic would hesitate to apply to the more recent penwoman the epithet which Leigh Hunt withheld from Lady Mary ; and although some of her sentiGibbon and Goldsmith.
ments may appear to savour of optimism—a quality now rarely encountered—the coldest of her readers cannot fail to admire her catholicity of spirit and her largeness of heart.
Like the letters of Dr. Johnson, those of Gibbon are, as a general rule, short, when compared with the correspondence of other literary men. As one of many good examples, I may refer to an admirable letter which the historian addressed to Mrs. Porten, from Lausanne, in the year 1756. Poor Goldsmith, on the other hand, is not particularly laconic. I do not venture to introduce one of his humorous letters to his friend Bob Bryanton of Ballymahon, dated Edinburgh, 26th September 1753, in which he is not very complimentary to the natives of this 'dismal' and 'unfruitful' portion of the United Kingdom; but as an effusion full of character, I make no apology for giving the following laughable description of the poeterrant's second sally in quest of adventures, in a letter to his affectionate mother :
My dear mother, If you will sit down and calmly listen to what I say, you shall be fully resolved in every one of those many questions you have asked me.
I went to Cork and converted my horse, which you prize so much higher than Fiddle-back, into cash, took my pas