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Horace Walpole to John Chute-Visit to John Wesley's "Opera.”
XXIII.-VISIT TO JOHN WESLEY'S "OPERA.”
Horace Walpole to John Chute.
I am impatient to hear that your charity to me has not ended in the gout to yourself. All my comfort is, if you have it that you have good Lady Brome to nurse you.
My health advances faster than my amusement. However, I have been at one opera, Mr. Wesley's. They have boys and girls with charming voices, that sing hymns in parts to Scotch ballad tunes, but, indeed, so long that one would think they were already in eternity and knew how much time they had before them. The chapel is very neat, with true Gothic windows (yet I am not converted); but I was glad to see that luxury is creeping in upon them before persecution: they have very neat mahogany stands for benches, and brackets of the same in taste. At the upper end is a broad haut pas of four steps, advancing in the middle; at each end of the broadest part are two of my eagles, with red cushions for the parson and clerk. Behind them rise three more steps, in the midst of which is a third eagle for pulpit. Scarlet armed chairs for all three. On either hand is a balcony for elect ladies. The rest of the congregation sit on forms. Behind the pit, in a dark niche, is a plain table within rails; so you see the throne is for the Apostle. Wesley is a
* The idea of adopting the psalms of the church to secular tunes had been put in practice long before Wesley's day. The celebrated Clement Marot wrote a number of psalms to suit the popular airs of his time, for the accommodation of the ladies of the French court, who were devoutly inclined; but he left it to Wesley to assign as a reason for doing so, that there were no just grounds for letting the devil have all the best tunes to himself.-H.
Horace Walpole to John Chute-Visit to John Wesley's "Opera."
lean elderly man, fresh colored, his hair smoothly combed, but with a soupçon of curls at the ends. Wondrous clean, but as evidently an actor as Garrick. He spoke his sermon, but so fast, and with so little accent, that I am sure he has often uttered it, for it was like a lesson. There were parts and eloquence in it; but toward the end he exalted his voice and acted very ugly enthusiasm, decried learning, and told stories, like Latimer, of the fool of his college, who said "I thanks my God for every thing." Except a few from curiosity, and some honorable women, the congregation was very mean. There was a Scotch Countess of Buchan, who is carrying a fine rosy vulgar face to heaven, and who asked Miss Rich if that was the author of the poets. I believe she meant me and the Noble Authors. The Bedfords came last night. Lord Chatham was with me yesterday two hours; looks and walks well, and is in excellent political spirits. Yours ever.*
* This letter is a curious record of the impression made upon a mere man of fashion by the greatest and most truly apostolic divine that England produced in the last century. Great injustice is done to Wesley, who was no ordinary scholar himself, by charging him with hostility to learning. Although frequent exhortations to his preachers to improve themselves by study, are to be found scattered through his writings, he certainly did not look upon profane learning as absolutely essential to the work which his coadjutors were preeminently called on to perform, of reviving pure Christianity in England, and preaching the gospel to the poor. His own explanation of the use of the plainest words is perfectly satisfactory. "Clearness," said he to one of his lay assistants, "is necessary for you and me, because we are to instruct people of the lowest understanding; therefore, we above all, if we think with the wise, must speak with the vulgar. We should constantly use the most common, little, easy words, so they are pure and proper, which our language affords. When first I talked at Oxford to plain people, in the castle or town, I observed they gaped and stared; this quickly obliged me to alter my style, and adopt the language of those I spoke to; and yet there is a dignity in their simplicity which is not disagreeable to those of the highest rank." Let the reader compare with the text the opinion of
Horace Walpole to H. S. Conway-Visit to Stowe with the Princess Amelia.
XXIV.-VISIT TO STOWE WITH THE PRINCESS AMELIA.
ARLINGTON STREET, July 12th, 1770. Reposing under my laurels! No, no, I am reposing in a much better tent, under the tester of my own bed. I am not obliged to rise by break of day, and be dressed for the drawingroom; I may saunter in my slippers till dinner-time, and not make bows till my back is as much out of joint as my Lord Tem
Wesley, expressed by another contemporary far more competent and equally disinterested. 'At an early age," writes Alexander Knox, "I was a member of Mr. Wesley's society, but my connection with it was not of long duration. Having a growing disposition to think for myself, I could not adopt the opinions which were current among his followers, and before I was twenty years of age my relish for their religious practices had abated. Still my veneration for Mr. Wesley himself suffered no diminution, rather as I became more capable of estimating him without prejudice, my conviction of his excellence and my attachment to his goodness gained fresh strength and deeper cordiality.
"It will hardly be denied that even in this frail and corrupted world, we sometimes meet persons, who, in their very mien and aspect, as well as in the whole habit of life, manifest such a stamp and signature of virtue as to make our judgment of them a matter of intuition, rather than a result of continued examination. I never met a human being who came more perfectly within this description than John Wesley. It was impossible to converse with him, I might say to look at him, without being persuaded, not only that his heart and mind were animated with the purest and most exalted goodness, but that the instinctive bent of his nature accorded so congenially with his Christian principles as to give a pledge for his practical consistency, in which it was impossible not to place confidence.
"It would be far too little to say that it would be impossible to suspect him of any moral taint, for it was obvious that every movement bespoke as perfect a contrariety to all that was earthly or animal, as could be imagined in a mortal being. His countenance as well as conversation expressed an habitual gayety of heart, which nothing but conscious virtue and innocence could have bestowed. He was, in truth, the most perfect specimen of moral happiness I ever saw; and my acquaintance with him has done more to teach me what a heaven upon earth is implied in the maturity of Christian piety, than all I have elsewhere seen or heard, or read, except in the sacred volume.”—H.
Horace Walpole to H. S. Conway-Visit to Stowe with the Princess Amelia.
ple's. In short, I should die of the gout or fatigue, if I was to be Polonius to a Princess for another week. Twice a day we made a pilgrimage to almost every heathen temple in that province they call a garden; and there is no sallying out of the house without descending a flight of steps as high as St. Paul's. My Lord Besborough would have dragged me up to the top of the column to see all the kingdoms of the earth; but I would not, if he could have given them to me. To crown all, because we live under the line, and that we were all of us giddy young creatures of near threescore, we supped in a grotto in the elysian fields, and were refreshed with rivers of dew and gentle showers that dripped from all the trees, and put us in mind of the heroic ages, when kings and queens were shepherds and shepherdesses, and lived in caves, and were wet to the skin two or three times a day. Well! thank heaven, I am emerged from that elysium, and once more in a Christian country! Not but, to say the truth, our pagan landlord and landlady were very obliging, and the party went off much better than I expected. We had no very recent politics, though volumes about the Spanish war; and as I took care to give every thing a ludicrous turn as much as I could, the Princess was diverted. The six days rolled away, and the seventh is my sabbath; and I promise you I will do no manner of work, I, nor my cat, nor my dog, nor any thing that is mine. For this reason, I entreat that the journey to Goodwood may not take place before the 12th of August, when I will attend you. But this expedition to Stowe has quite blown up my intended one to Wentworth Castle; I have not resolution enough left for such a journey. Will you and Lady Ailesbury come to Strawberry before or after Goodwood? I know you like being dragged from home as little as I do; therefore you
Horace Walpole to George Montagu-The Richmond Fireworks, Etc.
shall place that visit just when it is most convenient to you. I came to town the night before last, and am just returning. There are not twenty people in all London. Are not you in despair about the summer? It is horrid to be ruined in coals, in June and July. Adieu. Yours ever.
XXV.—THE RICHMOND FIREWORKS, ETC.
Horace Walpole to George Montagu.
ARLINGTON STREET, May 18th, 1749.
DEAR GEORGE: Whatever you hear of the Richmond fireworks that is short of the prettiest entertainment in the world, don't believe it. I really never passed a more agreeable evening. Every thing succeeded; all the wheels played in time; Frederick was fortunate, and all the world in good humor. Then for royalty-Mr. Anstis himself would have been glutted; there were all the Fitzes upon earth, the whole Court of St. Germains, the Duke, the Duke of Modena, and two Anamatoes. The King and Princess Emily bestowed themselves upon the mob on the river; and as soon as they were gone, the Duke had the music into the garden, and himself, with my Lady Lincoln, Mrs. Pitt, Peggy Banks, and Lord Holderness, entertained the good subjects with singing "God save the King" to them, over the rails of the terrace. The Duke of Modena supped there, and the Duke was asked, but he answered it was impossible; in short, he could not adjust his dignity to a mortal banquet. There was an admirable scene; Lady Burlington brought the Violette, and the Richmonds had asked Garrick, who stood ogling and sighing the whole time while my lady kept a most fierce lookout. Sabbatini, one of the Duke of Modena's Court,