London, Volume 3

Knight, Charles


LX.-Strawberry Hill.-Walpole's London. [Concluded from No. LVII.]

LX.-Strawberry Hill.-Walpole's London. [Concluded from No. LVII.]




Let us seat ourselves with Horace Walpole in his library at Strawberry Hill, and see the relation which the clever man of fashion bears to literature, and to the men of letters his contemporaries. There he sits, as he was painted by the poor artist Muntz, whom he patronised and despised, lounging in a luxurious arm-chair, soft and bright in its silk and embroidery, the window open, through which he occasionally looks on the green meadows and the shining river, in which he feels a half-poetical delight.[n.145.1]  He turns to his elegant room, where

the books are ranged within Gothic arches of pierced work, taken from a side door-case to the choir in Dugdale's

St. Paul's


The books themselves are a valuable collection, some for use, and some for show; and it is easy to perceive that for the most part they have not been brought together as the mere furniture of the bookcases, but have been selected pretty much with reference to their possessor's tastes and acquirements. Here is a man, then, of fortune, chiefly derived from sinecures bestowed upon him by his father; of literary acquirements far beyond the fashionable people of his day; with abundance of wit and shrewd observation; early in his career heartily tired of political intrigue, and giving up himself to a quiet life of learned leisure mixed with a little dissipation; and yet that man, pursuing this life for half a century, appears to have come less in contact with the greatest minds of his day than hundreds of his contemporaries of far inferior genius and reputation. With the exception perhaps of General Conway, Walpole has no correspondence with any of the really eminent public men of his time; and the most illustrious of his literary friends, after Gray is gone, are Cole, the dullest of antiquaries, and Hannah More.


Warburton, in a letter to Hurd, terms Walpole

an insufferable coxcomb ;

and we have no doubt the bold churchman was right. Walpole was utterly destitute of sympathy, perhaps for the higher things of literature, certainly for the higher class of literary men. He had too much talent to be satisfied with the dullness and the vices of the people of fashion with whom he necessarily herded; but he had not courage enough to meet the more intellectual class upon a footing of equality. For the immediate purpose of this paper, it is of very little consequence what Walpole himself individually thinks of literature and men of letters; but it is of importance to show the relation in which the men of letters stood to the higher classes, and the lofty tone in which whose passion was evidently the love of literary fame spoke of those to whom literature was a profession, and not an affair of smirking amateurship.

Pope had been dead or years when Horace Walpole bought Strawberry Hill: they were not therefore neighbours. In , Walpole, speaking depreciatingly of his contemporaries, says,

Recollect that I have seen Pope, and lived with Gray;

but he writes not a word to any of what he had seen of Pope, and the only notice we have (except a party account of the quarrel between Pope and Bolingbroke) is, in , of Cibber's famous pamphlet against Pope, which subsequently raised its author to be the hero of the


Walpole is evidently rubbing his hands with exultation when he says,

It will notably vex him.

Pope died in . Of the small captains who scrambled for the crowns of the realms of poetry, after the death of Alexander, there was who founded a real empire-James Thomson. Walpole says,

I had rather have written the most absurd lines in Lee, than Leonidas or

The Seasons

; as I had rather be put into the round-house for a wrong-headed quarrel, than sup quietly at


o'clock with my grandmother. There is another of these tame geniuses, a Mr. Akensidp, who writes Odes: in


he has lately published he says,

Light the tapers, urge the fire.

Had not you rather make gods jostle in the dark, than light the candles for fear they should break their heads?

[n.146.1]  Gray, as every knows, was Walpole's friend from boyhood. The young men quarrelled upon their travels, and after years were reconciled. Walpole, no doubt, felt a sort of self-important gratification in the fame of Gray as a poet; yet, while Gray was alive, Walpole thus described his conversation:

I agree with you most absolutely in your opinion about Gray; he is the worst company in the world. From a melancholy turn, from living reclusely, and from a little too much dignity, he never converses easily; all his words are measured and chosen, and formed into sentences: his writings are admirable; he himself is not agreeable.

[n.146.2]  Yet Walpole was furious when Boswell's book came out, and Johnson is made to say of Gray,

Sir, he was dull in company, dull in his closet, dull everywhere: he was dull in a new way, and that made many people think him great: he was a mechanical poet.

In Walpole writes,

After the Doctor's death, Burke, Sir Joshua Reynolds, and Boswell sent an ambling circular letter to me, begging subscriptions for a monument for him--the


last, I think, impertinently, as they could not but know my opinion, and could not suppose I would contribute to a monument for


who had endeavoured, poor soul! to degrade my friend's superlative poetry. I would not deign to write an answer, but sent

down word by my footman, as I would have done to parish officers with a brief, that I would not subscribe.

[n.147.1]  Walpole, we have little doubt, considered himself as the patron of Gray, and Johnson's opinion was an attack upon his . His evident hatred of Johnson probably belonged as much to the order as to the individual. The poor man of genius and learning, who, by his stern resolves and dogged industry, had made himself independent of patronage, was a dangerous example. The immortal letter to Chesterfield on the dedication of the Dictionary was an offence against a very numerous tribe.

It is easy to understand, from Walpole's letters, how an author, however eminent, was looked upon in society, except he had some adventitious quality of wealth or birth to recommend him. In Walpole thus writes to Hume:

You know, in England, we read their works, but seldom or never take any notice--of authors. We think them sufficiently paid if their books sell, and, of course, leave them to their colleges and obscurity, by which means we are not troubled with their vanity and impertinence. In France they spoil us, but that was no business of mine. I, who am an author, must own this conduct very sensible; for, in truth, we are a most useless tribe.

It is difficult to understand whether this passage is meant for insolence to the person to whom it is addressed: for what was Hume but an author?

We read their works

--, the aristocratic and the fashionable--to which class Hume might fancy he belonged, after he had proceeded from his tutorship to a mad lord into the rank of a . But then

in France they spoil



here the aristocrat is coquetting with the honours of authorship in the face of his brother author. Perhaps the whole was meant for skilful flattery. Walpole's real estimate of the literary class is found in a letter to Cole, who was too obtuse to take any portion of the affront to himself:--

Mr. Gough wants to be introduced to me! He is so dull, that he would only be troublesome; and besides, you know I shun authors, and would never have been


myself, if it obliged me to keep such bad company. They are always in earnest, and think their profession serious, and dwell upon trifles, and reverence learning. I laugh at all those things, and write only to laugh at them and divert myself. . . .. Mr. Gough is very welcome to see Strawberry Hill, or I would help him to any scraps in my possession that would assist his publication; though he is


of those industrious who are only re-burying the dead: but I cannot be acquainted with him. It is contrary to my system and my humour. . . .. I have no thirst to know the rest of my contemporaries, from the absurd bombast of Dr. Johnson, down to the silly Dr. Goldsmith; though the latter changeling has had bright gleams of parts, and the former had sense till he changed it for words, and sold it for a pension. Don't think me scornful. Recollect that I have seen Pope, and lived with Gray.


Walpole was too acute not to admire Fielding; yet he evidently delights to lower the man, in the gusto with which he tells the following anecdote :--

Rigby and Peter Bathurst t'other night carried a servant of the latter's, who had attempted to shoot him, before Fielding; who, to all his other vocations, has, by the grace of Mr. Lyttelton, added that of Middlesex justice. He sent them word he was at supper--that they must come next morning. They did not understand that

freedom, and ran up, where they found him banqueting, with a blind man, aand


Irishmen, on some cold mutton and a bone of ham, both in


dish, and the dirtiest cloth. He never stirred nor asked them to sit. Rigby, who had seen him so often come to beg a guinea of Sir C. Williams, and Bathurst, at whose father's he had lived for victuals, understood that dignity as little, and pulled themselves chairs, on which he civilized.

[n.148.1]  Scott, in his life of Fielding, suggests that something of this anecdote may belong to the

aristocratic exaggeration

of Walpole; and that the blind man might have been Fielding's brother, who was blind; in the same way the Irishmen might not necessarily have been denizens of ; and the female, whom Walpole designates by the most opprobrious of names, might have been somewhat more respectable than his own Lady Caroline. We are not sure that, under the worst aspect, the supper at Fielding's was more discreditable than the banquet of minced chickens at . (See No. LVII., page .) Fielding at this period, when his crime was a dirty table-cloth, thus writes of himself:--

By composing, instead of inflaming, the quarrels of porters and beggars, and by refusing to take a shilling from a man who most undoubtedly would not have had another left, I had reduced an income of about

five hundred

a-year, of the dirtiest money upon earth, to little more than

three hundred

; a considerable portion of which remained with my clerk.

Walpole himself, in the outset of his literary career, appears, as was to be expected from his temperament and education, miserable under what was then, and is now, called criticism. After the publication of the

Royal and Noble Authors,

he writes,

I am sick of the character of author; I am sick of the consequences of it; I am weary of seeing my name in the newspapers; I am tired with reading foolish criticisms on me, and as foolish defences of me; and I trust my friends will be so good as to let the last abuse of me pass unanswered.

[n.148.2]  If he. had lived in these times, he might have been less thin-skinned. Those were not the days of reviews and magazines, and newspapers. The

Monthly Review

was set up in , and the

Critical Review

in . There was only an

Evening Post,

and or other starveling journals. Those were the days when the old Duchess of Rutland, being told of some strange casualty, says,

Lucy, child, step into the next room and set that down.

Lord, Madam,

says Lady Lucy,

it can't be true.

Oh, no matter, child, it will do for news into the country, next post.

[n.148.3]  Horace Walpole might well have compounded for a little of the pert criticism of the reviews of his day, to be exempt from the flood of opinion which now floats the straws and rushes over the things which are stable. Fortunate was it for him and for us that he lived before the days of newspapers, or half he has told us would have been told in a perishable form. A Strawberry Hill man could not have existed in the glare of journalising. He would have been a slave in the Republic of Letters, although he affected to despise court slavery. He must, in the very nature of things, have been president and member of council of some half-dozen of the societies with which London now abounds; and he would have had the satisfaction of walking in the horse-mill of hot rooms and cold coffee times a week


during the season, amidst the same round of masks, all smiling, envious, jobbing, puffing, and bepuffed. He was only familiar with Society, the Antiquarian; and he thus speaks of it :--

I dropped my attendance there




years ago, from being sick of their ignorance and stupidity, and have not been


times amongst them since.

The Antiquarian Society then consisted of a few harmless and crotchety people, who wrote dull books which nobody read but themselves. But the dull men in time came to understand the full value of gregariousness; the name of Society at length became Legion; and literary and scientific London resolved itself into mighty coterieship, in which the dwarfs are put upon stilts, and the of reasonable stature consents to move amongst them, and sometimes to prescribe laws, in the belief that he himself looms larger in the provincial distance. This clever organization came after Walpole's time. Possibly he might have liked the individual men of letters better, if the pretenders to literature, appending all sorts of cabalistic characters to their names, had set him up as their idol. As it was, there was a frank genial intercourse between the best men of his time, which was equally independent of puffing and patronage. The club life of the Burkes and Johnsons was precisely the opposite of the society life of our own days. We of course see nothing of the club life in Walpole's writings; but it is a thing which has left enduring traces. Walpole was not robust enough to live in such an element.

In the days when periodical criticism was in its nonage, men of letters naturally wrote to each other about the merits of new works. There is probably less of this in Walpole than in any other letter-writer equally voluminous; yet he sometimes gives us an opinion of a book, which is worth comparing with that more impartial estimate which is formed by an after-generation, when novelty and fashion have lost their influence, and prejudice, whether kind or hostile, ceases to operate. We may learn from the mistakes of clever men as to the merits, of their contemporaries, to be a little humble in forming our own opinions. Let us hear what Walpole has to say of Sterne:--

At present, nothing is talked of, nothing admired, but what I cannot help calling a very insipid and tedious performance: it is a kind of novel, called

The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy;

the great humour of which consists in the whole narration always going backwards. I can conceive a man saying that it would be droll to write a book in that manner, but have no notion in his persevering in; executing it. It makes






times at the beginning, but in recompense makes


yawn for


hours. The characters are tolerably kept up, but the humour is for ever attempted and missed.

[n.149.1]  Gray, who by nature had a keen relish for humour, formed a juster opinion of Sterne, though he scarcely did him justice :

There is much good fun in


and humour sometimes hit, and sometimes missed.

Goldsmith, who was probably jealous of the Yorkshire wit's sudden reputation, called him

a very dull fellow,

which Johnson denied; but Johnson himself disparaged Sterne almost as much as Walpole. Were any of these eminent men quite right in the matter? There were many reasons why Sterne should offend Johnson-reasons which have condemned him in our own day to neglect. But for real creative comic power he was never exceeded, but


by Englishman: his humour, as well as his pathos, has its roots in a rich poetical soil. Walpole, however, did not always set up as his motto. years after, Darwin arose; and he at once mounted like a balloon into the empyrean of popularity, and there collapsed. Walpole thus raves about the

Botanic Garden:


I send you the most delicious poem upon earth. If you don't know what it is all about, or why, at least you will find glorious similies about everything in the world, and I defy you to discover


bad verses in the whole stack. Dryden was but the prototype of the

Botanic Garden

in his charming

Flower and Leaf;

and if he had less meaning, it is true he had more plan; and I must own, that his white velvets and green velvets, and rubies and emeralds, were much more virtuous gentlefolks than most of the flowers of the creation, who seem to have no fear of

Doctors' Commons

before their eyes. This is only the


Part; for, like my king's eldest daughter in the

Hieroglyphic Tales,



Part is not born yet:--no matter. I can read this over and over again for ever; for, though it is so excellent, it is impossible to remember anything so disjointed, except you consider it as a collection of short enchanting poems--as the Circe at her tremendous devilries in a church; the intrigue of the dear nightingale and rose; and the description of Medea; the episode of Mr. Howard, which ends with the most sublime of lines--in short, all, all, all is the most lovely poetry.

[n.150.1]  Darwin has utterly perished, and can never be resuscitated: his whole system of art was false. Walpole admired him because he was bred up in a school of criticism which regarded as the thing needful, and considered that the most poetical language which was the farthest removed from the language of common life: hence in some respects his idolatry of Gray, and his contempt of Thomson. Cowper, the only poet of his later years who will live, is never once mentioned by him. The mode in which he addresses himself to Jephson, the author of


and several other mouthing tragedies, appears to us now inexpressibly ridiculous:

You seem to me to have imitated Beaumont and Fletcher,

though your play is superior to all theirs

You are so great a poet, Sir, that you have no occasion to labour anything but your plots.

[n.150.2]  This is the natural result of Walpole being brought up in the French school of criticism. His correspondence with Voltaire shows the process by which he was led to think that such a word-spinner as Robert Jephson, captain of foot, and a nominee of Lord Townshend in the Irish Parliament, imitated Beaumont and Fletcher, and produced a play superior to all theirs. In the preface to the edition of

The Castle of Otranto,

Walpole thus expressed himself in defence of his introduction into a serious romance of domestics speaking in common language:

That great master of nature, Shakspeare, was the model I copied. Let me ask if his tragedies of



Julius Caesar

would not lose a considerable share of their spirit and wonderful beauties if the humour of the grave-diggers, the fooleries of Polonius, aid the clumsy jests of the Roman citizens were omitted, or vested in heroics? Is not the eloquence of Antony, the nobler and affectedly-unaffected oration of Brutus, artificially exalted by the rude bursts of nature from the mouths of their auditors?

These touches remind


of the Grecian sculptor, who, to convey the idea of a Colossus within the dimensions of a seal, inserted a little boy measuring his thumb. No, says Voltaire, in his edition of Corneille, this mixture of buffoonery and solemnity is intolerable. Voltaire is a genius-but not of Shakspeare's magnitude.

or years after this Voltaire wrote a civil letter to Walpole on the subject of his

Historic Doubts,

and Walpole, in reply, took occasion to apologise for the remarks he had made on Voltaire in the

preface to a trifling romance.

Voltaire replied, defending his criticism; and the vindicator of Shakspere is then prostrate at the feet of the Frenchman:


can never, Sir, be sorry to have been in the wrong, when


's errors are pointed out to


in so obliging and masterly a manner. Whatever opinion I may have of Shakspeare, I should think him to blame if he could have seen the letter you have done me the honour to write to me, and yet not conform to the rules you have there laid down. When he lived, there had not been a Voltaire both to give laws to the stage and to show on what good sense those laws were founded. Your art, Sir, goes still further; for you have supported your arguments without having recourse to the best authority, your own works. It was my interest, perhaps, to defend barbarism and irregularity. A great genius is in the right, on the contrary, to show that when correctness, nay, when perfection is demanded, he can still shine, and be himself, whatever fetters are imposed on him. But I will say no more on this head: for I am neither so unpolished as to tell you to your face how much I admire you; nor, though I have taken the liberty to vindicate Shakspeare against your criticism, am I vain enough to think myself an adversary worthy of you. I am much more proud of receiving laws from you, than of contesting them. It was bold in me to dispute with you, even before I had the honour of your acquaintance: it would be ungrateful now, when you have not only taken notice of me, but forgiven me. The admirable letter you have been so good as to send me is a proof that you are


of those truly great and rare men who know at once how to conquer and to pardon.

[n.151.1]  It is evident from this letter that it was the merest egotism which originally led Walpole to set up for the defender of Shakspere. Voltaire, in common with all of the then French school, held that the language of princes and heroes must be sublime and dignified; or, in other words, they must utter a language not formed naturally and fitly either for the development of exalted passions or ordinary sentiments. Introduce the simple language of common life amongst this conventional dialogue, and an essential discord is necessarily produced. Voltaire, as all the other French dramatists have done, entirely banished the natural language, and fitted the waiting-maid with the same form of raving for the white handkerchief as they bestowed upon the princess. This was consistent. They fancied Shakspere was inconsistent and barbarous when the comic came in contact with the serious, and the elevated was blended with the familiar. They did not see the essential difference between heroic and heroic. He never takes the sublime and the terrible out of the natural; and in the most agonizing situation we encounter the most common images. Neither did Walpole see this essential distinction; and thus he has his ready echo of

barbarism and


Had he understood Shakspere, he would not have yielded his position.

In his letter to Voltaire, Walpole says,

Without knowing it, you have been my master; .and perhaps the sole merit that may be found in my writings is owing to my having studied yours.

The adroit Frenchman must have laughed a little at this compliment. Walpole was thinking of his Letters, of which the world had then no knowledge. If Voltaire had turned to the works of the Strawberry Hill press, he would have seen little imitation either of his philosophy or of his style. Voltaire, the most subtle of scoffers, was upon occasions an enthusiast. He had a heart. Walpole, even to his most intimate friends, was a scoffer and a scandal-monger; never moved to any thing like warmth, except when talking about the constitution (by which he meant the protection of certain privileged persons in the: exclusive enjoyment of public wealth and honour); and only growing earnest in his old age when he was frightened into hysterics about the French Revolution, having in his greener years called the death-warrant of Charles I.

Charta Major.

He hates authors, as we have seen, because

they are always in earnest, and think their profession serious.

If this be a true description of the authors of Walpole's time, the world has lost something by a change; for in our own day a writer who is in earnest is apt to be laughed at by those who conceive that the end of all literature is to amuse, and that its highest reward is to have, as Sterne had,

engagements for



to dine somewhere, always provided that there is a lord's card to glitter in the exact spot of the library or drawing-room where the stranger eye can best read and admire. This is fame, and this is happiness. But the silent consolation of high and cheerful thoughts,--the right of entering at pleasure into a world filled with beauty and variety,--the ability to converse with the loftiest and purest spirits, who will neither ridicule, nor envy, nor betray their humble disciple,--the power of going out of the circle of distracting cares into a region where there is always calm and content,--these great blessings of the student's life, whether they end or not in adding to the stock of the world's knowledge, are not the ends which are most proposed according to the fashion of our day to a writer's ambition. The

earnest author

is too often set down for a fool--not seldom for a madman.

To the class of writers that Walpole shunned Rousseau belonged, with all his faults. Walpole's adventures with this remarkable man are characteristic enough of the individual and of the times. His notice of Rousseau is in a letter from Paris to Lady Harvey, in :--

Mr. Hume carries this letter and Rousseau to England. I wish the former may not repent having engaged with the latter, who contradicts and quarrels with all mankind in order to obtain their admiration. I think both his means and his end below such a genius. If I had talents like his, I should despise any suffrage below my own standard, and should blush to owe any part of my fame to singularities and affectations.

Walpole committed a mistake in not seeing that the singularities and affectations were an essential part of the man, and in not treating them therefore with charity. and forbearance. After Rousseau had left Paris, Walpole, the hater of impostures, the denouncer of Chatterton as a forger and liar, wrote a letter, purporting to be


from the King of Prussia to Rousseau, which had prodigious success in the French circles, and of course got into all the journals of Europe. This was at a time when the


was proscribed and distressed. Walpole was very proud to his confidential friends of the success of this hoax:--

I enclose a trifle that I wrote lately, which got about and has made enormous noise in a city where they run and cackle after an event, like a parcel of hens after an accidental husk of a grape.

[n.153.1]  Walpole had no objection to Rousseau's principles; he insulted him because he was a vain man who affected singularity, or, what was more probable, could not avoid being singular. There was honesty at least in Johnson's denunciation of him:--

I think him


of the worst of men; a rascal, who ought to be hunted out of society, as he has been.




nations have expelled him, and it is a shame that he is protected in this country. Rousseau, Sir, is a very bad man. I would sooner sign a sentence for his transportation than that of any felon who has gone from the

Old Bailey

these many years. Yes, I should like to have him work in the plantations.

Johnson would have banished Rousseau to the plantations in talk, but assuredly would have given him a dinner in Bolt Court, and, if his poverty had become extreme, would have admitted him amongst his odd pensioners. Walpole's success in the pretended letter was complete. He writes to Conway:

As you know, I willingly laugh at mountebanks, political or literary, let their talents be ever so great.

The copies have spread like wildfire;

et me voici àla mode!

Rousseau, in deep affliction, wrote a letter to the editor of the

London Chronicle,

in which the fabrication had been printed, denouncing it as

a dark transaction.

The vanity of Walpole, in regard to this letter, which consists of lines in decent French, in which there is very little humour and no wit, is almost as insane as the vanity of Rousseau. He writes to Chute, to Conway, to Cole, to Gray, to all mankind, to tell of his wonderful performance. To Cole he says,

You will very probably see a letter to Rousseau, in the name of the King of Prussia, writ to laugh at his affectations. It has made excessive noise here, and I believe

quite ruined the author

with many philosophers. When I tell you I was the author, it is telling you how cheap I hold their anger.

[n.153.2]  When Rousseau had quarrelled with Hume, months after, it was of the unhappy man's suspicions that Hume was concerned in the letter from the King of Prussia; and then Walpole thus writes to Hume:

I cannot be precise as to the time of my writing the King of Prussia's letter; but I do assure you with the utmost truth that it was several days before you left Paris, and before Rousseau's arrival there, of which I can give you a strong proof; for I not only suppressed the letter while you stayed there, out of delicacy to you, but it was the reason why, out of delicacy to myself, I did not go to see him, as you often proposed to me, thinking it wrong to, go and make a cordial visit to a man, with a letter in my pocket to laugh at him.

[n.153.3]  We have a suspicion that Walpole's delicacy was sometimes measured by his cowardice. Warburton, writing to Hurd, took a just view of the whole transaction:

As to Rousseau, I entirely agree with you that his long letter to his brother philosopher, Hume, shows him to be a frank lunatic. His passion of tears, his suspicion of his friends in the

midst of their services, and his incapacity of being set right, all consign him to Monro. Walpole's pleasantry upon him had baseness in its very conception. It was written when the poor man had determined to seek an asylum in England, and is, therefore, justly and generously condemned by D'Alembert. This considered, Hume failed both in honour and friendship not to show his dislike; which neglect seems to have kindled the


spark of combustion in this madman's brain. However, the contestation is very amusing, and I shall be sorry if it stops, now it is in so good a train. I should be well pleased, particularly, to see so seraphic a madman attack so insufferable a coxcomb as Walpole; and I think they are only fit for



There can be no doubt that Walpole's coxcombity must have been


in his own day, except amongst a favoured few. It is perfectly clear, from his letters, that he had no reverence for anything-but himself. His affectation was as excessive as that of Rousseau; but it went in another direction. He fancied that he could afford to speak contemptuously of all political men; although, whilst himself a politician, he was the merest tool of party, and never made a single honest attempt to earn penny of the thousands which the nation bestowed upon him. As a man of fashion, he was eternally holding up his friends to ridicule; though he went quite as far in their follies as a feeble frame would carry him. As a man of letters, he affected to despise nearly all other men of letters: what is there but affectation in thus writing to Hume--

My letter hinted, too, my contempt of learned men and their miserable conduct. Since I was to appear in print, I should not have: been sorry that that opinion should have appeared at the same time. In truth, there is nothing I hold so cheap as the generality of learned men.

[n.154.1]  What is the secret of all this affectation? He wanted a heart, and he thought it very clever to let the world know it; for he was deeply]imbued with the low philosophy of his age, which thought it wisdom to appear to love nothing, to fear nothing, to reverence nothing.

The world in Walpole's own day took up an opinion which it will not easily part with--that he behaved heartlessly to the unfortunate Chatterton. In , when Chatterton was little more than years old, he addressed a letter from Bristol to Horace Walpole, offering to supply him with accounts of a succession of painters who had flourished at Bristol, which accounts, he said, had been discovered with some ancient poems in that city, specimens of which he enclosed. It was about months before this that Chatterton had communicated to Felix Farley's

Bristol Journal

his celebrated

Description of the Friars


passing over the old bridge, taken from an ancient manuscript;

and very soon after the publication of that remarkable imitation of an ancient document, he produced, from time to time, various poems, which he attributed to Rowley, a priest of the century, and which became the subject of the most remarkable literary controversy of modern times. Walpole replied to Chatterton's communication with ready politeness; but when Chatterton solicited his assistance in quitting a profession which he disliked, his-application was neglected, and the poor boy threw himself upon the world of London without a friend. He then demanded his manuscripts, in a letter which was too


manly and independent to receive from Walpole any other name than


The manuscripts were returned in a blank cover. This was the extent of Walpole's offence; and, looking at the man's character, it is impossible to think he could have acted otherwise. He probably doubted the ability of the friendless boy to furnish the information he required; he suspected that the papers sent to him were fabricated. When Chatterton wrote to him as man of letters has a right to address another, he could not brook the assumed equality; and he revenged himself by the pettiness of aristocratic insolence. Had he sought out the boy who had given this evidence of his spirit as well as of his talent, he would not have been Horace Walpole. The unhappy boy

perished in his pride

in . Walpole was assailed for many years for his conduct towards Chatterton, and he seems at times to have felt the charge very keenly. He thus addresses himself to the editor of Chatterton's Miscellanies:

Chatterton was neither indigent nor distressed at the time of his correspondence with me; he was maintained by his mother, and lived with a lawyer. His only pleas to my assistance were, disgust to his profession, inclination to poetry, and communication of some suspicious MSS. His distress was the consequence of quitting his master, and coming to London, and of his other extravagances. He had depended on the impulse of the talents he felt for making impression, and lifting him to wealth, honours, and fame. I have already said that I should have been blameable to his mother and society if I had seduced an apprentice from his master to marry him to the


Muses; and I should have encouraged a propensity to forgery, which is not the talent most wanting culture in the present age.

In , when the

Monthly Review

had been attacking him on the subject of Chatterton, he thus wrote to Cole:

I believe M'Pherson's success with


was more the ruin of Chatterton than I.


years passed between my doubting the authenticity of Rowley's poems and his death. I never knew he had been in London till some time after he had undone and poisoned himself there. The poems he sent me were transcripts in his own hand, and even in that circumstance he told a lie: he said he had them from the very person at Bristol to whom he had given them.

In this letter he adds,

I think poor Chatterton was an astonishing genius.

Walpole does not appear to have seen that he was in this dilemma; either the poems which he had received from Chatterton were authentic, and, if so, the greatest curiosities in our language; or they were fabricated by an

astonishing genius.

Walpole, we believe, did not see the extraordinary merit of the poems. His taste was not of the highest quality. When the world agreed that a great spirit had been amongst them, and had perished untimely, Walpole, in self-defence, dwelt upon his


and his


He probably forgot that a work had been published in , under the following title,

The Castle of Otranto, a Story translated by William Marshal, Gent., from the original Italian of Ouphrio Muralto, Canon of the Church of St. Nicholas at Otranto :

and that the preface to this translation from the Italian thus commences--

The following work was found in the library of an ancient Catholic family in the north of England. It was printed at Naples, in the black letter, in the year



Who can say that, if Chatterton had lived, he would not have avowed the Rowley poems to be his own, as Walpole afterwards


acknowledged the

Castle of Otranto?

And where, then, would have been the forgery any more than in the fabrication of the

Canon of the Church of St. Nicholas?

years after Chatterton's death Walpole quieted his conscience by continuing to call the marvellous charity-boy

young villain


young rascal;

but an occasion rose in which genius might be patronised without incurring the risk of an impertinent letter. Miss Hannah More had found a milk-woman at Bristol who wrote verses; and they were just such verses as Hannah More and Horace Walpole would think very wonderful; so a subscription is to be raised for the milk-woman, Mistress Ann Yearsley.

Her ear,

according to a letter of Walpole to Miss More in ,

is perfect,



is unexceptionable. Walpole prescribes her studies:

Give her Dryden's

Cock and Fox,

the standard of good sense, poetry, nature, and ease. . .. Prior's


(for I doubt his


though far superior, is too learned for her limited reading,) would be very proper. ... Read and explain to her a charming poetic familiarity called the

Blue-stocking Club.

Imagine that poor Chatterton had been more unfortunate than he really been patronised by Horace Walpole, permitted a garret to sleep in, advanced to the honours of the butler's table, and taught by the profound critic, that Spenser was wretched stuff, and Shakspere's

Midsummer Night's Dream


times more nonsensical than the worst translation of any Italian opera-books.

[n.156.1]  The milk-woman became restive


under the control of Hannah More, and she quarrelled with her patroness, upon which afflicting occurrence Walpole thus condoles with his friend:

You are not only benevolence itself, but, with


times the genius of a Yearsley, you are void of vanity. How strange that vanity should expel gratitude! Does not the wretched woman owe her fame to you, as well as her affluence? I can testify your labours for both. Dame Yearsley reminds me of the Troubadours, those vagrants whom I used to admire till I knew their history; and who used to pour out trumpery verses, and flatter or abuse accordingly as they were housed and clothed, or dismissed to the next parish. Yet you did not set this person in the stocks, after procuring an annuity for her!

[n.157.1]  It is impossible to have a clearer notion of what Walpole and such as Walpole meant by patronage. The Baron of Otranto would have thought it the perfection of benevolence to have housed and clothed a troubadour; but the stocks and the whipping-post would have been ready for any treasonable assertion of independence. The days of chivalry are gone, and, heaven be praised, those of patronage are gone after them!

Walpole, like many other very clever men, could not perfectly appreciate the highest excellence, and yet could see the ridiculous side of the pretenders to wit and poetry. He laughs, as Gifford laughed, at

Della Crusca;

and he has told the follies of Batheaston with his characteristic liveliness:

You must know that near Bath is erected a new Parnassus, composed of


laurels, a myrtle-tree, a weeping-willow, and a view of the Avon, which has been new-christened Helicon.


years ago there lived a Madam Riggs, an old rough humorist who passed for a wit; her daughter, who passed for nothing, married to a Captain Miller, full of good-natured officiousness. These good folks were friends of Miss Rich, who carried me to dine with them at Batheaston, now Pindus. They caught a little of what was then called taste, built and planted, and begot children, till the whole caravan were forced to go abroad to retrieve. Alas! Mrs. Miller is returned a beauty, a genius, a Sappho, a


Muse, as romantic as Mademoiselle Scuderi, and as sophisticated as Mrs. Vesey. The Captain's fingers are loaded with cameos, his tongue runs over with


, and, that both may contribute to the improvement of their own country, they have introduced


as anew discovery. They hold a Parnassus fair every Thursday, give out rhymes and themes, and all the flux of quality at Bath contend for the prizes. A Roman vase, dressed with pink ribbons and myrtles, receives the poetry, which is drawn out every festival;


judges of these Olympic games retire and select the brightest compositions, which the respective successful acknowledge, kneel to Mrs. Calliope Miller, kiss her fair hand, and are crowned by it with myrtle-with-- don't know what. You may think this is fiction or exaggeration. Be dumb, unbelievers! The collection is printed, published. Yes, on my faith, there are


on a buttered muffin, made by her Grace the Duchess of Northumberland; receipts to make them, by Corydon the venerable, alias George Pitt; others, very pretty, by Lord Palmerston; some by Lord Carlisle; many by Mrs. Miller herself, that have no fault but wanting metre; and immortality promised to her without end or measure. In short

since folly, which never ripens to madness but in this hot climate, ran distracted, there never was anything so entertaining or so dull--for you cannot read so long as I have been telling.


When poetry was essentially an affair of




it was no wonder that a mob of silly fashionable people set up for poets. The whole age was wanting in taste : it was not poetical because it was superficial. But it was a very different age from our own, when the national intellect is divided between utilitarians and those called by utilitarians non-utilitarians. May it long be so divided! May those who believe only in what is gross and palpable to sense go apart from those who cherish what belongs to the spiritual. Ask them not to believe. Let them make the most of their microscopes, their telescopes, their chemical affinities, their scalpels. Yet, a new generation will be fed and grow upon what they despise. It is feeding, and it is growing. Its aliment is as abundant as the rain, the dew, and the sunshine. It has nothing exclusive, to gratify a small distinction; and it will not feed upon husks. The Walpoles belong to neither class of this day.

The intercourse between Hannah More and Horace Walpole began in . It was an odd intimacy; but compliments freely received and bestowed made it agreeable, no doubt, to both parties. Here is a pretty note from Horace Walpole, written with a crowquill pen upon the sweetest-scented paper:

Mr. Walpole thanks Miss More a


times, not only for so obligingly complying with his request, but for letting him have the satisfaction of possessing and reading again and again her charming and very genteel poem, the

Bas Bleu.

He ought not, in modesty, to commend so much a piece in which he himself is flattered; but truth is more durable than blushing, and he must be just, though he may be vain.

[n.158.2]  Walpole could bear flattery better than Dr. Johnson:

Mrs. Thrale then told a story of Hannah More, which, I think, exceeds in its severity all the severe things I have yet heard of Dr. Johnson's saying. When she was introduced to him, not long ago, she began singing his praise in the warmest manner, and talking of the pleasure and the instruction she had received from his writings, with the highest encomiums. For some time he heard her with that quietness which a long use of praise has given him: she then redoubled her strokes, and, as Mr. Seward calls it, peppered still more highly, till at length he turned suddenly to her, with a stern and angry countenance, and said,

Madam, before you flatter a man so grossly to his face, you should consider whether or not your flattery is worth his having.

[n.158.3]  As Miss More grew older, she, no doubt, grew wiser; and Walpole himself, with a very prevailing inclination to ridicule what he called her saintliness, came to respect her for her virtues, instead of continuing to burn incense to her genius. The last indication of their friendship appears in his giving her a Bible, which she wished he would read himself.

We have now run through the London of Horace Walpole, with reference only to his connection with the fashion and the literature of his times. His correspondence,


as we have before observed, indicates little association with the more eminent literary men of his long day, and no very great sympathy for the best things which they produced. There is scarcely any other general aspect of London of which his works hold up a mirror. The chief value of his letters consists in his lively descriptions of those public events whose nicer details would, without such a chronicler, be altogether hid under the varnish of what we call history. It is evident that with such details our work has no concern. We shall conclude, therefore, with a brief notice or , by Walpole, of the physical increase of London. In he thus writes to the Miss Berrys:--

Though London increases every day, and Mr. Herschel has just discovered a new square or circus somewhere by the

New Road

, in the Via Lactea, where the cows used to be fed, I believe you will think the town cannot hold all its inhabitants, so prodigiously the population is augmented. I have twice been going to stop my coach in


(and the same has happened to Lady Ailesbury), thinking there was a mob, and it was only nymphs and swains sauntering or trudging. T'other morning,


. at


o'clock, I went to see Mrs. Garrick and Miss Hannah More at the


, and was stopped


times before I reached

Northumberland House

; for the tides of coaches, chariots, curricles, phaetons, &c., are endless. Indeed the town is so extended, that the breed of chairs is almost lost; for Hercules and Atlas could not carry anybody from


end of the enormous capital to the other. How magnified would be the error of the young woman at St. Helena, who, some years ago, said to a captain of an Indiaman,

I suppose London is very empty when the India ships come out.

And again, in the same year,

The Duke of St. Albans has cut down all the brave old trees at Hanworth, and consequently reduced his park to what it issued from-Hounslow Heath; nay, he has hired a meadow next to mine, for the benefit of embarkation; and there lie all the good old corpses of oaks, ashes, and chestnuts, directly before


windows, and blocking up


of my views of the river! But, so impetuous is the rage for building, that his Grace's timber will, I trust, not annoy us long. There will soon be


street from London to Brentford-aye, and from London to every village


miles round! Lord Camden has just let ground at Kentish Town for building

fourteen hundred

houses-nor do I wonder; London is, I am certain, much fuller than ever I saw it. I have twice this spring been going to stop my coach in


, to inquire what was the matter, thinking there was a mob :--not at all; it was only passengers. Nor is there any complaint of depopulation from the country: Bath shoots out into new crescents, circuses, and squares every year; Birmingham, Manchester, Hull, and Liverpool would serve any king in Europe for a capital, and would make the Empress of Russia's mouth water.

The last letter of Horace Walpole is a striking contrast to the vivacity, the curiosity, the acute observation, which made him for years the most lively of correspondents :--

I scarce go out of my own house, and then only to




very private places, where I see nobody that really knows anything; and what I learn comes from newspapers, that collect intelligence from coffee-houses, consequently what I neither believe nor report. At home I see only a few charitable elders, except about fourscore nephews and nieces of various ages, who

are each brought to me once a year to stare at me as the Methusalem of the family; and they can only speak of their own contemporaries, which interest no more than if they talked of their dolls, or bats or balls.

[n.160.1]  Like the clock at Strawberry Hill, which Henry VIII. gave to Anne Boleyn, Walpole was fast ceasing to be a timekeeper: he was a worn-out relic of the past.


[n.145.1] See page 156.

[n.146.1] Horace Walpole to Mann, March 29, 1745.

[n.146.2] Horace Walpole to Montagu, Sept. 3, 1748.

[n.147.1] Horace Walpole to Miss Berry, May 26, 1791.

[n.147.2] Horace Walpole to Cole, April 27, 1773.

[n.148.1] Horace Walpole to Montagu, May 18, 1749.

[n.148.2] Horace Walpole to the Rev. Henry Zouch, May 14, 1759.

[n.148.3] Horace Walpole to Mann, Dec. 23, 1742,

[n.149.1] Horace Walpole to Sir David Dalrymple, April 4, 1760.

[n.150.1] Horace Walpole to the Miss Berrys, April 28, 1789.

[n.150.2] Horace Walpole to Robert Jephson, Esq., October 17, 1777.

[n.151.1] Horace Walpole to Voltaire, July 27, 1756.

[n.153.1] Horace Walpole to Chute, January, 1766.

[n.153.2] Horace Walpole to Cole, January 18, 1766.

[n.153.3] Horace Walpole to Hume, July 26, 1766.

[n.154.1] Horace Walpole to Hume, November 6, 1766.

[n.156.1] Horace Walpole to Bentley, February 23, 1755.

[n.157.1] Horace Walpole to Hannah More, October 14, 1787.

[n.158.1] Horace Walpole to Conway, Jan. 15, 1775.

[n.158.2] Horace Walpole to Hannah More, May 6, 1784

[n.158.3] Madame d'Arblay's Diary, vol. i. p. 103.

[n.160.1] Horace Walpole to the Countess of Ossory, January 13, 1797.