Sir, When I had the honour of seeing you here, I believe I told you that I had written a novel, in which I was flattered to find that I had touched an effusion of the heart in a manner similar to a passage in the charming letters of the Marquis de Roselle.(771) I have since that time published my little story, but was so diffident of its merit, that I gave it as a translation from the Italian. Still I should not have ventured to offer it to so great a mistress of the passions as Madame de Beaumont, if the approbation of London, that is, of a country to which she and you, Sir, are so good as to be partial, had not encouraged me to send it to you. After I have talked of the passions, and the natural effusion-, of the heart, how will you be surprised to find a narrative of the most improbable and absurd adventures! How will you be amazed to hear that a country of whose good sense you have an opinion should have applauded so wild a tale! But you must remember, Sir, that whatever good sense we have, we are not yet in any light chained down to precepts and inviolable laws. All that Aristotle or his superior commentators, your authors, have taught us, has not yet subdued us to regularity: we still prefer the extravagant beauties of Shakspeare and Milton to the cold and well-disciplined merit of Addison, and even to the sober and correct march of Pope. Nay, it was but t’other day that we were transported to hear Churchill rave in numbers less chastised than Dryden’s, but still in numbers like Dryden’s.(772) You will not, I hope, think I apply these mighty names to my own case with any vanity, when it is only their enormities that I quote, and that in defence, not of myself’ but of my countrymen, who have good-humour enough to approve the visionary scenes and actors in the Castle of Otranto.
To tell you the truth, it was not so much my intention to recall the exploded marvels of ancient romance, as to blend the wonderful of old stories with the natural of modern novels. The world is apt to wear out any plan whatever; and if the Marquis de Roselle had not appeared, I should have been inclined to say, that that species had been exhausted. Madame de Beaumont must forgive me if I add, that Richardson had, to me at least, made that kind of writing insupportable. I thought the nodus was become dignus vindice, and that a god, at least a ghost, was absolutely necessary to frighten us out of too much senses. When I had so wicked a design, no wonder if the execution was answerable. If I make you laugh, for I cannot flatter myself that I shall make you cry, I shall be content; at least I shall be satisfied, till I have the pleasure of seeing you, with putting you in mind of, Sir, your, etc.
P. S. The passage I alluded to in the beginning of my letter is where Matilda owns her passion to Hippolita. I mention it, as I fear so unequal a similitude would not strike Madame de Beaumont.