(246) Walpole, in August 1771, had said, “The world will no more see Athens, Rome, and the Medici again, than a succession of five good Emperors, like Nerva, Trajan, Adrian, and the two Antonines.” See ante, p. 56-E.
I am sorry to tell you that the curious old painting at the Tavern in Fleet Street is addled, by the subject turning out a little too old. Alas! it is not the story of Francis I., but of St. Paul. All the coats of arms that should have been French and Austrian, and that I had a mind to convert into Palatine and Lorrain, are the bearings of Pharisaic nobility. In short, Dr. Percy was here yesterday, and tells me that over Mr. Gough’s imaginary Pavia is written Damascus in capital letters. Oh! our antiquaries!
Mr. Astle has at last called on me, but I was not well enough to see him. I shall return his visit when I can go out. I hope this will be in a week: I have no pain left, but have a codicil of nervous fevers, for which I am taking the bark. I have nothing new for you in our old way, and therefore will not unnecessarily lengthen my letter, which was only intended to cashier the old painting, though I hear the antiquaries still go on with having a drawing taken from it. Oh! our antiquaries!
It is but fair, when one quits one’s party, to give notice to those one abandons—at least, modern patriots, who often imbibe their principles of honour at Newmarket, use that civility. You and I, dear Sir, have often agreed in our political notions; and you, I fear, will die without changing your opinion. For my part, I must confess I am totally altered; and, instead of being a warm partisan of liberty, now admire nothing but despotism. You will naturally ask what place I have gotten, or what bribe I have taken? Those are the criterions of political changes in England-but, as my conversion is of foreign extraction, I shall not be the richer for it. In One word, it is the relation du lit de justice(248) that has operated the miracle. When two ministers(249) are found so humane, so virtuous, so excellent as to study nothing but the welfare and deliverance of the people; when a king listens to such excellent men; and when a parliament, from the basest, most interested motives, interposes to intercept the blessing, must I not change my opinions, and admire arbitrary power? or can I retain my sentiments, without varying the object?