Mr. Walpole cannot express how much he is mortified that he cannot accept of Mrs. Abington’s obliging invitation, as he had engaged company to dine with him on Sunday at Strawberry-hill; whom he would put off, if not foreigners who are leaving England. Mr. Walpole hopes, however, that this accident will not prevent an acquaintance, which his admiration of Mrs. Abington’S genius has made him long desire; and which he hopes to cultivate at Strawberry Bill, when her leisure will give him leave to trouble her with an invitation.
(355) Now first collected.
As Mr. Essex has told me that you still continue out of order, I am impatient to hear from yourself how you are. Do send me a line: I hope it will be a satisfactory one. you know that Dr. Ducarel has published a translation of a History of the Abbey of Bec! There is a pretty print to it: and one very curious circumstance, at least valuable to us disciples of Alma Mater Etonensis. The ram-hunting was derived from the manor of Wrotham in Norfolk, which formerly belonged to Bec, and being forfeited, together with other alien priories, was bestowed by Henry VI. on our college. I do not repine at reading any book from which I can learn a single fact that I wish to know. For the lives of the abbots, they were, according to the author, all pinks of piety and holiness but there are few other facts amusing, especially with regard to the customs of those savage times-excepting that the Empress Matilda was buried in a bull’s hide, and afterwards had a tomb covered with silver. There is another new book called “Sketches from Nature,” in two volumes, by Mr. G. Keate, in which I found one fact too, that, if authentic, is worth knowing. The work is an imitation of Sterne, and has a sort of merit, though nothing that arrives at originality.
For the foundation of the church of Reculver, he quotes a manuscript said to be written by a Dominican friar of Canterbury, and preserved at Louvain. The story is evidently metamorphosed into a novel. and has very little of an antique air; but it affirms that the monkish author attests the beauty of Richard iii. This is very absurd, if invention has nothing to do with the story; and therefore one should suppose it genuine. I have desired Dodsley to ask Mr. Keate, if there truly exists such, a manuscript: if there does, I own I wish he had printed it rather than his own production; for I am with Mr. Gray, “that any man living may make a book worth reading, if he will but set down with truth what he has seen or heard, no matter whether the book is well written or not.” Let those who can write, glean.