The Letters of Horace Walpole, Earl of Orford — Volume 4 eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 1,055 pages of information about The Letters of Horace Walpole, Earl of Orford — Volume 4.

(1) Now first collected.

Letter 2 To Sir David Dalrymple.(2) Arlington Street, Jan. 23, 1770. (page 26)

Sir, I have not had time to return you the enclosed sooner, but I give you my honour that it has neither been out of my hands, nor been copied.  It is a most curious piece, but though affecting art has very little; so ill is the satire disguised.  I agree with you in thinking it ought not to be published yet, as nothing is more cruel than divulging private letters which may wound the living.  I have even the same tenderness for the children of persons concerned; but I laugh at delicacy for grandchildren, who can be affected by nothing but their pride--and let that be hurt if it will.  It always finds means of consoling itself.

The rapid history of Mr. Yorke is very touching.(3) For himself, he has escaped a torrent of obloquy, which this unfeeling and prejudiced moment was ready to pour on him.  Many of his survivors may, perhaps, live to envy him!  Madness and wickedness gain ground—­and you may be sure borrow the chariot of virtue.  Lord Chatham, not content with endeavouring to confound and overturn the legislature, has thrown out, that one member more ought to be added to each county;(4) so little do ambition -,And indulgence scruple to strike at fundamentals!  Sir George Savile and Edmund Burke, as if envying the infamous intoxication of Wilkes, have attacked the House of Commons itself, in the most gross and vilifying language.(5) In short, the plot thickens fast, and Catilines start up in every street.  I cannot say Ciceros and Catos arise to face them.  The phlegmatic and pedants in history quote King William’s and Sacheverel’s times to show the present is not more serious; but if I have any reading, I must remember that the repetition of bad scenes brings about a catastrophe at last!  It is small consolation to living sufferers to reflect that history will rejudge great criminals; nor is that sure.  How seldom is history fairly stated!  When do all men concur in the Same sentence?  Do the guilty dead regard its judicature, or they who prefer the convict to the judge?  Besides, an ape of Sylla will call himself Brutus, and the foolish people assist a proscription before they suspect that their hero is an incendiary.  Indeed, Sir, we are, as Milton says—­

“On evil days fallen and evil tongues!”

I shall be happy to find I have had too gloomy apprehensions.  A man, neither connected with ministers nor opponents, may speculate too subtly.  If all this is but a scramble for power, let it fall to whose lot it will!  It is the attack on the constitution that strikes me.  I have nothing to say for the corruption of senators; but if the senate itself is declared vile by authority, that is by a dissolution, will a re-election restore its honour?  Will Wilkes, and Parson Horne, and Junius (for they will name the members) give us more virtuous representations than ministers have done?  Reformation must be a blessed work in the hands of such reformers!  Moderation, and attachment to the constitution, are my principles.  Is the latter to be risked rather than endure any single evil?  I would oppose, that is restrain, by opposition check, each branch of the legislature that predominates in its turn;—­but if I detest Laud, it does not make me love Hugh Peters.

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