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.

Letter 206 To Sir David Dalrymple.(406) Berkeley Square, Jan. 1, 1781. (page 264)

Your favourable opinion of my father, Sir, is too flattering(r to me not to thank you for the satisfaction it gave me.  Wit, I think he had not naturally, though I am sure he had none from affectation, as simplicity was a predominant feature in his amiable composition. but he possessed that, perhaps, most true species of wit, which flows from experience and deep knowledge of mankind, and consequently had more in his later than in his earlier years; which is not common to a talent that generally flashes from spirits, though they alone cannot bestow it.  When you was once before so good, Sir, as to suggest to me an attempt at writing my father’s life, I probably made you one answer that I must repeat now, which is, that a son’s encomiums would be attributed to partiality; and with my deep devotion to his memory, I should ever suspect it in myself.  But I will set my repugnance in a stronger light, by relating an anecdote not incurious.  In the new edition of the Biographia Britannica, Dr. Kippis, the tinker of it, reflecting on my having called the former, Vindicatio Britannica, or Defence of Every body, threatened that when he should come to my father’s life he would convince me that the new edition did not deserve that censure.  I confess I thought this but an odd sort of historian equity, to reverse scripture and punish the sins of children upon their fathers!  However, I said nothing.  Soon after Dr. Kippis himself called on me, and in very gracious terms desired I would favour him with anecdotes of my father’s life.  This was descending a little from his censorial throne, but I took no notice; and only told him, that I was so persuaded of the fairness of my father’s character, that I chose to trust it to the most unprejudiced hands; and that all I could consent to was, that when he shall have written it, if he would communicate it to me, I would point out to him any material facts, if I should find any, that were not truly noted.  This was all I could contribute.  Since that time I have seen in the second volume a very gross accusation of Sir Robert, at second or third hand, and to which the smallest attention must give a negative.  Sir Robert is accused of having, out of spite, influenced the House of Commons to expel the late Lord Barrington for the notorious job of the Hamburg lottery.(407) Spite was not the ingredient most domineering in my father’s character; but whatever has been said of the corruption or servility of Houses of Commons, when was there one so prostitute, that it would have expelled one of their own members for a fraud not proved, to gratify the vengeance of the minister? and a minister must have been implacable indeed, and a House of Commons profligate indeed, to inflict such a stigma on an innocent man, because he had been attached to a rival predecessor of the minister.  It is not less strange that the Hamburgher’s son should not have vindicated his parent’s memory at the opportunity of the secret committee on Sir Robert, but should wait for a manuscript memorandum of Serjeant Skinner after the death of this last.  I hope Sir Robert will have no such apologist!

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