I don’t know a word of news, public or private. I am deep in my dear old friend’s papers.(446) There are some very delectable; and though I believe, nay, know, I have not quite all, there are many which I almost wonder, after the little delicacy they(447) have shown, ever arrived to my hands. I dare to say they will not be quite so just to the public; for though I consented that the correspondence with Voltaire should be given to the editors of his works, I am persuaded that there are many passages at least which they will suppress, as very contemptuous to his chief votaries: I mean, of the votaries to his sentiments; for, like other heresiarchs, he despised his tools. If I live to see the edition, it Will divert me to collate it with what I have in my hands.
You are the person in the world the fittest to encounter the meeting you mention for the choice of a bridge.(448) You have temper and patience enough to bear with fools and false taste. I, so unlike you, have learned some patience with both sorts too, but by a more summary method than by waiting to instil reason into them. Mine is only by leaving them to their own vagaries, and by despairing that sense and taste should ever extend themselves. Adieu!
P. S. In ’Voltaire’s letters are some bitter traits on the King of Prussia, which, as he is defender of their no-faith, I conclude will be ray`es too.
(446) Madame du Deffand, who died in September 1780, and left all her papers to Mr. Walpole. See ant`e, p. 256, letter 199.-E.
(447) The executors of Madame du Deffand; whom Walpole suspected of having abstracted some of her papers.-E.
(448) The bridge over the Thames at Henley, to the singular beauty of which the good taste of mr. Conway materially contributed.
I am glad to hear, Sir, that your account of Hogarth calls for another edition; and I am very sensible of your great civility in offering to change any passages that criticise my own work. Though I am much obliged by the offer, I should blush to myself if I even wished for that complaisance. Good God! Sir, what am I that I should be offended at or above criticism or correction? I do not know who ought to be; I am sure, no author. I am a private man, of no consequence, and at best an author of very moderate abilities. In a work that comprehends so much biography as my Anecdotes of Painting, it would have been impossible, even with much more diligence than I employed, not to make numberless mistakes. It is kind to me to point out those errors; to the world it is justice. Nor have i a reason to be displeased even with the manner. I do remember that in many passages you have been very civil to me. I do not recollect any harsh phrases. As my work is partly critical as well as biographic, there too I had no reason or right to expect deference to my opinions. Criticism, I doubt, has no very certain rule to go by; in matters of taste it is a still more vague and arbitrary science.