(459) The following picture of fashionable life at
the time of Walpole’s lament, is by Mr.
Wilberforce:—“When I left
the University, so little did I know of general society,
that I came up to London stored with
arguments to prove the authenticity Of Rowley’s
poems; and now I was at once immersed
in politics and fashion. The very first time
I went to Boodle’s, I won twenty.five
guineas of the Duke of Norfolk. I belonged at
this time to five clubs--Miles and Evans’s,
Brookes’s, Boodle’s, White’s, Goostree’s.
The first time I was at Brookes’s,
scarcely knowing any one, I joined, from niere shyness,
in play at the
faro-table, where George Selwyn kept bank. A friend,
who knew my inexperience, and regarded me as a victim decked out for sacrifice, called to me, ’What, Wilberforce! is that you?’ Selwyn quite resented the interference; and, turning to him, said, in his most expressive tone, ’O, Sir, don’t interrupt Mr. Wilberforce; he could not be better employed!’ Nothing could be more luxurious than the style of these clubs, Fox, Sheridan, Fitzpatrick, and all your leading men, frequented them, and associated upon the easiest terms; you chatted, played at cards, or gambled, as you pleased. I was one of those who met to spend an evening in memory of Shakspeare, at the Boar’s Head, Eastcheap. Many professed wits were present, but Pitt was the most amusing of the party. He played a good deal at Goostree’s; and I well remember the intense earnestness which he displayed when joining in those games of chance. he perceived their increasing fascination, and soon after suddenly abandoned them for ever.” Life, vol, i. p, 16.-E.
I am truly sensible of, and grateful for, your lordship’s benevolent remembrance of me, and shall receive with great respect and pleasure the collection your lordship has been pleased to order to be sent to me. I must admire, too, my lord, the generous assistance that you have lent to your adopted children; but more forcibly than all I feel your pathetic expressions on the distress of the public, which is visible even in this extravagant and thoughtless city. The number of houses to be let in every street, whoever runs may read.
At the time of your writing your letter, your lordship did not know the accumulation of misfortune and disgrace that has fallen on us;(461) nor should I wish to be the trumpeter of my country’s calamities. Yet as they must float on the surface of the mind, and blend their hue -with all its emanations, they suggest this reflection, that there can be no time so proper for the institution of inquiries into past story as the moment of the fall of an empire,—a nation becomes a theme for antiquaries, when it ceases to be one for an historian!—and while its ruins are fresh and in legible preservation.