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

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 897 pages of information about The Letters of Horace Walpole, Earl of Orford Volume 4.

Letter 273 To The Hon. H. S. Conway.  Strawberry Hill, May 21, 1784. (page 345)

I am perfectly satisfied with your epitaph,(520) and would not have a Syllable altered.  It tells exactly what it means to say, and that truth being an encomium, wants no addition or amplification.  Nor do I love late language for modern facts, nor will European tongues perish since printing has been discovered.  I should approve French least of all; it would be a kind of insult to the vanquished:  and, besides, the example of a hero should be held out to his countrymen rather than to their enemies.  You must take care to have the word caused, in the last line but one, spelt rightly, and not caus’d.

I know nothing of the Parliament but what you saw in the papers.  I came hither yesterday, and am transported, like you, with the beauty of the country; ay, and with its perfumed air too.  The lilac-time scents even the insides of the rooms.

I desired Lady Ailesbury to carry you Lord Melcombe’s Diary.(521) It is curious indeed; not so much from the secrets it blabs, which are rather characteristic than novel, but from the wonderful folly of the author, who was so fond of talking of himself, that he tells all he knew of himself, though scarce an event that does not betray his profligacy; and (which is still more surprising that he should disclose) almost every one exposes the contempt in which he was held, and his consequential’ disappointments and disgraces!  Was ever any man the better for another’s experience?  What a lesson is here against versatility!  I, who have lived through all the scenes unfolded, am entertained; but I should think that to younger readers half the book must be unintelligible.  He explains nothing but the circumstances of his own situation; and, though he touches on many important periods, he leaves them undeveloped, and often undetermined.  It is diverting to hear him rail at Lord Halifax and others, for the very kind of double-dealing which he relates coolly of himself in the next page.  Had he gone backwards, he might have given half a dozen volumes of his own life, with similar anecdotes and variations.  I am most surprised, that when self-love is the whole groundwork of the performance, there should be little or no attempt at shining as an author, though he was one.  As he had so much wit too, I am amazed that not a feature of it appears.  The discussion in the appendix, on the late Prince’s question for increase of allowance, is the only part in which there is sense or honesty.  There is, in the imperfect account of Rochfort, a strong Circumstance or two that pleased me much.  There are many passages that will displease several others throughout.

Mr. Coxe’s Travels(522) are very different:  plain, clear, sensible, instructive, and entertaining.  It is a noble work, and precious to me who delight in quartos:  the two volumes contain twelve hundred pages; I have already devoured a quarter, though I have had them but three days. [The rest of this letter is lost.]

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