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.
lest I should lose myself in attempting to follow his investigations, I recall my mind home, and apply it to reflect on what we thought we knew, when we imagined we knew something (which we deemed a vast deal) pretty correctly.  Segrais, I think, it was, who said with much contempt, to a lady who talked of her star, “Your star!  Madam, there are but two thousand stars in all; and do you imagine that you have a whole one to yourself?” The foolish dame, it seems, was not more ignorant than Segrais himself.  If our system includes twenty millions of worlds, the lady had as much right to pretend to a whole ticket as the philosopher had to treat her like a servant-maid who buys a chance for a day in a state lottery.

Stupendous as Mr. Herschel’s investigations are, and admirable as are his talents, his expression of our retired corner of the universe, seems a little improper.  When a little emmet, standing on its ant-hill, could get a peep into infinity, how could he think he saw a corner in it?-a retired corner?  Is there a bounded side to infinitude!  If there are twenty millions of worlds, why not as many, and as many, and as many more?  Oh! one’s imagination cracks!  I ]one, to bait within distance of home, and rest at the moon.  Mr. Herschel will content me if he can discover thirteen provinces there, well inhabited by men and women, and protected by the law of nations;(555) that law, which was enacted by Europe for its own emolument, to the prejudice of the other three parts of the globe, and which bestows the property of whole realms on the first person who happens to espy them, who can annex them to the crown of Great Britain, in lieu of those it has lost beyond the Atlantic.

I am very ignorant in astronomy, as ignorant as Segrais or the lady, and could wish to ask many questions; as Whether our celestial globes must not be infinitely magnified?  Our orreries, too, must not they be given to children, and new ones constructed, that will at least take in our retired corner and all its OUtflying constellations?  Must not that host of worlds be christened?  Mr. Herschel himself has stood godfather for his Majesty to the new Sidus.  His Majesty, thank God! has a numerous issue; but they and all the princes and princesses in Europe cannot supply appellations enough for twenty millions of new-born stars:  no, though the royal progenies of Austria, Naples, and Spain, who have each two dozen saints for sponsors, should consent to split their bead-rolls of names among the foundlings.  But I find I talk like an old nurse; and your lordship at last will, I believe, be convinced that it is not worth your while to keep up a correspondence with a man in his dotage, merely because he has the honour of being, my lord, your lordship’s most obedient servant.

(554) Now first printed.

(555) The then thirteen United States of America.

Letter 296 To John Pinkerton, Esq.(556) Strawberry Hill, Sept. 30, 1785. (page 376)

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The Letters of Horace Walpole, Earl of Orford — Volume 4 from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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