Dear Madam, In this great discovery of a new mine of Madame de S`evign`e’s letters, my faith, I confess, is not quite firm. Do people sell houses wholesale, without opening their cupboards? This age, too, deals so much in false coinage, that booksellers and Birmingham give equal vent to what is not sterling; with the only difference, that the shillings of the latter pretend that the names are effaced, while the wares Of the former pass under borrowed names. Have we not seen, besides all the Testamens Politiques, the spurious letters of Ninon de l’Enclos, of Pope Ganganelli, and the Memoirs of the Princess Palatine? This is a little mortifying, while we know that there actually exists at Naples a whole library of genuine Greek and Latin authors; most of whom probably, have never been in print: and where it is not unnatural to suppose the work of some classics, yet lost, may be in being, and the remainder of some of the best. Yet, at the ’rate in which they proceed to unroll, it would take as many centuries to bring them to light, as have elapsed since they were overwhelmed. Nay, another eruption of Vesuvius may return all the volumes to chaos! Omar is stigmatized for burning the library of Alexandria. Is the King of Naples less a Turk? Is not it almost as unconscientious to keep a seraglio of virgin authors under the custody of nurses, as of blooming Circassians? Consider, my dear Madam, I am past seventy; or I should not be so Ungallant as to make the smallest comparison between the contents of the two harems. Your picture, which hangs near my elbow, would frown, I am sure, if I had any light meaning.
(620) Now first collected.
My late fit of gout, though very short, was a very authentic one, my dear lord, and the third I have had since Christmas. Still, of late years, I have suffered so little pain, that I can justly complain of nothing but the confinement, and the debility of my hands and feet, which, however, I can still use to a certain degree; and as I enjoy such good spirits and health in the intervals, I look upon the gout as no enemy; yet I know it is like the compacts said to be made with the devil, (no kind comparison to a friend!) who showers his favours on the Contractors, but is sure to seize and carry them off at last.
I would not say so much of myself, but in return to your lordship’s obliging concern for me: Yet, insignificant as the subject, I have no better in bank; and if I plume myself on the tolerable state of my out-ward man, I doubt your lordship finds that age does not treat my interior so mildly as the gout does the other. If my letters, as you are pleased to say, used to amuse you, you must perceive how insipid they are grown, both from my decays and the little intercourse I have with the world. Nay, I take