I am conscious that I have taken a little liberty when I excommunicate a tongue in which your ladyship has condescended to write;(625) but I only condemn it for verse and pieces of eloquence, of which I thought it alike incapable, till I read Rousseau of Geneva. It is a most sociable language, and charming for narrative and epistles. Yet, write as well as you will in it, you must be liable to express yourself better in the speech natural to you and your own country has a right to understand all your works, and is jealous of their not being as perfect as you could make them. Is it not more creditable to be translated into a foreign language than into your own? and will it not vex you to hear the translation taken for the original, and to find vulgarisms that you could not have committed yourself? But I have done, and will release you, Madam; only observing, that you flatter me with a vain hope, when you tell me you shall return to England, some time or other. Where will that time be for me! and when it arrives, shall I not be somewhere else?
I do not pretend to send your ladyship English news, nor to tell you of English literature. You must before this time have heard of the dismal state into which our chief personage is fallen! That consideration absorbs all others. The two houses are going to settle some intermediate succedaneum; and the obvious one, no doubt, will be fixed on.
(625) Besides writing a comedy in French, called “Nourjahad,” Lady Craven had translated into that language Cibber’s play of “She would and She would not."-E.
I am sorry, in the sense of that word before it meant, like a Hebrew word, glad or sorry, that I am engaged this evening; and I am at your command on Tuesday, as it is always my inclination to be. It is a misfortune that words are become so much the current coin of society, that, like King William’s shillings, they have no impression left; they are so smooth, that they mark no more to whom they first belonged than to whom they do belong, and are not worth even the twelvepence into which they may be changed: but if they mean too little, they may seem to mean too much too, especially when an old man (who is often synonymous for a miser) parts with them. I am afraid of protesting how much I delight in your society, lest I should seem to affect being gallant; but if two negatives make an affirmative, why may not two ridicules compose one piece of sense? and therefore, as I am in love with you both, I trust it is a proof of the good sense of your devoted H. Walpole.
(626) This is the first of a series of letters addressed by Mr Walpole to Miss Mary and Miss Agnes Berry, and now first published from the original in their possession.-E.
(627) The date is thus put, alluding to his age, which, in’1789 was seventy-one.-M. B.