(80) This letter may want some explanation. A gentleman, a collector of prints, and a neighbour of Mr. Walpole’s, had just before requested to see Mr. Cole’s collection, and on Mr. Cole’s offering to accommodate him with such heads as he had not, he selected and took away no less than one hundred and eighty-seven of the most rare and valuable.
Indeed, Madam, I want you and Mr. Conway in town. Christmas has dispersed all my company, and left nothing but a loo-party or two. If all the fine days were not gone out of town, too, I should take the air in a morning; but I am not yet nimble enough, like old Mrs. Nugent, to jump out of a postchaise into an assembly.
You have a woful taste, my lady, not to like Lord Gower’s bonmot. I am almost too indignant to tell you of a most amusing book in six volumes, called “Histoire Philosophique et Politique du commerce des Deux Indes."(81) It tells one every thing in the world;—how to make conquests, invasions, blunders, settlements, bankruptcies, fortunes, etc.; tells you the natural and historical history of all nations; talks commerce, navigation, tea, coffee, china, mines, salt, spices; of the Portuguese, English, French, Dutch, Danes, Spaniards, Arabs, caravans, Persians, Indians, of Louis XIV. and the King of Prussia; of La Bourdonnais, Dupleix, and Admiral Saunders; of rice, and women that dance naked; of camels, ginghams, and muslin; of millions of millions of livres, pounds, rupees, and cowries; of iron cables, and Circassian women; of Law and the Mississippi; and against all governments and religions. This and every thing else is in the two first volumes. I cannot conceive what is left for the four others. And all is so mixed, that you learn forty new trades and fifty new histories in a single chapter. There is spirit, wit, and clearness and, if there were but less avoirdupois weight in it, it would be the richest book in the world in materials—but figures to me are so many ciphers, and only put me in mind of children that say, an hundred hundred hundred millions. However, it has made me learned enough to talk about Mr. Sykes and the Secret Committee,(82) which is all that any body talks of at present, and yet Mademoiselle Heinel(83) is arrived. This is all I know, and a great deal too, considering I know nothing, and yet, were there either truth or lies, I should know them; for one hears every thing in a sick room. Good night both!
(81) By the Abb`e Raynal. sensible of the faults of his work, the Abb`e visited England and Holland to obtain correct mercantile information, and, on his return, published an improved edition at Geneva, in ten volumes, octavo. Hannah More relates, that, when in England, the Abb`e was introduced to Dr. Johnson, and advancing to shake his band, the Doctor drew back and put it behind him, and afterwards replied to the expostulation of a friend—“Sir, I will not shake hands with an infidel.” The Parliament of Paris ordered the work to be burnt, and the author to be arrested; but he retired to Spain, and, in 1788, the National Assembly cancelled the decree passed against him. He died at Passy in 1794, at the age of eighty-five.-E.