(8) Dr. Johnson, having read in the newspapers an account of a masquerade given at Edinburgh, by the Countess Dowager of Fife, at which Boswell had appeared in the character of a dumb conjuror, thus wrote to him:—“I have heard of your masquerade. What says your synod to such innovations? I am not studiously scrupulous, nor do I think a Masquerade either evil in itself or very likely to be the occasion of evil, yet, as the world thinks it a very licentious relaxation of manners, I would not have been one of the first masquers in a country where no masquerades had ever been before."-E.
My company and I have wished for you very much to-day. The Duchess of Portland, Mrs. Delany, Mr. Bateman, and your cousin, Fred. Montagu, dined here. Lord Guildford was very obliging, and would have come if he dared have ventured. Mrs. Montagu was at Bill-hill with Lady Gower. The day was tolerable, with sun enough for the house, though not for the garden. You, I suppose, will never come again, as I have not a team of horses large enough to draw you out of the clay of Oxfordshire.
I went yesterday to see my niece(9) in her new principality of Ham. It delighted me and made me peevish. Close to the Thames, in the centre of all rich and verdant beauty, it is so blocked up and barricaded with walls, vast trees, and gates, that you think yourself an hundred miles off and an hundred years back. The old furniture is so magnificently ancient, dreary and decayed, that at every step one’s spirits sink, and all my passion for antiquity could not keep them up. Every minute I expected to see ghosts sweeping by; ghosts I would not give sixpence to See, Lauderdales, Tollcmaches, and Maitlands. There is one old brown gallery full of Vandycks and Lelys, charming miniatures, delightful Wouvermans, and Polenburghs, china, japan, bronzes, ivory cabinets, and silver dogs, pokers, bellows, etc. without end. One pair of bellows is of filigree. In this state of pomp and tatters my nephew intends it shall remain, and is so religious an observer of the venerable rites of his house, that because the gates never were opened by his father but once for the late Lord Granville, you are locked out and locked in, and after journeying all round the house, as you do round an old French fortified town, you are at last admitted through the stable-yard to creep along a dark passage by the housekeeper’s room, and so by a back-door into the great hall. He seems as much afraid of water as a cat; for though you might enjoy the Thames from every window of three sides of the house, you may tumble into it before you guess it is there. In short, our ancestors had so little idea of taste and beauty, that I should not have been surprised if they had hung their pictures with the painted sides to the wall. Think of such a palace commanding all the reach of Richmond