I returned last night from Houghton,(100) where multiplicity of business detained me four days longer than I intended, and where I found a scene infinitely more mortifying than I expected; though I certainly did not go with a prospect of finding a land flowing with milk and honey. Except the pictures, which are in the finest preservation, and the woods, which are become forests, all the rest is ruin, desolation, confusion, disorder, debts, mortgages, sales, pillage, villany, waste, folly, and madness. I do not believe that five thousand pounds would put the house and buildings into good repair. The nettles and brambles in the park are up to your shoulders; horses have been turned into the garden, and banditti lodged in every cottage. The perpetuity of livings that come up to the park-pales have been sold—and every farm let for half its value. In short, you know how much family pride I have, and consequently may judge how much I have been mortified! Nor do I tell you half, or near the worst circumstances. I have just stopped the torrent-and that is all. I am very uncertain whether I must not fling up the trust; and some of the difficulties in my way seem unsurmountable, and too dangerous not to alarm even my zeal; since I must not ruin myself, and hurt those for whom I must feel, too, only to restore a family that will end with myself, and to retrieve an estate’ from which I am not likely ever to receive the least advantage.
if you will settle with the Churchills your journey to Chalfont, and will let me know the day, I will endeavour to meet you there; I hope it Will not be till next week. I am overwhelmed with business—but, indeed, I know not when I shall be otherwise! I wish you joy of this endless summer.
(100) Whither he had gone during the mental alienation of his nephew, George Earl of Orford, to endeavour to settle and arrange his affairs.
The multiplicity of business which I found chalked out to me by my journey to Houghton, has engaged me so much, my dear lord, and the unpleasant scene opened to me there struck me so deeply, that I have neither had time nor cheerfulness enough to flatter myself I could amuse my friends by my letters. Except the pictures, I found every thing worse than I expected, and the prospect almost too bad to give me courage to pursue what I am doing. I am totally ignorant of most of the branches of business that are fallen to my lot, and not young enough to learn any new business well. All I can hope is to clear the worst part of the way; for, in undertaking to retrieve an estate, the beginning is certainly the most difficult of the work—it is fathoming a chaos. But I will not unfold a confusion to your lordship which your good sense will always keep You from experiencing —very unfashionably; for the first geniuses of the age hold, that the best method of governing the world is to throw it into disorder. The experiment is not yet complete, as the rearrangement is still to come.