« ZurückWeiter »
THE WAR: BURKE
STRAWBERRY HILL, 22nd July 1761. To GEORGE MONTAGU, ESQ. For my part, I believe Mademoiselle Scuderi drew the plan of
It is all royal marriages, coronations, and victories; they come tumbling so over one another from distant parts of the globe, that it looks just like the handywork of a lady romance writer, whom it costs nothing but a little false geography to make the great Mogul in love with a Princess of Mecklenburg and defeat two marshals of France as he rides post on an elephant to his nuptials. I don't know where I am.
I had scarce found Mecklenburg Strelitz with a magnifying-glass before I am whisked to Pondicherry.—Well, I take it, and raze it. I begin to grow acquainted with Colonel Coote, and to figure him packing up chests of diamonds, and sending them to his wife against the King's wedding—thunder go the Tower guns, and behold, Broglio and Soubise are totally defeated ; if the mob have not much stronger heads and quicker conceptions than I have, they will conclude my Lord Granby is nabob. How the deuce in two days can one digest all this? Why is not Pondicherry in Westphalia ? I don't know how the Romans did, but I cannot support two victories every week. Well, but you will want to know the particulars. Broglio and Soubise united, attacked our army on the 15th, but were repulsed; the next day, the Prince Mahomet Alli Cawn—no, no, I mean Prince Ferdinand, returned the attack and the French threw down their arms and fled, run over my Lord Harcourt, who was going to fetch the new Queen ; in short I don't know how it was, but Mr. Conway is safe, and I am as happy as Mr. Pitt himself. We have only lost a LieutenantColonel Keith; Colonel Marlay and Harry Townshend are wounded.
I could beat myself for not having a flag ready to display on my round tower, and guns mounted on all my battlements. Instead of that, I have been foolishly trying on my new pictures upon my gallery. However, the oratory of our Lady of Strawberry shall be dedicated next year on the anniversary of Mr. Conway's safety. Think with his intrepidity, and delicacy of honour wounded, what I had to apprehend; you shall absolutely be here on the sixteenth of next July. Mr. Hamilton tells me your King does not set out for his new dominions till the
day after the Coronation ; if you will come to it, I can give you a very good place for the procession ; where, is a profound secret, because, if known, I should be teased to death and none but my first friends shall be admitted. I dined with your secretary yesterday ; there were Garrick and a young Mr. Burke, who wrote a book in the style of Lord Bolingbroke, that was much admired. He is a sensible man, but has not worn off his authorism yet, and thinks there is nothing so charming as writers, and to be one. He will know better one of these days. I like Hamilton's little Marly ; we walked in the great allée and drank tea in the arbour of treillage : they talked of Shakespeare and Booth, of Swift and my Lord Bath, and I was thinking of Madam Sévigné. Good night—I have a dozen other letters to write; I must tell my friends how happy I am—not as an Englishman, but as a cousin.
OLD AGE: FRANCE: MADAME D’ARBLAY
STRAWBERRY Hill, 29th August, 1796. To Miss HANNAH MORE.
You are not only the most beneficent, but the most benevolent of human beings. Not content with being a perfect saint yourself, which (forgive me for saying) does not always imply prodigious compassion for others; not satisfied with being the most disinterested, nay, the reverse of all patriots, for you sacrifice your very slender fortune, not to improve it, but to keep the poor honest instead of corrupting them; and you write politics as simply, intelligibly, and unartfully, not as cunningly as you can to mislead. Well, with all these giant virtues, you can find room and time in your heart and occupations for harbouring and exercising what those monkeys of pretensions, the French, invented and called les petites morales, which were to supply society with filigrain duties, in the room of all virtues, which they abolished on their road to the adoption of philosophy and atheism. Yes, though for ever busied in exercising services and charities for individuals, or for whole bodies of people, you do not leave a cranny empty into which you can slip a kindness. Your inquiry after me to Miss Berry is so friendly, that I cannot trust solely to her thanking you for your letter, as I am sure she will, having sent it to her as she is bathing in the sea at Bognor Rocks; but I must with infinite gratitude give you a brief account of myself
a very poor one indeed must I give. Condemned as a cripple to my couch for the rest of my days I doubt I am. Though perfectly healed, and even without a scar, my leg is so weakened that I have not recovered the least use of it, nor can move across my chamber unless lifted up and held by two servants.
This constitutes me totally a prisoner. But why should not I be so ? What business had I to live to the brink of seventy-nine ? And why should one litter the world at that age ? Then, I thank God I have vast blessings ; I have preserved my eyes, ears, and teeth ; I have no pain left; and I would bet with any dormouse that it cannot outsleep me. And when one can afford to pay for
every relief, comfort, or assistance that can be procured at fourscore, dares one complain ? Must not one reflect on the thousands of old poor, who are suffering martyrdom, and have none of these alleviations. O, my good friend, I must consider myself as at my best ; for if I drag on a little longer, can I expect to remain even so tolerably? Nay, does the world present a pleasing scene ? Are not the devils escaped out of the swine, and overrunning the earth headlong ?
What a theme for meditation, that the excellent humane Louis Seize should have been prevented from saving himself by that monster Drouet, and that that execrable wretch should be saved even by those, some of whom one may suppose he meditated to massacre ; for at what does a Frenchman stop ? But I will quit this shocking subject, and for another reason too: I omitted one of my losses, almost the use of my fingers : they are so lame that I cannot write a dozen lines legibly, but am forced to have recourse to my secretary. I will only reply by a word or two to a question you seem to ask; how I like “ Camilla”?
I do not care to say how little. Alas ! she has reversed experience, which I have long thought reverses its own utility by coming at the wrong end of our life when we do not want it. This author knew the world and penetrated characters before she had stepped over the threshold ; and, now she has seen so much of it, she has little or no insight at all : perhaps she apprehended having seen too much, and kept the bags of foul air that she brought from the Cave of Tempests too closely tied.
Adieu, thou who mightest be one of the cleverest of women if thou didst not prefer being one of the best! And when I say one of the best I have not engaged my vote for the second.--Yours most gratefully.
(Gilbert White was born at Selborne, Hampshire, where his father had a small estate, on 18th July 1720. His schoolmaster was Thomas Warton, father of the Professor of Poetry, and he entered at Oriel College, Oxford, in December 1739, and was elected a fellow of the College in March 1744. He took holy orders, but never held any other preferment than his fellowship. He settled at his native place and only left it to pay brief visits to friends, filling his time with the study of the natural history and antiquities of the parish. In 1789 he published The Natural History and Antiquities of Selborne, and died at Selborne on 26th June 1793.]
The Natural History of Selborne was the first readable book in English on natural history, and before White no one had carried out the method of describing all that he had observed in a particular locality. The book consists of genuine letters to several correspondents. The letters are simple in style, and seldom long, and contain lucid accounts of the habits of birds and other animals. There is no attempt at decoration in the composition ; the writer, in the simplest English, succeeds in arousing in others the interest which he himself feels. His sentences convey exactly what he had seen, and he never becomes either uninteresting or rhetorical. Mingled with his own observations are questions and discussions of unsolved problems of natural history, glimpses of rural society, and sufficient allusions to literature to show that a well chosen set of books had been read, so as to form part of the author's mind. White may be regarded as the founder of a new branch of English literature, and few of those who have followed him have had so much to tell, or have succeeded in conveying so much in so short a space.
In the narration of the features of events so as to give a clear idea of the details, as well as of the whole, White, in the natural world, shows skill comparable to
that of Cowper in the description of his domestic circle and its incidents. The letters of White are less numerous and briefer than those of Cowper, and of somewhat less literary power, but they have the same kind of merit, and while making clear what their writer saw, unconsciously furnish a portrait of his own mind.