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LETTER XVIII. Pembroke:college, Feb. 25, 1768. To your friendly accusation, I am glad I can plead not guilty with a safe conscience. Dodsley told me in the spring that the plates from Mr. Bentley's designs were worn out, and he wanted to have them copied and reduced to a smaller scale for a new edition. I dissuaded him from so silly an expense, and desired he would put in no ornaments at all. The Long Story was to be totally omitted,” as its only use (that of explaining the prints) was gone; but to supply the place of it in bulk, lest my works should be mistaken for the works of a flea, or a pismire, I promised to send him an equal weight of poetry or prose: so, since my return hither, I put up about two ounces of stuff; viz. The Fatal Sisters, The Descent of Odin (of both which you have copies), a bit of something from the Welch, and certain little notes, partly from justice (to acknowledge the debt, where I had borrowed any thing), partly from ill temper, just to tell the gentle reader, that Edward I. was not Oliver Cromwell, nor Queen Elizabeth the witch of Endor. This is literally all; and with all this I shall be but a shrimp of an author. I gave leave also to print the same thing at Glasgow; but I doubt my packet has miscarried, for I hear nothing of its arrival as yet. To what you say to me so civilly, that I ought to write more, I reply in your own words (like the pamphleteer, who is going to confute you out of your own mouth). What has one to do, when turned of fifty, but really to think of finishing? However, I will be candid (for you seem to be so with me), and avow to you, that till fourscore and ten, whenever the humour takes me, I will write, because I like it; and because I like myself better when I do so. If
I do not write much, it is because I cannot. As you * See Letter LVI, Sect, IV.
have not this last plea, I see no reason why you should not continue as long as it is agreeable to yourself, and to all such as have any curiosity or judgment in the subjects you choose to treat. By the way let me tell you (while it is fresh) that Lord Sandwich, who was lately dining at Cambridge, speaking (as I am told) handsomely of your book, said, it was a pity you did not know that his cousin Manchester had a genealogy of the kings, which came down no lower than to Richard III. and at the end of it were two portraits of Richard and his son, in which that king appeared to be a handsome man. I tell you it as I heard it: perhaps you may think it worth inquiring into. I have looked into Speed and Leslie. It appears very odd, that Speed in the speech he makes for P. Warbeck, addressed to James IV. of Scotland, should three times cite the manuscript proclamation of Perkin, then in the hands of Sir Robert Cotton; and yet when he gives us the proclamation afterward (on occasion of the insurrection in Cornwall) he does not cite any such manuscript. In Casley's Catalogue of the Cotton Library you may see whether this manuscript proclamation still exists or not : if it does, it may be found at the Museum. Leslie will give you no satisfaction at all: though no subject of England, he could not write freely on this matter, as the title of Mary his mistress to the crown of England was derived from that of Henry VII. Accordingly, he every where treats Perkin as an impostor; yet drops several little expressions inconsistent with that supposition. He has preserved no proclamation: he only puts a short speech into Perkin's mouth, the substance of which is taken by Speed, and translated in the end of his, which is a good deal longer: the whole matter is treated by Leslie very concisely and superficially. I can easily transcribe it, if you please; but I do not see that it could answer any purpose.
Mr. Boswell's book I was going to recommend to you, when I received your letter: it has pleased and moved me strangely, all (I mean) that relates to Paoli. He is a man born two thousand years after his time! The pamphlet proves what I have always maintained, that, any fool may write a most valuable book by chance, if he will only tell us what he heard and saw with veracity. Of Mr. Boswell's truth I have not the least suspicion, because I am sure he could invent nothing of this kind. The true title of this part of his work is, A Dialogue between a Green-goose and a Hero.
I had been told of a manuscript in Benet Library: the inscription of it is, Itinerarium Fratris Simonis Simeonis et Hugonis Illuminatoris, 1322. Would not one think this should promise something? They were two Franciscan friars that came from Ireland, and passed through Wales to London, to Canterbury, to Dover, and so to France, in their way to Jerusalem. All that relates to our own country has been transcribed for me, and (sorry am I to say) signifies not a halfpenny: only this little bit might be inserted in your next edition of the Painters: Ad aliud caput civitatis (Londoniae) est monasterium nigrorum monachorum nomine Westmonasterium, in quo constanter et communiter omnes reges Angliae sepeliuntur—et eidem monasterio quasi immediate conjungitur illud famosissimum palatium regis, in quo est illa . vulgata camera, in cujus parietibus sunt omnes historiae bellicae totius Bibliae ineffabiliter depictae, atque in Gallico completissime et perfectissime conscriptae, in non modicaintuentium admirationeet maxima regali magnificentia. - -
I have had certain observations on your Royal and Noble authors given me to send you perhaps about three years ago: last week I found them in a drawer, and (my conscience being troubled) now inclose them to you. I have even forgot whose they are. ,
I have been also told of a passage in Ph. de Comines,
which (if you know) ought not to have been passed
over. The book is not at hand at present, and I must conclude my letter. Adieu. - I am ever yours.
LETTER XIX. Pembroke-hall, March 6, 1768. HERE is Sir William Cornwallis, entitled Essayes of certaine Paradoxes. 2d Edit. 1617, Lond.
King Richard III.
The French Pockes
Nothing * , ised
Julian the Apostate's vertues
The title-page will probably suffice you; but if you would know any more of him, he has read nothing but the common chronicles, and those without attention: for example, speaking of Anne, the queen, he says, she was barren, of which Richard had often complained to Rotheram. He extenuates the murder of Henry VI. and his son: the first, he says, might be a malicious accusation, for that many did suppose he died of mere melancholy and grief: the latter cannot be proved to be the action of Richard (though executed in his presence); and, if it were, he did it out of love to his brother Edward. He justifies the death of the lords at Pomfret, from reasons of state, for his own preservation, the safety of the commonwealth, and the ancient nebility. The execution of Hastings he excuses from necessity, from the dishonesty and sensuality of the man: what was his crime with respect to Richard, he does not say. Dr. Shaw's sermon was not by the King's command, but to be imputed to the preacher's own ambition: but if it was by order, to charge his mother with adultery, was a matter of no such great moment, since it is no wonder in that sev. Of the murder in the Tower he doubts; but if it were by his order, the offence was to God, not to his people; and how could he demonstrate his love more amply, than to venture his soul for their quiet! Have you enough, pray ? You see it is an idle declamation, the exercise of a school-boy that is to be bred a statesInan. I have looked in Stowe: to be sure there is no proclamation there. Mr. Hume, I suppose, means Speed, where it is given, how truly I know not; but that he had seen the original is sure, and seems to quote the very words of it in the beginning of that speech which Perkin makes to James IV. and also just afterward, where he treats of the Cornish rebellion. Guthrie, you see, has vented himself in the Critical Review. His History I never saw, nor is it here, nor do I know any one that ever saw it. He is a rascal, but rascals may chance to meet with curious records; and that commission to Sir J. Tyrrell (if it be not a lie) is such: so is the order for Henry the Sixth's funeral. I would by no means take notice of him, write what he would. I am glad you have seen the Manchester-roll. It is not I that talk of Phil. de Comines; it was mentioned to me as a thing that looked like a voluntary omission: but I see you have taken notice of it in the note to page 71, though rather too slightly. You have not observed that the same writer says, c. 55, Richard tua de sa main, ou fit tuer en sa presence, quelque lieu apart, ce bon homme le roi Henry. Another oversight I think there is at p. 43, where you speak of the roll of parliament, and the contract with Lady Eleanor Boteler, as things newly come to light; whereas Speed has given at large the same roll in his History. Adieu. I am ever yours.