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XXIII. M.R. GRAY TO HIS FATHER.
Florence, July, 16, 1740. AT my return to this city, the day before yesterday, I
had the pleasure of finding yours dated June the 9th. The period of our voyages, at least towards the south, is come, as you wish. We have been at Naples, spent nine or ten days there, and returned to Rome, where finding no likelihood of a pope yet these three months, and quite wearied with the formal assemblies, and little society of that great city, Mr. Walpole determined to return hither to spend the summer, where he imagines he shall pass his time more agreeably than in the tedious expectation of what, when it happens, will only be a great show. For my own part, I give up the thoughts of all that with but little regret; but the city itself I do not part with so easily, which alone has amusements for whole years. However, I have passed through all that most people do, both ancient and modern; what that is you may see, better than I can tell you, in a thousand books. The Conclave we left in greater uncertainty than ever; the more than ordinary liberty they enjoy there, and the unusual coolness of the season, makes the confinement less disagreeable to them than common, and consequently, maintains them in their irresolution. There have been very high words, one or two (it is said) have come even to blows; two more are dead within this last month, Cenci and Portia; the latter died distracted; and we left another (Altieri) at the extremity: yet nobody dreams of an election till the latter end of September. All this gives great scandal to all good catholics, and every body talks very freely on the subject. The Pretender (whom you desire an account of) I have had frequent opportunities of seeing at church, at the corso, and other places; but more particularly, and that for a whole night, at a great ball given by Count Patrizii to the Prince and Princess Caron (who were come to Rome at that time, that he might receive from the hands of the Emperor's minister there the order of the golden fleece), at which he and his two sons were present. They are good fine boys, especially the younger, who has the more spirit of the two, and both danced incessantly all night long. For him, he is a thin ill-made man, extremely tall and awkward, of a most unpromising countenance, a good deal resembling King James the Second, and has extremely the air and look of an ideot, particularly when he laughs or prays: the first he does not often, the latter continually. He lives private enough with his little court about him, consisting of Lord Dunbar, who manages every thing, and two or three of the Preston Scotch lords, who would be very glad to make their peace at home. ' We happened to be at Naples on Corpus Christi day, the greatest feast in the year, so had an opportunity of seeing their Sicilian majesties to advantage. The King walked in the grand procession, and the Queen (being big with child) sat in the balcony. He followed the host to the church of St. Clara, where high mass was celebrated to a glorious concert of music. They are as ugly a little pair as one can see: she a pale girl, marked with the small-pox ; and he a brown boy with a thin face, a huge nose, and us ungain as possible. We are settled here with Mr. Mann in a charming apartment; the river Arno runs under our windows, which we can fish out of. The sky is so serene, and the air so temperate, that one continues in the open air all night long in a slight nightgown without any danger; and the marble bridge is the resort of every body, where they hear music, eat iced fruits, and sup by moonlight; though as yet (the season being extremely backward every where) these amusements are not begun. You
see we are now coming northward again, though in no great haste; the Venetian and Milanese territories, and either Germany or the South of France (according to the turn the war may take), are all that remain for us, that we have not yet seen : as to Loretto, and that part of italy, we have given over all thoughts of it.
XXIV. M. R. W. EST TO MR. G. R. A. Y. - Bond-street, June 5, 1740. I LIVED at the Temple till I was sick of it: I have just left it, and find myself as much a lawyer as I was when I was in it. It is certain, at least, I may study the law here, as well as I could there. My being in chambers does not signify to me a pinch of snuff. They tell me my father was a lawyer, and, as you know, eminent in the profession; and such a circumstance must be of advantage to me. My uncle too makes some figure in Westminster Hall, and there's another advantage: then my grandfather's name would get me many friends. Is it not strange that a young fellow, that might enter the world with so many advantages, will not know his own interest, &c. &c. What shall I say in answer to all this? For money, I neither doat upon it nor despise it: it is a necessary stuff enough. For ambition, I do not want that neither; but it is not to sit upon a bench. In short, is it not a disagreeable thing to force one's inclination, especially when one's young 1 not to mention that one ought to have the strength of a Hercules to go through our common law; which, I am afraid, I have not. Well! but then, say they, if one profession does not suit you, you may choose another more to your inclination. Now I protest I do not yet know my own inclination, and I believe, if that was to be my direction, I should never fix at all: there is no going by a weathercock. I could say much more upon this subject, but there is no talking téte-à-tête cross the Alps. Othe folly of young men, that never know their own interest! they never grow wise till they are ruined and then nobody pities them, nor helps them. Dear Gray! consider me in the condition of one that has lived these two years without any person that he can speak freely to. I know it is very seldom that people trouble themselves with the sentiments of those they converse with ; so they can chat about trifles, they never care whether your heart aches or no. Are you one of these ! I think not. But what right have I to ask you this question ? Have we known one another enough, that I should expect or demand sincerity from you ? yes, Gray, I hope we have ; and I have not quite such a mean opinion of myself, as to think I do not deserve it. But, Signor, is it not time for me to ask something about your further intentions abroad 7 Where do you propose going next! an in Apuliam 2 nam illó si adveneris, tanquam Ulysses, cognosces tuorum meminem. Vale. So Cicero prophecies in the end of one of his letters,” and there I end. Yours, &c.
XXV. M.R. G R A Y TO MR. W. EST. Florence, July 16, 1740. YoU do yourself and me justice, in imagining that you merit, and that I am capable of sincerity. I have not a thought, or even a weakness, I desire to conceal from you : and consequently, on my side, deserve to be treated with the same openness of heart. My vanity perhaps might make me more reserved towards you, if you were one of the heroic race, superior to all human failings: but as mutual wants are the ties of general society, so are mutual weaknesses of private friendship, supposing them mixed with some proportion of good qualities; for where one may not sometimes blame, one does not much care ever to praise. All this has the air of an introduction designed to soften a very harsh reproof that is to follow ; but it is no such matter : I only meant to ask, Why did you change your lodging? Was the air bad, or the situation melancholy 2 If so, you are quite in the right. Only, is it not putting yourself a little out of the way of a people, with whom it seems necessary to keep up some sort of intercourse and conversation, though but little for your pleasure or entertainment (yet there are, I believe, such among them as might give you both), at least for your information in that study, which, when I left you, you thought of applying to ? for that there is a certain study necessary to be followed, if we mean to be of any use in the world, I take for granted ; disagreeable enough (as most necessities are) but, I am afraid, unavoidable. Into how many branches these studies are divided in England, every body knows; and between that which you and I had pitched upon, and the other two, it was impossible to balance long. Examples shew one that it is not absolutely necessary to be a blockhead to succeed in this profession. The labour is long, and the elements dry and unentertaining; nor was ever any body (especially those that afterward made a figure in it) amused, or even not disgusted in the beginning; yet, upon a further acquaintance, there is surely matter for curiosity and reflection. It is strange if, among all that huge mass of words, there be not somewhat intermixed for thought. Laws have been the result of long deliberation, and that not of dull men, but the contrary; and have so close a connexion with history, nay, with philosophy itself, that they must partake a little of what they are related to so nearly. Besides,
* This letter (written apparently in much agitation of mind, which Mr. West endeavours to conceal by an unusual carelessness of manner) is chiefly inserted to introduce the answer to it; which appears to me to be replete with delicate feeling, manly sense, and epistolary ease. If the reader should think as highly of it as I do, let me remind him that the writer was not now quite four and twenty years old.