Page images

the control of Hannah More, and she quarrelled with her patroness, upon which afflicting occurrence Walpole thus condoles with his friend : "You are not only benevolence itself, but, with fifty times the genius of a Yearsley, you are void of vanity. How strange that vanity should expel gratitude! Does not the wretched woman owe her fame to you, as well as her affluence? I can testify your labours for both. Dame Yearsley reminds me of the Troubadours, those vagrants whom I used to admire till I knew their history; and who used to pour out trumpery verses, and flatter or abuse accordingly as they were housed and clothed, or dismissed to the next parish. Yet you did not set this person in the stocks, after procuring an annuity for her! ""* It is impossible to have a clearer notion of what Walpole and such as Walpole meant by patronage. The Baron of Otranto would have thought it the perfection of benevolence to have housed and clothed a troubadour; but the stocks and the whipping-post would have been ready for any treasonable assertion of independence. The days of chivalry are gone, and, heaven be praised, those of patronage are gone after them!

Walpole, like many other very clever men, could not perfectly appreciate the highest excellence, and yet could see the ridiculous side of the pretenders to wit and poetry. He laughs, as Gifford laughed, at 'Della Crusca;' and he has told the follies of Batheaston with his characteristic liveliness:

*Horace Walpole to Hannah More, October 14, 1787.

"You must know that near Bath is erected a new Parnassus, composed of three laurels, a myrtletree, a weeping-willow, and a view of the Avon, which has been new-christened Helicon. Ten years ago there lived a Madam Riggs, an old rough humourist who passed for a wit; her daughter, who passed for nothing, married to a Captain Miller, full of good-natured officiousness. These good folks were friends of Miss Rich, who carried me to dine with them at Batheaston, now Pindus. They caught a little of what was then called taste, built and planted, and begot children, till the whole caravan were forced to go abroad to retrieve. Alas! Mrs. Miller is returned a beauty, a genius, a Sappho, a tenth Muse, as romantic as Mademoiselle Scuderi, and as sophisticated as Mrs. Vesey. The captain's fingers are loaded with cameos, his tongue runs over with virtù, and, that both may contribute to the improvement of their own country, they have introduced bouts-rimés as a new discovery. They hold a Parnassus fair every Thursday, give out rhymes and themes, and all the flux of quality at Bath contend for the prizes. A Roman vase, dressed with pink ribbons and myrtles, receives the poetry, which is drawn out every festival; six judges of these Olympic games retire and select the brightest compositions, which the respective successful acknowledge, kneel to Mrs. Calliope Miller, kiss her fair hand, and are crowned by it with myrtlewith-I don't know what. You may think this is

fiction or exaggeration. Be dumb unbelievers! The collection is printed, published. Yes, on my faith, there are bouts-rimés on a buttered muffin, made by her Grace the Duchess of Northumberland; receipts to make them, by Corydon the venerable, alias George Pitt; others, very pretty, by Lord Palmerston; some by Lord Carlisle ; many by Mrs. Miller herself, that have no fault but wanting metre; and immortality promised to her without end or measure. In short since folly which never ripens to madness but in this hot climate, ran distracted, there never was anything so entertaining or so dull-for you cannot read so long as I have been telling. When poetry was essentially an affair of "hearts" and "darts," it was no wonder that a mob of silly fashionable people set up for poets. The whole age was wanting in taste it was not poetical because it was superficial.

[ocr errors]

The intercourse between Hannah More and Horace Walpole began in 1781. It was an odd intimacy; but compliments freely received and bestowed made it agreeeble, no doubt, to both parties. Here is a pretty note from Horace Walpole, written with a crowquill pen upon the sweetest-scented paper: "Mr. Walpole thanks Miss More a thousand times, not only for so obligingly complying with his requests, but for letting him have the satisfaction of possessing and reading again and again her charming and very genteel * Horace Walpole to Conway, Jan. 15, 1775.


poem, the Bas Bleu.' He ought not, in modesty, to commend so much a piece in which he himself is flattered; but truth is more durable than blushing, and he must be just, though he may be vain."* Walpole could bear flattery better than Dr. Johnson : "Mrs. Thrale then told a story of Hannah More, which, I think, exceeds in its severity all the severe things I have yet heard of Dr. Johnson's saying. When she was introduced to him, not long ago, she began singing his praise in the warmest manner, and talking of the pleasure and the instruction she had received from his writings, with the highest encomiums. For some time he heard her with that quietness which a long use of praise has given him: she then redoubled her strokes, and, as Mr. Seward calls it, peppered still more highly, till at length he turned suddenly to her, with a stern and angry countenance, and said, Madam, before you flatter a man so grossly to his face, you should consider whether or not your flattery is worth his having." "+ As Miss More grew older, she, no doubt, grew wiser; and Walpole himself, with a very prevailing inclination to ridicule what he called her saintliness, came to respect her for her virtues, instead of continuing to burn incense to her genius. The last indication of their friendship appears in his giving her a Bible, which she wished he would read himself.


*Horace Walpole to Hannah More, May 6, 1784.
Madame d'Arblay's Diary, vol i. p. 103.

[ocr errors]


IT is 1779. There is an amusing scene in Mr. Thrale's villa at Streatham. The house, as usual, is full of company. Mr. Boswell, who has recently arrived in London, comes for a morning visit; and what was then called a "collation" is ordered. The sprightly hostess takes her seat, with Dr. Johnson on her right. Next him is a vacant chair, which Boswell is about to occupy, according to his wont as the umbra of his illustrious friend. Mr. Seward interferes with-" Mr. Boswell, that seat is Miss Burney's." Into the chair slides "the little Burney;" and the good Doctor rolls about, and glares upon Fanny with his large one eye, and caresses her as he would a petted child. Boswell is mad with jealousy. He will not eat; he takes no place at the table; but seizes a chair, and plants himself behind the sage and his protégée. There is a laugh and a whisper about "Bozzy," when another wig is thrust between the Doctor's wig and the lady's powdered toupet. Terrible is the reproof: "What do you do here, sir? Go to the table, sir. One would take you for a Brangton.”—“ A Brangton, sir? What is a Brangton, sir ?"-"What company have you kept not to know that, sir?" Poor Boswell is soon informed. Brangton is the

name of a



« PreviousContinue »