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be represented on the stage, if any manager was injudicious enough to think of it.
" Mr. Walpole is very sorry Mr. Woodfall dropped such a hint, as well as the extravagant preference given to him over other gentlemen of great merit, which preference Mr. Walpole utterly disclaims, as well as the other high-flown compliments which he is not so ridiculous as to like.
“Mr. Walpole trusts that Mr. Woodfall will not communicate this letter to any body, and will be much obliged to him if he will let him know what satisfaction Mr. Woodfall will expect for suppressing all farther mention of him and his play."
This letter, the original of which is now before us, is very characteristic of that double traffic which Mr. Walpole too frequently endeavoured to carry on between the public and himself, and which seems to have ended only in deceiving both. With all his efforts to “suppress it as much as possible," he had at this time printed the tragedy in the first volume of his collected works intended for sale, and begun some years before.
From this period no circumstance of importance occurred in the course of Mr. Walpole's life until 1791, when, by the death of his nephew, he succeeded to the title of earl of Orford. The accession of this honour, and of the fortune annexed to it, made no alteration, in any respect, in his manner of living, nor did be take his seat in the House of Peers. He still pursued the same unvaried tenor of life, devoting himself to the conversation of his friends and to the pursuits of literature. He had been early afflicted with the gout, which, as he advanced in years, acquired strength, though it did not disqualify him either for company or conversation. The same spirit of inquiry, and the same ardour of pursuit, prevailed almost to the latest period of his life. He was capable of enjoying the society of his friends until a very short time before his death, which happened on the 2d March 1797.
By bis will, which contains twenty-two sheets, besides the addition of seven codicils, by one of which he directed that his body might be opened and afterwards privately interred, he bequeathed to Robert Berry, esq. and his two daughters, Mary and Agnes Berry, all his printed works and manuscripts, to be published at their discretion, and for their own emolument. To these two ladies he gives 4000l. each ; and, for their lives, the house and garden late Mrs. Clive's, with the long meadow before the same, and all the furniture there; after their deaths or marriages, to go to the same uses as Strawberry-hill; and with a restriction not to let the house for longer than a year. By the same codicil he also directs all the boxes containing his prints, books of prints, &c. to be conveyed to Strawberryhill, to remain as heir-looms , appurtenant to that estate ; and makes it a particular request to the person in possession of his favourite residence, that the books, and every article of furniture there, may be preserved with care, and not disposed of, nor even removed. But all the letters written to him by such of his friends as shall be living at the time of his death, are to be returned to the writers. : Strawberry-hill he bequeathed to the hon. Mrs. Anne Damer, and a legacy of 2000l. to keep it in repair, on condition that she resides there, and does not dispose of it to any person, unless it be to the countess dowager of Waldegrave, on whom and her heirs it is entailed. He died worth 91,0001. 3 per cents. This villa of Strawberry-hill, so often mentioned, was originally a small tenement, built in 1698, by the earl of Bradford's coachman, as a lodging-house. Colley Cibber was one of its first tenants; and after him, successively, Talbot, Bishop of Durham, the marquis of Carnarvon, Mrs. Chevevix, the toy-woman, and lord John Philip Sackville. Mr. W. purchased it 1747, began to fit it up in the Gothic style 1753, and completed it 1776. He permitted it to be shewn, by tickets, to parties of four, from May to October, between the hours of twelve and three, and only one party a day. The best concise account of this villa, and its va. luable contents, that has hitherto appeared, may be found in Mr. Lysons's “ Environs of London.” A catalogue raisonnée of its furniture was drawn up by the noble owner, printed at Strawberry-hill in 1774, and is now among his works. He devoted a great part of his life and fortune to the embellishment of this villa, which has long been viewed as one of the greatest curiosities near the metropolis. In it he had amassed a collection of pictures, prints, and drawings, selected with great taste.
His intervals of leisure, health, and spirits, he employed in the works above mentioned, most of which have been favourites with the public, although they are of very opposite merits. He was alternately a poet, an historian, a politician, an antiquary, and a writer of dramas and romances. Of all his works his own opinion appeared to be
humble; but this was mere affectation, for he was pertinacious in maintaining what he had once asserted : and being possessed of keen powers of controversy, he betrayed all the irascibility of the author, while he affected to be con. sidered only as a gentleman writing for his amusement. In bis latter days he determined to vindicate his claims to literary rank, and employed himself in preparing for the press that splendid and complete edition of his works, which was published the year after his death, and was bought up with avidity, as an important addition to every library. He had begun to print this edition as far back as 1768, and nearly two volumes were completed at his pri. vate press.. • Of bis poetry, no very high character has been formed; yet, like his prose, it often surprises by unexpected flashes of wit, and epigrammatic turns of expression and illustration, in which he evidently delighted. His “Mysterious Mother” is, indeed, of very superior merit, and has occasioned a general regret that he should have chosen a subject so unfit for public performance. For nervous, simple, and pathetic language, each appropriated to the several persons of the drama; for striking incidents; for address in conducting the plot; and for consistency of character uniformly preserved through the whole piece; the late editor of the Biographia Dramatica thinks it equal, if not superior, to any play of the last century. The “Castle of Otranto" is his only original work in prose which displays great powers. It passed through many editions, and received new popularity when the story was dramatized in 1782 by captain Jephson, It ought not to be less a fa. vourite now, when a passion for the marvellous seems to prevail like an epidemic with the writers and readers of romance *.
* In one of his letters to Mr. Cole what I intended to say or relate. The in the British Museuin, daled March work grew on my hands, and I grew 9, 1765, he gives the following as the fond of it. Add, that I was very glad origin of this romance. “I waked one to think of any thing rather than poli. morning in the beginning of last June tics. In short, Lwas so engrossed with from a dream, of which all I could re. my tale, wbich I completed in less cover was, that I had thought myself than two months, that one evenivg I in an ancient castle (a very natural wrote from the tiine I bad drunk my dream for a head filled like mine with tea, about six o'clock, till half an hour gothic story), and ibat on the upper. after one in the morning, when my most baonister of a great stair-case, I hands and fingers were so weary, that saw a gigantic hand in armour. In I could not hold the pen to finish the the evening I sat down, and began to sentence, but left Matilda and Isabella write, without koowing in the least talking in the middle of a paragraplı."
· Of his compilations, the most useful is, “ The Anecdotes of Painting and Engraving.” This was avowedly formed from materials left by Vertue, but it is also evident that the arrangement, the principles, the taste, and every thing not technical, is Mr. Walpole's. It is a just complaint that he did not continue to improve and enlarge what had been so well received, what will ever be a standard book, and has, probably in no inconsiderable degree, led to the adyancement of the arts in this country.
One of the predominant features in Mr. Walpole's character was, a veneration for birth and rank, to which he certainly bad pretensions in the long list of his ancestors, although among them we find few distinguished benefactors to their country. This passion, however, which in his political career he joined with principles that have not bean thought connected with it, led bim to search after those illustrious examples in whom birth and rank have been allied with genius. His industry soon produced the pleasing compilation entitled “ Ą Catalogue of Royal and Noble Authors," which, although greatly enlarged in the edition published with his works, has been thought meagre by those who did not consider that he professed to give a catalogue only. To wbat size and importance might it not have swelled, had he given the lives of the authors on the scale usually allowed in biographical compilations? In this work, the chief excellence is in his characters : they are admirable as portraits ; and, like portraits, they bave some of the faults, as well as beauties, of the most celebrated masters. We have often referred, and been greatly indebted, to Mr. Park's splendid, accurate, and highly improved edition of this work, published in 1806, 5 vols. 8vo.
The letters to general Conway and his other friends, which he left for publication with his works, have been much admired. They exbibit his taste, his disposition, his friendship, and all his peculiarities, to the greatest ada vantage. It cannot be doubted that he valued those compositions, as he had kept copies of them for so many years, with a view to publication; and as he was always of opinion that the English made a very poor figure in letter-writing, it is not unfair to suppose that he might wish to remove this reproach, with what success, it is not necessary here to inquire. It must be observed, however, that his wit has many marks of effort and labour, that it recurs too.
this not unfaish made aon; and as
often, and that he is too often disposed to treat serious subjects with unbecoming levity. If he was not an infidel, he was at least a sneerer; and while in one place he almost predicts the revolution in France, and in another exécrates the atrocities with which it was accompanied, he seems unconscious that his own principles were not very remate from those which precipitated the destruction of the throne and the altar.
Mr. Walpole valued highly his talent for letter-writing, and many have regarded bim as the best letter-writer of his day. If they had said the most lively, or the most witty, they would have been nearer the truth. But whatever the particular merit of his correspondence, it has since proved fatal to his personal character in a very important feature. Letter-writing seems to have been with bim a species of patronage, of grace and favour conferred upon his literary contemporaries, on whom he bestowed no other favours. Whatever else he might disappoint them in, they were sure to receive a letter full of praise, and Mr. Walpole's praise was once thought of considerable importance. But since his printed correspondence has been compared with many hundred letters now extant that never were intended for the press, the evidence of his insincerity, of bis extreme vanity, and duplicity towards those whom he most lavishly flattered, is too full and clear to admit of any besitation in pronouncing that these degrading meannesses belonged to him in no common degree. One very gross instance of his treacherous correspondence may be seen in Stewart's Life of Dr. Robertson ; but more, and perhaps fuller, proofs exist in his correspondence with the late Rev. William Cole of Milton, nowin the British Museum.
Lord Orford's intellectual defects, says a critic of great candour and ability, were those of education, and temper and habit, and not those of nature. “ His rank, and his father's indulgences, made him a coxcomb: nature made him, in my opinion, a genius of no ordinary kind. The author of “The Castle of Otranto" possessed invention, and pathos, and eloquence, which, if instigated by some slight exertion, might have blazed to a degree, of which cominon critics have no conception.”!
I Park's edition of the Royal and Noble Authors.-Gent. Mag. rol. LXVII. Preface to his works.-Cole's MSS, in Brit. Mus. &c.--D'Israeli's Calamities of Authors; a severe, but masterly sketch. -- British Essayists. Preface to the « World.”