|Walpole’s home, Strawberry Hill|
From Horace Walpole to the Miss Berrys.
Berkeley Square, June 8, 1791.
Your No. 34, that was interrupted, and of which the last date was of May 24th, I received on the 6th, and if I could find fault, it would be in the length; for I do not approve of your writing so much in hot weather, for, be it known to you ladies, that from the first of the month, June is not more June at Florence. My hay is crumbling away; and I have ordered it to be cut, as a sure way of bringing rain. I have a selfish reason, too, for remonstrating against long letters. I feel the season advancing, when mine will be piteous short; for what can I tell you from Twickenham in the next three or four months? Scandal from Richmond and Hampton Court, or robberies at my own door? The latter, indeed, are blown already. I went to Strawberry (Hill) on Saturday, to avoid the Birthday [4th June] crowd and squibs and crackers. At six I drove to Lord Stafford’s, where his goods are to be sold by auction; his sister, Lady Anne [Conolly], intending to pull down the house and rebuild it. I returned a quarter before seven; and in the interim between my Gothic gate and Ashe’s Nursery, a gentleman and gentlewoman, in a one-horse chair and in the broad face of the sun, had been robbed by a single highwayman, sans mask. Ashe’s mother and sister stood and saw it; but having
no notion of a robbery at such an hour in the high-road, and before their men had left work, concluded it was an acquaintance of the robber’s. I suppose Lady Cecilia Johnstone will not descend from her bedchamber to the drawing-room without life-guard men.
The Duke of Bedford eclipsed the whole birthday by his clothes, equipage, and servants: six of the latter walked on the side of the coach to keep off the crowd—or to tempt it; for their liveries were worth an argosie. The Prince [of Wales] was gorgeous too: the latter is to give Madame d’Albany (1) a dinner. She has been introduced to Mrs. Fitzherbert. You know I used to call Mrs. Cosway’s concerts Charon’s boat: now, methinks, London is so. I am glad Mrs. C.[osway] is with you; she is pleasing—but surely it is odd to drop a child and her husband and country all in a breath!
I am glad you are disfranchised of the exiles. We have several, I am told, here; but I strictly confine myself to those I knew formerly at Paris, and who all are quartered on Richmond-green. I went to them on Sunday evening, but found them gone to Lord Fitzwilliam’s, the next house to Madame de Boufflers’, to hear his organ; whither I followed them, and returned with them. The Comtesse Emilie played on her harp; then we all united at loto. I went home at twelve, unrobbed; and Lord Fitzwilliam, who asked much after you both, was to set out the next morning for Dublin, though intending to stay there but four days, and be back in three weeks.
. . . . . The Duke of St. Albans has cut down all the brave old trees at Hanworth, and consequently reduced his park to what it issued from—Hounslow-heath: nay, he has hired a meadow next to mine, for the benefit of embarkation; and there lie all the good old corpses of oaks, ashes, and chestnuts, directly before your windows, and blocking up one of my views of the river but so impetuous is the rage for building, that his Grace’s timber will, I trust, not annoy us long. There will soon be one street from London to Brentford; ay, and from London to every village ten miles round! Lord Camden has just let ground at Kentish Town for building fourteen hundred houses—nor do I wonder; London is, I am certain, much fuller than ever I saw it. I have twice this spring been going to stop my coach in Piccadilly, to inquire what was the matter, thinking there was a mob—not at all; it was only passengers. Nor is their any complaint of depopulation from the country: Bath shoots out into new crescents, circuses, and squares every year: Birmingham, Manchester, Hull, and Liverpool would serve any King in Europe for a capital, and would make the Empress of Russia’s mouth water. Of the war with Catherine Slay-Czar I hear not a breath, and thence conjecture it is dozing into peace.
. . . . . This morning I went with Lysons the Reverend to see Dulwich College, founded in 1619 by Alleyn, a player, which I had never seen in my many days. We were received by a smart divine, tre bien poudri, and with black satin breeches—but they are giving new wings and red satin breeches to the good old hostel too, and destroying a gallery with a very rich ceiling; and nothing will remain of ancient but the front, and an hundred mouldy portraits, among apostles, sibyls, and Kings of England. On Sunday I shall settle at Strawberry; and then woe betide you on post-days! I cannot make news without straw. The Johnstones are going to Bath, for the healths of both; so Richmond will be my only staple. Adieu, all three!
1. Mme. d’Albany was the widow of Prince Charles Edward, who had died in 1788 in Italy. She was presented at Court, and was graciously received by the Queen. She was generally believed to be married to the great Italian tragic poet, Alfieri. Since her husband’s death she had been living in Paris, but had now fled to England for safety.