Item of the Day: Walpole’s Private Correspondence

Full Title: Private Correspondence of Harace Walpole, Earl of Orford. Now first collected. In four volumes. Vol. I. 1735-1756. London: Printed for Rodwell and Martin, Bond-Street; and Colburn and Co., Conduit-Street, 1820.

To Richard West, Esq.

Florence, Jan. 24, 1740, N.S.

Dear West,

I don’t know what volumes I may send you from Rome; from Florence I have little inclination to send you any. I see several things that please me calmly, but à force d’en avoir vù I have left off screaming, Lord! this! and Lord! that! To speak sincerely, Calais surprised me more than any thing I have seen. I recollect the joy I used to propose if I could but once see the Great Duke’s gallery; I walk into it now with as little emotion as I should into St. Paul’s. The statues are a congregation of good sort of people, that I have a great deal of unruffled regard for. The farther I travel, the less I wonder at any thing: a few days reconcile one to a new spot, or an unseen custom; and men are so much the same every where, that one scarce perceives any change of situation. The same weaknesses, the same passions that in England plunge men into elections, drinking, whoring, exist here, and show themselves in the shapes of Jesuits, Cicisbeos, and Corydon ardebat Alexins. The most remarkable thing I have observed since I came abroad, is, that there are no people so obviously mad as the English. The French, the Italians, have great follies, great faults; but then they are so national, that they cease to be striking. In England, tempers vary so excessively, that almost every one’s faults are peculiar to himself. I take this diversity to proceed partly from our climate, partly form our government: the first is changeable, and makes us queer; the latter permits our queernesses to operate as they please. If one could avoid contracting this queerness, it must certainly be the most entertaining to live in England, where such a variety of incidents continually amuse. The incidents of a week in London would furnish all Italy with news for a twelve-month. The only two circumstances of moment in the life of an Italian, that ever give occasion to their being mentioned, are, being married, and in a year after taking a cicisbeo. Ask the name, the husband, the wife, or the cicisbeo of any person, et voila qui est fini. Thus, child, ’tis dull dealing here. Methinks your Spanish war is a little more lively. By the gravity of the proceedings, one would think both nations were Spaniard. Adieu! Do you rmember my maxim, that you used to laugh at? Evert body does every thing, and nothing comes on’t. I am more convinced of it now than ever.  I don’t know wheterh S****’s was not still better, Well, ‘gad, there is nothing in nothing. You see how I distil all my speculations and improvements, that they may lie in a small compass. Do you remember the story of the prince, that after travelling three years brought home nothing but a nut? They cracked it: in it was wrapped a piece of silk, painted with all the kings, queens, kindgoms, and every thing in thw world: after many unfoldings, out stepped a little dog, shook his ears, and fell to dancing a saraband. There is a fairy tale for you. If I had any thing as good as your old song, I would send it too; but I can only thank you for it, and bid you good night.

Yours ever,

P.S. Upon reading my letter, I perceive still plainer the sameness that reigns here; for I find I have said the same things ten times over. I don’t care; I have made out a letter, and that was all my affair.

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Filed under 1740's, Letters, Posted by Caroline Fuchs, Travel

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