« AnteriorContinuar »
Here as each season yields a different store,
O may no wight e'er pennyless come there,
See ! --Cherries here, ere cherries yet abound,
Whose honour'd names th' inventive city own, Rendering through Britain's isle Salopia's praises known.*
Admired Salopia ! that with venial pride
Who cheerless o'er her darkling region stray,
* Shrewsbury cakes.
+ Shrewsbury, the capital of Shenstone's native county, was devoted to the cause of Charles the First.
A LETTER FROM HORACE WALPOLE TO HIS FRIEND GEORGE
GEORGE MONTAGU, one of Horace Walpole's schoolfellows at Eton, was of the Halifax branch of the family of that name. He became Member of Parliament for Northampton, and Private Secretary to Lord North while Chancellor of the Exchequer.
Walpole, who was now at Cambridge, in his nineteenth year, does not write so correctly as he did afterwards; yet the germ of his wit is very evident in this letter; also of his foppery or effeminacy; and some may think, of his alleged heartlessness. A wit he was of the first water; effeminate too, no doubt, though he prided himself on his open-breasted waistcoats in his old age, and possessed exquisite good sense and discernment, where party-feelings did not blind him. But of the charge of heartlessness, his zeal and painstaking in behalf of a hundred people, and his beautiful letter to his friend Conway in particular, offering, in a way not to be doubted, to share his fortune with him (see Correspondence, vol. i. p. 358), ought to acquit him by acclamation.
The letter, here presented to the reader, is (with some qualification as to prettiness of manner) a perfect exhibition of the thoughts and feelings that go through the mind of a romantic schoolboy. How good is his wishing to have had a kingdom, “only for the pleasure of being driven from it, and living disguised in an humble vale !"
KING'S COLLEGE, May 6th, 1736. EAR GEORGE,
I agree with you entirely in the pleasure you take in talking over old stories, but can't say but I meet every day with new circumstances, which will be still more pleasure
to me to recollect. I think at our age 't is excess of joy, to think, while we are running over past happiness, that it is still in our power to enjoy as great. Narrations of the greatest actions of other people are tedious in comparison of the serious trifles that every man can call to mind of himself while he was learning those histories. Youthful passages of life are the chippings of Pitt's diamond, set into little heart-rings with mottos; the stone itself more worth, the filings more gentle and agreeable. Alexander, at the head of the world, never tasted the true pleasure that boys of his own age have enjoyed at the head of a school. Little intrigues, little schemes, and policies engage their thoughts ; and at the same time that they are laying the foundations for their middle age of life, the mimic republic they live in furnishes materials of conversation for their latter age; and old men cannot be said to be children a second time with greater truth from any one cause, than their living over again their childhood in imagination. To reflect on the season when first they felt the titillation of love, the budding passions, and the first dear object of their wishes ! how unexperienced they gave credit to all the tales of romantic loves! Dear George, were not the playing fields at Eton food for all manner of flights ? No old maid's gown, though it had been tormented into all the fashions from King James to King George, ever underwent so many transformations as those poor plains have in my idea. At first I was contented with tending a visionary flock, and sighing some pastoral name to the echo of the cascade under the bridge. How happy should I have been to have had a kingdom, only for the pleasure of being driven from it, and living disguised in an humble vale! As I got further into Virgil and Clelia,* I found myself transported from Arca
* An old French romance, founded on Roman history.
dia to the garden of Italy; and saw Windsor Castle in no other view than the Capitoli immobile saxum.* I wish a committee of the House of Commons may ever seem to be the senate; or a bill appear half so agreeable as a billet-doux. You see how deep you have carried me into old stories; I write of them with pleasure, but shall talk of them with more to you. I can't say I am sorry I was never quite a schoolboy: an expedition against bargemen, or a match at cricket, may be very pretty things to recollect; but thank my stars, I can remember things that are very near as pretty. The beginning of my Roman history was spent in the asylum,f or conversing in Egeria's hallowed grove ; not in thumping and pummelling King Amulius's herdsmen. I was sometimes troubled with a rough creature or two from the plough ; one that, one should have thought, had worked with his head, as well as his hands, they were both so callous.
One of the most agreeable circumstances I can recollect is the Triumvirate, composed of yourself, Charles, I and
Your sincere Friend.
*"The immovable rock of the Capitol.”
Charles Montagu, brother of George, afterwards a general in the army. Another of these schoolboy coteries was called the Quadruple Alliance, and consisted of Walpole, Gray, West, and Ashton (afterwards a clergyman). Walpole's schoolfellows gave themselves names out of the classics and old romances, such as Tydeus, Plato, Oroondates, and Almanzor. Such things have always been going on in schools, and always will as long as schools continue to be worth anything at all, and cultivate a respect for generous and exalted sentiments.
Ode on Solitude.
WRITTEN BY POPE AT TWELVE YEARS OF AGE.
POPE never wrote more agreeable or well-tuned verses than this interesting effusion of his boyhood. Indeed there is an intimation of sweetness and variety in the versification, which was not borne out afterwards by his boasted smoothness: nor can we help thinking, that had the author of the Ode on Solitude arisen in less artificial times, he would have turned out to be a still finer poet than he was. But the reputation which he easily acquired for wit and criticism, the recent fame of Dryden, and perhaps even his little warped and fragile person, tempted him to accept such power over his contemporaries as he could soonest realize.
It is observable that Pope never repeated the form of verse in which this poem is written. It fnight have reminded him of a musical feeling he had lost. All the little concluding lines of the stanzas have a spirited yet touching modulation, very unusual with him afterwards:
In his own ground--
Quiet by day, &c. The closeness and straightforwardness of the style are remarkable in so young a writer, and singularly announce his future conciseness. The reader smiles to think of the unambitious wish expressed in the final stanza; yet it is pleasant to consider that the youthful poet remained true to his love of the country all his life; and still more pleasant, that he was rich enough to indulge it. The Ode was probably written at Binfield in Windsor Forest, when he was a happy child, living with