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LETTER VII. 20
ing is your poetical gallantry! If all the testimonies of it, bestowed upon my flattered self, were collected and given to the world, the garlands of Swift's Stella and Prior's Chloe would fade, before mine. My pride, my heart exults in these distinctions, conferred by the transcendent English bard of the present aera. O, certainly our friend, Mr , has true genius, brilliant wit, and the last polish of highlife society; while benevolence and sweet temper are added to these rare endowments. I should extremely regret his habit of passing whole weeks in Lichfield, without calling at this house, if his opinions on works of imagination, and science, and politics, were “ one thought more steady than the ebbing sea;” but excessive instability of every sort counteracts the pleasures I should otherwise feel in his company, and reconciles me to the seldomness of his visits. From the gay cordiality with which he always addresses me, I might expect them to be as frequent as in reality they are otherwise. Our dining hour is earlier much than his; and when he does make a morning call here, its bell generally summons me to that meal before he has been with me half an hour. He then always humorously exclaims,
“Silence that dreadful bell,
As to Horace, I can well believe that his odes possess many exquisite graces of expression, too subtly elegant to be fortunately transposed into another language; but I am surprised at the frequently violent transitions in the ideas of these odes. They sometimes put me in mind of a little fat attorney, of whom my mother used to talk, who had an unfortunate habit of citing cases that made directly against the cause he undertook.
One of the Horatian odes begins with adjuring a certain nymph not to cross the seas, lest she hazard a life so precious to him. After enumerating maritime signs inauspicious to her purposed voyage, he reminds her of the fate of Europa, who, when she repented of her expedition, was rallied upon the repentance by Venus. The goddess sarcastically tells her that she was only destined to be the wife of Jove, and to give her name to a third part of the habitable world. How inconsistently does this narrative conclude an ode, whose object had been to dissuade the nymph from her watery journey !
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Lichfield, March 21, 1785.
You R Ladyship's kind attention and most welcome letter, highly gratifies, obliges, and honours me. Since I learned the melancholy tidings of dear and honoured Lady Northesk's death, I felt what I believed, an unavailing desire to obtain more particular intelligence than I had the means of acquiring, concerning the welfare and situation of her lord, and of sweet Lady Marianne, whose virtues and graces were in their bud when I had the honour of passing a week in Lady Northesk's, Lady Marianne's, and Mrs Scott's society at Lichfield, in the house of Dr Darwin. Mournful was that pleasure, because of the fearful balance in which then hung the valuable life of Lady Northesk. Ah! with what delight did I learn, from her condescending letters to me, of the return of her health, by the prescriptions of Dr Darwin, after those of the London and Bath physicians had failed ! Sincerely did I deplore the * sudden blight upon those hopes of her long existence, which were inspired by that unexpected, that wonderful recovery. To be thus engagingly sought, through motives of filial piety, by a daughter of hers, gives me satisfaction, which is not the less poignant for being shaded over by a sense of mournful gratitude to the ETERNALLY ABs ENT. I am happy to hear you say Lord Northesk is well. You do not mention your own health. During that transient residence at Lichfield, I observed, with pain, that your Ladyship's constitution was very delicate. The years of advancing youth have, I trust, brought strength and bloom on their wing. For both your sakes I regret that intelligent and amiable Mrs Scott is removed so far from you. She must often wish to embrace the lovely daughter of a lost friend;—a friend so dear and so revered The style of Lady Marianne's letter convinces me that she has a mind whose tastes, pursuits, and sensibilities, preclude the irksome lassitude with which retirement is apt to inspire people at her sprightly time of life. Ah! dearest Madam, may the consciousness of cheering the declining years of a beloved father gild the silent hours, when the rocks frown around you with solemn sternness, and the winds of winter are howling over the ocean Almost five years are elapsed since Dr Darwin left Lichfield. A handsome young widow, relict of Colonel Pool, by whom she had three children, drew from us, in the hymeneal chain, our celebrated physician, our poetic and witty friend. The Doctor was in love like a very Celadon, and a numerous young family are springing up in consequence of a union, which was certainly a little unaccountable; not that there was any wonder that a fine, graceful, and affluent young woman, should fascinate a grave, philosopher; but that a sage of no elegant external, and sunk into the vale of years, should, by so gay a lady, be preferred to younger, richer, and handsomer suitors, was the marvel; especially since, though lively, benevolent, and by no means deficient in native wit, she was never suspected of a taste for science, or works of imagination. Yet so it was; and she makes her ponderous spouse a very attached, and indeed devoted wife The poetic philosopher, in return, transfers the amusement of WOL. I. C
* The author has been since informed, that her friend, Lady Northesk, died by accidentally setting her cap and handker
chief on fire.