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LETTER L. To Mrs. THRALE.
DEAR MADAM, Among those that have inquired after me, sir Philip is one;
and Dr. Burney was one of those who came to see me.
I have had no reason to complain of indifference or neglect. Dick Burney is come home five inches taller.
Yesterday in the evening I went to church, and have been to-day to see the great burning-glass, which does more than was ever done before by the transmission of the rays, but is not equal in power to those which reflect them. It wastes a diamond placed in the focus, but causes no diminution of pure gold. Of the rubies exposed to its action, one was made more vivid, the other paler. To see the glass, I climbed up stairs to the garret, and then up a ladder to the leads, and talked to the artist rather too long; for my voice, though clear and distinct for a little while, soon tires and falters. The organs of speech are yet very feeble, but will, I hope, be by the mercy of God finally restored : at present, like any other weak limb, they can endure but little labour at once Would you not have been very sorry for me when I could scarcely speak?
Fresh cantharides were this morning applied to my head, and are to be continued some time longer. If they play me no treacherous tricks, they give me very little pain.
Let me have your kindness and your prayers ; and think on me as on a man, who, for a very great portion of your life, has done you all the good he could, and desires still to be considered, Madam, your, &c.
LETTER LI. To the Same.
London, July 1, 1785. This morning I took the air by a ride to Hampstead, and this afternoon I dined with the club. But fresh cantharides were this day applied to my head.
Mr. Cator called on me to-day, and told that he had invited
back to Streatham. I shewed the unfitness of
your return thither, till the neighbourhood should have lost its habits of depredation, and he seemed to be satisfied. He invited me very kindly and cordially to try the air of Beckenham, and pleased me very much by his affectionate attention to Miss Vezy. There is much good in his character, and much usefulness in his knowledge.
Queeney seems now to have forgotten me. Of the different appearance of the hills and valleys an account may perhaps be given, without the supposition of any prodigy. If she had been out and the evening was breezy, the exhalations would rise from the low grounds very copiously; and the wind that swept and cleared the hills, would only by its cold condense the vapours of the sheltered valleys.
Murphy is just gone from me; he visits me very kindly, and I have no unkindness to complain of.
I am sorry that sir Philip's request was not treated with more respect, nor can I imagine what has put them so much out of humour: I hope their business is prosperous.
I hope that I recover by degrees, but my nights are restless; and you will suppose the nervous system to be somewhat enfeebled. I am, Madam, your, &c.
LETTER LII. TO Mrs. THRALE.
London, October 9, 1783. Two nights ago Mr. Burke sat with me a long time; he seems much pleased with his journey. We had both seen Stonehenge this summer for the first time. I told him that the view had enabled me to confute two opinions which have been advanced about it. One that the materials are not natural stones, but an artificial composition hardened by time. This notion is as old as Camden's time; and has this strong argument to support it, that stone of that species is no where to be found. The other opinion, advanced by Dr. Charlton, is, that it was erected by the Danes.
Mr. Bowles made me observe, that the transverse stones were fixed on the perpendicular supporters by a knob formed on the top of the upright stone, which entered into a hollow cut in the crossing stone. This is a proof that the enormous edifice was raised by a people who had not yet the knowledge of mortar; which cannot be supposed of the Danes, who came hither in ships, and were not ignorant certainly of the arts of life. This proves likewise the stones not to be factitious; for they that could mould such durable masses could do much more than make mortar, and could have continued the transverse from the upright part with the same paste.
You have doubtless seen Stonehenge ; and if you have not, I should think it a hard task to make an adequate description.
It is, in my opinion, to be referred to the earliest habitation of the island, as a druidical monument of at least two thousand years; probably the most ancient work of man upon the island. Salisbury cathedral and its neighbour Stonehenge, are two eminent monuments of art and rudeness, and may shew the first essay, and the last perfection in architecture.
I have not yet settled my thoughts about the generation of light air, which I indeed once saw produced, but I was at the height of my great complaint. I have made inquiry, and shall soon be able to tell you how to fill a balloon. I am, Madam, your, &c.
London, Dec. 27, 1783. The wearisome solitude of the long evenings did indeed suggest to me the convenience of a club in my neighbourhood, but I have been hindered from attending it by want of breath. If I can complete the scheme, you shall have the names and the regulations.
The time of the year, for I hope the fault is rather in the weather than in me, has been very hard upon me.
The muscles of my breast are much convulsed. Dr. Heberden recommends opiates, of which I have such horrour that I do not think of them but in extremis. I was, however, driven to them last night for refuge, and having taken the usual
quantity, durst not go to bed, for fear of that uneasiness to which a supine posture exposes me, but rested all night in à chair with much relief, and have been to-day more warm, active, and cheerful.
You have more than once wondered at my complaint of solitude when you hear that I am crowded with visits. Inopem me copia fecit. Visitors are no proper companions in the chamber of sickness. They come when I could sleep or read, they stay till I am weary, they force me to attend when my mind calls for relaxation, and to speak when my powers will hardly actuate my tongue. The amusements and consolations of languor and depression are conferred by familiar and domestick companions, which can be visited or called at will, and can occasionally be quitted or dismissed, who do not obstruct accommodation by ceremony, or destroy indolence by awakening effort.
Such society I had with Levet and Williams; such I had where-I am never likely to have it more.
I wish, dear lady, to you and my dear girls many a cheerful and pious Christmas. I am, your, &c.
LETTER LIV. TO Mrs. Piozzi.
London, July 8, 1784. What you have done, however I may lament it, I have no pretence to resent, as it has not been injurious to me; I therefore breathe out one sigh more of tenderness, perhaps useless, but at least sincere.
I wish that God may grant you every blessing, that you may be happy in this world for its short continuance, and eternally happy in a better state ; and whatever I can contribute to your happiness I am very ready to repay, for that kindness which soothed twenty years of a life radically wretched.
Do not think slightly of the advice which I now presume to offer. Prevail upon Mr. Piozzi to settle in England: you may live here with more dignity than in Italy, and with more security; your rank will be higher, and your fortune more under your own eye. I desire not to detail all my reasons; but every argument of prudence and interest is for England, and only some phantoms of imagination seduce you to Italy.
I am afraid, however, that my counsel is vain; yet I have eased my heart by giving it.
When queen Mary took the resolution of sheltering herself in England, the archbishop of St. Andrew's, attempting to dissuade her, attended on her journey; and when they came to the irremeable stream that separated the two kingdoms, walked by her side into the water, in the middle of which he seized her bridle, and with earnestness proportioned to her danger and his own affection pressed her to return. The queen went forward. If the parallel reaches thus far, may it go no farther. The tears
stand in my eyes.
I am going into Derbyshire, and hope to be followed by your good wishes, for I am, with great affection, your, &c.