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To Mrs. Thrale.
Lichfield, October 3, 1777. This is the last time that I shall write, in this excursion, from this place. To-morrow I shall be, 'I hope, at Birmingham; from which place I shall do my best to find the nearest way home. I come home, I think, worse than I went; and do not like the state of my health. But, vive hodie, make the most of life. I hope to get better, and -sweep the cobwebs. But I have sad nights. Mrs. Aston has sent me to Mr. Green to be cured.
Did you see Foote at Brighthelmstone ?-Did you think he would so soon be gone ?—Life, says Falstaff, is a shuttle. He was a fine fellow in his way; and the world is really impoverished by his sinking glories. Murphy ought to write his life, at least to give the world a Footeana. Now, will any of his contemporaries bewail him ? Will genius change his sex to weep? I would really have his life written with diligence.
It will be proper for me to work pretty diligently now for some time. I hope to get through, though so many weeks have passed. Little lives and little criticisms may serve.
Hvaing been in the country so long, with very little to detain me, I am rather glad to look homewards. I am, &c.
LETTER XXXVI. To the same.
October 10, 1777. And so, supposing that I might come to town and neglect to give you notice, or thinking some other strange thought, but certainly thinking wrong, you fall to writing about me to Tom Davies, as if he could tell you any thing that I would not have you know. As soon as I came hither, I let you know of my arrival; and the consequence is, that I am summoned to Brighthelmstone through storms, and cold, and dirt, and all the hardships of wintry journies. You know my natural dread of all those evils; yet to show my master an example of compliance, and to let you know how much I long to see you, and to boast how little I give way to disease, my purpose is to be with you on Friday.
I am sorry for poor Nezzy, and hope she will in time be better ; I hope the same for myself. The rejuvenescency of Mr. Scrase gives us both reason to hope, and therefore both of us rejoice in his recovery. I wish him well besides as a friend to my master.
I am just come home from not seeing my Lord Mayor's show, but I might have seen at least part of it. But I saw Miss Wesley and her brothers; she sends her compliments. Mrs. Williams is come home, I think a very little better.
Every body was an enemy to that wig. We will burn it, and get drunk; for what is joy without drink. Wagers are laid in the city about our success, which is yet, as the French call it, pro
blematical. Well, but seriously I think I shall be glad to see you in your own hair; but do not take too much time in combing, and twisting, and papering, and unpapering, and curling, and frizzing, and powdering, and getting out the powder, with all the other operations required in the cultivation of a head of hair; yet let it be combed at least once in three months, on the quarter-day - I could wish it might be combed once at least in six weeks; if I were to indulge my wishes, but what are wishes without hopes, I should fancy the operation performed-one knows not when one has enough-perhaps every morning. I am, dearest lady, your, &c.
LETTER XXXVII. TO Mrs. Thrale.
October 13, 1777. Yet I do love to hear from
you. Such pretty kind letters as you send. But it gives me great delight to find that my master misses me. I begin to wish myself with you more than I should do, if I were wanted less. It is a good thing to stay away till one's company is desired, but not so good to stay after it is desired.
You know I have some work to do. I did not set to it very soon; and if I should go up to London with nothing done, what would be said, but that I was-who can tell what ? I therefore stay till I can bring up something to stop their mouths, and then
Though I am still at Ashbourne, I receive your dear letters that come to Lichfield, and you con
tinue that direction, for I think to get thither as soon as I can.
One of the does died yesterday, and I am afraid her fawn will be starved; I wish Miss Thrale had it to nurse; but the doctor is now all for cattle, and minds very little either does or hens.
How did you and your aunt part ? Did you turn her out of doors to begin your journey? or did she leave you by her usual shortness of visits? I love to know how you go on.
I cannot but think on your kindness and my master's. Life has, upon the whole, fallen short, very short, of my early expectation; but the acquisition of such a friendship, at an age when new friendships are seldom acquired, is something better than the general course of things gives man a right to expect. I think on it with great delight; I am not very apt to be delighted. I am, &c.
LETTER XXXVIII. To the same.
Lichfield, October 27, 1777. You talk of writing and writing, as if all the writing to yourself. If your correspondence were printed, I am sure posterity, for posterity is always the author's favourite, would say that I am a good writer too.—Anch'io sono pittore. To sit down so often with nothing to say; to say something so often, almost without consciousness of saying, and without any remembrance of having said, is a power of which I will not violate my modesty by boasting, but I do not believe that every body has it.
Some, when they write to their friends, are all affection; some are wise and sententious; some strain their powers for efforts of gaiety; 'some write news, and some write secrets; but to make a letter without affection, without wisdom, without gaiety, without news, and without a secret, is, doubtless, the great epistolick art.
In a man's letters, you know, Madam, his soul lies naked, his letters are only the mirrour of his breast; whatever passes within him is shown undisguised in its natural
process; nothingis inverted, nothing distorted; you see systems in their elements; you discover actions in their motives.
Of this great truth, sounded by the knowing to the ignorant, and so echoed by the ignorant to the knowing, what evidence have you now before you? Is not my soul laid open in these veracious pages? Do not you see me reduced to my first principles ? This is the pleasure of corresponding with a friend, where doubt and distrust have no place, and every thing is said as it is thought. The original idea is laid down in its simple purity, and all the supervenient conceptions are spread over it, stratum super stratum, as they happen to be formed. These are the letters by which souls are united, and by which minds naturally in unison move each other as they are moved themselves. I know, dearest Lady, that in the perusal of this, such is the consanguinity of our intellects, you will be touched as I am touched. I have indeed concealed nothing from you, nor do I expect ever to repent of having thus opened my heart. I am, &c.