Saturday, September 20, 2008

the inconveniencies of grandeur

William Shenstone to Mr. Jago

London. 1743.

Dear friend,
I shall send you but a very few lines, being so much indisposed with a cold, that I can scarce tell how to connect a sentence. . . .

London is really dangerous at this time; the pick-pockets, formerly content with mere filching, make no scruple to knock people down with bludgeons in Fleet-Street and the Strand, and that at no later hour than eight o'clock at night: but in the Piazzas, Covent-Garden, they come in large bodies, armed with couteaus, and attack whole parties, so that the danger of coming out of the play-houses is of some weight in the opposite scale, when I am disposed to go to them oftener than I ought. ----There is a poem of this season, called "The Pleasures of Imagination," worth your reading; but it is an expensive quarto; if it comes out in a less size, I will bring it home with me. Mr. Pope (as Mr. Outing, who has been with Lord Bolingbroke, informs me) is at the point of death. ----My Lord Carteret said yesterday in the house, "That the French and Spaniards had " actually said, they would attempt a second invasion." ----There is a new play acted at Drury Lane, "Mahomet," translated from the French of Voltaire; but I have no great opinion of the subject, or the original author as a poet; and my diffidence is rather improved by the testimony of those who have seen it. ----I lodge between the two coffee-houses, George's and Nando's, so that I partake of the expensiveness of both, as heretofore, I have no acquaintance in town, and but {slender inducement to stay} and yet, probably, I shall loiter here for a month.

T--- H--- was knighted against his will, and had a demand made upon him for an hundred pounds before he could get out of St. James's; so soon are felt the inconveniencies of grandeur! He came out of the court in a violent rage, "G__d! Jack, what "dost think?---I am knighted!---the devil of a "knight, e'faith !" I believe he was sincere in his disgust; for there had been two barge-masters knighted in his neighbourhood some time before.

I saw, coming up, Lady Fane's grotto, which they say, cost her five thousand pounds; about three times as much as her house is worth. It is a very beautiful disposition of the finest collection of shells I ever saw--Mr. Powis's woods, which are finer.--Mean time, if I had three hundred pounds to lay out about The Leasowes, I could bring my ambition to peaceable terms.

I am, dear Sir, with all affection, yours and Mrs. Jago's.
W. Shenstone.

Write soon. It is this moment reported that Pope is dead.

-from The Works in Verse and Prose of William Shenstone, Esq. Volume III, containing Letters to Particular Friends from the Year 1739-1763. / 2nd. Edition (London: J. Dodsley, 1769) pp. 72-74.

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